Real Estate Agents' Website Could Give Homebuyers a Jump on Listings


A relatively new database for Twin Cities real estate agents that plans to go national might help agents close deals that much sooner -- simply by giving them an online method to share information across different brokerages before a home is officially listed on the market.

Bill Pauling, an Edina Realty agent in the Minneapolis area, recently launched 400 Doors as a side business with two other co-owners, Nils Hansen and Robert Nelson. "It is a twist on the traditional means of trying to find results for buyers," Pauling (pictured above) told AOL Real Estate in a phone interview. "Typically, agents share information about upcoming listings at a brokerage meeting. They may discuss a particular buyer's needs or a price reduction. To reach agents [outside one's own brokerage], they will send paper fliers or blast out emails. This becomes really noisy for the recipient and it is not streamlined," he said.

400 Doors hopes to cut down on the clutter by sending once-daily emails to its agent-members based on criteria that they set up for each of their clients: One email, regardless of the number of clients. For example, if one agent has five buyers looking for different types of properties, that agent, as a member of 400 Doors, can enter criteria for what each buyer is seeking and receive one customized email each morning with a list of potential home matches separated under each client's needs. No more having to sort through different e-blasts or postcard mailings to see if one matches a client's needs.

The website boasts that an agent should join because: "Wouldn't your buyers like to know about properties that aren't public yet?" And these are properties that the buyer can't find on their own.

"With 400 Doors, buyers are impressed knowing that you are getting listings from a number of real estate pros before they come on the market," said agent Nancy Chapman in a testimonial. As soon as a contract is signed with a seller, an agent can post the details of that home in the database, even though it may not hit the open market or the MLS for another couple of days or a week, as the seller continues to prepare and stage the home for sale.

"It is not a public listing service," Pauling added, "but a free, members-only service for agents." There are no plans to make the database accessible directly to homebuyers, or homeowners -- not even those wishing to list their home as "for sale by owner."

To generate income, 400 Doors looks for vendors, such as handymen, stagers, contractors and other service providers, to become paying "sponsors" who are required to offer a special discount to buyers, sellers or their agents, reports the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. For example, McCabe Painting currently offers 20 percent off the price of interior or exterior paint jobs when a customer mentions the 400 Doors Deal.

A few years ago Pauling created a similar service, Tuesday Networking, which was used in-house for each brokerage, like proprietary software. There was no sharing among different brokerages, though.

Pauling said that technology is one of the reasons a database service like 400 Doors was not previously created to facilitate sharing among brokerages. "I think a lot of them like to keep the networking in-house, but the top-producing agencies don't care what brokerage the other is from."

Once the database rolls out nationally, it should be a valuable tool for relocation specialists, Pauling said. Agents in Chicago will be able to easily search the listings in Minneapolis, for example. Eventually agents will be able to share information more directly in a forum. "We don't have a forum yet, but that will be rolled out within the next months," he said.

More about homebuying and selling:
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Where Real Estate Agents Bid for Your Business
Tech-Savvy Tips for Getting Top Dollar on a Home Sale

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