HomePerks, a company that last year launched a system for real estate professionals to offer rewards to other professionals and to consumers, has retooled its offering.

The new version of the site, which has emerged from private beta testing, allows real estate agent members to feed property listings information to the site and "basically use it as a calling card of existing and previous inventory," said Brian Columbus, founder and CEO of HomePerks LLC, based in Oak Brook, Ill.

The site also has added business networking components, and allows users to connect with other professionals. "In some ways it is similar to Facebook but more business-related," Columbus said.

Professionals and consumers can receive free "Perks Points" from national retailers by signing up to use the site, and real estate professionals can choose to purchase more Perks Points from the company that they can, in turn, offer to other professionals and consumers.

Consumers who are "sponsored" by a real estate professional will receive a monthly statement that will feature customized content from that professional, including personal branding.

Columbus said that real estate professionals could offer the Perks Points as a closing gift for a consumer, for example.

The major professional categories featured at the site include: Realtors, builders, apartments, mortgage, title, and home services. And he said that other categories of real estate-related professionals have joined the site, too, including home inspectors, lawyers and interior designers, among others.

Columbus said that the company has set up default offers to help ensure that the Perks Points rewards system is compliant with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), a federal law with provisions related to real estate kickbacks.

"We’re priming the pump to ensure compliance," he said.

The rewards are intended as a mechanism to keep real estate professionals in the minds of consumes for the long haul, even if consumers are not immediately planning to engage in a real estate transaction.

There are about 50 retailers, representing a range of industries, that are a part of the rewards system now, Columbus said, including Apple, Orbitz, Wal-Mart and Office Depot, among others. And HomePerks maintains a catalog of thousands of available items that can be purchased with Perks Points — from Dolce & Gabbana wool gloves (1,281 Perks) to an Adirondack chair set (3,511 Perks).

Sabrina Simpson, a Realtor for Prudential California Realty in Moorpark, Calif., said she decided to sign up for a HomePerks membership and she has invited other agents from her office. "I personally like the program. I think it has a lot of potential," she said, noting that she can use the rewards as an incentive for visitors to open houses, and as an incentive for other agents to refer business to her.

HomePerks members, she noted, can control how many points they want to offer for different connections.


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