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Opening Models When Buyers Want to View Them
John Caulfield / BUILDER / August 14, 2013
Marketplace Homes plans to experiment with a way to have a salesperson show new homes remotely.
Mike Kalis can’t figure out why builders don’t act more like retailers.
Kalis, the managing partner of Michigan-based Marketplace Homes, thinks builders, like dealers, need to extend the hours and days they make their models—which are their “stores”—available for viewing. And he believes he’s figured out a way to help builders do just that.
The 10-year-old Marketplace has made a name for itself by offering to list prospective buyers’ existing homes for 1% or lease those homes for up to six years if buyers agree to purchase a new house from one of Marketplace’s 80-plus builder partners. It expects to help builders close 1,400 homes in 2013. Most of these closings will be in Atlanta, Chicago, and throughout Michigan. But Marketplace recently entered the Minneapolis market, and just started working with McBride & Son in St. Louis, which it helped sell a dozen homes in the first few months of their partnership.
Now, the company wants to sandpaper another layer of friction from that purchasing process. Sometime in November or December, it plans to launch iTours, a software-enabled program that would allow builders to open their models at their shoppers’ convenience.
“We believe that any professional retail environment should be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week,” says Kalis. “It’s amazing that many builders are not! The iTour platform allows a builder to supplement the current sales staff in the mornings, evenings, and other days [they] are off.”
Working with Marketplace to develop iTours is Detroit-based iRule, which specializes in turning smartphones or tablets into personalized remote-control centers. “Normally, we sell to the end user,” says Itai Ben-Gal, co-founder and CEO of the four-year-old iRule. “What Marketplace needed was a function that could handle 1,500 homes. And what excited us was that Mike and his team are not afraid to embrace technology.”