Having found success in the Boston area in the short time they have been working in this market, a number of Internet-based real estate agencies are already looking to take their business model to other parts of the region, and Cape Cod appears to be the destination of choice.

Henry J. DiGiacomo, executive vice president of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, confirmed that two Internet-only real estate agencies – zipRealty.com and homebytes.-com – have contacted his board requesting membership in the association. And in an interview last week, an official at 1RoofRealty.com said that company, too, would hopefully set up shop in the region later this year.

DiGiacomo, just back from a National Association of Realtors conference that had a focus on new technologies, said members of his association used to working under older business models will have to adjust to the onslaught of dot-coms crossing the Cape Cod Canal.

“It’s a sign of the times,” DiGiacomo said. “The future is here and it is now. Internet companies are a part of the cloak of real estate.”

While DiGiacomo acknowledged that the mindset of some Realtors might have to change to welcome the dot-coms to the Cape, he said the move toward Internet real estate is also forcing a change in the basic policies that govern the operations of the association.

“We’re trying to encourage these companies, and we’re trying to be friendly to them,” he said, “but we need to change our bylaws to make this happen.” CCIAR rules stipulate that a Realtor agency must have a physical office either in Massachusetts or one of its bordering states before it can be considered for membership. While that would pose no problem for Cambridge-based 1RoofRealty.com, it would affect Berkeley, Calif.-based zipRealty.com and Richmond, Va.-based homebytes.com, whose offices would be in cyberspace.

“More and more companies are going to operate this way,” DiGiacomo said. “There’s a dramatic need for a revision of the bylaws.”

ZipRealty.com President Scott Kucirek said his company was prompted to expand by the reception it has received in the Bay State.

ZipRealty.com launched in Boston in early April. “It’s been our most successful launch. It was pleasantly surprising, but we always felt Boston would be a good market for us.” Though the company has not sold any homes since setting up shop in the area, Kucirek said there are a number of homes in escrow that are set to close soon. ZipRealty.com’s Web site also lacks Massachusetts listings of homes for sale, but Kucirek said the company has some listings lined up, though they have not officially come on the market. “I’m not going to comment [about homes for sale] until our signs are in the ground,” he said.

As for branching out to the Cape, “our field service agent knows the area well, and feels it would be a competitive market for us,” said Kucirek. His knowledge of the area, as well as our ability to service it, all looked good.”

Because it already belongs to one local association, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, zipRealty.com membership in the CCIAR is not required to do business on the Cape. But Kucirek said it’s all part of establishing a good working relationship.

“Technically we don’t have to do it, but we want to integrate into the local marketplace,” he said. “We want to be taken seriously, and when you speak with dollars, it shows commitment.” He added that membership in the CCIAR would also give the company access to the Cape’s all-important multiple listing service.

“We’re thinking of going down to the Cape also,” said 1Roof Realty.com president Christopher J. Delaney. “We’ve been looking to set up shop there, but we’ve been so inundated here we haven’t had time to pursue it further.”

To say business has been booming since the 1RoofRealty.com went online would be an understatement, Delaney said. The company, which launched in March, uses a hybrid real estate model that allows sellers to market their homes either by auction or through more traditional means. A visit to the Web site last week revealed no fewer than 30 listings in Boston and surrounding communities.

“We figured in the first quarter we’d have about 7 auctions, and to date we’ve done a minimum of 40. At this point we have six auctions scheduled for the next two weeks,” he said.

1RoofRealty.com plans on opening a second office in New Hampshire within the next few weeks.

Consumer demand was one of the principal factors driving his company’s decision to look to expand, Delaney said.

“We’re getting calls from everywhere,” he said. “I got a call the other day from someone on Martha’s Vineyard who wanted us to auction their house.” He added that he has not yet contacted the CCIAR to discuss his company’s expansion to the Cape Cod market.

“We’re also scouting four other locations we’re looking to expand to,” Delaney continued. He declined to elaborate on where those locations were, however.

Kucirek and Delaney have said that lower commissions, rebates on home sales and the ease of conducting a transaction through the Internet have all attracted customers to their sites. People looking to relocate or purchase a second home – a large market on the Cape – also find Internet offerings like virtual tours helpful when they can’t always drive out to the area to look at a home.

International Market
Though some Cape Realtors may feel threatened by the Internet agencies and their promises of paperless transactions and reduced commissions, DiGiacomo said the association and its membership should welcome them.

“These companies are going to meet the needs of a buyer who is Internet-savvy,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s going to be beneficial to all Realtors to work with them, because if one of these companies comes to you with a buyer, their job is to sell the home regardless of where the buyer came from.

“The Internet companies are not going to replace the traditional agent. They’re going to meet the needs of a new segment of the population. We need to welcome and embrace them.”

DiGiacomo said the Cape & Islands should prove to be fruitful to Internet companies. “The reality is that people from around the world come here to buy real estate, and the international marketplace really responds to the Internet. They’re one of the groups that naturally gravitate toward e-technology.

“A lot of international buyers are tech-savvy. They’re doing their research on the Internet because they can’t fly in every time they want to look at a home,” he continued.

New companies aren’t the only ones looking to reap the benefits of the Internet on the Cape, DiGiacomo said. A number of Cape Realtors already have Web sites, and two of the major players – RE/MAX and GMAC Real Estate – are revamping their Web sites and adding new technology for the consumer, he said.

Web Realty Firms Set Sites on Cape Cod

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 5 min