Website helps homeowners gauge buyer interest before listing

Buying News
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An online platform that launched late last year hopes to catch the ongoing wave of digital disruption in the real estate industry by linking homeowners planning to sell months down the road with buyers.

Wendy Gilch got the idea for Selling Later when she and her husband were building a single-family home in the Pittsburgh area in the early 2010s. They had a town house they had to unload first, and went back and forth on when to list it so they could line up with the move-in for their future house.

“We panicked and we sold it too early,” Gilch said, “and we then lived with my parents for four months while our home was being built.”

Gilch, who worked as a marketer in the restaurant industry, spent the next few years studying how the home buying process works. She became convinced that there wasn’t a way for homeowners to gauge buyer interest beyond the usual metrics such as sales activity — or by listing their homes.

She built Selling Later with a local Web developer through 2019 and launched that August. It allows registered users to profile their homes with dates when they’re looking to sell them. Buyers can peruse and then connect with sellers. Gilch said users typically seek to sell from a month to a year out.

The portal does not facilitate sales itself, and is open to both those looking to hire a broker or do the trade themselves. The site also does not sell information to mortgage or real estate brokers — Gilch herself is not a licensed broker or agent — and it does not accept advertising or user fees.

She instead steers users toward voluntary donations to nonprofits. Gilch cited Craigslist founder Craig Newmark as an inspiration for the site. His 25-year-old used-goods and apartment-share clearinghouse is free to users in most cases and does not accept third-party ads.

“I’m not looking to tell people how they should sell their house,” Gilch said. “I’m just trying to open lines of communication to help them either sell in advance or at least get inquiries, so that when they are ready to sell, they have a group of people they can already start talking to.”

Selling Later had a nationwide total of eight homes for potential sale during a search in early July, none of them in Boston. Gilch said there are other homes on the site, but the sellers do not want them publicly available at the moment. Users can sign up for e-mail alerts, too, and Gilch expects the site to grow enough to begin accepting advertising in the next six months or so.

Selling Later does have a couple of trends going for it. The novel coronavirus has a lot of people rethinking where they live. At the same time, though, they face a tougher time closing on a place and moving into it due to the pandemic. So, while people are mulling a move, more might be kicking the decision toward 2021, when things perhaps settle down.

Finally, just about every aspect of the home buying process is digitized now. The pandemic played a role here, too, hastening the rise of virtual tours and listings, as well as virtual closings in some cases. Also, listings search sites such as Zillow and Trulia have expanded their filters, and brokerages are embracing apps and other online tools to draw clients.

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