Gary Heyer has a tool for home shoppers who found the home of their dreams … and found out it’s not for sale. He also has a solution for homeowners who want to gauge interest in their home before putting their home on the market.
Heyer, president and CEO of Minnesota-based NeighborhoodNetwork.com, has created a pre-market for real estate transactions that allows prospective home buyers to shop for all homes, whether or not they’re actually on the market.
“In the traditional real estate market your house is virtually invisible until you decide to sell it,” he said. “We are marketing every house that exists.”
Igglo, a company in Finland, has a similar site that allows prospective buyers to bid for properties that aren’t formally for sale. That company has reportedly photographed every building in Helsinki, and allows prospective buyers to post online offers that can be viewed by homeowners.
The Web site allows real estate agents to sponsor a part of a grid defined by the company, and those agents can farm the area for buyer and seller leads and establish themselves as specialists in those areas.
Homeowners can attract attention from buyers by creating a profile of their properties. “Every property owner has the ability to create a property profile much like a MySpace profile,” he said, referring to the wildly popular MySpace.com social networking site.
Heyer has partnered with Facet Technology Corp., a company that is a provider of street-level imagery to Microsoft Corp., to provide property images for the site. The site also includes overhead map views of properties.
The site features data from Minnesota’s Regional Multiple Listing Service, and Heyer said the goal is to offer photographs for every property in the Twin Cities area.
“This is pro-MLS and pro-Realtor,” Heyer said. “This is a network for Realtors to keep them in the center of the transaction. There is no secret little network in trying to steal MLS data — it’s about keeping MLSs relevant. This is the ultimate play to disintermediate the disintermediaries.”
A real estate broker, Heyer previously worked for ShopNBC.com, an online home-shopping network. In that business, he said, “We measured all of our productivity in dollars per minute.” He said he was surprised when he first got into the real estate sales business to attend meetings where it seemed “the major concern was whether or not we should have doughnuts or bagels.”
Heyer said he realized that Internet marketing was a key in finding new business, and he went door to door offering to provide information to homeowners about home valuations if they supplied him with their e-mail address. “They all want to know what their house is worth,” he said.
His goal for NeighborhoodNetwork.com is to develop “an army of agents” who can develop a relationship with residents and interested buyers in a given area, he said.
Property owners can upload photos of their property, enter or update details about the property, and monitor consumer interest in the property and in the neighborhood. Heyer is selling off neighborhood areas in one-square-mile sections.
Participants who enter a home profile can receive monthly reports about active, pending and sold MLS-listed properties in the neighborhood areas. The site also offers a “Click2Sell” feature that allows homeowners to enter into a contract to sell their home using the services of the sponsoring real estate agent in their area.
Prospective buyers can scan property profiles and view a home’s proximity to shops, restaurants and schools. Users can also rank and rate properties and neighborhood areas, and can contact lenders to be pre-approved for a home purchase.
Even if a house is not on the market, sellers can agree to allow showings if property owner and prospective buyer agree, Heyer said. “(Agents) can basically show any house that exists as long as both have expressed interest that one wants to show it and one wants to see it.”
Consumers who use the NeighborhoodNetwork.com site are not mandated to use the services of sponsoring agents, Heyer also said, unless they choose to enter into a formal contract with those agents. Sellers who work with a sponsoring agent will have access to the pool of prospective buyers who had expressed interest in their property through the site.