If there is one industry suited to embrace the online revolution, itâ€™s real estate. After all, the Internet is all about bringing together people and information, making it easier for the right people to find the right information. Substitute the word â€œhousesâ€ for â€œinformationâ€, and you have real estate.
But real estate is far more complex than most people imagine. The average person thinks of real estate in terms of their own experience. They put their house up for sale, probably by calling a local real estate agent, and then wait for a buyer. The selling agent (and buyerâ€™s agent, if there is one), along with the closing company, handle all the paperwork. All the buyers and sellers have to do is sign a lot of papers.
All of the paperwork and activity that goes on in between the first call and the final closing has to be handled by someone, and that someone is usually the real estate agent. Decades ago, state governments came up with the idea of having licensed real estate agents for one purpose only: to protect the public from being cheated. Not an unreasonable idea, but it soon led to a mountain of work and a lot inefficiencies. Nobody but licensed agents were allowed to help sellers sell and buyers buy, at least for any type of compensation. Highly trained agents had to spend their time filling out forms, making phone calls, driving people around, and unlocking doors. Property listings often came in the form of huge books, constantly updated, which agents spent hours flipping through. Even though commissions were high, many agents were poor, barely making minimum wage when calculated on a per hour basis. It was a rough way of doing business, but there werenâ€™t many options.
Enter computer technology and the Internet, providing the industry with what it needed most: automation and communication. Today, much of the work that used to be done by agents has been passed on to machines, as well as to buyers and sellers. For a modest fee, sellers can list their properties themselves and buyers can search online for properties in the comfort of their own living room any time of the day or night. Agents can easily keep dozens of their clients aware of new properties automatically by having advanced software keep a continuous eye open for properties fitting a given buyerâ€™s specifications, and instantly emailing them whenever one comes on the market, complete with all the details and photographs. New efficiencies have created a downward pressure on agent fees, but whether or not an agent is used, the process has changed dramatically.
Nevertheless, the transition to electronic real estate is still far from complete, even though there is no shortage of companies and individuals trying to move the process along. Beside the fact that virtually every real estate agency, investor, buyer and seller now uses computers and the Internet to do part of the work, there are also online companies moving in on traditional real estate operatives. In addition to Zillow.com, Realtor.com, and countless smaller RE listing and agency sites, public companies such Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) now serve growing real estate markets.
The problem common to all of these companies is that none of them stand out as the best place to go to list your house for sale. They all do pretty much the same thing: they let you search on their list of houses. Then you have to move on to the next site to see if their list is any better. Although eBay has some real estate listings, there really is no home-selling eBay. Even searching MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listings only shows you standard agent listings and many properties arenâ€™t listed through agencies.
However, there is one publicly traded company on the horizon that may have just the right approach to become the central clearing house for everything real estate. UpTurn, Inc. (PINKSHEETS: UPTR) is still under development, but is benefitting from the expertise of some of the brightest people in business, technology, and online marketing. The idea is to put together an innovative combination of social networking and online technologies to create a marketplace experience so compelling that it will soon become the go-to place for anyone wanting to buy, sell, rent, or service any type of real estate. But itâ€™s planned as far more than just a list and search service. Itâ€™s being designed as an overall real estate solution resource, a place where anyone can quickly and easily get the answers they need or link up with the people they need. Maybe this is why itâ€™s being called the next big step into the world of electronic real estate.
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