LowerFees.com (fashionably Beta, of course) is a new site that claims to provide consumers a way to research some of the fees associated with selling, buying and refinancing real estate. It even produces a list of different providers of these services – agents, title, lenders, appraisers and more and the user can pick and chose, shopping for the lowest fees.
My initial impression? Interesting concept but they need to make the “Beta” in their logo significantly more prominent. Actually, they should consider replacing “Beta” with “Pre-Alpha”.
I approached the site first as a consumer would. Taking a 2.0ish approach, no registration is required. You’re presented with a simple “form” to complete. Using drop down menus, you pick your transaction type (buy, sell, refinance), property type, occupancy, price and zip code. Then click “submit” to supposedly “Get an Instant Transaction Quote!”
Completing the form as a seller of a single-family primary residence valued at $350K in my zip code , I clicked “submit” and after a somewhat lengthy wait, I was presented with a screen that listed several providers of services.
The real estate agent the system selected for me was an agent (?) whose firm was shown as “California Financial Network” (?!? – recall I’m in Arizona). This agents fee was shown in a “Vendor Fee ($)” column as “1.00*”. I assume that’s really 1.00%, not $1.00. The asterisk indicates, “*Real estate sales commission and mortgage origination points may also not be included.” Uh, may not? I guess that also means it could be included. Who knows.
Being the consumer, I thought I’d see if I could get another “agent”, maybe one that lived closer that a seven hour drive from my house. There was a whopping total of eight “Agents” to chose from. So I selected another. This time I got someone from Precision Mortgage in Maine. (recall I’m in Arizona). He charges $1,998*. Next choice… another lender in Ohio. Next choice…some guy in Nevada. His fee is $4,000*. He works for “Exclusively Auctions”.
I’m thinking I’m doing something wrong. I’m a consumer looking for a real estate agent. But the category is clearly marked, “Real Estate Broker/Agent” so I’m in the right place. Now as a consumer given that I’m 0 for 4, I probably would have clicked bye-bye on the first, second choice tops. But I’m not your average consumer. I WANT this site to give me a agent! So I’m going to try them all…
Here’s one in Maryland that works for “Heavy Hammer” whatever the hell that is. Next up — a Realtor! Dang, he’s in Austin, Texas. Next — Success! Someone who actually is in the Phoenix area!! They are shown as being with “Yemens Stewart LLC”. (Spelled differently on two different pages. Wonder which spelling is correct?) OK, I guess that could be an agent. Let’s go to their “vendor profile”… well…. no company info, no licensing info, nothing but a phone number and an address. So I guess I could call them… I think I may pass on that idea.
OK, OK, it’s a beta site after all. Maybe I don’t need an agent. Maybe I just need a title company. Oops, none listed. There are a lot of notary’s listed. The system picked one only charges $10.00 (no asterisk!). That’s a sweet deal! Of course he’s in far northwest Phoenix, and I’m in far southeast. It’s gonna cost this mobile notary $15 in gas to get to me and he’s only going to charge $10? Hmmm….
Where are the lenders supposed to be listed? There is no lender category….
Whew, this is beyond painful. This “quote” is a mess! But looky! Just to the left of the quote is a catchy graphic that says “Not Happy with your Quote? Name your fees!” I’m certainly not happy with it. Asking for a local agent and getting a lender in Maine will do that to you. So I slide Mr. Mouse over to the catchy graphic (which honestly is quite lame). Nothing. It’s non-functional. I’m not saying it leads to an empty page. I mean it’s not hyperlinked. Period. Something above that graphic tells me I can “add my own vendor”. Not so amazingly, it doesn’t work either.
OK, this consumer based test is over. A complete failure.
Being a glutton for punishment, I continue to explore. Look! A link that says “blogs”. I like blogs! Click over to there, and I get an empty blog. Well, not EMPTY. There is a calendar. But there’s no posts, no news, no “COMING SOON!”. Just ” Sorry, there is no post to display…”
I may a glutton for punishment, but I’m not THAT stupid. I see no point in exploring any of this “site” any further. I’m outta there.
I assume agents and other “vendors” can sign up with this place so they magically show up in these so called transaction quotes. But what pray tell would be the point?
My advice for the folks at LowerFees.com? Yank your site off the net until you get at least some basic functionality implemented. Sure, it’s “beta” but come on. This things not even close to Alpha.
I heard about this site in an Inman article (get it quick before it slides over to the pay side. If you miss it, oh well, no great loss trust me). After going to LowerFees.com, I’m surprised Inman wasted the time and bandwidth on this “news”.
[tags]lowerfees.com, inman, transparency[/tags]