ChoiceA is a new site for do it yourself, or For Sale By Owner, real estate listings. It's got a nice, simple interface that makes good use of new web technologies and it's quite pleasing to peruse the limited listings collected prelaunch. Those listings are free to post and so far are primarily based around the Pacific Northwest of the US.
Reators, though, may prove to be a case study of one of those industry roles that just can't be replaced by the internet.
Will People Go For It?
As nice as the site is, real estate may not prove to be an industry that the internet is able to totally disintermediate. I asked Joel Burslem, founder of the Future of Real Estate Marketing blog, for his perspective on ChoiceA and its goals; he was dubious about both the large-scale viability of the For Sale by Owner market in general and the ability for any website to succeed in it.
"Are the services of realtors worth 6%? Are there some unscrupulous people in the business as realtors? These are important questions to ask," he said, "but this has been tried many times before. Past experience and market surveys show that the vast majority of people engaging in real estate transactions will end up using a realtor." Burslem cited a compelling list of reasons why this was the case, including the complexity of the deals and the importance of scaling and visibility. He said that real estate megasite Zillow, for example, tried to focus on for sale by owner listings at the beginning but quickly learned that it had to go after realtors if it wanted to offer a substantial number of listings at all.
What does ChoiceA say about this? This angel-funded, two man startup says they believe it's only a matter of time until someone upsets or at least challenges the dominance of the MLS listings and professional realtors. They are putting their emphasis on an accessible user interface and they allow cross-posting to Craigslist. Using Amazon web services, ChoiceA is keeping costs low to hold out until the market shifts. They are planning on running some advertisements on site and may in the end take a very small fee for listings.
It is Easy on the Eyes
The interface really is nice, including a drag and drop favorites list, a nice lightbox gallery and various sliders and maps. It's nothing revolutionary but it's very friendly. The company also went to great lengths, they say, to put together web friendly legal forms for real estate transactions in various states. They encourage people to hire a lawyer to review the documents they use throughout the transaction - at a fraction of the cost a realtor would incur.
Will people do it? They might, and ChoiceA could be the one effort in many to succeed in this big goal of disintermediating real estate, but unlike some industries like music and movies - cutting out the middleman in this market will be no easy task.