for open houses?

Rubicon Property launches digital alternative to "dated" open house sign-in sheet

Jason Haber and a screenshot of the app
Jason Haber and a screenshot of the app

Rubicon Property, a residential brokerage co-founded in 2010 by former Douglas Elliman broker Jason Haber, is known for its off-beat policies. (The company donates a portion of its profits to charity:water.) Now, the firm is seeking to reinvent one of the residential real estate industry’s most iconic staples – the ubiquitous open house sign-in sheet.

Rubicon is rolling out a new firm-wide iPad application which will allow prospective buyers to sign in digitally upon arrival at an open house. Attendees register the same information as they would ordinarily provide on a sign-in sheet but their information – which can be input offline or online – will automatically be fed directly into Rubicon’s database, allowing the firm to match prospective buyers to properties and avoid deciphering scribbles the next day.

“The biggest challenge you have at an open house is that sometimes peoples’ handwriting is like hieroglyphics,” Haber told The Real Deal. “On Mondays, in brokerage houses, you pass around these sheets and try to figure out if it’s a ‘D’ or a ‘B.’ You lose a lot of lead capture. Now we can see who’s coming to our open houses. We can see if the same person came to two or three open houses. We have everything digitally organized.”

The application, which will launch on Sunday after several weeks in beta, has been in development for several months, Haber said. The project was spearheaded by a California-based tech developer and cost less than $10,000 to complete, he said. The app can be used only by Rubicon agents.

“It was worth every penny,” said Haber, who expects that other brokerage houses will follow suit. “It’s fun and it’s attractive. It’s everything that a sign-in sheet isn’t. We’re heralding the end of the old 1982-style sign-in process. Everything in this industry is still so out of date. We have to disenthrall ourselves from the old ways of doing things and come up with new and innovative ways.”

For every person that signs into an open house using the application, Rubicon will donate $1 to charity:water. All agents at Rubicon have iPads.

Jeremy Stein, a broker at Sotheby’s International Realty, said he could foresee the application’s success, provided it’s directed at the right set of open house attendees.

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“For the most part, there are two types of people who come through [an open house,]” he said. “You have serious buyers who take the time to fill out the sign-in sheet and then there are people who almost want to sneak in. You get the sense they don’t want any interaction with the broker.”

The latter group tries not to fill in the sign-in sheet at all or they write completely illegibly on purpose, Stein said. “They think that by signing in, they’re entering themselves into some kind of terrible spam list, which is not the case,” he said.

Stein, who compared the app to the restaurant booking website, said Rubicon may likely meet resistance to the application from the latter set of attendees, but for serious buyers and their brokers, it may be useful.

“You’ve got these loose pieces of paper with all of these names scribbled on there,” he said of the current process. “We have someone who inputs that information to create our own database from the sign-in sheets.”

The application might even go further in the future, Stein said, by allowing brokers from other firms to register their client’s intention to attend an open house.

“In order to register my clients [to attend an open house], I have to call each and every one of the brokers and say ‘I’m sending this person,'” he said. “It would be far easier to just go on the computer and register them.”