Reporting from Washington —
Anyone who has ever had a beef with a real estate agent should take a look at the website ReallyRottenRealty.com.
It's all in fun, but the name suggests what some buyers and sellers believe to be true — that their agents failed to earn their pay for one reason or another.
"Want your home advertised by a professional?" the site asks.
"We believe in the three P's of real estate marketing: put, put and pray. Put a sign in the yard, put it on the multiple listing service, and then pray someone will come along and buy it."
Bill Petrey of Agent Harvest, the site's creator and owner of a free agent-finder service that helps buyers and sellers find top producers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, says other real estate agents have been remarkably restrained in their response to the site. "No one's tried to shoot me or string me up," he says.
Judging from the number of sellers and buyers who have used the website to vent, though, maybe agents haven't barked back because buried in Petrey's parody is a lot of truth. Among the site's statistics:
— Longest listing on the market: 2,778 days. That's seven years.
— Number of listings with no photo: 2,048. If there's no picture, how are people going to see what the place looks like? The whole idea of listing houses on the Internet is to allow people to search from the comfort of their homes or offices.
— Number of listings with one photo: 2,745. See above.
— Number of agents who claim to be ranked No. 1 in Dallas: 2,320.
"My goal with the site is to poison the well, so to speak; to make people more aware of just how bad a real estate agent can be," Petrey says. "Consumers need to understand that it's really worthwhile to look for a good agent, and not let an agent get away with the things they've gotten away with in the past."
Petrey has big plans for his agent-finding service. This year, he expects to start covering other Texas cities. And then he hopes to go national.
If you can't wait, consider some of these other options.
•N-Play.com is an online service where would-be home buyers can make anonymous offers on as many homes as they like. The offers are nonbinding, and can be tweaked to match or beat offers from other potential buyers. Once a seller accepts a proffer in principle, any remaining points are negotiated offline, and the parties enter into a valid purchase contract.
N-Play isn't an attempt to bypass the real estate agent. Rather, the goal is to help agents in the offer and negotiation process, Chief Executive Mark Bloomfield says. "If we can deliver buyers and sellers who are on the same page leading to a contract, closing rates for agents go up and negotiation complications go down."
One of the interesting aspects of the N-Play process is that all offers are transparent and can be viewed online by everyone.
Normally, offers are confidential, to be seen only by the seller and his agent. Consequently, buyers don't know how their bids stack up against the competition. But with N-Play, you can see how your offer compares to any other, and if yours is lacking — say, you're $1,500 below the best offer to date, or the seller wants to close right away — you can raise the ante or otherwise change your offer accordingly.
Though that's pretty much how an auction works, Bloomfield stresses that his service, which local brokers subscribe to on a per-month, per-listing basis, is not an auction. "The seller maintains control over the process and the home is not perceived as a distress sale," he says.
Buyers also can get a leg up on the competition with another service, this one called MoveScore, which helps wannabe owners identify possible sellers, often before the seller even realizes he's in such a mode.
•Say you want to move to a key ZIP Code or school district. Perhaps you want to live in a particular neighborhood, or maybe on a specific block. Perhaps you've even found a special property that you would like to buy.
In those cases, rather than wait for someone to stick a sign in the ground, either you or your agent would normally go door-to-door asking folks if they might be interested in selling. But with MoveScore by RealAgile, you can save yourself some time and shoe leather by determining in advance which properties are most likely to sell over the next six months.
The MoveScore by RealAgile is a predictive analytical model, not unlike the FICO scoring model used by lenders to help determine whether potential borrowers are good risks. A sister product, CentreScore, can quickly rank names and addresses within the preset "sphere of influence," based on the probability that they will make a real estate move.
The MoveScore has 255 data points, according to RealAgile's Ed Neiman. Among other things, it looks at previous attempts to sell, demographics and psychographics. And it can drill down to within a half-mile radius of a particular house number.