They're called "talking houses," and several Maryland realty companies are touting the marketing technique for its potential to help sell property over the radio.
VOXX Communications, a 7-year-old company based in Boca Ra
ton, Fla., began selling the briefcase-sized VOXX units used for the "talking houses" to the Maryland offices of the nationwide ERA realty chain this month.
Associates at five ERA offices in Maryland -- in Baltimore, Bel Air, Columbia and Bethesda -- have purchased the units, which sell for $1,295 each, said Randy McDermott, president of VOXX Communications.
The agent takes his VOXX unit to a for-sale home and selects a clear FM frequency there, Mr. McDermott said. He records a message about the property that runs about one minute and then places the device somewhere in the home.
He also attaches a notice to the home's for-sale sign advising those driving by that they can learn more about the property by turning on their car radios.
VOXX Communications is not the first company to try "talking houses" in Maryland. Bel Air agent Connie Harrell said some realty agents have attempted in recent years to use a closed-loop tape system involving an AM transmitter. But the system produced low-quality sound, she said, and the tapes frequently broke.
In contrast with the old technology, the VOXX system produces "a very high quality sound" and uses no audio tape, said David Meacham, a partner with ERA-Image Realty in Columbia, which is beginning to use the system.
"It's a neat concept," said Vincent Lowe, associate broker at ERA-Town & Country Realty in Fells Point. Too often, he said, would-be homebuyers seeking information after seeing a house for sale encounter the frustration of having to call an agent.
The VOXX system permits them to get an immediate feel for the house, after which they can call the agent for an appointment to see it, he said.
Many agents attach boxes to their for-sale signs that contain fliers with more information about a listing. But Mr. Freedman said the use of such handouts can create problems for the agent.
"There's a lot of vandalism, and sometimes kids make paper airlines with the paper," he said.
Fliers sometimes overwhelm prospects with more information than they need, said Karen Vance, office coordinator for ERA-Robert Ward Real Estate in Bel Air. The radio system, in contrast, delivers less information but is aimed at sparking a buyer's interest and prompting him to call an agent for more information, she said.