RealDirect.com was built around a compelling proposition for home sellers — instead of paying the 6 percent broker fee, let RealDirect handle the listings and offer advice from agents, while only paying $395 a month or a 1 or 2 percent commission (depending on the level of services). Now, however, the site is also trying to be useful for home buyers.
Specifically, instead of expecting buyers to find the listings through various real estate databases, RealDirect is launching its own map-based interface. It’s pretty straightforward — you enter things like the neighborhoods you want to look at, the maximum price, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, then you get a map with all the houses that fit your criteria. You can also draw a lasso around the area that you want to search in and browse data about different neighborhoods.
RealDirect also uses something it’s calling “compatibility rankings” — basically, it’s casting a wider net so that you don’t miss good fits just because they aren’t an exact fit for what you said you were looking for.
“Every single buyer makes some sort of compromise,” says co-founder and CEO Doug Perlson puts it. “The idea of having a set of search results that are an exact match to your criteria is particularly troubling when it comes to real estate search.”
For example, if someone says they’re interested in apartments with at least 2,000 square feet, they’d probably be just as interested in one that matched all of their other criteria perfectly, but was only 1,997 square feet. Most other real estate search sites would cut off the search at 2,000, but instead of seeing your criteria as a yes-or-no cutoff, RealDirect treats them more as guidelines that it can use to give you the best results.
For now, RealDirect is limited to Manhattan and Brooklyn. Perlson says it will probably expand to other areas of New York City over the next 12 months, then open in other markets in 18 months or so. The company’s investors include Tribeca Venture Partners, High Peaks Venture Partners, Bendigo Partners, SecondMarket CEO Barry Silbert, and About.com founder Scott Kurnit.