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game of lifeIf the game of Life taught us anything, it’s that buying a house is one of the most important decisions a person can make. Today, personal finance startup SmartAsset has significantly expanded its platform that provides people with tools they need to make intelligent home-buying decisions.

Y Combinator-backed SmartAsset prompts you with a series of questions about your income, deductions, assets, geography, and expenses. Based on the responses, the engine generates personalizes advice on what is affordable and why, how a purchase would affect cash flow, tax consequences, and more. The new features include mortgage advice, government programs, neighborhood recommendations, and home appreciations.

“In the wake of the financial crisis, the average consumer is less trusting of banks and brokers for financial advice and seeks greater autonomy in decision-making,” said founder Michael Carvin in an email. “SmartAsset equips users with the information and analytics they need to make decisions for themselves. SmartAsset provides unparalleled transparency into financial decision-making.”

Carvel was working in finance when he decided to buy a home. He was surprised to learn how complicated the process was and about all the hidden costs. He said advice from real estate agents, brokers, and other companies was often wrong or biased, and online advice was “static or anecdotal,” meaning it did not pertain to his personal circumstances. Financing is one of those areas where one size does not always fit all, and Carvin decided to build an engine that delivered personalized and accurate advice.

SmartAsset first launched in July. This update triples the number of questions its customers can answer, which adds an additional layer of customization. Carvin said that these questions are searched for on Google 4 million times per month, and he is responding to user demand to help people answer these questions in an intelligent and trusted way.

Now in addition to factoring in personal information, tax codes, transaction expenses, and dynamic property values, SmartAsset will also answer questions about mortgage insurance and types, checks if users qualify for government programs, make neighborhood recommendations based on data about local crime rates, school quality, weather, and commute times. The company also partnered with Moody’s, which provides credit ratings and research, to forecast home appreciation by county. Carvin said this is the first time this data has been made public.

While for now, SmartAsset is focused on home-buying, there are 24 other “life-changing” financial decisions in the pipeline, such as whether to go back to school or when to retire. The startup is based in New York and backed by $2.4 million from North Bridge Venture Partners, Javelin Venture Partners, Peterson Venture Partners, Y Combinator, Quotidian Ventures, and angels.

Photo credit: thetorpedodog/Flickr


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