Connect SF08 – Super Size Search

This excellent session provided what in some ways is the heart of online real estate but is not often covered as a single topic. To power the discussion debate representatives of the key websites joined the panel – Zillow, Trulia, Frontdoor, Move, Realtor.com, Cyberhomes and MyNewPlace.

Clearly technology has been a driving component over the past 5 years and the consumer recognises now the benefits of services such as RSS feeds and the power of Google search. Yet despite that and as a desperate cry to the realtors in the audience the unanimous message from the group was something that I have long been advocating:

The consumer wants rich content – they want to make informed choices – they will no longer accept an agent saying “call me and I will tell you more details” – they want rich images of the property and the address. So it appears the issues I face in endeavouring to get the site to be the optimal experience for the consumer are faced by my colleagues with the websites in the US!! – As ever I implore all real estate agents – provide as much information and images on all listings.

This session also provided what has gone on to be the quote of the conference:

“Photo not available is still a very popular architectural style.”

The statistics quoted backed up the premise that more content gets more viewings – 300% increase for viewings that have photos – numbers we have provided for NZ in the past. One panelist even went as far as to say that the lack of content and especially a lack of photos could be a breach of the service agreement and also the code of ethics of a real estate agent – surely the role of the agent is to use their best ability to market their clients listing – this nowadays means online!

(As an aside Kerry Kissane on her blog “Helping Hand” wrote an article on just this subject last week and has introduced a “Hall of Shame” weekly highlight of how the industry needs to lift its game! – have a read).

Zillow has over the past 12 months moved from being seen as a threat to being a partner, something that Trulia never had an issue with. Zillow when it launched with no listings – but the killer application of a Zestimate for every house in the US certainly scared many in the industry, fearful they would disinter mediate the market and facilitate private sales to the detriment of agents. This has not eventuated as even though they do provide the “Make me move” service, it turns out many of these sales are facilitated through an agent.

Naturally with such competing websites on the panel, a little chest beating ensued – collectively there is around 4.7 million listings at the moment in the US – Realtor.com has the most comprehensive selection as through the NAR affiliation it draws from all the MLS’s (880 of them across the country). Realtor.com is not industry owned but is operated by Move under a license agreement from NAR. The other sites have anywhere between 2 and 3 million listing – many of the MLS’s choosing not to or charging too much for providing a feed to a website.

It was refreshing on the one hand, but equally frustrating on the other that with the web now so well established in real estate in the minds of the consumer, the industry (and I generalise) is in some areas so slow to realise the value of comprenhesive content to drive serious buyer searches.

July 28 2008 03:39 am | News

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