Zonda acquires self-touring app in support of new construction portal

Publish Date: September 08, 2023

Written by Craig C. Rowe

- Originally published at Inman News - Craig C. Rowe

Construction data and technology company Zonda has acquired yet another company, this time UTour, a system for offering self-guided home tours to enhance Livabl, a public-facing search experience for new construction homes which the company launched in April this year.

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Construction data and technology company Zonda has acquired yet another company, this time UTour, a system for offering self-guided home tours to enhance Livabl, a public-facing search experience for new construction homes the company launched in April this year. Naturally, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Sept. 6 press release sent to Inman stated that the deal is part of Zonda’s plan to be “a leading residential real estate technology provider focused on the new home market.“ Livabl was also an acquisition. It offers tools for both agents and homebuyers.

UTour empowers “unattended access,” combining a voice tour generated by artificial intelligence, chat tools for in-tour buyer questions and a security feature for users. The company states it can be used for early morning and late evening home visits.

“This is a significant milestone for Zonda and a very positive way to add to our business,” said Jeff Meyers, CEO of Zonda, in a statement. “Bringing UTour under our umbrella continues to expand our offerings and takes the company to the next level for providing our customers with the best technology in the home building industry.” 

Self-guided tours tend to be accompanied by the stigma that a seller wants to in some way exclude an agent, and those who provide them are putting the homeseller at risk. However, they make more sense with new construction, and ultimately, it’s up to the buyer agent to ensure their clients understand the process, touring with or without them.

Zonda offers services to a wide swath of the real estate space, including developers, land brokers, mortgage professionals, financial services, investors and building product manufacturers, among others. Livabl is its retail front-end, providing new home listing content to residential agents and the traditional homebuyer field.

The company has been busy scooping up companies in the last several years. Formed in late 2018 through the merger of Hanley Wood and Meyers Research, it acquired Urban Analytics, a Vancouver-based provider of multifamily and urban data and analytics, in 2021. The year before, it snapped up Bird.i, a satellite imagery and artificial intelligence technology company, and Belfiore Real Estate Consulting, a residential market research firm. It then bought BuzzBuzzHome, a listing portal and marketplace for newly built homes.

Applications for purchase loans fell last week to the lowest level since 1995, according to a weekly survey of lenders by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA lender survey showed requests for purchase loans fell by a seasonally adjusted 2 percent from the week before and were down 28 percent from a year ago.

The new construction market offers an inventory-barren market its only viable lifeline until interest rates once again offer homeowners a reason to upgrade or downsize. The spring and summer markets have both been good to the sector.

According to a joint Aug. 23 report by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “sales of new single‐family houses in July 2023 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 714,000. This is 4.4 percent (±12.8 percent) above the revised June rate of 684,000 and is 31.5 percent (±16.3 percent) above the July 2022 estimate of 543,000.“

The report stated the median sales price of new homes for July was $436,700 while the average was $513,000.

Other proptechs have emerged to help builders expose their work to the consumer market. Dash has launched its service in fast-growing Miami for new residential towers, and Ownly provides homebuilders with a consumer-driven retail storefront from which aspiring buyers can shop for homes with a Netflix-inspired browsing experience, get pre-qualified for mortgages and sign an offer-to-purchase contract.

Welcome Homes is another, earning $29 million in Series A venture capital in Jan. 2023, led by Era Ventures.

UTour’s founder, Tom Nelson, said in the release that the deal with Zonda is “a pivotal moment” for his company’s future.

“Our goal is to empower builders to increase sales while enabling buyers to discover their dream homes in a way that suits their individual preferences and schedules,” he said. “We feel Zonda is aligned on these goals in providing the best builder and customer experience for homebuying.”

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