Home Bay Review 2020: How It Works, Pricing, Top Alternatives

By 

Katherine Peach

Updated 

November 20th, 2020

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Home Bay, a DIY home-selling platform, is cheaper than listing with a traditional realtor — but its fees are simply too high to justify the lack of service and support.

Home Bay is a discount real estate broker that offers reduced listing fees to home sellers in California.

Unlike other discount brokers, Home Bay makes you do most of the heavy lifting of the sale yourself.

That makes Home Bay less like a full-service real estate agency and more like a flat-fee MLS service where you pay for your agent to list your home for sale, without the other services agents usually provide on your behalf.

In fact, Home Bay refers to its technology as a "self-guided online platform." And its CEO estimates that the company's agents spend only 90 minutes in direct communication with clients on each transaction. So if you lack the confidence to largely DIY a home sale, Home Bay definitely isn't a good fit for you.

Home Bay is also limited geographically to California. Although the company had expanded into a few other regions during the last five years, it's now focusing on listings in the Golden State. So if you're looking for an agent in another part of the country, you'll need to find another discount broker.

We don't recommend Home Bay. Frankly, we believe that — even at its discounted rate — the service is overpriced.

If you're confident putting in the work for a DIY home sale experience, other options will cost significantly less than Home Bay. For example, you can use a flat-fee MLS service to help market your home and a real estate attorney to handle the paperwork for a fraction of Home Bay’s price.

» MORE: How to Sell Your House for Sale by Owner

On the other hand, if you value service and support but don’t want to pay 5-6% in realtor fees, Clever's Concierge Team can introduce you to experienced local realtors who charge just $3,000 or 1% in listing fees for full service.

» MORE: How can Clever help me save on commission?

Key Takeaways

  • Home Bay is a tech-centric brokerage that requires sellers to handle a lot of the transaction by themselves.
  • The company's CEO estimates that Home Bay agents spend an average of 90 minutes in direct communication with clients — far less than traditional agents do.
  • Plus, Home Bay depends on AI systems to handle offers, rather than using the expertise of professional agents who understand the many nuances of a home sale.
  • When you sign up to use Home Bay to sell your house, you must pay 10% of the listing fee upfront. This practice is certainly not the norm among even discount brokerages.

What is Home Bay?

Home Bay is a discount real estate brokerage founded in 2015 and headquartered in San Diego.

The company is different from other real estate brokers in that its focus is on its online platform, rather than providing in-person support. It's a tech startup first and a real estate company second; its leanings are evident in its legal name: Home Bay Technologies Inc.

Currently, the company is focused on listings in California although its platform still has a handful of properties in Colorado, Florida, and Texas. In addition, Home Bay used to serve Georgia and Illinois. (Read more about its shrinking business model.)

Home Bay also offers mortgages to all homebuyers in California; you don't need to purchase a property through the company to obtain a Home Bay mortgage.

We always advise buyers not to feel pressured to choose a mortgage through your real estate broker just because it's convenient. A home is one of the biggest purchases you'll ever make. Shop around to find the best loan for your specific needs.

Is Home Bay legitimate?

Yes, Home Bay is a legitimate, registered brokerage. However, the company has gone through significant leadership turnover and appears to have shaky business prospects.

For one thing, the company is on its second CEO in five years, and recent Glassdoor reviews of Home Bay complain of weak leadership.

In 2017, the State of California's Bureau of Real Estate filed an accusation against the company for not collecting commissions under its proper licensed name. The case resulted in only minor disciplinary action, but sheds negative light on Home Bay's management.

We're also concerned by the fact that Home Bay hasn't become the tech disruptor that its investors had hoped for. The company has received more than $19 million in funding rounds earmarked for expansion but has instead shrunk in geographic scope.

Home Bay agents used to serve Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas. And in January 2019, CEO Ken Potashner reported planned expansion into as many as 20 additional states by the end of the year.

Not only did that growth not happen, but now the company has dwindled down to a focus on just California.

Home Bay is looking to sell its proprietary listing platform to other brokerage firms, perhaps in a way to make up for lost ground. The company paints a picture of a worrisome dependence on technology over customer experience and getting sellers the most money for their homes.

We don't think Home Bay's business model is sustainable. Another brokerage we've reviewed, Faira Real Estate, used to bill itself as a tech disruptor but has since modified its business to include more human interaction and support after its listings started shrinking. We're concerned for the future of these businesses.

When you list your home, you want to have confidence that an agent is looking out for your best interests. We recommend exploring different options in the discount brokerage space.

» MORE: Find discount brokers near you.

How does Home Bay compare to top alternatives?


Home BayCleverRedfinREX
Avg Customer Rating4.4 (488 reviews)4.9 (540 reviews)3.2 (283 reviews)4.7 (697 reviews)
Dedicated point of contact?YesYesYesYes
In-person support?NoneFullPartialFull
Regions CoveredCaliforniaNationalNationalSouthwest, West, Southeast, Mid-atlantic, Northeast
Listing Fee$2,000-$6,0001% or $3,0001.5% (min fees vary by market)2% or $9,000
Avg Savings*$8,438$7,375$6,000$1,250

Learn MoreLearn MoreLearn MoreLearn More

*Average fee compared to a 3% commission at four price points: $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, $750,000.

Compared to other discount brokers, Home Bay looks like it could save you a ton of money.

However, when you compare its offerings with what you get from services such as Clever or Redfin, its price tag looks unappealing.

Home Bay offers no in-person support — unlike the other brokers on this short list.

In fact, CEO Ken Potashner reports that Home Bay spends an average of 90 minutes of human interaction on each sale. That's much less than the interaction you can expect from a traditional agent.

Will you feel your needs have been met after only an hour-and-a-half of attention?

Sellers are expected to do the work themselves when they pay for Home Bay. The platform "guides" you along through the steps of a home sale. There's no experienced agent looking to get you the highest price for your home.

Our No. 1 piece of advice for anyone looking for an agent to list their home is to shop around and interview several realtors in your area.

Compare top local agents, save thousands!

Try Clever’s free agent-matching service today.

How does Home Bay work?

Home Bay's business model is 100% technology based.

Sellers list on the Home Bay listing platform (as well as on the MLS, as with most other discount brokers). The platform then "walks" them through the listing process.

Although you can call a dedicated agent, you'll never meet in person, and they'll never come to your home.

Offers are made and negotiated directly through the Home Bay platform.

The company's marketing states that its system "automatically red flags" potential "issues" in an offer. We're unsure if AI can be as attentive as an agent who knows your home and area well.

Sometimes there's just no substitute for expert professional representation in a huge transaction such as a home sale.

Don't rely just on AI to review offers on your home. At the very least, make sure to always carefully read the fine print — even if you're working with an agent.

How much does Home Bay cost?

Home Bay charges a flat fee to the seller that ranges from $2,000-$6,000 depending on your listing price. When you sign a 90-day contract with Home Bay, you'll be required to pay 10% of your fee up front — which is unusual even among discount brokers.

Here's how Home Bay’s flat fee changes at different price points:

Price PointFlat FeePercentage
$100,000$2,0002%
$250,000$2,2500.9%
$500,000$4,0000.8%
$750,000$6,0000.8%

By using Home Bay, you can see significant savings compared to the 3% listing commission usually paid to an agent — though of course, keep in mind the significant difference in service.

If you cancel your contract before 90 days, you'll forfeit your 10% deposit. If your home fails to sell within 90 days, Home Bay will refund the deposit back to you.

Keep in mind that, as with all home transactions, in addition to the listing fee, you should expect to pay the buyer's agent commission, which is typically 2.5-3%. Home Bay allows you to decide yourself how much to offer.

Make sure to research average buyer's agent commissions in your area. If you offer a percentage that’s too low, agents might not feel compelled to bring their clients to your listing.

» MORE: Average Real Estate Commission in California

Home Bay vs. for sale by owner

Many sellers discover Home Bay while researching options for marketing their home “for sale by owner,” or FSBO.

FSBO comes with its own risks: you need to be comfortable with a DIY approach and have enough experience with the home-selling process to manage your own sale.

Many FSBO properties fail to sell for many months before the sellers ultimately decide to list with a traditional real estate agent.

However, when FSBO works, it can save you a ton of money — significantly more than with Home Bay’s hefty $2,000-4,000 fees.

When listing a home for sale by owner, you don't need to handle the transaction entirely by yourself, either. There are a number of services that can help you market your home and even review the paperwork for just a fraction of Home Bay's price.

Flat-fee MLS services can help you market a FSBO property and even provide extra services such as contract negotiation. These services cost just a fraction of Home Bay's fee; our research indicates that typical rates for flat-fee MLS services in California are just $195-1,295.

You could also hire a real estate attorney to handle the paperwork if that's the aspect of the sale you feel most uncomfortable with. (And in fact, some states other than California require a lawyer to be present at closing.) You can expect to pay as little as $150 per hour for such a service.

» LEARN: Realtor or Real Estate Lawyer: Which Is Cheaper?

If you feel less confident handling a home sale yourself, there are options that offer the support of a full-service agent who will work with you in person for just a fraction of a percent more.

Compare agents and save thousands

Try our free agent-matching service! Clever will get proposals from the top agents in your area — and negotiate discounted rates of just $3K or 1%.

Selling a house with Home Bay

On paper, Home Bay offers many of the same the services traditional agents provide:

ServiceHome BayTraditional Agent
Local MLS Listing
Dedicated Agent
In-home ConsultX
Negotiation
Photography
Yard Sign
Lockbox
Flyers
Open HouseX

However, as a seller, you'll never meet with your agent in person.

Although you'll save money on the listing fee, you might lose serious cash in the long run.

After all, your agent can't give you the most accurate advice about pricing your home, fixing repairs, cosmetic improvements, etc. That could lead to getting a lower price than you deserve for your home or having your listing sit on the MLS for months because it's overpriced.

That could be a costly problem. Not only would you be paying carrying costs such as taxes, utility bills, and HOA fees, but buyers might become skeptical of a home that's been on the market for a long time. They might assume something is wrong with your property and even avoid making an offer if you lower the price later.

When you agree to use Home Bay to list your home, you'll sign a 90-day contract and put down 10% of the flat-fee listing commission.

If you break your contract before 90 days, you'll forfeit your deposit money. However, if you don't sell your home with Home Bay and cancel after 90 days, you'll get your money back.

We have suspicions that Home Bay might try to push home sales through within 90 days to keep the deposit cash. After all, the company claims 94% of sales are made in the first 90 days.

However you slice it, the 10% deposit is an unusual practice. Most brokers do not make you pay one cent in advance.

That said, fees for breaking contracts are common. The amount you could lose for breaking a Home Bay agreement could work out to about the same or even less than what other brokers would charge.

Always make sure that you do your due diligence and read the fine print before signing any kind of contract.

Home Bay agents

Home Bay agents receive a salary. That's unlike traditional real estate agents who are paid commission and make money only when they have helped their clients sell their homes.

One agent told us that they also receive a bonus if you leave them a positive review. However, it's unlikely this bonus is as large as the commission traditional real estate agents earn.

Home Bay can pay its agents less because sales are completely remote. All of your communication with your agent will occur via the listing platform or phone. And don't expect to receive white-glove, personalized care.

The company advertises this model as benefiting sellers — you'll save "money, time, and hassle."

But a salaried Home Bay agent just might not be willing to go above and beyond to get sellers top price for their homes. After all, they're on the clock and earn the same salary no matter how much your home sells for.

Plus, it's unlikely the top home-selling talent in your area is going to be working a salaried job. They're going to be competing to earn more money on a "pay for performance" model.

We recommend shopping around for an agent who will fight to get you the best price for your home.

Try Clever’s free agent-matching service!

Interview top agents, find the perfect fit, save thousands.

Buying a house with Home Bay

The biggest advantage of using Home Bay to buy a property is the rebate. The company advertises that you'll receive 10% of the buyer's agent commission back at closing.

That sounds like a huge percentage at first glance. But that's creative marketing.

Most other discount brokerages that offer rebates advertise them as a percentage of the sale price.

Considering the sale price and a buyer's agent commission of 2.5-3%, Home Bay's rebate is really 0.25-0.3%.

That's a better deal the higher your home price, but use caution. Home Bay wants it to sound like a larger percent.

When you buy a home with Home Bay, you'll be connected with what the company calls a "showing coordinator." The company isn't very forthcoming as to whether these people are licensed real estate agents or not.

The basic function of a showing coordinator is exactly what you'd expect: to show houses to prospective buyers.

Once you've found a home you wish to buy, someone else on the Home Bay team will help with negotiations, paperwork, etc.

Can you use a Home Bay showing coordinator to view a non-Home Bay listed house? And can you buy an "outside" house using the platform? The company doesn't make this very clear. In fact, its marketing message suggests the opposite.

However, we phoned a Home Bay agent who informed us that you can use the company to view and purchase a non-Home Bay listed home. We take this as more evidence of Home Bay's confusing and disorganized business model.

Another risk of using Home Bay is the potential for an upsell.

We're concerned that Home Bay employees might pressure you to use Home Bay Financial's mortgage services.

Using a one-stop-shop for your home-buying and financing needs might seem convenient, but that's what discount brokers like Home Bay count on.

The products Home Bay offers might not be the best fit for you.

A new home is one of the biggest purchases you'll ever make. It pays to shop around when considering agents, mortgage providers, title companies, and so on, to find the best fit.

Compare top buyer’s agents near you

Clever matches you with top agents in your area and helps you find the perfect fit. Qualifying buyers can even get up to 1% back at closing.

Home Bay reviews

Note: The following review information is up-to-date as of 11/20/2020. We will update this section as new information becomes available.


Rating# of reviews
Weighted Avg4.4488
Trustpilot4.5265
Zillow4.7121
Google4.194
Yelp38

Customer reviews of Home Bay are a mixed bag.

This Home Bay reviewer reported a positive experience on Zillow. At the time, the reviewer was living on the East Coast and appreciated Home Bay's remote platform for selling a home in California:

On the other hand, Zillow user FreyaMcKenna4 was less enthusiastic. She complained about terrible communication and warns others to avoid Home Bay "like the plague":

Likewise, markcole5460 complained on Zillow about unresponsive agents and poor help when pricing their home:

Pros and cons of Home Bay

Pros

  • Home Bay's flat fees could save you thousands of dollars compared to traditional real estate listing commissions.
  • Qualified buyers can get roughly 0.25-0.3% back at closing.

Cons

  • You basically get a flat-fee MLS service but for a discount broker price. You could use a flat-fee MLS service or attorney to DIY much cheaper.
  • You must pay 10% of the listing fee upfront.
  • Home Bay keeps your deposit if you cancel your contract before 90 days.
  • Salaried agents could be less motivated to sell your home for top dollar.
  • It's likely Home Bay will pressure you to buy its own mortgage or escrow services, regardless of whether they're the best fit for you.
  • Home Bay customer service is poor — an agent we spoke with wasn't able to answer questions about buying with Home Bay.
  • A shaky business model and reports of employee dissatisfaction don't inspire trust.

Conclusion: Is Home Bay right for you?

Unfortunately, we can't recommend that anyone use Home Bay.

For one thing, we worry its salaried agents are more likely to push a deal through than to make sure you're getting the best price for your home. That's because the agents are earning the same amount of money no matter how much your home sells for. Also, if your home doesn’t sell in 90 days and you take your business elsewhere, Home Bay would have to return your 10% deposit.

In addition, Home Bay's tech-centric business model means agents never see your house in person. They can't possibly give you the most accurate advice about how to sell your home for the right price if they have no hands-on experience of the property.

Plus, Home Bay's geographically shrinking business gives us pause. The company had hoped to expand into nearly half of the U.S. by the end of 2019. In reality, it contracted to focusing on just California. This is compounded by evidence of mismanagement and poor leadership.

If you have a high-priced home, theoretically, you could save significant money by using Home Bay rather than a traditional realtor.

However, you'd be sacrificing a ton of service and the experience and one-on-one communication it takes to ensure your home sells for the right price.

If you feel comfortable selling your house yourself, check out less expensive options than Home Bay, such as listing it for sale by owner (FSBO) and using a flat-fee MLS service.

» LEARN: How to Sell Your House for Sale by Owner

» READ: What You Need to Know About Flat-Fee MLS Listings

And if you need more assistance with your home sale, for just a little more money than what Home Bay charges, you can get a full-service agent.

The key takeaway here is that selling a home is a high-stakes process. Don’t just blindly hire the cheapest option! Shop around for the service or agent who is going to A) get you the best price for your home and B) make the experience as smooth and painless as possible.

A company like Home Bay might save you $5,000 on commission, but if you sell for $20,000 below your home’s market value, you’re not getting much of a bargain...

Next Steps: Talk to an expert!

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Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your basic info below. Our Concierge Team will be in touch shortly to help.

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