Homeowners in the Orlando metro area seeking privacy have a new online tool to sell their home without giving out its address, a feature the company says will protect vulnerable people. However, free speech advocates fear this will add another hurdle to transparency for elected officials.
Based in Oviedo, MatchMyPlace.com is an online real estate agency where homeowners can maintain their privacy while putting their home on the market.
“It’s especially for people where privacy is synonymous with security,” said CEO Nikki Bateman.
Buyers searching the website will only see cities, prices, and a limited number of photos of properties for sale. A map shows the general area of the house without giving specific identifiers.
“If you’ve used Airbnb or VRBO before…we use something similar,” Bateman said.
If the buyer is interested in a particular home, they can register for free and get more information, including square footage and number of rooms.
A buyer must be verified by getting pre-approved for a mortgage if they want to dig deeper, working with a specially trained agent. “They’ll start the conversation about what will make the seller comfortable,” Bateman said.
An Army veteran, Bateman said the idea came from discussions with people she knew. “A lot of my tribesmen are first responders and veterans,” she said. “And the issue of privacy has always come up.”
Most home sellers list their homes on what’s called a multi-listing service, which publishes their address for buyers to find. For those concerned about harassment or danger from the public, there have been few options beyond broadcasting their whereabouts.
“The only alternative…was the traditional iBuyer [such as Opendoor or Offerpad] market,” Bateman said. Because these companies act as investors, they tend to offer less money than individual home buyers.
Beyond security, Bateman said there are many reasons people would want to sell anonymously. Owners of luxury homes may not want to advertise that their home will be vacant.
Landowners are another reluctant market to advertise their vacant lots online. “Most landowners don’t want to put their 50 to 100 acres on the MLS because they don’t want people showing up with their tents,” Bateman said.
One category the site caters to is elected officials who are exempt from having their addresses made public under Florida’s sunshine laws. Free speech advocates have argued that hiding addresses makes elected officials less accountable to the public.
“There are all kinds of reasons why you want to know the address of a public official, for example, to know if they live in the jurisdiction they are supposed to govern,” said Daniela Abratt, a media lawyer who works on First Amendment cases at Thomas. & LoCicero in Fort Lauderdale.
Abratt says Matchmyplace puts a new barrier between the public and what their elected officials are doing. “The more exemptions there are to public access, the less public transparency there is,” she said.
“It’s understandable for protection reasons that they would want and sometimes need [privacy]. But there is certainly a reason why the public should also have access to this information. »
Bateman says his company only cares about ensuring the privacy of its customers, regardless of the politics of the situation. “We don’t focus on why, we just provide the service to those who want it,” she said.
Selling a house without an address is a challenge for real estate agents. MatchMyPlace is working with Keller Williams Realty to train over 1,000 Gaineville agents in Venice to use the privacy system.
Orlando-based agent Michelle Culbreth, a 23-year industry veteran, took two courses to work with MatchMyPlace. She says the process of selling a home anonymously requires a number of changes from the traditional model.
“I’m not going to organize an open house [for a MatchMyPlace listing]said Culbreth. “This client is not going to want that.”
However, she sees it as less of a challenge to reach buyers than an opportunity for customers who are hesitant to sign up. “You already had these people here,” she said. “It’s a game-changer for this market.”
Matchmyplace has far fewer listings than traditional MLS. Bateman says she expects about 50 signups by the end of July. But in a boiling housing market, she said she’s confident buyers will find her.
“Buyers are looking to flip every rock they can,” she said. “These are lists you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a chance to manage the pace of the market.