The real estate market continues its aggressive ascend back from the ashes of 2008 and is showing no signs or desire to slow down any time soon. With interest rates at all time lows, the landscape for investors seems just right even for the less aggressive types. ListedBy founder and chief executive officer, and real estate investment veteran Stephan Piscano has been one of the most successful – and daring – investors to take advantage of the recent market drop. While he spends time building online auction site ListedBy.com, his investor acumen continues to spot opportunities along the way. If you heard or read Stephan’s predictions for the real estate market a year ago, and you followed his advice, you would know he was spot on. Today we’re happy to join Stephan to get insight into some of his investing strategies and plans for the future, and how real estate investors and real estate professionals can benefit from using ListedBy.com.
Q: Stephan, you created the website ListedBy.com to meet the needs that you personally had experienced and observed in the online sector as a real estate investor. Can you give us a brief rundown of what ListedBy.com is and how it helps investors meet their needs?
A: Thanks Roger, I am excited and thankful to discuss this here on Realty411. As many who follow ListedBy know, I created the site after liquidating several real estate assets online through sites such as eBay and others. At the time it became clear to me after searching literally for years that there was no website out there that allowed me to have the marketplace functionality I needed to properly market my listings, and do it in a setting that promoted trust and openness.
With that in mind we went live with ListedBy.com to harness the marketplace functionality of a site such as eBay, but tailor it to real estate, and we added the key piece of the social network which we modeled after LinkedIn to give the buyers the ability to not only research the property that they were buying, but also research the person they are buying it from. This creates more direct communication between the parties and since we never play middleman as our competition does, we create a setting where transactions are much more likely to take place. This functionality allows an investor to not only research real estate online, but actually make a BUYING ACTION through the site and be in DIRECT contact with a person that can actually accept that action all online and all at no cost.
Q: That seems comprehensive. So it sounds like the key aspect of the site is transparency?
A: Yes you could say that. It is really all about cutting out the middle man and allowing the buyer to be in direct contact with either the property owner, or the actual list agent. Many websites try to either limit the communication between the parties so they don’t get cut out, or they route traffic to their own buyers’ agents so the buyer ends up dealing with an agent that knows nothing about them, and nothing about the property itself. That can be beneficial to first time buyers who need their hand held a bit more, but to an investor it simply slows everything down and wastes time. ListedBy.com dramatically speeds up the process for the buyer and creates targeted exceptional exposure for the owner/agent.
Q: Well that sounds great but I’m assuming that Brokers and Agents are not too happy about being cut out of the loop.
A: Oh No I’m happy you asked about that because that is actually one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the site when they hear about the model. While it is true that of course an owner could use our site directly with a buyer, the reality of it is that the majority of transactions happening on our site take place with agents, and we have actually found that, believe it or not, the agent benefits from our site more than anyone else.
By removing the middle man and routing the DIRECT buyer traffic straight to the list agent, it gives the listing agent the opportunity to double-end the transaction and effectively put twice as much revenue in their pocket. In addition to that we have actually heard from several agents that by building out their social network profile on the site with photos, bio, and client recommendations, they have actually gotten new business and new clients from being on the site! A lot of times a user might come to the site looking to buy, but they don’t see a property that particular day they like, but if perhaps they see an agent profile that catches their eye and excitement now that agent has a new and hot lead directly to their site! Given that we designed the social network to drive traffic back to the agent’s own site, it becomes an exceptional benefit in itself.
Q: So in essence, in addition to buying and selling, an agent can use the social networking part of the site to grow their brand?
A: Yes, we built out the functionality with everything that a real estate professional needs to connect with investors and partners from around the world, and it is ALWAYS FREE . Agents can see stats on who came to their profile page and who viewed their listings. It is some unreal technology that can put REAL CASH in their pocket.
Q: Do users on ListedBy have other listing options or just auction?
A: Good question. The site is set up to allow users to list as a live bidding reserve, or no reserve auctions. However, most of our listings are actually what we call an “Own-It-Now” Best Offer Listing. This is where the listing is set at a fixed “Own-It-Now” price, but users can actually submit offers through the site which can be countered, accepted or rejected all through the site. It is actually that rapidly paced direct offer submission functionality that really seems to excite our users the most.
Q: So are there any other features besides the marketplace and the social network?
A: Yes actually we added MLS syndication in October 2012 so currently you can search about 600,000 MLS listings in a separate section of the site. We also recently partnered with Foreclosure.com to feed nearly two million foreclosure listings to the site. This combination gives our users the opportunity to search auction listings, MLS listings, and foreclosure listings all in one spot. If that was not enough, we also have a service providers directory where users can search property managers, contractors, escrow companies and more all on the site. I would get sleepy thinking about it if it wasn’t so darn exciting! Basically we are like five websites in one. And we are designed to give the investor, the agent, and the real estate service provider, everything that they need all in one spot!
“By removing the middle man and routing the DIRECT buyer traffic straight to the list agent, it gives the listing agent the opportunity to double-end the transaction and effectively put twice as much revenue in their pocket.”
Q: So I’m hearing a lot of use of the “FREE”. How can that be?
A: Many users may be wondering what is the catch and how ListedBy generates its revenue. Yes, we get that a lot. In fact, recently we have been debating if we should start charging a small fee because people simply don’t believe that it REALLY IS FREE . But right now there is no fee to list, no fee to buy, no commission, no percentage, no membership fee — NOTHING. ListedBy really is free. Our main revenue model currently is from corporate advertisers. We have been fortunate to have three separate fortune 500 companies enter long-term advertising partnerships with us since we went live. When we designed the site model I looked at all the most successful sites such as Facebook, Google and others and we realized that these sites really don’t charge their userbase anything. We want to give our users something that they want and need, and give them a reason to come to the site everyday which creates targeted traffic that is extremely valuable for our advertisers putting their brand in front of consumers that they KNOW need the service, at the moment that they need it the most.
Q: So what type of advertising opportunities are available on ListedBy.com ?
A: We have several ways that we can drive traffic to our advertising partners. From our massive reach on social media with our LinkedIn groups, to our more than 200,000 opt-in users. We find that all of our top advertisers extend their campaigns and dramatically lower their cost per lead working with us. I always say that when we went live with the site and tried to figure out how to drive traffic ourselves, I made all the mistakes already with my own money so you don’t have to. We know as a group that we have developed what we believe to be the most effective and powerful marketing platform in the real estate sector, and we are thankful that excelling in this way allows us to help drive profits for our advertisers, and more importantly keep the website free to our loyal and active users.
Q: You actually were on the cover of Realty 411’s alternate cover, Real Estate Wealth, when the site went live back in 2012. How has the site grown since then and what are you looking forward to in the coming year?
A: Yes, it actually is a bit sentimental to me being in this issue because the very first piece of media/advertising we did when we went live was with Linda’s other magazine, Real Estate Wealth. Since then while we have had some ups and downs I am so thankful to say we have grown at one of the fastest paces in the real estate sector, had literally thousands of transactions take place as a result of the site, and I am really thankful to have gotten to meet some of my heros and icons in real estate and tech. Also I am really thankful to great members that have joined the team in the last year and provided such amazing talent and have been such a huge part of our success. In the coming year I am excited about where we are going because I feel like the first year we built our brand, built our base, and learned what we are and how to execute. I feel that we are now ready to put it all in place. In 2014 we are going live with the 2.0 main version of the site, which is going to have some simply UNREAL features that the world has never seen before. This will help us as we also transition more to focusing on having a major presence in the auction and the real estate sector and focusing on high level transactions and allowing users to truly buy real estate in a better and more effective set up.
Q: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with a fellow property investor?
A: I think that this is an exciting time to be a real estate investor, and perhaps even more so to be an agent. The lack of inventory, combined with low interest rates and the basic sense that this is an exceptional hot market has created a consistent rise in the market as we had projected. I think the market should continue to rise the next 2-3 years, however I do believe that at some point when interest rates start to go up that we could see another small crash in the market.
To me it is simply a race between rapid inflation and the interest rates, to see which of the two catalysts stands to impact the market the hardest. You could see the prices continue to rise not because homes are worth more but because the dollar is worth less. That would mean the more leverage that you buy with, the better you can capitalize by paying off your loan balance with cheap dollars in the long term. Either way, whatever you do you better do it on ListedBy.com, and we hope to see you there soon.