Sellsius is alive.
Like a catchy trailer for a soon-to-be released film, the uninhibited Sellsius blog put the company’s brand on the real estate industry radar a year before its founders unleashed their actual business model — a national online community featuring property listings, profiles, user-generated articles, forums and classified ads.
Sellsius founders Joseph G. Ferrara and Rudolph D. Bachraty III first promoted their plan for a real estate marketing Web site in late 2005 and launched the blog last year.
The community portal, at SellsiusRealEstate.com, focuses on the macro rather than the micro — the site is built to accommodate anything and everything that is remotely related to real estate. That means real estate professionals can post information about the standard categories of single-family homes, condos or co-ops as well as the more exotic: cabins and castles, food courts and fish farms, hobbit homes and houseboats, and waterfront properties and windmill conversions.
And the site is intended to foster networking among a broad group of people working in real estate-related professions, including appraisers, contractors, inspectors and lawyers.
The founders, who have both worked as real estate brokers in New York, took an all-encompassing approach to subscription costs as well — while the site is free to search, the cost is $29.95 per year for the privilege of posting information. They refer to the site as an “enhanced real estate classifieds Web site,” a sort of real estate-focused Craigslist with an annual subscription fee.
While there are many Web sites that allow real estate professionals to post property information for free, among them Google Base, Oodle, Trulia and Zillow, “We wanted to bring some quality-control to an online site,” Ferrara said. Charging for access will hopefully weed out some of the bad actors, he said, adding that the cost is intended to be low enough that it is not prohibitive to join. “It’s not free but it’s almost free — it’s less than a tank of gas,” he said.
“We are really trying to build a community. We’re not only focusing on real estate agents. It’s a classified site. You could put (up) a job posting, office furniture or equipment. You can advertise services, if you’re a dog-walker or a house-sitter. We created an all-in-one venue for real estate,” he said. “We want it to be a one-stop destination. That’s our grand plan.”
Property listings at the site are linked with the profile of the agents or brokers associated with the listings. The profiles feature contact information and can include as details about the person’s specialties, geographic areas served, languages spoken and educational background, among other specifics. Site users can also choose to view a list of property listings or articles associated with a specific real estate professional.
The site will feature only exclusive listings, or those properties that the agent or broker is under an exclusive contract to sell or rent.
Searches can be customized by keyword, category, niche, city or ZIP code location, sales price, listing professional, date listed, or property attributes including square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and whether pets are allowed.
There is also a “speed search” option that allows a more detailed query in order to narrow the search results. No registration information is required to search the site.
The blog platform, which is well-established in the real estate blogging community, will be a useful tool in promoting the site, Ferrara said. “We’ll probably get a lot of bloggers to join who know us from our blogging.”
It’s going to take some time to build up content, said Bachraty, though he said that they have a head start because of all the networking they’ve engaged in over the past year. “We did touch a number of people. We’re relying on good contacts, good relationships that we built traveling the United States to help us get off the ground.”
As a part of its subscription service, Sellsius offers up to 10 unique Web addresses that users can assign to various advertisements in order to track the traffic they receive from various advertising media. Users will have access to a “dashboard” tool at the site that will show traffic statistics from the various URLs.
For-sale listings added to the site are automatically active for 14 days, and listings will automatically expire from the site after that period unless the listing agent manually renews the status of the listing. Rental listings have a seven-day lifespan.
“We found this pretty important. We were doing research on Craigslist and other sites and sometimes you found listings that were actually sold or out of date — they just remained on the site,” Bachraty said.
Ferrara added, “We’re trying to create a trustworthy community.”
While some property-search sites rely on display advertising, those ads can be an eyesore, said Bachraty. The subscription model for Sellsius allows a more streamlined, less cluttered design, he said. “We hope that members and consumers notice the difference and say this is a much more pleasant experience rather than having banner ads pop up there.”