One bird is singing the blues just for the time being

The last time I wrote about a new Web site that one of the founders described as “Priceline meets a dating service” was March.

“ is New York City’s only ‘name your own price’ Real Estate website,” the home page exclaimed.

REchirp was meant to give buyers a chance to search for properties without specifying price and provide listing brokers with leads. They had hoped to break even by year’s end.

Unfortunately for the two founders, Andrew Green and Marc Blum, REchirp has had to ground itself temporarily and extend the forecast by another six months.  Meantime, the bird is taking a nap.

The reason I know the new forecast is that I’d gotten to wondering about the site and checked it again the other day.  What I discovered was that the newest listing  is 149 days old. In fact, the first of the “featured” listings actually is 344 days old.  Ready to write “R.I.P.” at the end of post that I was beginning to frame in my mind, I e-mailed the youthful founders to learn what had transpired.

“It’s been an interesting experience for us,” Green confessed in a telephone call that they arranged in response to my message.  “We’ve taken a pause to retool.”

The pause began around the beginning of August, when the twosome arrived at the conclusion that they “needed to build in additional functionality,” which they plan to launch early next year.  According to Green, there were sufficient rental inquiries to  have covered their modest start-up costs, which he said were below six figures contributed by him, Blum and their friends, not including their considerable sweat equity.

Expressing no regrets, Green said that the site counted 20-25 successfully closed transactions and an undisclosed number of attempts that went nowhere in the end.  REchirp makes money on inquiries, not on a final rental or sale.  Said Green:

What we do essentially is sell the leads.

The sales component never took off, he related, speculating that one reason could be purchasers’ perception since the site was launched that there is more stability in the housing market than when their REchirp took off.  Moreover, he allowed, perhaps REchirp’s ineffectively marketed the sales capability.

In any case, Green said that changing gears means tailoring the site to renters.

“Can I guarantee it’s going to be a success?  Of course not,” he remarked.  “But we’ve certainly learned a lot doing this.”

It’s a pity that things have not worked out so far: Though hardly unique in this way, the guys are loaded with entrepreneurial verve.

In my opinion, they never had a chance with their original business model, as I (perhaps harshly) pointed out in the first of my two earlier posts on the enterprise (linked in the second post that you can find from the paragraph just above).

I’m always happy to be proved right, but I take no satisfaction in anyone’s business failure unless it is illegal or exploitative. So, I hope new and better ideas fly from their fertile imaginations and that the new directions that they’ll travel prove to be rewarding.

You cannot make an omelette, as the saying goes, without breaking an egg.  Better to dine on an omelette than to lay an egg.  (Ask any hen.)

Although Blum and Green can’t be said to have quite laid an egg, they seem to have a clear-understanding of where they have been, where they need to go and what the worst result could be.  That worst result, they acknowledge, would be moving on without having learned from their mistakes.

I remain skeptical that even their new model, the details of which are undisclosed, has a good chance of succeeding.  But more power to them for trying.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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