It may be hard to remember now but there was a time when real estate was
, maybe even fun and games. It was in those long ago days before falling
housing starts, crashing real estate values, and the sub-prime mortgage debacle
consumed so many companies and jobs and so much time, energy, and newsprint.
We used to delight in real estate - in one-upping other guests at a cocktail
party with stories of our own home's appreciation; watching those endless
infomercials detailing how to get rich quick with no money down. Then it all
became dismal and dispiriting, and all we read about - or in our case
write about - are the latest stats on foreclosures or the rumors about
Well, if the fun isn't exactly back, at least the games are.
A new company called Realius debuted recently and it offers
the equivalent of fantasy baseball or football for the real estate wonk.
It is still in beta format and currently provides only one game, but it is
sort of fun and promises more to come. We aren't sure of the utility of its
business model or whether people will flock to play, forming fantasy teams and
so forth but still it is nice to write about something other than the doom and
gloom that has become real estate and mortgage reporting.
Realius was previewed at the TechCrunch 40 Conference in Berkeley, California
in September and was written up in Newsweek's Periscope section. It is apparently
owned or at least partially sponsored by Red Oak Realty, a major San Francisco
Bay real estate agency. The game is centered in those Bay area communities that
Red Oak serves, but it is obviously primed to move nationwide and to do so quickly.
Games form the centerpiece of an otherwise rather conventional real estate
web site with listing search capabilities, agent recruitment pages, and so forth.
It is easy to imagine Realius licensing their game capabilities to other large
agencies in far flung cities either on the Realius site or on a more local server.
The one game currently available to those who sign up (free) on www.realius.com
is called Price Me Now, and while it is not as gripping as plotting and grabbing
a first round draft pick or even participating in Grand Theft Auto, it is sort
of fun. Here is how it works.
The player picks from one of a dozen or so communities in the San Francisco
area and is randomly assigned a real house to price and provided with basic
information on the house - size, location, square footage, features, in
more detail than is usually seen on most listing web sites - and treated to
a video tour of the home. Once this information is reviewed and digested, the
player can request a selection of comps with basic info on address, bedrooms,
baths, square footage, sales date and price in both absolute dollars and a value
per square foot. The player must guess the listing price of the subject home
and gets a score based on how close to the actual price (by percent) he came
and points for that success or failure.
For example, my first game was an incredible 5,700 sf. home
in the Alamo/Danville/ Blackhawk area with 6 bedrooms and 6-1/2 baths, a club
house and tennis court, fire sprinklers, and a four-car garage. While I read
about the property on the right side of the screen pictures of a cavernous master
bedroom suite, vaulted entry call with a double curved staircase, and a rolling
lawn flashed past on the left. I lucked out and guessed the value at $1,980,575.
"You nailed it with 97 percent accuracy" Realius announced and I was awarded
The second house, a lovely English Manor in the Berkeley/Kensington neighborhood
was my undoing. In spite of pictures of a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge,
stained glass windows, and magnificent paneling I under priced it horribly at
$1,555,000 - or only 57 percent of its actual $2.9 million listed price
and received an "ouch" and 2.800 points. After two guesses I was
still on level one "Living in a Rent a Tent."
Returning to my roots, I picked a much more modest community, East Oakland.
My assigned property was a tough one; two houses on one lot with a garage converted
into a studio but with only 1.5 baths to its 5 bedrooms (would hate to live
in the house with half-a-bath) I was 81 percent accurate with my guess of $275
per square foot ($362,450) which got me to the second level - "Living
in a Swell Motel.)
I did much better on the next two houses "nailing" both and earning
9,700 points but still, at the end of five rounds I was still living in a swell
Going to the "Leader Board" section I found that a number
of people had been playing a lot. My total score of 21,400 paled against scores
of 929,142 posted by one player with others not close behind. Of course, as
in all such sites, players are encouraged to post profiles about themselves
along with pictures and a number have done so. I suppose one finds community
where one can.
Next on the Realius agenda according to the article in Newsweek is a second
game called Fantasy Flip in which homeowners are urged to upload
their own homes and solicit guesses as to how much a specified improvement will
increase the home's value. Also planned is Major League Investor, which lets
players put together imaginary portfolios of properties while competing against
In a tough market like the current one this is a pretty low key way of engaging
potential customers. It will be interesting to follow Realius' progress
and to test its other games as they come on line.
At the very least I appreciated a few minutes enjoying real estate