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RISMEDIA, June 15, 2007-(MCT)-Homes for sale can now broadcast their best features to someone sitting in a car in front of them. In a softening market, it’s another way of standing out.

Cathy Thompson likes to see cars pull up and idle outside of her house: It means she might be one step closer to selling the home.

That’s because the drivers sitting in their vehicles likely are tuning to 1690 AM, a station that picks up the signal broadcasting from a box inside her home. It relays a message from Thompson’s real estate agent telling people about the home.

Passers-by get the cue from a sign out front that describes the property as a “Talking House.”

People hear Realtor Judith Barraza speaking in English and Spanish about the home, its yard and the convenient location. Instead of having to jump out of the car, run across the lawn and grab a sheet of information out of a box, people can sit and listen.

“We see people stopping all the time and listening,” Thompson said.

In a softening real estate market where homes can linger for months on end, it becomes more important to find a way to make a home stand out, Barraza said.

The California Association of Realtors reported that the median number of days it took to sell an existing single-family home increased to 53.5 days as of April, up from 42.5 days the previous year. And sales were down year over year by 20.8 percent. The median price — the point where half the homes sell for more, half for less — was $691,710 for existing homes in April.

Barraza provides the radio technology for free at three homes on the market. She sees it as a benefit for her clients and potential buyers — as well as herself.

“I really think that stands out,” Barraza said. “It saves you time, too.”

People stop and listen before calling her, which means those who do call are really interested. She said they can visualize what they cannot see from the curb by listening to her description of the home.

Barraza updates the recordings as often as necessary, often adding information about new sales incentives.

“It’s a way to market the house, too,” she said.

The main benefit of the Talking House technology is that it fosters communication about a home in a convenient and effective way, said Sush Bharani, marketing manager for Broadcast Marketing LLC, an Austin, Texas-company that owns the Talking House brand.

By eliminating those who aren’t serious buyers, the real estate agent can focus on those who are, she said.

The Thompson house has been on the market since after Thanksgiving. During that time, it has been reduced in price several times, from $625,000 to $560,000. The Thompsons are now offering potential buyers a cash incentive toward the first month’s mortgage.

After 35 years in the house, the Thompsons, who have adopted their 5-year-old granddaughter, want to move to Idaho. The retired couple is seeking better schools and a community more like Ventura County was years ago.

They never thought the home would sit on the market so long.

“It’s really hard to believe how slow the market is,” Thompson said. “There are not that many people looking.”

There has been an uptick in demand for the technology as the housing market weakens, Bharani said.

“The market softening has triggered something in the market for Realtors to really give the program a try,” she said. She wouldn’t release sales numbers for the private company.

Barraza recommended trying out the Talking House transmitter on the Thompson home a few months ago.

“Anything to try to catch somebody’s attention,” Thompson said.

The Talking House transmitter is about the size of a small VCR and weighs 4 pounds.

The low-power transmitter plugs into an outlet inside the home. It repeats up to a five-minute message recorded by the real estate agent and stored on a computer chip in the transmitter. The signal, which can be heard over a designated AM station, broadcasts up to 300 feet. A sign tells shoppers to tune to a specific AM radio frequency. The transmitters range from $290 to $650 each.

While the technology is now focused on the real estate industry, Broadcast Marketing LLC said it can be used by schools, churches, drive-through restaurants or banks, apartment complexes and other businesses.

For more information, visit http://www.talkinghouse.com.

Copyright © 2007, Ventura County Star, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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