Meet the neighbours before you buy: The real estate portal taking buyers behind the scenes
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Meet the neighbours before you buy: The real estate portal taking buyers behind the scenes

Co-founder of Homely, Jason Spencer, discusses how his own experience of a failed property purchase led to a lightbulb moment, and the birth of a new property platform

Mon, Feb 19, 2024 9:43amGrey Clock 5 min

Jason Spencer is passionate about technology, but not for the sake of it. Instead, Spencer’s focus is  the kind of ‘life changing’ technologies that make a difference in the way we live and do business. His most recent obsession is Homely, a real estate platform with a difference, offering reviews of suburbs and streets — by the people who live there.  Founded with Adam Spencer, it’s the kind of game changer Jason wished was around when he was on his home buying journey, tapping into a desire from buyers to take a deep dive before purchasing, as well as giving locals the opportunity to share what they love about their area. The Homely story starts with a very personal experience, as Jason Spencer explains.

Homely draws back the curtain for buyers, giving them access to street and suburb reviews from the people who live there. Credit: davidf/Getty Images

Kanebridge News: The Homely story comes out of your personal experience of moving to a suburb in inner Melbourne. What happened? Why did you hate it?

Jason Spencer: Homely was created out of my own frustrations with real estate. After buying my home in a nice leafy suburb in Melbourne, I quickly realised that the street wasn’t for me. Almost immediately after we moved in, we had all sorts of issues. First it was the neighbours, who we didn’t get along with, then it was the cut-through traffic and noise, the flooding and — the final straw—the swarms of bats that flew over our house each night, settling in our backyard! One night I remember saying to my co-founder, “If only I knew about this street before I bought the house”. And that was the lightbulb moment. That was when Homely was born.

KN: What would you have liked to have known before buying?

JS: The inspiration for Homely was the truth that “finding the right neighbourhood is just as important as finding the right home.” I’d like to have known what the locals thought, not just of suburbs but of individual streets as well. Before Homely, the majority of people would rely on generic suburb information available on Google and if lucky they’d find a static local guide page, census data or Wikipedia entry. To address this gap, we established a forum and community where real locals could openly share their experiences, insights, and history about their streets, suburbs, and towns. This kind of information is invaluable for making an informed decision about property, especially considering it’s one of the most significant decisions someone can make.

KN: Did you move? If so, what did you do differently the next time you were in the property market?

JS: Yes I did. I moved to something a little further out from the city but with more land and a bigger home for a similar price. This time, I did a lot more research on Homely and by asking locals what they thought. People were more than happy to share what they loved about their home suburb and streets, which is why we have the wealth of content on Homely we do.

KN: How did that personal experience spur you and Adam on to found Homely?

JS: For most of us, finding a home is one of the most difficult and stressful decisions we can make. As founders, we felt the combination of useful local information written by those that live in the neighbourhood combined with the access and utility of a real estate portal would make for a very unique way to find a home online. We wanted to create for real estate what sites like TripAdvisor had done to travel.

Homely co-founders Adam (left) and Jason Spencer (right) want to connect buyers with the right street and the right neighbourhood.

KN: You’re starting to build a substantial database of suburb reviews now. Where are the reviewers drawn from?

JS: Our reviews come from all over Australia. When we launched the site, we received some great media coverage, which generated an initial base of content. This encouraged locals to have their say about areas they knew well, which in turn created a sense of community on the Homely platform that grew, along with relevant property listings from all over Australia. We have seen some intense debate about suburbs, which is always interesting!

KN: What has surprised you, if anything, about the reviews?

JS: The amount of information (and passion) that locals are prepared to share about where they live. People love to talk about the great schools in a suburb, the best restaurants and shopping. Of course, crime and safety are always hot topics. 

KN: What can a review on Homely give a buyer that a visit to a suburb cannot?

JS: Homely gives you immediate access to reach out to a community and unlock secrets and truths about the neighbourhood that you just can’t do easily by visiting the suburb. You can also ask questions and join local forums. We’ve had feedback that Homely reviews have saved people time and money, as they’ve been able to refine their property search and time spent on inspections.

KN: How specific can reviews get? Is it possible to read a street review?

JS: We pride ourselves on being the first in Australia to offer reviews down to the street level, delivering “hyperlocal” content that even includes vendors reviewing their own streets to give potential buyers a sense of what drew them to the area initially.

KN: What have buyers said about the value of the reviews?

JS: Buyers consistently tell us that Homely is a great starting point to the home buying journey. Whether they’re investors seeking information to bolster their decisions, or families searching for the perfect suburb, Homely reviews often serve as a first stop, offering valuable information they can’t get anywhere else.  We find many buyers land on our street and suburb reviews via Google after searching for a specific location. While reviews can be diverse it’s the nuggets of information contained within the reviews that really help buyers.

KN: You’ve been in property for 25 years. What still excites you about the residential market?

JS: The untapped opportunities for innovation in the proptech space and the property seeking journey are what excites me most. From the birth of the first property websites in the early 2000s, to the innovations that Web 2.0 and Google Maps brought to portals in 2007, to the role of smartphone technology in the search experience, I’m now very excited to be a part of how AI and blockchain can enhance the home search experience. 

KN: What’s next for Homely?
JS: We have a strong pipeline of innovations to make the home search experience better for every consumer. We are looking forward to a big 2024 with an increase in residential listings hitting the market and a forecast record number of home buyers and renters looking on Homely to discover their next perfect place to call home.



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Australia’s top 10 most affordable regional property markets investors should watch

Whether you prefer the country or the coast, there are plenty of east coast options for cashed up buyers

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There are 10 local council areas scattered along the East Coast of Australia that offer both affordability and solid fundamentals for sustainable future growth, according to the research team at residential property network, PRD. The areas have been selected based on five criterion. They are affordability – defined as a median house price below $600,000, rising house values, strong rental yields to encourage investment, a strong pipeline of residential, commercial and infrastructure projects to facilitate local economic development, and low unemployment.

Here are Australia’s 10 most affordable regional property markets with great future potential.

Mackay, QLD

Mackay is a tropical coastal area located in north Queensland. It’s known for its closeconnection to the Great Barrier Reef. The median house price is $462,750, up 8.9 percent in 2023. Mackay attracts a lot of interstate migrants and is home to more than 120,000 people. It has a healthy economy with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent and $1.7 billion worth of projects due to commence this year.

Toowoomba, QLD

The Toowoomba median house price was up 10.9 percent in 2023.

Toowoomba is located west of Brisbane and is known for its Victorian buildings, street artand surrounding national parks. The median house price is $560,000, up 10.9 percent in 2023. The city has a population of more than 180,000. The unemployment rate is 4 percentand there is $6.1 billion in projects commencing in 2024.

Townsville, QLD

Townsville is a coastal city in north-eastern Queensland. The median house price is $420,000, up 5 percent in 2023. It is home to more than 200,000 people. Unemployment is very low at 2.5 percent and there is $3.2 billion of projects commencing this year.

Dubbo, NSW

Dubbo is located west of Newcastle in the Orana Region and is home to the Western Plains Zoo. The median house price is $530,000, up 11.6 percent in 2023. The population has exploded in recent years to more than 56,000 people. The unemployment rate is just 2.2percent and the economy is thriving. There is a pipeline of $4.7 billion in projects commencing this year.

Tamworth, NSW

Located in north-east NSW, Tamworth is known for its popular annual Country Music Festival. It’s also the largest retail centre for the New England and Northwest Slopes regions. The median house price is $490,000, up 14 percent in 2023. With a population of more than 65,000 people, the economy is strong with unemployment of just 2 percent and $112.4million worth of projects commencing this year.

Griffith, NSW

Located west of Sydney and northwest of Canberra, Griffith is known for its prime produce production and wine cultivation. The median house price is $531,000, up 2.1 percent in 2023. Griffith’s population is about 27,000 people. The city boasts high economic resilience with a 2 percent unemployment rate and $258.7 million in projects in the pipeline.

Ballarat, VIC

Ballarat, Victoria

Ballarat is a 1.5hour drive west of Melbourne. It’s popular with city commuters who move here for housing affordability and a relaxed lifestyle with easy access to the city via train. The median house price is $570,000, down 4.2 percent in 2023 but up 92.9 percent over the past decade. The city has the third highest population in Victoria at about 118,000. Ballarat has an unemployment rate of 3 percent and a total projects pipeline worth $2.3 billion for 2024.

Shepparton, VIC

Shepparton is a rural area about two hours north of Melbourne. It is popularly referred to as the food bowl of Australia. The median house price is $475,000, up 4.4 percent in 2023. The population is about 70,000. The unemployment rate is just 2 percent and there is $1.8 billion in projects for 2024.

Wodonga, VIC

Wodonga is located on the border of NSW on the southern side of the Murray River. It is approximately 320km from Melbourne and 345km from Canberra. The median house price is $567,250, up 4.7 percent in 2023. With a population of about 44,000, the city’s jobless rate is 3 percent and there is $388.2 million in development set to commence in 2024, primarily new infrastructure.

Burnie, TAS

Burnie is a bustling port city located in Emu Bay in Tasmania’s north-west. Overlooking beaches and parklands, the area is known for its rich agriculture and mining projects. The median house price is $435,000, up 3.6 percent. Despite a rising population, the unemployment rate is falling and is currently 5.6 percent. In 2024, Burnie’s project pipeline is valued at approximately $1.6 billion. A significant portion is commercial development, primarily renewable energy projects.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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