New gadget to bring buyers and sellers together, or potential trouble?

Got Bob?For my first post I am going to review a new gadget…danger, danger!  This requires the opinion of me.  That’s pretty darn scary. Have you ever heard what comes out of my mouth?

First about me, I don’t want to just jump into the VARbuzz with out a little bit about myself.  Not sure Virginia is really ready for what I have to offer…wait, sure they are.  They already have Frank LlosaI am safe. And plus this is where all the cool kids hang out.  MAR (that’s where I pay my dues) doesn’t have anything like this. NOPE, nada, not yet!  I would love to have a counterpart like Ben Martin (VAR) and Kim Shindle (PAR) to promote today’s technology needs in MAR.  (Our convention doesn’t even have a technology related class or seminar on the agenda…but it is at least in our state :) )

Back to me…it is all about me right?  I have been a technology addict since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  My first computer was the TRS-80 with a 2400 baud modem and a cassette tape back up.  Does that make me a trained professional?  Yep, I can make a certificate on Photoshop and own a domain/website that says I am.  I have spent endless hours on the internet researching/stalking information about anything real estate related.

I have been stalking Teresa Boardman, because she really gets it.  My blog is a direct result of her outstanding blog.  I have been selling real estate for the past three years.  Lucky me, I came in at just the right time…at the end of the boom.  This has done a few things for me:  educate and understand.  If you aren’t learning you aren’t earning.  In our industry, knowledge is power.  That is the ONLY thing we have to offer our clients.  Unless your name is on the deed, you are not buying and selling real estate.  After learning, you really have to understand how it all works together.

If you are reading this, you are part of the four percent of the agents that understand technology.  (and probably connected to me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and so on…we flock together.)  But you have to realize that it’s truly about mastering on how to make technology connect with real people. (Jeff Turner really understands this part with YEO) After all, they are the ones that buy and sell houses.  So, that’s me. I have been stalking people around using technology to sell real estate.  So far, it has been working…and pretty darn good.

OK, my first homework assignment.  N-Play.  I went online and viewed the videos and gave it a road test.

DisclaimerThe opinions expressed by Bob Carney are just that…opinions…his alone. He was not compensated for his opinion (however, wouldn’t mind getting paid for this gig)  Also, he is a licensed real estate agent in Maryland and Pennsylvania, not Virginia (yet.)  Even if he was, always run your ideas past your broker for the correct answer…they can send you packing if you do something wrong.

N-Play is basically offering a very innovative idea to assist in generating offer traffic on your listings.  Take a look for yourself.  They offer a patent-pending system designed to help buyers and sellers arrive at a mutually agreeable selling price by allowing home shoppers to make anonymous, non-binding offers online. Sellers can review all offers to see if her asking price is in line with buyers’ expectations. Prospective buyers can make non-binding offers quickly and anonymously over the web, without (N-Play claims) the stress associated with making a “real” offer. Interesting, eh? Give it a test drive and come back and tell us what you think.

Here’s my take:

  1. First thing I noticed is that it is live in Florida and nowhere else.  Florida is a transactional state and plays by different rules.  We all have a level of fiduciary responsibilities and also some disclosure rules/laws/policies.  I not sure this will fly past our legal department.
  2. Doesn’t work on Internet Explorer 6.  (Issues with some real estate software prevent us, the technology early adopters, from using Internet Explorer 7)  Plus, you are assuming the general public is ready to upgrade to IE7.  Just my thought.  It does work with FireFox 3.
  3. The user interface was easy to use. I just have concerns for the questions asked about what you want on the offer.  This area should be adaptable to what is normal in the area in which is used.  Buyers and sellers have no idea what a binder is used for in these parts.  The lack of understanding might reduce their chances of winning the bid.
  4. Does this have any legal ramifications in any other states?  Have you done your homework anywhere other than Florida?
  5. This feels a little like eBay for homes.  What systems are in place to prevent fraudulent bids?  If I am happy homeowner and I see the bids are low, what would stop me from creating a fictitious account to up the bids? I think there needs to be more information required during registration to prevent fake bidders.

VARbuzz readers, please use the comment section to express your thoughts. I like the concept, but could this possibly be a cookie cutter site for every state?

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11 Responses to New gadget to bring buyers and sellers together, or potential trouble?

  1. Matt Wilkins says:

    I agree that there are many items/issues that need to be ironed out for this system to take the next step. The “auction” method of selling real estate has become a big buzzword as of late as a way to jumpstart the market. I also feel that one platform does not fit every state’s law or an area’s customary procedures.

  2. Buying trinkets at auction over the internet also seemed totally impossible at one time. Too many hurdles to jump. I have to say, I am intrigued by this concept and would love to see it succeed. In theory, it makes a lot of sense. Perhaps this is a development in which the practice of real estate, including its laws, needs to catch up to the market/theory. Or maybe I’m missing something.

  3. Jim Rake says:

    Ben – good points, and yes, there will be a few “bumps in the road”, but we’ll be seeing it or something that looks very close…
    It’s our job to to make sure what we bring to the party is value added.

  4. 1. N-Play is a tool to help buyers and sellers get on the same page regarding the major issues of a transaction (price, closing terms, contingencies) prior to entering into a binding purchase agreement that is negotiated by real estate. Since making an offer on N-Play is non-binding on any party (buyer/seller/agent), there are NO disclosure rules/policies/laws in any state that would affect the use of service by real estate professionals.

    2. IE7 has been around for almost 3 years and will soon be replaced by IE8.0 which is now in beta. Many Web 2.0 applications require the later generations of browsers to be useful.

    3. In setting up the Seller’s profile, the listing agent chooses what questions that will appear on the offer grid to be asked of a potential buyer. This is customizable for every seller/listing. For example, if a listing agent did not want to ask the question regarding “binder fee” they simply would not select this question to be displayed for that lisitng. All terms are defined and can be viewed by clicking on the link. A popup window giving the description of the term is provided.

    4. THERE ARE NO LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS IN ANY STATE TO USE N-PLAY. N-PLAY IS A NON-BINDING SERVICE. This has been reviewed by real estate legal counsel, including representatives at NAR.

    5. There are many measures in place to discourage and/or prevent fraudulent/shill offers. We use the terms offers and not bids because N-Play IS NOT and auction, like EBAY. We like to think of ourselves as the “anti auction”

    There are strict terms and policies that every buyer and agent must agree to prior to placing listings and/or offers on N-Play specifically stating that shill offers will result in permanent loss of privileges. Additionally, unlike an e-bay environment, there are inherent reasons that a seller would not want to artificially set a price. In an E-BAY environment, the highest bidder is obligated to make the purchase and the seller is obligated to sell. Not so under the N-Play model.

    A seller can accept any offer or no offer. Every low offer will bring in a higher offer if there is a market for that property amongst other buyers. If there is not a market, then the price, whatever it may be is the real market value, although the seller may not choose to accept it. The seller can respond to the offer with stipulation modifying any of the terms of the offer, but a buyer does not have to agree to it, just like the offline world.

    Something is only worth what someone else will pay for it. Buyers know when placing offers that the seller does not even have to consider the offer, so making ridiculous offers will get no response. Why waste the time and energy if you get nothing from it?

    A seller making an artificial price only hurts him/herself. Besides violating the T&Cs of using N-Play, any artificial price sets the bar for those who may have been willing to offer under that price and be pulled up over time or through competitive offers. In this case, the seller loses out on a real buyer by setting a bar. Why do it?

    Additionally, N-Play will use state of the art fraud detection technology to identify and prevent further use by unscrupulous users.

  5. Jeremy Hart says:

    I have an agent on my Team who’s been talking about this idea for a couple of years. He calls it “the vending machine of homes”, and while I don’t like the term I know what he’s saying … you can get all the information you need at one site, make a decision, and buy without ever seeing the home.

    Many of us have had clients buy sight unseen, and it’s certainly the exception and not the norm. While I think the vending machine idea is far-fetched, I do think that services like N-Play can gain traction. I’m in the minority – I’m willing to buy expensive items online (in fact, bought my last car on eBay as a matter of fact, but because the price of a home doesn’t compare to the cost of a trinket or a book I don’t expect this to be right for the majority of the market. I can see a small percentage of buyers though – yet large enough to be commercially viable – that would like this service. If you can get enough information online or through other channels, then why not hit “Submit Bid” and see what happens?

  6. Tony Arko says:

    A couple of problems with the concept as it applies to real estate:

    1. Unlike Ebay, real estate is buyer beware here in VA. There is no way to force the seller to give a true picture of what condition the home is in. To think a buyer will spend $300 for an inspection is not realistic.

    2. A seller is usually only selling one property, therefore giving them a low rating will not force them to be forthcoming.

    3. The agent who is listing the property is not going to take the hit to their reputation because their seller didn’t disclose a problem so blaming them is pointless.

    It could be done but the risk taken, in my opinion, would be too high. Just like representing yourself in a murder trial, you might get off but you could also be sentenced to death.

  7. wow Bob! Two things, I am very flattered by this and some what relieved too. Now I can tell the police that it is only you and you are not a threat as a stalker. :)

  8. TRS-80? Lightweight. I remember upgrading to a TRS-80. I still have my Timex-Sinclair 1000 and — big spender, me — the 16K memory module.

  9. Hi Tony and Jeremey,

    We agree. Very few, if any, homebuyers will buy real estate sight unseen and that is NOT the way N-Play is intended to be used. It is assumed that the buyer making an offer on N-Play is familiar with the property, has seen it first hand, just as they normally would do prior to making a written offer. N-Play provides a nonbinding, simple means for the buyer to take immediate action and make an offer. After all, that’s what all agents’ want.

    Additionally, N-Play provides the buyer a means to make offers on several properties at the same time. Buyers have a lot of options. This interest level builds interest in other buyers and so on and so on, hopefully to the point where someone moves down the path to a purchase agreement.

    On the other hand, we have been told by many Realtors®, especially in south Florida, that there is a high level of international interest in US real estate. In this case, an offer could come from across the pond, with the contingency of the requirement of an onsite visit…. which is provided by the N-Play offer program. If most of the major points of a transaction are agreed to upfront, an international buyer is then willing to make the trip to see the property firsthand. If it meets the expectations, they close the deal. Although, we hope N-Play can serve this international (site unseen) market that will be the exception and not the norm. But either way, it works!

  10. Bob Carney says:

    Mark, Thanks for responding. You are absolutely right this is a great way to shorten the formalities of the process. I am sure every agent here has written an extreme low ball offer. N-Play would let us send our unrealistic client over to the site to test his/her offer. Saving the agents time on useless offers. We try hard to educate our clients on the best possible price, but sometimes the don’t listen.

    I think you stressed one thing to us that wasn’t hitting home on this trail. The fact it is NON-BINDING.

    The product is no doubt; easy to use. You said it is customizable.

    What has been your success rate with it? Realistically. I know this will take sometime for the public to grasp.

    Again, thanks for your response. You have addressed my concerns.

  11. Hey Bob! I’m just glad you’re here….

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