A poisonous spider is not the typical mascot for an online real estate networking site. And the founders of Black Widow Network are well aware of that.
The site is geared toward real estate investors, a group that is known for striking quickly and taking aggressive steps when it comes to deals on properties — see the parallels now?
It’s not the first social network to welcome real estate investors, though it does focus specifically on the investor niche. BiggerPockets.com is an online community designed for investors, homeowners and real estate professionals, and PropertyShark.com backs the MyDealBook.com networking site that features a range of real estate professionals including investors, as examples.
The Black Widow Network joins a large pool of real estate-centric online networks. There are also a variety of companies that have sprung up to offer data tools for real estate investors, such as Krunching.com.
There are about 1,100 investors now using the Black Widow site since its launch in December, said Kevin Skarritt, who holds the title of "chief arachnid" at the network and works on branding and Web design for the Boston Area Real Estate Investment Association.
Skarritt said that the spider theme for the site — which predominantly features the infamous red hourglass shape that appears on black widow abdomens — is intended to make the network stand out on the Web. "The nature of real estate investors is they’re very aggressive with marketing, very aggressive with deal-making. Yah, the spider kind of creeps people out a little bit," he acknowledged, though, "’strike fast’ is really at the heart of how real estate investors think."
It’s not the only real estate site with a bug theme, either — Inman News earlier reported on Bug Realty, a brokerage company that uses a ladybug theme in its branding.
Skarritt said that he conceptualized the site with Richard Dale-Mesaros, the "chief deal weaver" of the network who is a professional investor.
"We were talking about what the industry needed … what could we really do to energize the industry? Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an MLS system just for investors. We started making a wish list," he said.
The Web site has a free registration process, and members pay a fee to post for-sale properties that they own to the site. They can also post for free by using credits that they earn at the site through participation in the network.
Investors who use the site, including licensed real estate agents, cannot post property for sale at the site that they don’t own or have under contract.
Dale-Mesaros said the site is open to a range of property types, including single-family, commercial and industrial properties and vacant land, with membership geared toward individual investors.
He said the site is intended for the "individual guy who is buying a first-flip property or a piece of land to someone like myself who is doing multiple deals a year but isn’t an institutional investor." Members of the roughly 400 real estate investor groups around the country are the intended audience, he said.
He said that while the network is investor-focused, he does expect that consumers looking for deals may have an interest in perusing properties at the site and that there is an opportunity for real estate agents to work on the buy-side of transactions with investors.
"There certainly has been more national interest generated in flipping houses," he said.
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