Small business Betting on a new home-buying service
By Joan Caplin

(MONEY Magazine) – Paul Purcell and Kathy Braddock, N.Y.C.

A year ago, Paul Purcell had the title of president and a seven-figure income. He wanted a change. "People think if you're president, you have control over your destiny," he says. "You don't." So in June 2003, Purcell, 51, left Douglas Elliman, the largest residential real estate firm in the New York City area, and, with general sales manager Kathy Braddock, 46, opened the real estate consultancy Braddock & Purcell.

The two were convinced that there was a void in the market--and they knew how to fill it. The dart-throwing method that buyers and sellers use to find brokers is, they believe, the weakest part of the home-hunting system. "People say, 'My agent was nice,' and that's the benchmark of a good transaction," says Purcell. He and Braddock run a matchmaking service of sorts. Through financial checkups and extensive interviews--"some of our sessions are almost like therapy," says Braddock--they help clients focus realistically on what they're looking for. The partners then identify three agents who they feel are the best fit. If there's a sale, Braddock and Purcell collect 25% of the broker's commission. What the broker is getting in exchange is a vetted client who knows what he or she wants (and, presumably, won't waste time).

By early December, thanks to 31 successful matches and 30 in the works, the partners had recouped their $200,000 investment. Says Purcell: "I think we're onto something." --JOAN CAPLIN