A new online system aims to reduce the stress and guesswork in preparing and accepting purchase offers in home-sale transactions by ranking Internet-based offers according to seller preferences.

The system, called N-Play, allows buyers to post anonymous and nonbinding offers that can be viewed by other interested buyers.

While buyers in a typical real estate transaction do not immediately know where they stand when they submit an offer to a seller, the N-Play system instantly displays how each submitted offer ranks in comparison to other offers, based on how closely the offers synch with the seller’s desires.

The seller may favor a cash transaction over financing, for example, and a large down payment and prequalification for a loan could be a higher priority for the seller than the total purchase price. A quick closing date and minimal contingencies could also boost an offer’s ranking, depending on the seller’s preferences.

If a prospective buyer is not pleased with the offer’s ranking, the buyer can tweak the various parameters of the offer in an effort to boost its ranking.

If the buyer is represented by an agent, the system asks the user to enter the agent’s name and e-mail address. The system then notifies the agent about the client’s interest in making an offer on N-Play, and the agent is asked to activate the client’s offer by logging into the N-Play system.

The system is offered through listing agents and their brokerage companies.

Prudential Network Realty in Northeast Florida has been testing the N-Play system for several weeks, and RE/MAX Atlantic in Jacksonville, Fla., is also an early adopter of the technology.

The N-Play technology formally launches today, and technology company N-Play RE LLC is offering free introductory subscriptions to the first 1,000 agents and first 50 brokerage companies with 100 or more agents that sign up to use the N-Play system.

Frustrations in trying to sell his home in Atlanta led Mark Bloomfield to the N-Play concept. Bloomfield, founder and CEO for N-Play, said he didn’t receive any offers on his for-sale home for two years and he said that N-Play offers a new way to stimulate home sales.

"We really think this is a paradigm-shifting idea. The buyer and seller can at least get to the same page," he said.

In a typical real estate transaction, buyers may be "highly stressed or unsure of what they’re doing," and emotions can run high. The N-Play system "allows sellers to start to get real about what the market will bear."

He added, "It works in this market or an up market."

The system does not function like an eBay-style auction, he said. "We understood that we didn’t want it to be an auction, because ‘auction’ really isn’t a good word for most home sellers. The seller can accept any offer at any time, or no offer. We’re just trying to bring people together, where the real estate agents can get the deal done.

"We like to think of this as the anti-auction."

Sellers can decide whether or not they will accept offers from prospective buyers who are not represented by agents, Bloomfield said

The N-Play technology is designed to be hosted by a brokerage company or agent Web sites. A series of videos accompany the system at client sites, describing the offer process in detail.

During the initial testing period there was an offer submitted on a Prudential listing, he said.

Christy Budnick, executive vice president for Prudential Network Realty in Northeast Florida, said the company tested out about 20 properties with the N-Play system.

"We are going to open this up to the entire company," she said. "The great thing about the system is it brings buyers and sellers together but it’s not binding."

She noted that the seller’s agent can begin to negotiate a deal on an offer while still entertaining other bids entered into the N-Play system.

"One of the things buyers love about it is that it’s very much an open book. You (can) see the bid … and the terms that have been offered by the buyer," Budnick said.

Buyers remain anonymous until the offer becomes a ratified offer, she said. "I think it will work even better when the market heats up," as there may be more offers per property.

The system helps to alleviate some of the tension associated with the typical offer process, she said, with buyers worrying, "Am I offering too much or too little? How do I know which trigger to pull?"

She said, "It’s definitely another tool that buyers have been asking for. It shows them where they rank."

"We are always looking at ways that we can provide new and usable, meaningful products and services for our customers," said Maria Wilkes, director of information services and e-commerce for Prudential Network Realty.

"I think it’s a great way for buyers and sellers to really connect on a no-obligation basis — especially in this market. Trying to get buyers out there to make a move, and for sellers to get realistic … we see this helping initiate the process," Wilkes said.

"It is an agent- and broker-centric model. It’s not trying to replace the expertise of an agent or broker. Negotiations, of course, would still be done through the agent," she said.

Offers submitted through N-Play are considered like a verbal offer or "pre-offer," Wilkes said, and offers considered through the system could lead to letters of intent and eventually to a formal sales contract.

Bloomfield said he believes the technology has potential to be applied in other industries. "This idea goes beyond real estate. It works for boats, cars, businesses — everything," he said.

The technology will be sold to agents and brokers through a subscription fee and won’t be tied to a success rate or a percentage of sales, he said. "We’re not a social network; we’re not a blog. We provide a real estate service for agents who see the value and our willing to pay for it," he said.


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