Home challenge: Make me move!

Real estate Web site launches new selling pitch.

By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Web site Zillow.com, most known for its "Zestimate" price valuations for nearly 70 million homes, launched several new services for home sellers Thursday.

Sellers can now post their home for sale at Zillow - free of charge. Sellers can add details to a page that already includes basic details, such as square footage, number of beds and baths and sales history.

Slow-market success story! Read how two realtors sold this home in just 5 days.

And there's something else new - and radical - they can do: "We're encouraging homeowners to post 'Make-me-move' prices," says Zillow's CEO, Rich Barton.

He suggests that owners just toying with the idea of selling can enter an extremely high make-me move price. Then, if they get an offer that blows their socks off, they can make a very profitable sale.

Putting a property on the market at well above the market value is nothing new, but marketing a house, even casually, is usually a cumbersome process that involves time, trouble and expense. There are ads to buy or agents to hire, open houses to throw or house-hunters to entertain.

But in the Internet age, buyers exploring that part of town might click on your house and sees that it isn't really for sale, but that it does have a make-me-move price. Chances are, the buyer will just keep clicking on to other properties, but he or she just might decide that your home is worth a closer look.

The buyer makes an anonymous inquiry and the ball is in the owner's court to follow up.

It's almost the flip side of a service launched this summer by another real estate Web site, Reply.com.

There, buyers are encouraged to make unsolicited offers on any houses they want. Buyers pick out a number of homes, 15 or 20 say (just one or two is too few to work), that they would like to make offers on. They decide just how much to bid on each convey the info to Reply.com. For a fee of $24.95, Reply will deliver a package containing the offers to each of the homeowners.

The company catchword for the service is, "Every home in America is up for sale."

It's all part of an ongoing trend to making real estate transactions increasingly Web-based. Already, about 80 percent of home buyers use the Internet to shop for a new house, according to the National Association of Realtors, and that figure continues to grow.

And, although the services of real estate agents and brokers are still very much needed by the majority of home sellers and buyers, many of the mundane, day-to-day functions of realtors are being taken over and done more efficiently on the Web.

That not only enables brokers to devote more of their effort to the roles they best fill, as marketers and merchandisers of the homes, but it also should reduce transaction costs and lead to lower commission rates in the future.

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