I was excited when I started talking with Meredith Morgan about speaking at this years RDU Real Estate BarCamp. I’ve long felt that there are a few industries that have had to figure out the Internet fast, or perish. One is the newspaper industry which I recently left, but another is real estate.
I remember back in the stone age (1990’s) when you would go to a real estate office and flip through giant binders and then the agent would take you for a drive to see them, chances were about 50/50 that she had never been to that property before. You learned to lean on the agent for almost everything.
Buying and selling a home will never be that way again. People have changed. The culture has changed. If you are web saavy you start your search at someplace like homes.com or realtor.com. The reason you start there is because when you search for houses for sale in Raleigh, those are the first two organic listings. Smartly Howard, Perry & Walston has decided to spend some money and grab the top paid spot for that query on Google.
Rounding out the top of the search results are Trulia American Homeguides and Zillow. Did I mention Google now incorporates listing into their super popular Google Maps platform?
How can John Q. Agent possible compete with that? It will require a change in the process. Marti Hampton competes by buying a sponsored listing at the top of the search results. The first organic listing for an agency (on page 2) is FMRealty, which goes about it the old school way – putting the phrase Raleigh and Real Estate on the page a zillion times. Paul Setliff also shows up doing a good job of putting a good blurb about all his properties on a page that is HIS page, not an iframe’d MLS page.
I’ve written before about bad realtor websites, and they continue to bother me. I’ve talked to a couple of agents about doing something better, but many don’t want to spend any money, which means the money they do spend on a site ends up getting wasted. I think most buyers and sellers would be more impressed with a kick-ass website that is a one time $2,500 investment than with a leased luxury car that runs $700/month.
I’ve talked to a bunch of real estate professionals that mostly get it, but say that they don’t have the time or resources to put towards their website/blog/Twitter/video blogging/Facebook/forums… you get the idea. The truth of the matter is that’s like someone in 1970 saying they don’t have time for talking to people on the phone. It’s just the way more and more people are doing business and leaders will take advantage of it and put even more space between themselves and the also-rans.
You don’t have to do everything, concentrate on channels that are working for you, or that you see working for others in your situation. If you’re selling mainly to retirees then Twitter is probably not going to be the most effective. If you are trying to attract newly married couples looking to buy downtown, the newspaper will not be where they are hanging out. What about the 45 year olds looking to upgrade?
One of the hardest part to teach people trying to expand into the new social space is the idea of listening. You do not have to be a selling machine to get sales.
That will be the hardest sell for me. Teaching sales people that they can take their foot off the gas pedal in social media, and probably get even better mileage.
These are just some of my ideas… your mileage may vary.