Chuck Teller bought a home in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Berkeley during the days when the list price was more like a low starting bid at an auction.
He knew that the home would sell for far more than its posted price, and his real estate agent offered this guidance: “You’ve just got to look deep inside and tell me what you want (to offer),” he said. After this gut check, Teller bid far over the list price and ultimately won out over dozens of others who also submitted offers on the same house.
Now, Teller is co-founder and CEO for Realius, a fantasy online real estate game company that he believes could have assisted him in establishing a value for the home he bought. Realius taps the wisdom of crowds, consumers’ passion for homes, and the phenomenal popularity of online games and fantasy sports, and Teller has a vision to make the business of real estate more fun. In the process, he’s hoping to educate consumers and industry professionals alike about the value of properties while offering them the opportunity to connect in real-world real estate transactions.
Realius founders are demonstrating their games platform this week during the TechCrunch40 Conference, which features new tech startups. Teller said that Realius is expected to launch in six to eight weeks.
“Really what we’re building — it’s a customer relations tool,” Teller said.
The first game that the company will launch, called Price Me Now, allows players to guess the price of homes for sale in a selected market area. The property photos and information featured in the game is supplied by brokers via the area’s multiple listing service, and players can sort through all of the property details before making an estimate about the property’s value.
Players are scored based on how close their guesses are to the average perceived property value established by the entire field of players.
The rankings include “oracle” (the best), followed by “genius,” “player,” “rookie” and “outsider” (worst). Players can follow their prowess in property estimates on a leader board to see how they rank against other players.
Real estate brokerage companies can pay to license the game through their Web sites, and agents and brokers can establish themselves as coaches in the game and invite all clients and prospective clients to participate as players, said Teller, who has past experience in urban planning and software development. Also, players can choose to participate in the game without a coach.
“We’re creating the park for agents and consumers to meet in the park,” he said. The game is designed to be a casual way for consumers and agents to connect, and agents and brokers will be able to track the participation of players that they invite to Realius. In addition to licensing revenue, Teller said Realius also seeks to earn money through product placement by companies that market home-renovation products at the site, for example.
In addition to licensing revenue, Teller said Realius also seeks to earn money through product placement by companies that market home-renovation products at the site, for example, and by selling subscriptions to prediction-market reports based on users’ valuations.
“I think this game is perfectly designed for someone in the market,” he said, as players can choose to view and estimate values for newly listed properties in markets where they may be actively looking to buy or sell a home.
Teller said Realius may become the “intention play” of the real estate Web world — offering real estate professionals a glimpse into the minds of consumers based on users’ activities in the games. “The Holy Grail is to know what they’re thinking,” he said. “I believe we are going to be able to understand — if we do this right — people’s intentions.”
Price Me Now is the first in a series of games planned through Realius. Another game, Fantasy Flip, will allow homeowners to place their own homes — or a renovated version of their own homes — up to the audience of players to gauge the value of the property. Teller refers to this planned game as “Mr. Potato House,” as players can create hybrid homes based on their own homes just as kids can modify their Mr. Potato Head toy with different facial features.
Another planned Realius release is My Dream House, which allows users to assemble a scrapbook of images that they like from real properties they view at the site. Home buyers, for example, could save pictures for home features that they consider ideal in their own future home. The company will allow users to choose whether to make these selections public or private.
Another online home-value tool that relies on the wisdom of crowds, launched this year by the makers of real estate ratings site Homethinking.com, allows real estate professionals and others to predict home-price trends for a given area to improve their rankings in an online community. The Homethinking Prediction Markets tools are available for the 100 most populated counties in the nation and allow users to buy and sell shares using play money to predict year-end home prices at the county level.
Teller said he expects there will be some very practical benefits from the Realius games, as players may become more informed about home values in a given area and developers might use the Realius platform to test out the market for pre-construction properties.
While there are many real estate Web sites that offer a range of search features and community networking tools, Teller said that he believes an important element is absent from many of these sites. “There’s no way to engage (the audience),” he said.
As Realius evolves, Teller said he has hopes of allowing players to assemble their own teams and competitive leagues to more resemble traditional fantasy sports games.