When it comes to open houses, I am a “habitual weekend lookie-loo.” Recently, when deciding to sell my own property, my real estate agent offered to sign me up for a new Internet service called Clean Offer.Now I am a hopeless addict.

I feel like I just discovered electricity or sliced bread. Looking for a house has become efficient and almost effortless. How it works is prospective home buyers commit to a real estate agent, who then registers them with the Clean Offer Web site. All you need is an e-mail address and password and you’re in.

Clean Offer’s service currently is only available in the North Bay Area of San Francisco, but the company plans to add the city of San Francisco by December.

Once logged into the Web site, the fun begins. First, you click on “searches” and define your parameters by establishing the counties and cities that interest you, the price range you want and the ideal size of property by number of rooms and baths. You might wonder what’s so new about this since many Web sites offer the same service and some include even more discriminating categories. But not like this one.

Once you establish your search parameters, everything that is on the MLS at that moment will show up for your perusal. You can then tweak your search or create different ones to save (I have three: one for single-family homes, one for commercial and multiple-family homes and one for vacant lots). You can always return to the site and perform other searches, and create a favorites file with properties that appeal to you. Nowadays, most listings have photos and some have film clips of the property. The site also enables you to map properties directly from the listing page, and receive up-to-date market information about neighborhoods you’re targeting.

“You can see everything on the MLS,” my agent said about the site. Well, OK, but I could get some of that on other sites, too. What she didn’t say – and what hooked me – was what happened next. The day after I saved my first search, I received an e-mail from my agent saying that another property fitting my criteria had just been listed on the market. I immediately e-mailed her back to thank her for her diligence. She e-mailed back to tell me she wasn’t the one sending me the information, that Clean Offer was sending it automatically and in real time. I also learned that Clean Offer provides my agent with my site activity information, but she decides what to do with it depending on how much “go-getter attitude” she has.

Two days later I received four e-mails from my agent. Two of them were for new listings meeting my requirements; the other two were announcements of a change in status for a couple of my favorites. What I saved in my favorites filealso is updated in real time.The e-mail provided the exact address of the property that had a status change, and when I clicked onto its page, I learned that it had gone into escrow and that the other property had sold. I never had to go back into the Clean Offer Web site and redefine parameters or look at every property regularly to check for new activity.

I was thrilled. I didn’t lift a finger, and – come to think of it – neither did my agent.

You know all that talk about artificial intelligence that makes you wonder what it means and what it could do? This is good enough for me. The Clean Offer technology is intelligent and knows what I want to know and which properties I want to see. It tells me information that I might not be able to get from all agents. For instance, the status-change e-mails cover price reductions, property that’s been taken off the market, property that’s been put back on the market at a higher price, property that’s gone into escrow, and properties that have sold. 

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The end result is that I am becoming a veritable expert on properties in my area of interest. I can predict approximate prices for properties on the verge of selling, as well as which properties will sell quickly based on the market and individual property information I learn from the site.

The minute the service notifies me of a new listing, I jump in my car to go look at it from the outside before the day of the open house. That way I can see the property at different times of day before I decide whether to bother venturing inside. I can eliminate many houses without going inside them because when I told my agent I wanted a view, I forgot to mention that I don’t like houses under lots of trees because they are dark, or that I hate Victorians or wood shingles, unless the sun shines on the house most of the day.

Armed with all the information I learned online, I wonder what was it I needed my agent for? Oh yes, she signed me up with Clean Offer, and I still need her to close the deal and maybe negotiate terms.

If a Web site can perform the work of a realty broker or agent, why would anyone need a real person? I am sure the creators of Clean Offer are figuring this one out, too. The process would be much cleaner and more efficient when automated.

For now, I love my agent. She is adding my condo to the Clean Offer Web site so it ends up in other home buyers’ favorites files. As far as finding my new home, I willingly do all the work for her because it is more efficient for my needs this way. But watch out my friend, because with a few legal changes you may find yourself out of work.


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