The following article originally appeared in Curbed.
Buying a townhouse in prime, or even kind-of-prime, Brooklyn neighborhoods is a blood sport. Listings are scarce, competition is fierce, and sellers know that the ball is in their court. But a new platform called HomeCanvasr aims to flip the traditional buy/sell model and give buyers access to properties before they hit the open market. The site is the product of a partnership between Jonah Landman, who has offered this type of insider information to clients on a smaller scale, and Steven Szczur, who launched a previous version of HomeCanvasr in New Jersey, and it officially launches today.
Landman, who runs the blog BK to the Fullest, has worked for several years as an independent real estate consultant, providing home buyers with information on not-yet-listed properties, bidding strategies, and property or neighborhood histories, (the cost for this? $200 an hour with a 10-hour minimum). HomeCanvasr plans to do all of this in one simplified platform aimed at buyers.
Any visitor to the HomeCanvasr site can see brief listings, but only registered buyers can see the address and details about properties. To sign up, buyers pay a $200 fee, plus $50 per month; the cost is meant to weed out people who aren't serious about buying. Registered users have access to full property profiles uploaded by homeowners, which can range from people who are, as Landman says, "sell-curious," i.e. those just looking to see who might be interested in their home; to people who want to avoid working with a broker; to owners who just want a little more privacy than a public listing allows for. The platform allows buyers to work without hiring a broker, and ideally, it should help buyers get the best deal on properties since there will be less competition from other buyers (read: no bidding wars).
In addition to privacy, there are other benefits for sellers as well.Sellers can sign up for free to share their listings, and once HomeCanvasr grows with more registered users, sellers will be able to see how many buyers, for example, are interested in paying $1.5 million for a two-family townhouse in Bed-Stuy. Buyers can provide all of these details by filling out a survey that includes questions like "Is rental income an important part of the purchase?" There is no other platform that gives sellers this kind of inside info on buyers, or even lets them see how many interested buyers are out there.
Even though Landman says "brokers are sometimes an obstacle," he knows they'll never not be part of the picture, so brokers are also allowed to sign up to offer listings. This is beneficial for smaller realtors or independent brokers who can't compete with firms like Douglas Elliman or sites like StreetEasy, plus it lets the broker work directly with buyers, meaning they get the full commission as there is no buyers broker to take a piece of the pie.
Szczur sent over the details about a Stuyvesant Heights limestone house located at 116 Bainbridge Street to showcase the type of property that HomeCanvasr can gain access to before it goes public. The property is currently available pre-market by a local broker, and for two weeks, it will be exclusively shown on HomeCanvasr. The four-story, three-family house is fully renovated, and it's available for$1.75 million. Szczur says it's "bigger and better than some homes trading over $2.1M one subway stop away" and "way better than fixer-uppers around the corner selling over $1.6M."