By Al Barbarino
Doug Perlson had so much faith in his business idea for RealDirect.com, he bought the domain name five years before he launched the website in the summer of 2010.
The online real estate brokerage was designed to give users the ability to buy and sell real estate with the click of a button.
Throughout the 2000’s, Perlson successfully launched and grew a number of successful tech businesses, including About.com’s Luna and Sprinks networks, Seevast, Inc. and TargetSpot, the web’s largest online radio advertising company.
A former real estate lawyer and assistant attorney general in New York State, he segued into a career in website creation in 2000 when he was “blown away by how much tech could do for businesses.”
But Perlson, 44, always knew that he would one day mesh together his passions for technology and real estate.
“I’ve been super passionate about real estate since I was a kid and felt like real estate was lagging a bit when it came to harnessing the power of the web,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any such thing as an easy deal, so having a legal background in real estate and knowing the issues and how to resolve them is very useful — not just as a lawyer, but as a guy who’s passionate about real estate.”
RealDirect.com provides sellers with web-based tools and data-driven recommendations to list and market their property, with as much or as little help they require from a staff of five licensed real estate brokers, depending on individual client needs.
A map-based interface allows buyers to “lasso” their boundaries; a ranking system rates search results on a percentage scale, based on a range of criteria; and the company makes sure listings appear not only on RealDirect.com, but also on real estate search engines and classifieds sites like Zillow, Trulia, Google, Streeteasy, Craigslist and Natefind, Perlson said.
The idea is not to replace traditional brokerages with robots. Behind the technology is a group of brokers and real estate professionals who are as hands-on as anyone else in the industry, Perlson said, adding that his company is geared towards “innovating with technology rather killing the business.”
“Everyone in the brokerage community has been great, at least to my face,” he joked. “I think they realize that we respect the job of the real estate broker and agent and that we truly appreciate it.
“We’re saying we think tech can provide efficiencies that will help us to do our jobs better and, if we can do that, we are able to make the buyer and seller happier.”
A range of payment options are available to the seller, with options to either pay $395/month for the duration of the relationship with the company, or pay one to three percent of the purchase price on closing, depending on the agreement; buyers get a check for up to one percent of the purchase price when they close on a property.
Going on two years in business, RealDirect.com has gained recognition in the tech and real estate communities. The company was honored as a finalist for Inman News’ 2011 Most Innovative Brokerage Award and recently raised its first round of “series A funding” with the help of venture capital firms like Tribeca Venture Partners, High Peaks Venture Partners, and Bendigo Partners, which was founded by members of the management team at etrade.com.
“The growth has been extremely rewarding,” Perlson said, adding that the company has sold about 50 homes in the last year. “I’m a huge believer in this technology and that more and more brokerages will eventually be tech businesses.”