ZipRealty to Certify 'Preowned' Homes

Discount brokerage firm will formally unveil the program Sunday.

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Taking its cues from similar programs at automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz, discount brokerage firm ZipRealty will unveil a new initiative Sunday that allows certain homes to earn "certified preowned" status, the Home Front has learned.

Homes that pass a 24-point, third-party inspection will land ZipRealty's "certified preowned" seal of approval, which the company hopes can enable properties to stand out in today's downtrodden market.

"[Prospective home buyers] don't want to buy a home and then three months later find out that the place is a money pit—I think that's everyone's biggest concern," ZipRealty CEO Pat Lashinsky said in an interview today. "So we're going to take out that risk."

The service will cost between $750 and $1,000, Lashinsky says. Consumers will pay half upfront and the balance when the home sells.

"We have a certified inspector come out and do the full inspection on the house...and then once they certify it, they warranty those things going forward for the home buyer," Lashinsky says. "If there is anything that doesn't work, the home buyers have someplace to go, and they've got a protection against it. So the home buyer basically gets rid of the worry and the concern."

Only homes that pass the inspection will be eligible for the program, Lashinsky says. "Not every home will be eligible for [the program] because they won't be able to get the certification," he says.

Lashinsky says the program, which will be formally launched Sunday, has already attracted interest from home sellers in certain markets, including Phoenix. "Some of the higher-end homes are jumping on it quicker as we are talking about it," he says.

The program is designed to appeal to both buyers and sellers. "The reality is that we hope that it's a marketing differentiator for them to help their home stand out. As buyers, it will really make them feel more comfortable in what they are buying," Lashinsky says. "I track what's going on pretty much around the country, [and] I've never seen anything like this."