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Online Resources Vital to Real Estate Industry

Online Resources Vital to Real Estate Agent Selection

Yahoo! Inc., released the results of an in-depth study on how online resources influence home buyers and sellers-specifically when it comes to selecting a real estate agent.

Yahoo! found that online resources played a pivotal role in the selection process and was central in helping consumers identify agents. While friends and family are mostly responsible for recommending agents, the vast majority of home buyers and sellers still rely on the Internet to search for potential agents in their local markets as well as to verify their choices.

However, there is a disconnect between advertising dollars and consumer behavior. Based on Yahoo!’s study, 77% of respondents used an online source for information during their research process compared to 34% for print. But, according to a recent analysis by Borrell Associates, Realtor advertising dollars have yet to catch up to where home buyers are going - the Internet. While this year’s online media spend did in fact double from 2005, capturing 32% of the overall advertising spend, newspapers continue to get more share of dollars with 40%.

According to the Yahoo! study, consumers look to the Web to ensure that the selected agent will best meet their specific needs. Key findings include:
- Home buyers and sellers consider approximately two agents on average before making a final decision
- The Internet impacts consumer trust. Forty percent of respondents credited a site in increasing their trust in the agent
- 74% of people who accessed an agent website got there with the help of a search engine
- The online research process is quick and intense: consumers spent an average of 12 hours online researching agents and 75% selected an agent within one week of starting their search

Online resources provided introduction to new agents as well as promotional deals:
- 45% of respondents used the Internet to learn about agents they didn’t know existed
- 41% discovered special deals and promotions offered from an agent through the Internet

The bottom line: As online resources increasingly become more critical in the decision making process for consumers, local agents should maintain a quality online presence as this indicates to potential clients a thoroughness and a commitment to success. By maximizing their online media investments, local agents can benefit significantly and increase their chances for consideration while earning the trust and confidence of consumers.

Our industry had its heyday. Business boomed. Organization memberships ascended. Buyers flocked. Sellers scored. The economy rocked. Good times rolled.

What's left now is "A house divided"

• The day you agreed to cave on splits you might have made your agents happy financially, but you lost their respect. Your concessions spoke volumes about your inability to provide equal value. From that day on they began to question your existence.
• As technology emerged, you failed to pounce. You outsourced it to vendors. They stepped in. Rubbed your agents' feet and gave them their happy endings.
• Those hunting licenses you awarded through your affiliate programs were often not awarded to the best or the brightest. But your agents didn't know that. And after all that money they spent on things that didn't work, well … they feel you sold them out.
• You've recruited anyone with a pulse. Hence you became big rather than great. You damaged your brand. And shortchanged your best agents. You forced them to build their own brand. Or leave yours to start their own.
• You lost location where it now matters most: online. Others -- the ones you now buy leads from -- are the local destination of choice.

• Your independence is a termite. It eats away at your broker's legacy. And destroys whatever meaning they attempt to place on their brand -- your brand.
• You're addicted to things that no longer make sense. Office space. Paper. Newspaper spreads with vanity ads. These cost your broker a fortune -- money they no longer have.
• You lag educationally. This is not about intellect. This is about knowing your industry and buying into the notion that real estate today is as much about technology, branding, marketing and service as it is about sales. And using it.
Brokers, you have voiced more concerns. Feel free to add them to the list.

The Cure
Brokerages are not going away. They will consolidate. Agents are not going away either. Especially the really good ones. So in everyone's best interest here are some ideas for a truer collaboration:

√ Redo your corporate Web site. From scratch. Ditch the stock photos and confusing user interface. Get mapping. Get data. Rethink search. Focus on find. Make your site the destination for your marketplace. Build something that adds value to your agents. Something that's an advantage to them, not an embarrassment.
√ Get out of the cockpit and into your company's cabin. Start partnering with your agents. Form advisory councils amongst those with category savvy and allow them to participate in critical decisions that affect them such as vendor selection, listing partners, etc.
√ Rethink how you charge your agents. They feel ultra-squeezed having to support archaic processes such as cubicle workspace and 10,000-square-foot facilities that sit empty on Main Street.
√ Do something bold. Buy out a competitor. Strike while the iron is cold. Build an internal social network that connect agents with each other where they can communicate about listings, share information and tap into the collective.

√ Co-brand with your broker. Especially if you're part of a still-strong brand. It simply makes no sense to be part of a company and not combine your brand with theirs unless the firm you're with is trash. Which then begs the question: Why are you with them?
√ Stop demanding useless things from your broker -- like that office space we talk about above. And buy your own pencils. Free your broker's profit and loss for new line items that matter. Wean yourself off things that no longer work -- that your broker pays for to appease you.
√ Attendance. Your broker needs you to show up at office meetings. Conventions. Award ceremonies. Even vendor presentations. From their top producers down to the newbie agents. This is your opportunity to show some solidarity. Lend your voice. Share your thoughts and help craft a culture -- the rebar of a brand.

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