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N-Play Launches Beta Site

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N-Play screen shot

Bringing Buyers and Sellers Together Online

N-Play, “a real estate service company focused on bringing home buyers and sellers together online” released a beta launch this morning.

From the press release:

The company is the first to connect buyers, sellers and agents through secure submission, ranking and evaluation of offers online, directly from the listing display. N-Play is currently undertaking beta trials with several brokers and agents, including Prudential Network Realty, a major Florida brokerage. Invitations for the public launch and videos illustrating N-Play are available at https://n-play.com. The service will become available to all licensed real estate professionals within the next thirty days and will be offered exclusively to licensed real estate agents and brokers.

N-play is an application that is installed on a broker or agents web site. A visitor can click a N-Play button on a listing and be taken to a spreadsheet-like web page where they can enter various terms of a non-binding offer in real time.

Any other N-Play “offers” will also be displayed to the viewer. Talk about transparency!

Very Interesting, but Will Anyone Use it?

This is an interesting play (no pun intended). When a buyer makes an N-Play offer, it is anonymous, and non-binding. The seller can accept or reject the offer. When an offer has been agreed upon, a “Memorandum of Understanding” is sent to all parties summarizing the offer. With the assistance of their agents, the buyer and seller then enter into a binding purchase agreement. N-Play is not involved in the contract, presumably takes no referral fees, and steps out of the picture.

The first thought that popped into my head was, “this is cool”, followed shortly by, “How many ridiculous ‘offers’ will be made”, and “Will anyone use it?”.

Those questions are difficult to answer. There will be ridiculous offers, but the seller can easily ignore them (and let’s face it, ridiculous offers come across our desks all the time anyway). N-Play addresses such “Shill Offers” in their lengthy Service Policies. Shill/manipulative offers are forbidden, and N-Play claims they will ban users for submitting them.

Will anyone use N-Play? I suppose only time will tell. Brokers that have been involved in early testing claim there is great interest.

For Agents and Brokers Only

Kudos to N-Play for not trying to cut out the real estate agent/broker. This isn’t a way to connect FSBO seller to unrepresented buyer. It’s a way to connect buyers and sellers through an agent.

I have no clue what the price point is for an agent or broker to get N-Play. They say, “A variety of pricing plans will be available to suit large and small brokers, as well as individual agents.”  Free introductory N-Play subscriptions are being given to the first 1,000 agents and first 50 brokerages that sign up. (Go to N-Play.com and click “Get N-Play.)

Sadly, in a slap to the small brokers out there, only brokerages with 100 or more agents can sign up for the free introduction. What’s up with that N-play?

There’s a bunch of videos on the site that explain more details. I haven’t had time to view them all, and personally I’d prefer some text explanation to supplement the videos. The site is beta, and there are some quirks (such as not being able to shut off the annoying intro video on the test drive page in FireFox).

This is a very interesting and unique concept, and it will be interesting to follow and see how it is adopted and used.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Frank Jewett

    July 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Jay, I’m not a licensee, so I’m hoping you can educate me on this. The one thing that caught my eye was that N-Play would reveal other offers made through the system. I was under the impression, based on complaints from agents, that revealing other offers was considered problematic. Is it normal or acceptable for a listing agent to discuss other offers with buyers and selling agents? Thanks!

  2. Scott Schang

    July 14, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Good eye on finding this Jay. I agree that this is very interesting. I’m also going to keep an eye out to see how it works for them. What isn’t clear is if the agents are offering a reduced listing commission for offering this technology? I’m really surprised that they didn’t go straight the the FSBO consumer for this.

    Great job! Thanks for the post.

  3. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 14, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I saw this earlier today, and went ahead and signed up. [Figured, it would be better to take the “free subscription” and see how it goes – than miss the train leaving the station if it actually turns out to be worthwhile.] I see a lot of potential for problems – and people that want to “play cyber-bully” continuously running up bogus offers playing games – which would in turn drive away a lot of the persons that are actually serious. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  4. Karen Goodman

    July 14, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    It’s interesting to see if this would play in parts of the country that are slower to adopt technology/new ideas. I haven’t spoken to another agent in my city that is even willing to commit to a blog, let alone turn over a big piece of the negotiation process!

    I see a few potential problems.

    I think this could really hurt a seller if they aren’t getting any offers. I’ve been hearing a lot from buyers that they feel that if no one else wanted a particular house, then the house must be worth a lot less than the list price. But there are sometimes circumstances that cause sellers to reject offers that might not have to do with price, or there could be people that want to buy but just can’t do it until their house sells. If I have a listing and we haven’t had an offer in 60 days, I don’t want to announce that to the world. With N-Play, if a listing was on the system and it got no offers for a period of time, I think it would only encourage buyers to make extremely low offers.

    I also think that the option to use the listing agent or going unrepresented could mirror a buyer you’ve been working with for ages going to an open house and making an offer directly with the listing agent in fear that they’ll lose it if they don’t act quickly. If their agent is skeptical of the software, the buyer may just cut out their agent.

    What happens when the buyer makes an offer before they are educated by their own agent about comps and issues that might impact pricing. Would my work as a buyers agent be harder if my buyer called me and said their offer was accepted, and I then had to explain to them that their offer was too high based on comps. Will the seller be willing to negotiate down from their previous offer if they try to lower it? Will they trust my buyer to be reasonable and stick to their word through the rest of the process?

    I’ll keep my eye on it, but I have a feeling that it will be a long time before my skeptical cohorts will adopt it.

  5. Elaine Reese

    July 14, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Seems interesting, but also seems that it could be a target of all sorts of abuse or scams.

    It’s free NOW, but who doesn’t believe that there won’t eventually be a charge once they get the eyeballs to it.

  6. Ken Smith

    July 14, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Jay you asked will anyone use it, but the real question is how does this make the process any easier? I might be missing something but I all see is complications and a lot of wasted time. So until n-play (BTW a stupid name) can answer the “What’s in it for Me” question for agents I don’t see them gaining any traction.

  7. Russell Shaw

    July 15, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Looks like something that will get media attention and go nowhere fast. Any buyer can already make any offer they like on any property anytime. Other than having a form to fill out on the web (and the seller openly showing what other offers they have (or don’t have), I don’t see what is different. As already pointed out, I don’t see how it would ever be in the seller’s best interest to *broadcast* no other offers yet.

    But hey, it looks cool. 🙂

  8. Bob

    July 15, 2008 at 3:33 am

    This isnt new. Saw this idea rolled out years ago, but without the 2.0 bling. It failed then, don’t see why this will succeed.

  9. Glenn fm Naples

    July 15, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Interesting idea – but why reveal offers that were rejected – there are a number of reasons for a seller to reject an offer – which can be valid or invalid. I don’t think it will benefit a seller in a positive way.

  10. Mark Bloomfield

    July 15, 2008 at 6:29 am

    N-Play is a licensed agent/broker-only service. Whether you’re a listing agent or buyer’s agent you have complete control over the system. As an example, as listing agent, you can set for each listing, how the buyer must be represented prior to making an offer on your listing. The options include 1.) no representation (anyone can make an offer), 2.) required to be represented by a buyer’s agent to place an offer or represented by the listing agent, or 3.) temporarily represent themselves to place an offer, but be positively identified by N-Play prior to making the offer (we use a third party ID verification service).

    Buyers who are represented by agents can not place offers until their agent activates the offer on the system. If a buyer, who is represented by an agent, selects any representation option other than their own agent, then they are in violation of their agreement with that agent just as they would be in the offline world. (N-Play is not involved with this). Buyers represented by agents at the time of their offer are provided a means to select their agent from the database or if not found, provide the email of their agent. N-Play immediately contacts the agent with the information and request to activate the offer.

    If the buyer is not represented by an agent at the time of their offer, they may select any agent or the listing agent if they want; however, prior to their offer being activated on the system, they would have to be properly represented by that agent. Once represented, the agent will activate the offer. Under this scenario, the name and contact information of the buyer along with the offer information are sent to the agent they have chosen to meet offline and gain agreement outside the purview of N-Play.

    Under the “non-represented” option, it is assumed the buyer will ultimately be represented by a buyer’s agent (they just have not engaged one at the time of the offer) and no weighting is given for being represented by self. This provides a buyer who is not currently being represented by an agent, but wants to make an offer right away, the ability to do so. Again it is assumed the buyer will ultimately be represented by an agent since there is no benefit to representing oneself in an N-Play offer.

    Again, all the buyer options above are determined by the listing agent for each listing and can be changed at any time up or down.

    Jay, you’re right, the offer should be for all brokers that are interested, not just brokers that have 100+ agents. Therefore, we will accept all brokers under the broker program. And the problem you have with not being able to skip the intro video using Firefox must be a bug and we’ll fix that one. Thanks!

    N-Play is exclusively an agent/broker service only and will not be offered directly to sellers or through FSBO services.

    Ken, I’m sorry you think N-Play is a “stupid” name. We like it (and are proud of it) because it says what we’re doing. We’re putting buyers and sellers in play. If you’ve sat on the bench anytime in your lifetime, then you know what I mean. It’s a lot more fun when you’re in the game.

    In the world of transparency, which is what most people want in a transaction, you take the good with the bad, and make decisions based on the best information that is available from wherever it is available. No different here. So called “lowball offers” do not have to be considered by the seller and the buyer knows it before making the offer. Buyers will always pay as little as they can, even in an up market. You as agents no this better than anyone. Low offers many times bring in a higher offer, which many times results in an even higher offer. You never know, until someone gets the ball rolling. Some interest is better than no interest. And just because there may be no offers on N-Play doesn’t mean there have not been offers on the property. The buyers know this too. In the end, the market will always determine the deal, and N-Play is just another tool for agents to help facilitate the process. N-Play is the set up man…. agents are the closers.

    I happy to provide anyone who has commented on this blog who wants to learn the details of N-Play (and the devil is always in the details), a free subscription to the service, so that you can see how we’ve addressed these problems/issues and more. My email is mark@n-play.com.

  11. Karen Goodman

    July 15, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Another problem with this system is that most deals, or at least most of my deals, come together through the counteroffer process.

    Many times I have encouraged my sellers to counter a horribly low offer because you never know how much the buyers will come up. I’ve also worked with buyers that insisted on making a ridiculously low initial offer. When the sellers countered back with only a 1% drop off list price, my buyers got realistic and adjusted their offer to a fair one. Having a contract on the kitchen table makes it real for sellers. I think it will be easier to write off an offer that initially doesn’t look so good through this system rather than working it to make it happen.

    Last month I spent 5 days during a vacation negotiating a contract. It was a tough one to pull together, and both the other agent and I thought it would fall apart several times. But, we worked hard and found a compromise that both sides could accept. I’m sure that if our initial contact on this deal had been through N-Play, we wouldn’t be closing next Tuesday.

    I do think that this system would have huge appeal to FSBOs. It would provide a tool for the contract process where they currently only get online help with marketing.

  12. Ryan

    July 15, 2008 at 10:13 am

    What I gather from this, which many of you might be missing, is that all N-Play does to allow offers to be presented. This doesn’t appear to be anything more than that and certainly not a app that proposes to do our job our handle negotiations. The benefit I see here may come after a day spent at an open house. A prospect, interested in my listing, might, go back online, view the property and make an offer using N-Play to test the market. This happens every second on eBay so there is definitely a pattern to how consumers like to engage items online.

    For what this is, it looks pretty darn good. We ought to give this a chance.

  13. Mark Bloomfield

    July 15, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Karen, the seller/listing agent can accept any offer with stipulation modifying the offer anyway they want. This is the same as a counteroffer. The buyer is not obligated to respond if their offer has been changed, just like the offline world. If the parties think they are close enough to converge, they will find a way to do this.

    N-Play does not prevent a buyer’s agent from picking up a phone and making a call to the listing agent or making a traditional written offer. In fact, N-Play encourages this. If, because of N-Play, a buyer/agent decides to make a written offer, we’re happy, because we’ve done our job. N-Play is about creating interest, activity and action. I would be happy to set you up with a subscription so you can learn how the service works. You spent 5 days over vacation getting a buyer and seller together after many compromises. Believe it or not, much of the same psychological process happens through N-play which is necessary to bring the parties together into a transaction, it’s just a lot less emotional.

    Maybe N-Play may not have worked in your particular transaction, but it certainly would not have chased a prospect away. As in all deals, buyers who are leaning in and want to find a way to get a deal done, most of the time will do just that, if they can. Converging sometimes takes time and N-Play is designed to help with this process. As always is the case, the agents have to get the deal closed. Let me know if you want a subscription.

  14. Karen Goodman

    July 15, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Mark,

    I think that you make valid points and understand that in theory it could work. I agree that N-Play might do well at encouraging a buyer to make an offer. I’m just not sure that it will work so well at getting deals put together. I’m willing to keep an eye on it and see how it goes. I’m always open to new ideas that can improve my business while keeping the best interests of my clients in mind.

    I’m just not so sure it will gain momentum in my area where new ideas get adopted really slowly. Coffeehouses were the rage on the coasts for a few years before we started talking about them here in St. Louis.

    I’m not interested in a subscription right now, but I do thank you for the offer. I’m not a big team, it’s just me, so I have to really watch my costs. I know that it is free now, but I’m not in a position to start paying for something like this once the trial period ends. And I’m not up for being the advocate of it to other agents to convince them to put their buyer’s offers online. If you can get some traction in my area, then I’ll take another look.

  15. Jessie B

    July 15, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    This is an interesting idea and one we have played with in the past but I think it will be difficult for n-play to get traction within the agent community as it does not simplify the process enough or does not seem to bring them enough value for the time invested. The fsbo market would be the more logical use for this tool.

    I agree with it can maybe help a get prospective buyers to identify themselves with an offer that they may otherwise have not made as it seems less binding than a written offer.

    In 2006 there was a tool to compare purchase offers to help FSBO sellers… the interesting part is that I heard alot of agents were using the tool: https://www.forsalebyownercenter.com/tools/compareoffers.aspx as it was an easy way to visualize the best offer for their clients.

    The concept can work but in the current format I think it will be a tough sell.

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Housing News

Avoid Blah-Blah Conversation With This Voicemail Cloaking Device

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Please Dear Lord, Don’t Let Them Pick Up, So I Can Leave A Voice Mail and Make A Quick Get Away.

You know those times when you have to return a phone call, share an update, remind someone about something?  And those times where there’s no getting around it, you have to make the call and deliver your message, but you’re short on time, patience, courage, or ___________?

Guess What? I Have Good News For You.

There’s an App. for that, and it’s called SlyDial.  At the Inman Reboot event in HoustonChris with TechSavvyAgent dropped this cloaking device on us.  Basically, SlyDial is a clever smart phone tool.

SlyDial allows you to make a call from your cell phone to their cell phone, but their cell phone won’t ring. Instead of their phone ringing, SlyDial lets you dial directly into their voice mail, and leave a message. Yeah, that’s right, call directly into their voice mail, and their phone doesn’t ring. Check it out, it probably works on your smart phone.

You can get more details and info here.  The App. is free and straight forward.  It looks like the picture below when it’s launched on the iPhone4.

It’s that simple.  Good luck with it.  I was wondering in which situations you’d use something like this?

Thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Photo Credit

PS.  fyi, I don’t work for, nor am I in any way associated with, employed by, or even know anyone at SlyDial.  In other words, there’s nothing in for me by saying nice things about SlyDial, except the pleasure of telling you about a tool you might find handy.

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New Realtor.com iPhone App

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Realtor.com launched their new iPhone application and gave a few of us the chance to play with it and tear it to pieces before the launch (maybe they didn’t quite put it that way, but it’s the way I’m approaching it).

When I first open these new apps, I always think of the intent and this one is pretty obvious.  The Realtor.com iphone app iss totally and completely designed with the end consumer in mind (sorry Realtors if you thought it could be about you).  It’s about providing the latest property information in the quickest, easiest and most user friendly fashion possible.

When you open the app, a home screen gives you several options, including searching for nearby homes for sale, nearby open houses or perform a new search by location or MLS ID.  You can allow for the app to use your current location and it actually gives you nearby listings currently for sale (also giving you the option to narrow down your criteria).  This can be really cool if you are driving in a neighborhood and just want to get property information without having to even get out of the car or make a phone call.  (Bad for agents that rely on the client to actually make that call to capture their business).

Realtor.com iphone app screen shot

You can view a map option or a list option of properties and are able to actually click on any given one and get detailed information, not only on the property, but also the listing agent and the brokerage (very similar to what you see on Realtor.com).  You can scroll through photos of the listing and turn the phone to get bigger photos and you can save the property and include notes to go with it.

Realtor.com iPhone app screenshot

What’s even more fascinating is the option to contact the listing agent on the spot.  You can call them by clicking on their telephone number, you can email them,  visit their site and add them to your contacts.  (I know I’m an over achiever, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could tweet or facebook them as well?).

Realtor.com iphone application
My favorite feature is the “drive around and use your location” to find listings – but you can also enter an address for a particular listing and/or its surrounding competitors and even enter the MLS number.

Great move on Realtor.com to empower the consumer.  Personally, an educated consumer is the best one in my book, but here’s the beef many will have…You can now say “Buh Bye” to Buyers’ Agents, with this app, listing agents will have the upper hand – this will give quick and easy information to the local consumer (not the end for those buyers agents that work with absentee and relocating clients).

Problem?

I can now see me getting bombarded by calls from people who “forget” to tell me they are working with another agent and just wanted quick info.  I can also see my clients calling other agents just because their information was handy.  We’ll just have to see how this extra communication tool will evolve….it could be detrimental for many.

The question of who does Realtor.com work for will inevitably come up.  Many will criticize this as a tool of disintermediation, but if we are smart, we will not only know how to use this information in our favor, but we will welcome it with open arms.  I do wonder if it could be possible to personalize this particular iphone app for a fee so that Realtors can offer it to their clients (of course I would try to come up with a win-win for everyone).

For now it’s time for everyone to make sure their contact information is correct on their listings, and especially Realtor.com.  Listing agents will have the ability to answer inquiries on the spot, staying above the competition with customer service always at the top of the priority list.

And for the record, I’m not associated with Realtor.com, so feel free to kill it if you have the itch.

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Desktop Analytics – Polaris

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Keeping Track

polaris2 I’m a big fan of keeping a pulse on the health of my blogs and sites.  Polaris has released a desktop application that allows you to keep track of your Google Analytics, on your desktop. 

The free version only allows monitoring from one account, while the $15/year version will allow multiple accounts.

The system features are very easy to setup and it works on the AIR installation system, which most of us already have with the Twitter apps.  It was quick to download and install. 

 

Polaris shows total visits, pageviews, activities by date, visits statistics and tons more.  Essentially anything that you would benefit from in Google Analytics, but on the desktop.

newpolaris

The current product is cool, but the company is also advertising some interesting upcoming products.

    • Dopac
      • Dopac is our flagship web analytics solution that brings Google Analytics to your desktop with a host of new features and possibilities. Based on the success and experience of our previously released beta product, the “Google Analytics Reporting Suite”, Dopac takes the original experience to the next level and brings a lot of new concepts to the table.
    • Rayet
      • Rayet is our strange kid on the block. It’s experimental, funky and fun!
        With Rayet we are aiming to make web analytics reporting smarter. Instead of generating a lot of good looking graphs and charts Rayet will cut to the chase and analyze your data for you. Rayet will give you suggestions on how to improve your website experience based on the analytical data available. By comparing different time samples it will tell what works and what doesn’t. Being in very early development there’s currently no release date planned yet.
    • Phobia
      • Phobia is made for one single purpose; impress your boss, client or anyone else you need to suck up to. It gives you data ownership by allowing you to export or synchronize your data in any given format. Anything from smart looking spreadsheets, pretty PDF’s or entertaining presentations is entirely possible! More info on features and release will be up here soon.

       

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