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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, May 14, 2008-The real estate business boils down to the simple premise of selling and buying a home. But everyone in the industry knows that there is a lot more involved, and making that happen is far from simple these days. That’s why the Listingbook concept is a winning one: expose listings in a collaborative environment of active buyers and agents, and up the likelihood of selling more homes. Essentially, it is as simple as putting the right house in front of the right buyers while keeping the agent at the center each step of the way. The best part? It’s completely free for agents and their clients.

As an agent-centric service, it is different than other public online sites. Listingbook enables agents to take back the power of the Internet for the benefit of their clients.

In essence, Listingbook allows the agent to provide a buyer with the most powerful online experience, while being able to see what the buyer is looking at, picking as favorites, or rejecting. With Listingbook, the agent is looking over his client’s shoulder as she is looking at houses on the Web. It provides sellers with the objective information about the market and competitive listings that help the agent collaborate with the seller to get price adjustments. These components are just a sampling of this online client servicing and collaboration platform. It gives agents the chance to demonstrate their knowledge and instantly provide value to their buyers and sellers. Many early agent and broker adopters are dubbing the service a “no-brainer” for the industry.

Listingbook Executive Vice President Ira Luntz has been working since the early ’80s to bring listings to consumers in a way that supports organized real estate. Luntz, who currently serves as president of the Real Estate Information Professionals Association (REIPA), has a storied career in real estate, including key positions at Visient Corp., Threewide Corp., and Fidelity National Information Systems and Boris Systems.

According to Luntz, who joined the North Carolina-based company in 2007, a goal over the course of his career has been to provide consumers with “as much information as possible, in as rich a way as possible.” Listingbook-the first “social network” that revolves around listings, as Luntz says-is designed to do just that.

“Right now, there are three things agents need to focus on: know your market, find a niche and build a community,” says Luntz. “People have to be responsive to the new social networks that are surfacing-this is where Listingbook is successful. We have buyers, sellers and agents, who turn Listingbook into a true social community.”

How It Works

Agents invite their sellers and prospective home buyers to join their Listingbook community, which includes all of the listings available from their participating MLS. To get the free service, clients only need to provide their e-mail address to the agent. The agent then gives them a Listingbook account, and either enters the buyer’s criteria or the seller’s property. The buyer can change this information at any time as their wants and needs change over the course of the home-buying process, and the agent is kept informed.

Buyers are empowered to “search like an agent” with the Listingbook service provided by their agent. They can save the listings that pique their interest. With two clicks of the mouse, they can contact their agent, leave a property note or reject a listing. The buyer receives automated daily e-mail updates from their agent on any relevant changes in the area, such as new listings that match their criteria and price reductions.

Listingbook also plays a valuable role in tracking and analyzing market data, Luntz states, by providing agents and their sellers with an important, non-partisan barometer of current selling prices.

“The first thing a seller wants to know is, ‘how much did the house down the street sell for?'” Luntz explains. “This program is a unique way of keeping the agent and seller informed of market conditions.”

All the Information the Client Demands

Listingbook acts as an agent’s virtual assistant, automatically providing them with summaries of all activity related to their buyers and sellers. It keeps the agent informed, in near real-time, of new listings in the area that match their buyers’ criteria, price changes, their buyers’ favorites, views, rejects, messages, notes and more.

Armed with this information, the agent can be in sync with their buyer, knowing exactly what they are looking for and what listings to show them.

“Listingbook makes my job easier and eliminates the mind games,” says Scott Gaines of Century 21 Real Estate in Long Island, New York. “You can see what people want without having to play ‘Guess what I’m thinking now.’ It gives my customer the feeling that they have control, allows me to see if there is a shift in their thinking, and cuts down on wasted time for all of us.”

“Listingbook is a very unique way of encouraging collaboration and convergence between buyers, sellers and agents,” says Luntz. “It provides a way for real estate professionals to save time, be more efficient with more clients, make more money, and have happier clients.”

Early Adopters, Rave Reviews

Hamid Kharrat, principal broker with Tarbell Realtors’ East Anaheim, California office, was one of the first brokers in the area to embrace the Listingbook program. Listingbook presented the program to Tarbell’s Orange County staff of nearly 800. “Anybody who attended the training seminars loved it because Listingbook keeps the agent at the center of the transaction,” Kharrat says.

Kharrat was introduced to Listingbook because of the SoCalMLS, which recognized the program as a unique advantage it could offer to its members. According to Luntz, the response from MLSs across the country has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. “Listingbook is an absolute complement to the MLS-they are our partners and we work with them to offer Listingbook as a benefit service to their members.”

Bettie Meinl, vice president of career development for Century 21 Laffey Associates in Long Island, New York, also serves on the board of directors for the Long Island Board of Realtors. This is where she was first made aware of Listingbook, which she thought “seemed like a terrific tool.” Meinl, charged with getting new agents up to speed for the 550-agent firm, is exposed to a variety of tools and training programs. She immediately felt that Listingbook stood apart from the rest.

“I love the fact that agents are able to enter their clients into the Listingbook program, and then monitor their activities and communicate with them,” says Meinl.

Shirley Cattich, managing broker for Tarbell Realtors, believes that Listingbook helps to better target buyers’ needs and wants. “When you’re out with buyers looking at properties, they don’t always buy what they say they’re going to,” she explains. “A lot of times the property ends up not meeting their needs-and they wouldn’t necessarily call the agent to say they wanted to make changes. With Listingbook, buyers can alter their parameters. The most exciting part of the program is the control buyers have to continually expand their horizons.”

Most importantly, Meinl explains, is that agents are kept in the loop at all times, allowing them to monitor their prospects’ activity. “You know what the consumer is doing-you know if they’re looking at properties,” she explains. “If a week goes by and an agent sees no activity from a buyer they have signed up in Listingbook, it’s a good sign that they may be interested in another agent and a signal that it’s time to reach out to that customer.”

The program works equally as well for sellers who are also placed into the communication loop. “Many agents take a listing and the seller never hears from them again,” says Meinl. “If you put them into Listingbook, every morning they will get a report on how many people viewed their home, how many agents looked at their listing, and any activity that happened in their neighborhood. This is a fantastic tool for getting a listing.”

A Personal Brand

Cattich is encouraging her agents to take the Listingbook program a step further by upgrading their service. For a nominal fee, agents can upgrade to a premium level and incorporate self-promotion into their client’s Listingbook experience. The upgrade, says Cattich, “allows agents to get as personal as they’d like to.” They can upload photos, company logos, customize business-card designs, print custom flyers in seconds and conduct live CMAs with clients. Agents can also receive referrals when they create their own webpages and establish a domain name through the Listingbook site.

A Complete Marketing Solution

Listingbook also offers agents targeted marketing solutions. Listingbook’s Open House and Featured Listings promotions are a complete, effective promotion campaign designed to get measurable results and includes an analysis report for your seller, all for a fraction of the cost of traditional print advertising.

“Instead of taking a classified ad out in the newspaper,” says Meinl, “they can blast an open-house invitation out to buyers in the Listingbook network whose criteria matches the listing.”

An agent will be told how many buyers have criteria that match that of their listing. Meinl continues, “the listing agent can be advised of 100 potential buyers-whose criteria meet that of the house-and those buyers will be contacted for up to six days before the open house.”

The bottom line, as Kharrat explains, is that “technology is at the forefront of everything. If we as a company do not introduce these types of programs, we’ll be out of business. Seventy-five to 80% of buyers go to the Internet when buying a home, and certainly agents want to be there and they want to have a product that can easily be used by potential clients. Clients are gold and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to be able to serve the client.”

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