A home is the largest investment that most consumers will make in their lifetimes, meaning that going into it with as much data as possible is always going to be the best course of action.
Some of that data is easy to come by, such as the age of the home, demographic facts about the neighborhood, school district information, its Multiple Listing Service (MLS) number, etc. By the third quarter of 2020, according to home improvement data platform Kukun, repairs and renovations grew 98 percent over 2019. Data on homeownership has become more important than ever.
But a lot of information actually isn’t readily available. Homebuyers need rich datasets to compare prices and predict potential repairs. Contractors need the same.
“You have no idea what the history of the house is,” said Kukun CEO Raf Howery in a conversation with PYMNTS. “No idea when your roof will go out, you have no idea when your furnace will go out. You may have a hunch, but all of these things have not been quantified. That’s what we want to solve.”
Kukun started out as an effort to streamline the home remodeling space for consumers with tools like a home renovation estimator or connections to mortgage lenders. But Howery said he quickly learned that the opportunity was much larger than that, and the firm’s focus expanded to helping consumers navigate the entire lifecycle of homeownership, from “buying, remodeling, living in, maintaining and finally selling.” It contained pointed solutions for each area instead of homeowners consumed by wrangling a host of separate household projects and products.
As a data-driven home renovation analytics platform, Kukun collects every piece of data on every property, Howery explained. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) as well as actual natural language to organize all of it and then makes it actionable for consumers and contractors by building tools like the job estimators or investment ranking tools to help automate the process and make it more transparent.
And as of this month, Kukun has announced its latest venture. It is entering the world of home insurance via a partner with AI-powered personal home and car insurance concierge service Jerry.ai (Jerry). The expansion came directly from consumer demand, he said. A survey the firm conducted confirmed that insurance ranked high among areas customers didn’t really understand in ways big and small.
“For example, the common question, ‘If I do something, what happens to my insurance?’” Howery said. “So, if you build a pool, it changes your risk profile, and your insurance policy has to be almost rewritten if you add one.”
Post-pandemic, he said, pools have exploded into a favored renovation alongside outdoor kitchens as people have sought to upgrade the fun quotients in their homes. And people, Kukun found, don’t tend to consider or shop around for insurance much after they get it the first time while financing their home. This in turn has helped Kukun see that this expansion was a natural one as its ambitions tended toward the entire homeownership lifecycle.
Although Howery declined to offer much in the way of specifics, he noted that expansive attitude in terms of service and offers on the Kukun platform won’t be easing back with the most recent announcement. Instead, itwill mark the beginning of the firm looking to serve the market more broadly. That’s because looking at the data trends already in evidence in the year 202, the segment is going to keep growing as a new generation of home buyers is flooding into the market, carrying with them an entirely new set of expectations and needs than has been seen previously.
“If you think about the new home buyer, the new generation is used to doing a lot of research right before they buy,” he said. “And even when they buy and do things, they’re used to doing a lot of research when they make repair decisions, and there are no tools for them today to do so. I think the trend that we’re all going to see is we live in our homes a lot more than we used to before. We’re going to put more pressure on that house, and that will put pressure on you to maintain it.”
It’s something consumers can only do with data tools that help them understand the maintenance needs facing them, and ways to meet those needs with service. As for what comes next for Kukun, Howery said the firm’s purview may be growing, but its mission is the same: to help every consumer turn their home into a security. The house is the company, the neighborhood is the sector and the owner is the management team.
The goal for any security is to increase its value. Howery said Kukun is going to use its analytics to help any consumer do that and be able to decide whether they ought to buy, sell or hold their house on any given day.
“Now you may not exercise decision-making power in the same way you would exercise it over stocks,” Howery said. “But you should always know the future of your home and what is happening around your home that is going to bring its value up or take its value down.”