If you are one of the fortunate few looking for a second home, you may want to check out the Niche Properties Network, which showcases second-home properties on eight different websites. Those sites are only a few weeks old now and have very few listings, but this week the company is starting a concerted push to get real-estate agents to sign on with their listings. “We’ve painted the store, and now we’re stocking the shelves,” is how Robert Murphy described it to me. A former Coldwell Banker Winnetka agent who is one of the company’s four partners, Murphy works in Wilmette; the other three partners (all his nephews) work in Denver.
The first eight second-home categories in the network include homes on golf courses, ski houses, and even castles. The main Niche Properties site links to all those sites, as well as to other niche categories, such as eco-homes and homes that have some connection to movies.
The company (led by Michael Murphy, one of the nephews) started its first real-estate site, luxuryproperty.com, in 2007; that site now gets about 100,000 unique views a month. Since then, the company has been buying up domain names. “We own about 200 real-estate URLs,” Robert Murphy said.
Agents will pay about $10 a month to have a property listed; homebuyers will pay nothing to use the site. Murphy acknowledges that, with just four properties listed at fairwayproperties.com, “we’re not getting much attention yet—maybe 100 hits a month.” But once agents respond to Niche Network’s big e-mail campaign, the sites’ usefulness should grow. If the current sites develop as the partners hope, they will be joined by several more niche sites, such as equestrian properties and homes in popular fishing areas, Murphy said.
For now, Niche Properties is focusing on some of the larger second-home categories, such as skiing and waterfront homes. The company is also zeroing in on homes in college towns that might be used as getaways for football weekends—which makes perfect sense, given Robert Murphy’s background. Along with his father and six of his 12 siblings, Murphy attended Notre Dame. South Bend, anyone?