- Rosehip Partners
, a real estate brokerage, opened its doors for business in July 2008. "It may not have been the most auspicious time to launch a new real estate agency, given the collapse of the real estate market" said partner James Young
. "But in a sense it was the perfect time for us, given our business model and the roll-out last October of our initial website, HamptonsRentals.com
. While the re-sale end of our industry was in a free fall, the rental side was where the action was, and we were perfectly positioned to take advantage of it in 2009."
The Rosehip business model concedes that the Internet has fundamentally changed the manner by which real estate is bought, sold and rented and, by extension, will change the way real estate companies operate. "Traditionally the real estate broker was the guardian of information relating to real estate. If you wanted to buy or rent a property you would go to a broker to learn what was available. Nowadays, obviously, people first go to the Internet. In fact the latest research suggests nearly 100 percent of people do, so for starters the traditional idea of the broker being your only access point to information is out the window. So we are focusing on building innovative websites which cater to this reality."
But HamptonsRentals.com, with its keyword domain name, didn't just become an easy to find source for rental properties. Rosehip devised a value proposition for property owners in order to induce them to list on the website. "We always tell property owners that in order to increase their chances of finding a tenant they should list their property with as many brokers as possible. They understand and appreciate that advice." Young continues, "What happens then, however, is that you create a management headache for yourself. If you want to change your pricing, or if availability changes, you have to contact each agency that has your listing to let them know about those changes. With HamptonsRentals.com once you change your listings status on our website an email notification is automatically generated which alerts the other agencies to a change in your listing."
This Sagaponack farmhouse is one of the many owner posted rental listings found on hamptonsrentals.com
HamptonsRentals.com launched with three rental listings. Within 6 months the site attracted over 1,000 rental listings, and then the customers started to flow in. "It was our first season so we didn't know exactly what to expect. What happened was that we were overwhelmed," said Young.
Young added that Rosehip was uniquely positioned to pick up on rental trends before any other agency, specifically the seismic shift away from the traditional Memorial Day to Labor Day
rental to much shorter rental periods. The next version of the website will have greatly improved tools to help accommodate those customers and will be launched soon. "Our job now is to build out the systems we will need to accommodate the enormous flow of rental requests the site generates, to streamline the process for our agents and to increase their capacity to close more rental deals." Last season the firm's agents averaged nearly 30 rental transactions each. "That is a pretty big number by local industry standards, but we think it could have been double that. In any case our people were cashing commission checks all summer long. And now, as we anticipated, some of our rental customers are turning into buyers."
There is no charge for advertising ones rental property on the website. Rosehip only makes money if they are the ones to secure the tenant and the commission is the traditional 10 percent of the lease amount shared with the renting salesperson. But is that enough to make a living on?
"The real money in our industry is made on re-sales but we also know that most people who buy in the Hamptons usually rent first. That's why rentals are so important to long term individual success in this business." Young adds that work is nearing completion on a second website that will serve as more of a portal to the real estate market here and it will include both the resale and rental sides. "The nice part for us is that the rental component of the new site is already built."
When asked for some clues as to how the new website will offer the consumer something different from what is already in the market Young answered, "For starters it also is a keyword domain so it should be easy to brand and will attract visitors. But more importantly we are going to offer the home seller listing options that no other broker operated website or traditionally modeled real estate agency can, or would want to, offer. Remember, the Internet has changed everything and just as HamptonsRentals.com gave the homeowner the tools to manage their rental listing and to easily communicate with the brokers working for him, our next website will do the same, and more."
When pressed he added, "I'll tell you this much, in the future it isn't going to just be about exclusive right to sell listings. The internet is changing that. We don't believe they are always in the best interest of the seller, in any case. We believe that clicks will be what sell bricks."
Nicole, an award-winning journalist, is Executive Editor & Publisher of Hamptons.com where she focuses on celebrity interviews, fine living and design, social events, fashion and beauty. She lives on the North Fork with her husband, their two daughters, and Bernese Mountain dog, Cooper. www.hamptons.com