Via text, all the details to sell a home
A Bend-based phone technology company lets real estate agents forgo fliers by going high-tech
Nov 16, 2008

By Andrew Moore / The Bulletin

Published: November 16. 2008 4:00AM PST

Imagine you’re house hunting, it’s January and frigid outside. You find a home you like, reluctantly exit your warm car to trudge through snow and slush for the flier box nailed to the home’s for-sale sign — only to find the box is empty.

Maybe you write the address down to inquire about the home later, or maybe you move on and forget the whole episode.

This scenario is one Fred Boos, founder of Bend-based RocketBux, believes consumers and real estate professionals can avoid with a new text-messaging application his company has developed.

In this same winter scenario, a house hunter would instead dial a number posted on the for-sale sign that would almost instantly shoot back relevant data about the home — such as price, square footage and number of bedrooms, as well as the listing agent’s phone number — in a text message.

In essence, no more worrying about whether the fliers are all wet or all gone, Boos said. As well, it also solves a problem that vexes some customers: no price posted on the sign.

“Now, people see a sign, and they have to call a broker to get the price, or maybe they don’t call because they don’t want to fully engage (with the broker),” Boos said. “This allows them to engage softly, more realistically. It’s a more robust experience than pulling a brochure from a box.”

Boos introduced the application last month and several real estate agents at the Hasson Real Estate office in Bend are now using it. One of them is Sunny Bliss, who said the marketing tool is “brilliant.”

“It’s one of my biggest pet peeves as a customer, when all you want to know is the price and you have to call the person,” she said. “If they don’t answer the phone and there’s no brochure, you keep driving, where if you knew the price, you might set up an appointment. So I’m a huge advocate of getting info to people right when they need it.”

Parents of teens know text messaging is one of the key ways kids keep in touch. More and more, texting also is drawing in adults, either to keep tabs on those kids or to tap into its opportunities, said Brian Tompkins, RocketBux’s vice president of ideation.

According to CTIA, The Wireless Association, a wireless trade group, more than 600 billion text messages were sent in the U.S. through June of this year. That’s a huge increase from the roughly 57 billion text messages sent in the U.S. through June 2005.

“People are texting, and Realtors want to be on the cutting edge,” Tompkins said. “It just makes everything easy.”

Tompkins said another plus is that the text messages can remain in the customer’s phone until deleted. The system also allows agents to quickly change the text message data, such as price, that is sent, which means the agent doesn’t have to worry about printing a new batch of fliers.

RocketBux’s main business is using wireless and text-messaging technology to deliver coupons to handsets. The company has 17 employees in offices including Richmond, Va., Palo Alto, Calif., and Calgary, Alberta. Boos lives in Bend and said he struck upon his latest idea after casually discussing the futility of real estate fliers.

Because he already had the infrastructure in place, Boos said, it didn’t cost much to set up the application. The return is much higher. For each home sold, Boos receives $100, regardless of whether the sales lead came from his application.

Bliss, the agent, said this is a good deal because her flier costs run $20 to $30 a month.

“I don’t have to pay up-front, and I’m happy to pay him $100 after, so it’s a no-brainer,” Bliss said. “I think it’s great.”

Bill Berger, principal broker at Hasson’s Bend office, said the company’s real estate agents are free to use whatever marketing tools they desire. He said RocketBux’s technology is innovative.

“Certainly in winter, when people may not get out of the car, or the fliers are buried in a pile of snow, this is an option,” Berger said.

Across town at G5 Search Marketing Inc. — an advertising-solutions company that uses a variety of technologies, including text messaging, to help advertisers reach potential customers — Chris Kraybill, the company’s chief technology officer, said technology is increasingly challenging traditional media channels.

“Especially with the younger generation, those interactive behaviors are going to become increasingly popular,” Kraybill said.

Boos said he’s collected on one sale so far, and another 15 Hasson-listed homes are using his application. Boos said he is working to spread the application to other real estate offices in Bend and the across country, and that he’s in negotiations with a large real estate firm in California and a bank that now finds itself in the real estate business because of rising foreclosures. Landing deals with those two firms would mean “pretty big numbers” for RocketBux, Boos said.

“It’s really surprised us, being more of a folly than part of our business plan, but this is sometimes how these things pan out,” Boos said.

Andrew Moore can be reached at 541-617-7820 or amoore@bendbulletin.com.


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