Whether sitting on an open house or occupying a new home sales center, agents are going to miss a certain number of prospects who drop by too early or come by too late — and there’s not much you can do about it. Right?

  • Over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016, one agent found that 20.1 percent of people who visited her client’s models arrived either before or after hours.
  • She created NterNow, a lock that verifies a visitor's identity before sending a five-digit passcode to allow him or her property access.

Whether sitting on an open house or occupying a new home sales center, real estate agents are going to miss a certain number of prospects who drop by too early or come by too late — and there’s not much you can do about it. Right?

The NterNow lock

The NterNow lock

Agent Lynne Parker Davis of Marietta, Georgia, refused to accept that as a fact of life. Instead, she has devised a combination-lock entry system that allows people to gain access to a vacant house for sale, new or resale, at all hours of the day or night — without an agent in tow and when the listing agent is not available.

But more than an entry mechanism, NterNow (say it out loud) is a lead-capturing system that allows listing agents to land prospects they very easily could have missed, according to Davis, a 20-year licensee who has worked both the resale and new home markets in the Atlanta area and now hangs her hat at Atlanta Communities.

And you’d be surprised how many missed opportunities there are. Davis sure was.

Missing 20% of visitors?

Over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016, she found that 20.1 percent of the total number of people who visited her client’s models where her locks were installed arrived either before or after hours.

Broken down, 8.5 percent of all visitors came before the 11 a.m. opening, and 11.6 percent were latecomers who arrived after the 6 p.m. closing. And the number of missed prospects goes up on the weekends — to 24.6 percent on Saturday and 22.9 percent of Sunday.

It’s unknown whether any of those prospects return during regular hours. But Davis says her research shows that for every four visitors between 11 and 6, one drive-by prospect who could not gain entry may have gotten away.

How does NterNow help?

To capture those misses, the NterNow system works like this: The prospect does his research online, finds a few houses he’d like to see in person and jumps in the car before contacting a real estate agent. According to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Buyers and Sellers, 77 percent of all buyers shop online and then drive to the properties they are most interested in — long before calling an agent.

If the interested buyer arrives at the front door but finds no one there, he dials the phone number listed on the NterNow lock and reaches a call center, which asks the caller for the address from which he is calling.

The caller identifies the property and is told that the builder or the listing agent has instructed the call center to collect some basic information — the last four digits of his Social Security number, for example, and his birthday and month — so that the visitor can be identified.

At that point, the caller’s cell phone number is already listed on the call center’s screen. And once the visitor’s information is verified (almost instantaneously, via numerous public databases), the prospect is given a five-digit code to unlock the front door. At the same time, the captured information about the prospect is emailed to the listing agent for follow-up.

The NterNow lock

The NterNow lock

If the caller cannot be identified or the information supplied cannot be verified, the caller center employee is instructed to respond — “very gently,” says Davis — that he just realized that the lock is not working. He then says he’d be happy to call the agent and set up a time to meet.

By this time, if the caller isn’t who he says he is or is up to no good, he has hung up. But if all goes according to Hoyle, he is given a five-digit code, which he can use to unlock the door.

Risks and rewards

Until about a year and a half ago, NterNow had a perfect record with visitors. But in December 2015, Davis says, someone walked off with the home’s kitchen and bath faucets. Before and since then, there has been no vandalism whatsoever.

Just to be safe, though, she recommends that the lock be used on empty homes only.

Davis claims many success stories, but perhaps her favorite is when her locks were installed by Savvy Homes, a Raleigh builder with projects in several North Carolina cities, on five houses the builder considered “impossible to sell.”

After six months, four of the five had been sold. But perhaps more important, 590 leads were captured, resulting in nine more deals.

“Since we started using NterNow, we can directly link 13 sales that originated as NterNow visits,” says Savvy’s then-vice president of sales and marketing, Jim Swingle, who has since left the company. “That’s more than $3.25 million in sales revenue.”

Another satisfied customer: Atlanta Communities agent Lee Ann Sherry, who puts an NterNow lock on every one of here unoccupied listings.

Currently, Davis says she is working with 27 different companies, including several top ten builds — Pulte, Lennar and MI Home among them — plus a “sprinkling” of resale agents and property management companies.

NterNow locks are leased at $99 per month, per lock with a $100 annual setup fee. The locks, she says, “can be moved to as many houses” as a client likes.

Once a house is sold, the lock is removed and the regular lock and hardware is put back on.

Lew Sichelman’s weekly column, “The Housing Scene,” is syndicated to newspapers throughout the country.

Email Lew Sichelman

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