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ShackPrices.com a tear-down? Innovative map-search portal reconstructed as Estately.com

The most-innovative little map-search in Seattle, ShackPrices.com, today relaunches as Estately.com, a name perhaps more fitting for a town where you can still get a decent fixer for less than a million dollars.

The site is also launching its monetization model with this release: A fee-based referral system for users who ask to be introduced to an agent, paid by the agent. From company co-founder Galen Ward:

Agent Match lets consumers get personalized recommendations for the best real estate agents in their area, hear personal introductions from the recommended agents, and see feedback from previous clients. Where most brokerages assign potential clients in a haphazard fashion, Estately recommends three prescreened, high quality agents from local brokerages to consumers.[...] [W]e already have a few happy beta-testers and a “rock-star” team of agents from a bunch of local brokerages.

We’re selective and we’re keeping the referral fee low enough (12%) that we have been able to recruit great agents who do most of their business from referrals.

Under the name ShackPrices.com, the company pioneered a number of great ideas in map-search technology, including showing nearby parks, schools, restaurants, access to public transportation, etc. The AgentMatch idea is also an innovation, sort of an eHarmony for Realtors:

Estately’s Agent Match algorithm uses consumer answers from a brief questionnaire to match them with highly qualified, individually recruited agents who meet their needs. Consumers and agents are matched geographically, based on consumer’s needs and based on agent feedback from past clients. Consumers are shown all the feedback for each agent recommended to them. Home buyers and sellers can choose to remain anonymous until they are ready to work with an agent.

This is smart enough to be truly scary.

More coverage: The Real Estate Bloggers, John Cook’s Venture Blog.

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Related posts:
  • Hey, can I hop a train to that shack? ShackPrices.com introduces proximity to mass transit as a search criterion
  • Saved searches, available by RSS feed, at ShackPrices.com
  • Estately.com is now the San Francisco treat

  • 6 comments

    6 Comments so far

    1. Tim June 28th, 2007 4:52 pm

      >This is smart enough to be truly scary.

    2. Tim June 28th, 2007 4:53 pm

      The smart part is the 12% referral fee. If successful, it just might keep the unwarranted upward climb of referral fees in check. There was once a time when referral fees where at 20% of the function side of a transaction. Slowly, incredulously and, most importantly in my opinion, unjustifiably they have crept up past 35% in some cases. It is my belief that corporate controlled relocation companies are largely responsible for this ‘fleecing’ of agents and, yes, brokers, too–but that’s another story. I truly hope that some smart startup comes along that knows how to take advantage of the efficiencies brought about by technology and the Internet, and then passes on the savings to both clients (agents) and consumers. If these guys can pull that off and reign in the out-of-control upward spiral of referral fees, then all the power to them.

    3. John L. Wake June 28th, 2007 6:40 pm

      I was impressed with the speed of the site. Blazing.

      They must have some amazing engineers working the back end.

      If I could only get my IDX site to run as fast!

    4. John L. Wake June 28th, 2007 7:07 pm

      There are two costs of a referral, the fee itself and the time it takes to work the leads… all of the leads, even the losers.

      My guess is that leads have to convert at about 1 in 20 or better otherwise agents stop working them. The time cost of working to get to one conversion is too high.

      And 1 in 20 is probably too high. Certainly 1 in 10 would get most agents motivated to work the leads hard.

      A low referral fee is good but the conversion rate is the key to their success.

    5. Galen June 28th, 2007 9:20 pm

      John, I’m glad you like the speed – the two of us put a lot of effort into making the site speedy (there are still only two of us).

      Part of the reason we are so obsessed with referring clients to great agents is that we’ll have more happy clients: if an agent presents a client with a clear and tangible reasons why they are the best agent for that client, we won’t end up with many people wandering off.

      I’m glad you think it’s reasonable Tim. If we can match clients and agents efficiently, leading to less wasted time on both parts, I think we have a great value proposition for agents. We’ll let you know how it’s going.

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