Imagine a text-message alert sent to a prospective homebuyer’s mobile phone informing the buyer that there is a house in the immediate vicinity that fits the criteria they are seeking. The buyer saunters over to the house and calls the broker. Easy.

And it is made possible by geo-fencing, a GPS-tracking tool.

Geo-fencing currently exists to create a virtual perimeter GPS boundary around a physical geographic area. If someone leaves the area boundary, a notice (alert) is sent to disclose the departure outside the area, either by mobile phone or e-mail.

For example, geo-fencing has been used to notify parents if their child leaves a designated area. Geo-fencing is also used to keep track of automobiles in a fleet, to prevent theft. Once the boundary is created, an alert is sent when an auto is taken outside of the boundary. Great.

Now, think of geo-fencing in reverse. Instead of sending the notice when someone leaves the area, it sends the alert if someone crosses into the designated geographic area.

Currently, such an alert system is now being used to market to shoppers via Placecast ShopAlerts.

Here’s how it works: A virtual perimeter is designated around a particular store location. If a customer happens to be in the area where there is a store that has a product the customer is looking to buy, the customer receives a mobile text-message alert with information about a store within one-half mile that carries that product.

The message includes a link and description of the product, as well as offers and discounts.

The only catch to geo-fencing is the consumer must opt in to the alert system and specify which products they are looking to buy. Once the consumer opts in, the system knows where the consumer is located.

The New York Times carried an article about these shopping alerts.

Now, imagine if this were done for real estate. The system could notify buyers via their mobile devices whenever they are near homes that fit their search needs — it could potentially shorten the time they spend searching for homes online. …CONTINUED

All the real estate broker needs to do is geo-fence homes for sale and ask buyers to opt in and provide their buying criteria: number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, price and neighborhood location. Done.

Now, if the buyer should be traveling in an area where a home fitting their criteria is nearby, they will get a text message on their mobile phone, and an e-mail message from the broker.

It could also reveal the home details and exact location and include a link to the property. Interesting. So, what about geo-fencing being used to market homes?

I found out about geo-fencing for real estate marketing in this article by Chris Thorman. I called Thorman to see which brokers are using geo-fencing. He said none! Hmm … does it have a future?

I suspect marketing via geo-fencing could make it easier for buyers to find homes — they would just need to be in the neighborhood and they would receive a notice in a text message to their mobile phone (assuming they have one).

As things stand now, a buyer has to visit several Web sites, type in a search and view many homes in the search results. It takes time.

What do you think about the use of geo-fencing in a mobile real estate marketing system? Could it work? Or is there a problem?

And here’s the million-dollar question: Is some broker already using a geo-fence? Let me know in the comments section below.

And check out this YouTube video on creating a geo-fence:


Joseph Ferrara is publisher of the Sellsius Real Estate Blog and a partner in, a real estate news aggregator site. He is an attorney with 25 years of experience in New York, and he also coaches agents on the use of blogging and social networking.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.

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