Website aims to ease home-buying process

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 6, 2011 - 8:52 PM

Buyercurious.com allows buyers to make an anonymous offer online, eliminating back-and-forth phone calls.

Even in good times, the home-buying process can get complicated.

That's especially true when it comes time to make an offer.

But Jim Lesinski thinks he has found a way to make negotiating easier.

This week, the former construction company executive is rolling out buyercurious.com, a site aimed at reducing the haggling and inconvenience associated with buying a home. Instead of all the phone calls and back and forth, a buyer would make an offer via the website.

"It could be a game-changer in the marketplace," said Lesinski, the former head of sales and marketing for Pulte Homes.

"That should get buyers off the sidelines to make an offer."

Buyercurious comes into play once a buyer identifies a property he or she wants to purchase. At that point, the buyer, with the help of an agent or any other interested party, can make an anonymous offer via the site. It would ask for things like the property address and the seller or agent's contact information.

Once the offer is made, the prospective seller or agent gets an offer notice and code via e-mail that enables him or her to respond to the bid.

The site's platform allows buyers and sellers to input key details about the transaction, such as the offer price and closing date, which will then get translated into formal documents.

If the parties reach a basic agreement, they enter what the site calls a deal room where they can exchange documents and continue negotiations until they're able to sign a binding purchase agreement, which is made using terms crafted by the negotiating parties.

Buyers are charged a flat fee of $59.99 to make an offer. Other fees will apply to the buyer and seller if a deal is reached. Sellers and their agents can use the site for free to register their home.

One of the key features of the buyercurious software is that it allows several people on both sides of the transaction to be simultaneously engaged. For instance, a lawyer for the buyer or seller could participate in the process. The goal, Lesinski said, is to make the process more transparent.

But the website, which was developed out of his Excelsior office over the past couple of years, is not a way for buyers and sellers to find each other. That's something only licensed brokers are able to do.

It's also not meant to replace Realtors, as they are encouraged to be part of the online negotiations.

No two deals are alike

Aaron Dickinson, a sales agent and technology liaison with Edina Realty, said he hasn't tested the website, so he can't speak to its effectiveness. He also said he welcomes any tool that will help buyers and sellers.

However, he noted that no two deals are alike -- and that may pose a challenge.

"I approach each offer and process very specific to whatever that situation is," he said. He's also added that consumers might see such a tool as a way to execute a deal without an agent on their side.

"And that can be detrimental. Without an agent in the middle you've lost your representation edge," he added.

He expects that the software will evolve throughout its implementation and as the market changes.

"There's some potential; it has some legs," he said.

Tom Hamilton, associate professor at the University of St. Thomas, also said the technology is promising.

After a brief test drive of the system, he's bullish because it appears to offer a way to create efficiencies in the home-buying process, which has remained largely unchanged for 30 years. He compares the experience of joining the site to walking into a big room and saying "Hello, I'm here!"

But Edina Realty's Dickinson isn't worried.

"A computer doesn't make up for anything I can do," he said. "Every deal is a struggle to get done, even if the negotiation process is easy."

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

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