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Old 05-11-2006, 11:50 AM
elva
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Post Property Guys set sights on U.S. real estate market

The Property Guys are coming, the Property Guys are coming.

Hold your horses, Paul Revere it's not the British. Property Guys, a real estate company that offers for-sale-by-owner services, is based in Canada. Its founders are planning to expand the business model into the United States.

Property Guys attempts to differentiate itself from other FSBO-type real estate services companies by defining itself as a "private sale network." The company, which opened in 1998, provides marketing packages to consumers for a flat fee and also offers to link consumers to work with industry professionals.

As a marketing firm, Property Guys does not operate as a real estate broker or agent, and it cannot enter properties into Canada's national multiple listing service. As with other FSBO services companies, Property Guys promotes the elimination of middlemen and avoidance of commissions in the real estate process.

Property Guys would join a growing list of U.S. companies that offer to directly connect home buyers with sellers online for a fee that is far lower than typical commissions that consumers pay for agent-assisted transactions.

Companies such as ForSaleByOwner.com and ByOwner.com are among the big players in the U.S. do-it-yourself real estate segment, and Property Guys hopes to define its niche by offering to match consumers with mortgage, real estate brokerage, appraisal or legal professionals.

Walter S. Melanson, director of partnerships for Property Guys, said the difference between his company and some Internet-powered FSBO companies is that Property Guys has a "strong on-the-ground presence. We recognized that consumers wanted to interact and interface with someone on the ground."

The company has about 65 franchise units, with representatives in provinces across Canada, and the company's Web site states that the business model has been "proven to work over and over again by thousands of buyers and sellers since 1998."

On Wednesday the site featured 39 active property listings in Vancouver, British Columbia, 28 active listings in Calgary, Alberta, and nine active listings in Toronto, Ontario.

While Property Guys offers listing packages that include an in-house sale consultation, a sign package, legal documents and a market analysis, the company also offers a cheaper "self-serve" option that does not include an in-person visit. The fuller package of services, which the company refers to as its "full-service" option, starts at about $500 in U.S. dollars, while the self-serve option starts at about $225 in U.S. dollars. The company seeks to attract buyers to purchase homes directly from sellers who list their homes at the company's Web site, PropertyGuys.com.

Home sellers who work with Property Guys have the option to purchase additional services through professionals who partner with the company. For example, sellers can choose to work with a mortgage broker, real estate agent or real estate lawyer affiliated with Property guys, Melanson said. "We do interface with real estate agents ... with mortgage brokers and with real estate lawyers in our Canadian model," he said, and that model likely won't change much when the company enters the U.S. market.

Property Guys plans to charge for its lead-generation and conversion services performed on behalf of its partners, or to charge a pure advertising cost for marketing those third-party services, he said.

Franchise operators introduce these third-party service providers during visits to consumers' homes, Melanson said, and the company's Web site serves as a lead generator for these partners.

Property guys hasn't yet filed to do business in the United States, though Melanson said he expects that the first U.S. Property Guys franchise will open by the fall, "if all the stars are aligned positively." Property Guys' headquarters is in New Brunswick, and a natural spot for the company to expand is south into the New England states, he added.

"We will have an American subsidiary selling franchises in the U.S. We'll extend copyrights and trademarks to our American subsidiary. We're definitely looking at the appetite for people who want to take our product, our brand, our system into different states."

The company is also studying whether there is interest for the business model in Florida. Internationally, the company is considering franchise opportunities in Australia.

"We're thinking the brand is portable. We feel that we're going to be able to port this product almost as is into the U.S. market. A lot of these concepts are already existent in the American market," he said.

Source:
http://www.inman.com/inmannews.aspx?ID=51641
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