Ryan Shear wants to create a "dating site for real estate."
But the co-founder of Brokur doesn’t envision a service designed to kindle romance between, say, passionate home-stagers and strong-but-silent homebuilders. He wants it to help match homebuyers with agents who are just right for them.
The website is a directory that connects buyers with agents based on home-search criteria. So far it has indexed more than 230,000 real estate agents, each of whom has a profile with his or her listings.
Those who claim their profiles may perform social-media actions to attract homebuyers or interact with other brokers.
Startup incubator Doejo designed Brokur after Shear — a real estate developer — brought the idea to Doejo’s founder, Phil Tadros. The site’s backers say they’ve raised $250,000 from investors.
Brokur, which launched last week, has staked its future on a bold idea: That it can change the way people search for homes by guiding them to connect with brokers first, and listings second.
‘Turning a backwards system on its head’
Home buyers today flock to listing websites to begin searching for properties, rather than seeking out brokers. That often leads them to connect with real estate agents in what Shear said is an "arbitrary" manner.
Shear noted that consumers sometimes contact an agent to inquire about a listing they find online only to promptly learn that it’s inactive. But then the consumer often commits to working with that agent anyway, like a duckling imprinting on the first creature it sees.
"Most buyers end up with a broker they shouldn’t wind up with," Shear said.
Instead, buyers should start their search by tracking down "the best guy who sells the product I’m looking for," Shear said.
Listing websites Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com all have agent directories themselves. Trulia’s database, for example, has more than 900,000 agents. And, similar to Brokur, it offers social features that allow agents to craft online identities and interact with buyers in discussion forums.
Google Ventures is backing a referral-based agent matching site, HomeLight, that aims to help homebuyers and sellers find top-performing agents based on their past transaction data and client reviews (HomeLight relies on a number of sources, including multiple listing services, for transaction data).
A growing number of websites feature agent reviews — a concept the National Association of Realtors is interested in exploring.
But Shear said that Brokur is the only website geared exclusively towards shepherding buyers to brokers, and that it offers a social experience that is far richer than those found on other real estate sites.
When a consumer uses the site to search for listings, Brokur turns up brokers that handle listings that match the user’s specifications, not the actual listings. Scrolling through agent results, a user may click the number next to "matching properties" in an agent result. Only then does the website surface listings.
The search engine only pulls up brokers who have listings that meet the search criteria specified by a user. It ranks them based on the number of qualified listings they have, and on their "Brokur Score" — a measure of a broker’s activity on the site.
ListHub supplies broker, listing data
The website imports brokers and their listings through listing syndicator ListHub. To use the site, brokers must claim their profiles and fill them out. So far just a few hundred brokers have done so.
The site’s social media platform, perhaps its core feature, may attract many more, however. The platform closely resembles Twitter, down to the micro-blogging site’s color scheme, navigation and layout.
Shear said that the interface is "no different than Twitter, pretty much."
Screen shot of Brokur interface.
Brokers may post text, photos and videos and follow others to see their posts, and comment or "repost" them.
But that’s not all followers see. Brokers and consumers also see all MLS updates made to a broker’s listings, helping homebuyers to respond quickly to market developments.
"Because our site is signed up with Listhub … you know when they make a price decrease," Shear said of brokers who gain followers on the site.
The website is free for brokers, but Shear said that eventually they will be able to pay to be featured in search results as a consumer’s "best match."
For now, Brokur will devote itself to getting more brokers to claim their profiles, Shear said.
But this summer, it will begin to focus on bringing homebuyers to the site, inviting them to write reviews and follow and contact brokers on the site.
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