How do you sell a home that isn’t for sale?
Today, we’re trying to find out, as the first step in a program called First to Know. The home-for-sale-that-isn’t-for-sale is a Capitol Hill condo here in Seattle.
The condo owner, Eugene Lin, wants to gauge market demand. So he took some snaps and wrote up a nice little description of his favorite things about the place that we posted to our Seattle blog as a sort of MySpace page for the condo, and now we’re matching him up with all the people on Redfin’s site who have registered for updates on Capitol Hill properties. Hopefully, there’ll be a fit.
Instead of buyers searching an MLS of properties for sale, potential sellers can search a sort-of MLS of buyers.
What we like about this:
–> It’s direct and frictionless: Eugene hasn’t signed a listing agreement or hung a yard sign, and he isn’t interested in paying a traditional commission; he just sent us an e-mail answering some basic questions, with some photos attached.
–> It doesn’t just use the Internet as a marketing brochure: the Internet is great not just for displaying information, like a listing, but also at figuring out what information people want to see. Redfin has a pretty good idea of who would be interested in Eugene’s condo.
–> It’s fluid and provisional: the Internet lets people test ways to think (blogs), to be (MySpace, chat rooms), to do. If you get something wrong, you just change it. Eugene can get a sense of what his property can command in the market, then decide if he wants to sell it in the MLS, or directly to a buyer he meets in the next few days — or not at all.
Living with this quantum jitter of uncertainty is one of the most important ways the Internet has changed how we think. You still need an MLS, for properties that are unambiguously for sale, but marketplaces also need the fluidity for buyers and sellers to connect and converse without transacting.
The traditional real estate industry depends on this idea that buying or selling a house is a terrifying ordeal, consisting of one irrevocable step after another. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The notion that buyers and sellers can work together in a simpler way has stuck with us ever since we read in the papers about a young couple who bought a house from a Wisconsin woman representing herself:
“We sat there and had a glass of wine,” Ms. Murphy recalled. “And they said, ‘Hey, there’s that crack in the basement wall.’ And we said, ‘No problem. We’ll take care of it.’ ” Dealing directly with each other seemed so civilized, she said. “I keep coming back to that.”
But enough chit-chat. Check out the condo, or tell us what you think of the idea. It’s something we began talking publicly about since we first noticed a Finnish website that was letting people make bids on homes that aren’t for sale (the comments on that posting were particularly helpful to us in shaping our strategy, giving voice and urgency to concerns we hadn’t yet worked out). There’s a lot more that we still want to do with the idea.
In the meantime, if you’d like to gauge demand for your very own unlisted property, just write ftk (@) redfin (dot) com. Or, if you’ve already listed your place, you can still create a MySpace page for it on our Bay Area or Seattle real estate blog, too. Just use the same address and we’ll hook you up.