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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, Jan. 16, 2008-No doubt, it’s a tough market out there. Instead of being immersed in bidding wars, buyers are now, quite frankly, a lot harder to come by. Enter Johnny Park, a molecular biologist turned top-producing real estate agent from RE/MAX Golden Empire in California who believes he has come up with the solution for effectively connecting real estate professionals with interested home buyers: A recently launched portal that culls buyers actively on the market looking for homes, AmREDS is intended to be an effective cure for the common ailments of lead generation. Here, Park shares his thoughts behind the program, along with his game plan for the future.

Maria Patterson: First of all, please tell us more about your very interesting background! How did your path eventually lead you to real estate?

Johnny Park: My parents came here from Korea in 1976. They didn’t have much means, but they worked hard, saved money and started buying property-mostly commercial real estate. I have always helped them with this-everything from typing leases to helping them evaluate property. My exposure to real estate began there.

I also went to Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate and then to grad school at Boston University to earn my PhD in molecular and cellular biology. While at BU, I worked at the Whitehead Institute, a very famous place in the biotech community. I had the opportunity to join their newly developed department in genomics.

After five years at the Whitehead Institute, I joined Bristol-Myers Squibb’s genomic program. One day, my parents called me and asked me to help them with a property they had just acquired. So I went back to California and helped them sell it successfully. It was a good time to leave Bristol-Myers Squibb-a new CEO had been appointed-so I chose to get into real estate full time.

MP: How did the idea for AmREDS evolve?

JP: When I got my first listing as a full-time Realtor, I listed it on the MLS and then asked, “Where do I get the buyers from?” I was completely naive in this respect. My colleagues told me, “You have to advertise, network, do whatever it takes to get buyers.” That’s when my science background kicked in and all I could think was, “That’s so inefficient! If I know what’s available for sale, why shouldn’t I know who’s buying?” That information is out there, but it’s not given out. The reality is, every real estate agent has about three serious buyers at any given time, so why can’t we share that information and make the process more efficient?

MP: So what is the intention, so to speak, of AmREDS?

JP: The idea is not to take anything away from experience or networking, or to compete against the MLS. AmREDS is a new tool, a new vehicle, to help real estate agents do more transactions every year. Our goal is to have real estate professionals find and advertise real estate buyers safely and securely. Just like you would use the MLS to find and advertise real estate listings, you would use AmREDS to find and advertise real estate buyers. You can post up to 10 real estate buyers (what we call buyer profiles) for free and also search for real estate buyers for free once you register. The only fee a user would pay is if they want to contact the owner of the buyer profile or if they want to add more than 10 buyer profiles. So, in fact, most of the site is absolutely free to use.

MP: Would you classify AmREDS as a marketing program, then?

JP: A targeted marketing program. Instead of spending money and time on a shotgun marketing approach, such as magazine ads or newspaper ads, agents and brokers can now specifically target people who are looking for properties that you have for sale. It is more efficient than advertising and waiting for people to come to you. The MLS system and AmREDS together should help expedite the real estate transaction enormously.

MP: What have your biggest hurdles been so far in launching AmREDS?

JP: We have two hurdles. One is letting people know that we exist and telling them what we are. The other hurdle is the issue of mindset, which is potentially more difficult to overcome. We need real estate professionals to understand what the site is about and that we are not asking them to give up any information that is private.

MP: How should agents approach AmREDS in your opinion?

JP: The mindset of the agent should be to treat their buyers the same way they treat their sellers. If you were to get an exclusive listing agreement today, the first thing you’re going to do is list it. It’s also your fiduciary duty to let people know that you have a buyer. The attitude should be, “I have this buyer-let me help them find a property as quickly as possible.”

MP: What is the concern that people seem to have with the program thus far?

JP: The fear is that somehow we’ll steal information, but that’s simply not true. If you register on to the site, you’ll see the information fields. All we’re asking for is what the buyer wants to buy, price, location, etc. No personal information about the buyer is ever requested.

MP: How does AmREDS compare to lead-gen business models?

JP: As a scientist, I had to deal with a lot of false positives. It’s the same with leads you get from lead-generation companies because you don’t have a way to discern who’s real and who’s not. Consumers could be submitting their information just for fun, yet that lead will be sold to me for a lot of money. There’s a very low accuracy rate. Out of 20, there might be only one lead that’s real, and it won’t tell me what they want to buy, I just know where they want to buy.

I believe our data will be a lot more accurate because it will come from actual real estate agents. Agents aren’t going to waste their time putting in a tire kicker-they’re going to put someone in who’s genuine.

If you had a listing, you wouldn’t just hold onto it-you want to tell the world. You should do the same for your buyer. AmREDS doesn’t take anything away from your experience, relationships, and networking that you built over the years. It’s the opposite, it lets you take full advantage of all those things in a way that wasn’t possible before.

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