Archive for the ‘RealDirect News’ Category

RealDirect is NYC’s Premier Discount Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

For the past 4 years, I bristled whenever someone would introduce RealDirect as a discount NYC real estate brokerage. My thought was that we are so much more than that. Our technology is the driving force behind our business, and while our technology allows us to do what we do for less money than a traditional brokerage, the discount brokerage terminology makes us sound like a schlocky storefront discount brokerage, rather than a technology driven business. Do people refer to Zip Car as a discount car rental? No – it is the efficiency of the technology that allows them to keep the price lower than traditional car rental business. Same with us!

But over the past few years, I have mellowed a bit – and I have come to embrace the “discount” term. The truth is, most of our clients love our technology, but they love even more the fact that they pay only a 2% commission (or low monthly fee) to RealDirect when they sell their homes. And while buyers really dig our collaborative buying platform, they like our cash rebate of between .5 and 1% better.

So I am done fighting, and I have come to terms with the discount brokerage label. But I will continue to let everyone know that while RealDirect is a discount real estate brokerage, our technology is what allows us to offer FULL service at the discount price. And for New Yorkers who don’t want to be seen using a discount real estate brokerage, they can tell everyone that they use us for the cool technology.

The RealBargain

Monday, March 4th, 2013

We have recently added a new feature to RealDirect search called the RealBargain. This is an algorithm we have devised for finding homes that are priced particularly aggressively. We look for homes that have a total cost per foot that are in the bottom 20th percentile or lower for comparable homes. We exclude homes that are unrenovated, are dark, and have other associated issues. They are then flagged in our Finder so that you can easily spot them.

Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the lowest price homes in a neighborhood. A home may have a very low maintenance, but be priced in line with other homes in the area. But the very low common charge may make it a bargain. And the opposite is true as well – a home that is priced low, but with very high common charges will not qualify. And we only look for bright, renovated apartments because most buyers put “light” as their top must have, and they are typically unwilling to do more than a moderate renovation. Of course, if you are willing to renovate a dark apartment, you will find even lower cost/foot opportunities, but they are not necessarily bargains for the average buyer.

Take a look and let us know if you think this is a useful feature.

Simplify Your NYC Apartment Search with New Buyer Tools

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

The core of our mission at RealDirect is to utilize technology to simplify the process of buying and selling real estate. With everything we do, we continue to push toward more efficient methods of matching properties with buyers. To this end, we have recently released new features which make it easier for buyers to quickly find the most suitable properties for their needs.

Buyer Survey
One way we’re helping buyers find their new home faster is through integration of our Buyer Survey with property search. Buyers wishing to receive personalized property recommendations can fill out all or part of our 65 point survey which helps define which criteria are most important in a new apartment. Our survey asks buyers questions such as which schools, parks or transit lines they wish to live near, are they willing to do renovations or live in a walk-up, and how important are these criteria. We then take all of the survey respondent’s answers and compile the data into “Must Have,” “Wish-List,” and “Deal Breakers.” This information is compared against available listings in order to recommend the most accurate matches for each buyer.

Tips

The goal of a real estate listing is to make the property seem as appealing as possible in order to get potential buyers through the door. But with the need to give a strong overview of the apartment, little details are often missed. For example, a built in bookcase in the living room, the view from the kitchen window, or a better look at the outdoor space. While the listing may not note that there’s a dry cleaner conveniently located in the lobby, this is the sort of thing that may be a selling point for some buyers. That’s why we’ve created the ability to leave tips on a an apartment or building. Anyone who visits the listing can leave a text and/or photo tip which will be shared with registered RealDirect users searching for properties. Much like Yelp or TripAdvisor, RealDirect brings a candid crowd sourced perspective to real estate.

Notes and Tips

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

We spend a lot of time at RealDirect trying to improve the buying and selling process. For the past few weeks we have been focusing on 2 items we will use to accomplish this. It’s the note and the tip.

We believe that notes and tips will be two of the most important ways people will work with us to buy and sell real estate, and we are in the process of integrating them into every listing, building and neighborhood.

A “note” is a private message our clients and agents can leave to each other. They cannot be seen by anyone outside that specific client relationship, and they are a way to document what the client likes or dislikes about a specific property. It is attached to the listing so there is context to every place you have ever considered, and it allows for an easy “refresh” when you have seen a lot of places and then come back to a property you have seen earlier in your search.

A “tip” is a comment or information that our team of agents believe is useful to our buyer community. They include things like amenities that are not commonly discussed, idiosyncrasies of a particular building – like the restricted hours available for showings or an address that doesn’t have an entrance on that street – or something the agent witnessed when touring the building or apartment.

And because a picture is worth a thousand words, both “tips” and “notes” support photos as well.

Take a look and let us know what you think!

Be Like Steve – Own Your Technology

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, recently gave us some more Steve Jobs nuggets of wisdom courtesy of the All Things Digital D10 conference this past week. The one that resonated with me was that it was imperative to “own the key underlying technologies” of the business you are in. It’s why Apple created iTunes when there was Napster, why they are trying to build a music social network, and why they are dumping google maps for their own proprietary map product.

As a startup CEO, it’s often tempting to simply adopt the technology platforms of others to build your business. One of the most amazing success stories using this technique is Mint.com – having licensed the Yodlee online banking back end and dressing it up with a slick UI. They sold the business for $170M to Intuit. Good strategy, right? No. (more…)

RealDirect Property Search

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve been dreaming of building a better real estate search engine. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I have, for years, been thinking about the real estate industry, and how we can use technology to improve it. Our first entry into this space was our seller platform, which gives sellers of residential real estate the tools, technology and expertise to sell a home like a pro, but without a typical listing commission. To date, we have saved sellers over $1M in commissions. But selling is only half of the story when it comes to a real estate transaction.

Today, we are proud to unveil (in beta) our new property finder, featuring a maps-based user interface, as well as a number of new interactive features including first-ever listing compatibility rankings based on search criteria, a unique lasso tool for tailored neighborhood definitions and enhanced graphing for market research and analysis.

Real estate is all about compromise and shifting the list of wants, needs and dealbreakers as one’s search evolves. For this reason, we built RealDirect.com’s new interface to provide users with a streamlined and simple hub for researching and ranking listings. As a tech-focused firm, our goal is to continually stay ahead of the market and provide clients with the most advanced tools for a more in-depth, intuitive approach to real estate.

We hope you’ll check out our state-of-the-art features below and click through to take our real estate search engine for a spin.

Maps-Based Interface
RealDirect.com’s enhanced search function centers around an elegant map-based interface that is clear and user-friendly. Users are able to set their own personal neighborhood boundaries, lassoing specific areas across New York City and searching specifically within these customized borders.

In a city of neighborhoods with fluctuating borders and micro-neighborhoods that can vary greatly within a matter of a few blocks, the pre-defined neighborhood options don’t mirror how people outline their ideal location when searching for homes. We created the lasso tool to let clients define their own neighborhoods, thus returning more targeted results and cutting through the real estate clutter.

Compatibility Rankings
Upon entering their criteria, RealDirect.com users will receive a wider variety of matches from REBNY’s comprehensive listing database that may have previously been overlooked by traditional searches – all ranked by percentages according to how closely they meet search requirements. RealDirect.com’s cutting-edge interface was designed to enhance the traditional method of search, which only returns exact matches, to create a more thorough way to analyze results.

The tool not only provides users with their perfect matches, which are based on a highly varied number of search algorithms, but also ranks close matches based on relevancy to the original search with an at-a-glance overview. RealDirect.com’s search tools also help ensure that listings with missing or incorrect information aren’t completely lost in the search process due to human error.

Data and Metrics
RealDirect’s new interface also includes dynamic tools for researching and analyzing the market. Real-time charts and graphs display current availability, pricing, size and unit breakdowns by neighborhood, including side-by-side analyses that help users compare multiple neighborhoods at once.

RealDirect.com for Buyers offers resources and access to RealDirect’s expert real estate consultants. In working with RealDirect.com, buyers have the opportunity to earn a rebate of up to 1 percent on the sale price of a home at closing. RealDirect.com provides prospective buyers with two-tiered guidance in managing their apartment search, including a unique Buyer Profile that helps clients better understand their living needs.

Check out TechCrunch’s coverage of RealDirect.

Enter to win a prize pack in RealDirect’s Search & Swag promo.

Sh*t Competitors Say

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

It should come as a surprise to no-one that real estate is a highly competitive business. That said, once a property is listed, 95% of real estate agents are respectful of the rules against trying to solicit the business of homeowners who have listed with another agent. We will occasionally hear from our clients about brokers from other firms using scare tactics to talk them out of working with RealDirect. Often, this is just a lack of awareness on the part of agents who haven’t worked with us yet. We understand. We haven’t been in business for decades like many of the larger NYC brokerages and it takes time to build a reputation. As we’ve sold an ever increasing number of properties, we’ve continued to earn the respect of our peers in the industry (we’ve even had a few brokers from other firms use RealDirect to sell their own home), and we hear less and less about other brokers attempting to poach our clients. But, every now and again, we hear about something like this gem sent to one of our sellers by a Senior Vice President at a traditional brokerage (excerpts pulled directly from the email are in bold and italics, with our responses below):

Now sorry but realdirect is that an online grocery seller?

Oh, I get it. You’re pretending to confuse us with a popular online grocery delivery service. Clever. While we don’t deliver food, much like Fresh Direct, we do use smart technology and stellar customer service to remove an unnecessary hassle from the lives of our clients.

How many agents they have?

What is the experience level of their agents?

It is interesting that this question is raised by someone from a traditional brokerage, where agents compete with each other for listings and commissions. In the traditional brokerage setting, the commission structure sets up an “every agent for himself” environment, so regardless of how many agents they have or how experienced they all are, the client can only count on the expertise of their individual agent. Because RealDirect functions as a team, our clients benefit from the support of ALL of our experienced agents and our marketing department, our design department and our tech department. In a traditional brokerage, those other departments (if they exist) are dedicated to promotion of the brand, whereas at RealDirect, the entire team works for the benefit of each client.

It seems more like a gimmick probably predicated in low fees

RealDirect is a REBNY firm with licensed agents and a proven track record of successful sales. In fact, while the average time on market for listings in Manhattan and Brooklyn for 2011 was 134 days, RealDirect’s listings sold in an average of 83 days. Additionally, because of our low fees, RealDirect sellers saved an average of $32,000 by working with us instead of a traditional brokerage with a 5-6% commission structure.

50% of our listings sell to buyers who are represented by a broker from another firm (the other 50% sell to unrepresented buyers, resulting in even greater savings for our clients). We work with agents from other firms all the time and most are professional, courteous and knowledgeable about their business. But for the small percentage of agents who think unethical scare tactics are good business, we’d like to point out that the numbers don’t lie. Our listings sell faster and our sellers net more money. That’s not a gimmick, that’s the future of real estate.

A Technology Culture in Real Estate

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

As mentioned in a previous post, I attended the Real Estate Connect conference earlier this month. During one of the sessions, the Inman News staff revealed the results of a survey they took of over 1000 real estate agents. There were many interesting findings, but the one that resonated with me was that 61 percent of top real estate agents in the US are considering leaving their brokerage. The top 3 reasons were:

1. Disatisfaction with technology
2. Company culture
3. Lack of confidence in the vision for the future of the brand

This was particularly interesting to me because looking at the real estate business from the outside, I marveled at these 3 items, and they became the impetus behind starting RealDirect.

We believe that by embracing technology, the culture and confidence in the vision of the company will take care of itself. Here at RealDirect, we consider ourselves as much a technology company as we are a real estate company. We chose to locate in the heart of New York’s tech community, and have more web developers than sales people. But it’s our approach that is our true differentiator.

Quite simply, technology is a part of our DNA. We constantly look at our business and ask what we can do better by utilizing technology and data. Some things, like board packages for co-ops, are still stuck in the 1980’s, and no matter what we want to do, we still find ourselves killing trees to make the hundreds of sheets of paper needed for these antiquated forms. However, when a client asks us how long it will take to sell their apartment, we attack the problem like scientists and not salesmen. And the great thing about real estate is that most of the questions that come up every day have real data driven answers. A home is just a composition of space, rooms, amenities, condition, views, and location. When you break down these data points, there are tons of answers in them that make the process of buying and selling much less of a mystery. And by making the process transparent, we have the opportunity to change the perception of the real estate pro from a pushy salesman to a trusted consultant.

That is our vision of how a culture of technology can change real estate. If you share our vision, we encourage you to join the team!

The Future of Real Estate Search

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the Future of Real Estate Search panel at the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference here in NYC. As someone who came out of the online advertising and search industry, I have always had a different perspective on real estate search than most real estate brokers and search vendors. With my insights uniquely positioned from a technology perspective, this is what I see for the future of search:

1. Maps
A maps based user interface is clearly the preferred way to search for real estate – look at the explosive growth of sites like Zillow, Trulia and Redfin – yet nearly all real estate brokerage web sites still have the same search user interface they had 10 years ago. I think we will see most brokerages switch to a maps based UI in the next few years. (more…)

Survey Says….

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

When trying to match our clients with the perfect home, we ask a multitude of questions (over 65) about how important certain characteristics and amenities are to their search. Our questions range from the importance of location and transportation options to willingness to live in a walk-up and desirability of a building with a swimming pool. While price ranges ($100,000 to $5.5 million) and neighborhoods (all over Manhattan and Brooklyn) of buyers who filled out our survey varied widely, we found some interesting commonalities.

What buyers “want” (amenities which are indicated as “must haves” or “wish list”):

1. A light filled apartment 98%

2. Ample closet space 87%

3. Outdoor space 61%

4. Space for a home office 58%

5. Bathroom in the master bedroom 52%

6. Doorman Building 52%

What buyers “need” (amenities indicated as “must haves,” removing “wish list” items from the equation)

1. Light filled apartment 53%

2. Ample closet space 27%

3. Bathroom in the master bedroom 25%

4. Doorman building 20%

5. Space for a home office 14%

6. Washer/Dryer in unit 12%

Taking a look at what buyers see as “deal breakers” 44% of buyers will not even consider a walk-up apartment, and 40% ruled out living on the ground floor. Only 26% of buyers said they definitely would live in a walk-up and 20% said they definitely would live on the ground floor. The preference in both cases is nearly two to one. Additionally, 35% of buyers indicated that they were unwilling to do a major renovation.

What this means for sellers: You may not have an apartment with brilliant exposure, but make sure you turn on all of the lights and open the curtains when you have showings, even during the day. If your definition of “showing ready” means stashing all of your stuff in the closet, think again. Move some things into storage if you need to, and consider installing a closet organization system if you don’t already have one. Terraces, patios and gardens should also be paid careful mind, since outdoor space can be a big selling point. If you have it, consider converting an alcove space or a spare bedroom into a functional home office.

Lacking some of these top amenities? Don’t worry, most apartments aren’t perfect. Just do your best to maximize the space and features you do have and remember to price accordingly. A home in need of gut renovation is not going to fetch the same price as a comparable apartment that has been recently remodeled, so you’ll need to keep your expectations in line with the realities of the market.

What this means for buyers: Want a light-filled apartment with huge closets, outdoor space and a home office in an elevator building? So does everyone else. If you’re willing to be flexible in your requirements, you’re likely to get a better deal on a home. Decide what’s most important to you and stand firm on those features, but be willing to consider apartments that don’t entirely fit the bill for your “wish list.” If you’re budget conscious, consider looking at ground floor apartments or walk-ups where prices are likely to be lower and where you’ll find less competition.

Keep in mind that the more of these top amenities that an apartment offers, the larger the pool of buyers who are going to be interested and potentially making offers. You will need to act fast and make the most appealing offer possible if you want the seller to accept it. This means being pre-approved if you’re using financing, having your financials in order and being willing and able to outbid the competition. The larger your down payment, the more appealing your offer will be, and an “all cash” offer is going to trump a comparable offer that is contingent upon financing.