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It’s Time For the Real Estate Industry to Get Engaged

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This post was brought about by a thread on my local association blog about whether or not we should be feeding our listings to Zillow.

I’m not going to re-open that debate here. (so let’s try not to hi-jack the comment thread with Zillow diatribes 🙂 )

I want to discuss what I see as a schism developing between the attitude of consumers and the attitude of real estate professionals. I hope that by addressing this issue, the industry can avoid what could be a very messy break-up with the public.

We Need to Change Perspective

By “we,” I mean real estate professionals. It seems to me that, sometimes, industry professionals act surprised, even indignant, at the success of sites like Zillow and Trulia. The objections are many, and they usually begin with something like, “but their data isn’t as up-to-date as the MLS!”

Protestations like that one (and the many others) miss the point, and come from the wrong perspective. As real estate professionals, we approach these sites as, well, real estate professionals. We are comparing it to the tools that we already have available (the MLS). Consumers aren’t can’t do that. They don’t have access to the MLS like we do.

I can hear some of you now, “well sure, but they could go to REALTOR.com.” Of course they could, but again, the perspective issue rears its ugly head. REALTOR.com is a site that displays listing information to the consumer for the benefit of brokers. It is not a consumer-centric site. It is designed entirely around the goal of driving leads to agents and brokers. I’m not saying that this is a necessarily bad thing. When a site is built this way, however, that philosophy will, at some point, become apparent to the consumer. When it does. . .

The Consumer Can Walk Away

The Internet is the land of almost infinite choice. When any of us surfs the net, we get to control our user-experience almost completely. We choose what content we do, or don’t want to see; we get to search for the things in which we are interested in any way that we choose. If we find what we want– great! If we don’t– we move on.

When it comes to real estate-related sites, consumers now have the ability to move on. There is enough choice out there for access to the information that consumers seek that they can move freely amongst these sources and choose the one that best fits them.

Getting the Consumer to Commit

The thing that sites like Zillow, Trulia, RealSeekr, etc. do better than most is that they engage the consumer. By this, I mean that they recognize that the consumer is in control of the experience and they are tailored to enhance that experience, not take back control.

All of these sites offer numerous ways for the consumer to participate in the process. There are comments, there are Q & A forums, there are custom searches, saved searches, heat maps, the list goes on. . . All of these features are designed to recognize the power of the consumer to control the process and make it easier for the consumer. It should also be noted that many of these features encourage interaction between the consumer and the agent/broker. This not only engages the consumer with the information, but the consumer with the professional. That is a good thing for everyone.

What to Do: It’s Time to Pop the Question

Rather than looking at sites like Zillow and Trulia as fight-to-the-death competitors with public MLS and agent/broker sites, industry professionals would do well to learn some of the valuable lessons that these sites offer when it comes to consumer interaction.

Lesson #1: GET ENGAGED!

It is time for the real estate industry to take the plunge, make the commitment, and get engaged with the consumer. For far to long, the industry has talked about engagement, only to have cold feet when the time came to get down on one knee. That cannot continue if the industry wants to remain relevant and grow moving forward. There are far too many potential suitors out there clamoring for the love and attention of consumers for real estate professionals to rest on their laurels and expect consumers to remain committed.

So whaddya say? How about we go pick out a ring. . .

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Obeoman

    June 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Daniel,

    Since most Realtors are not on line, blogging, using social media or a web page,
    they can’t even get a blind date with the 8 out of 10 consumers in the housing market.

    And it doesn’t matter if Realtors embrace consumers.

    Consumers are making the decision and they are going to choose engaged Realtors.

    Steve

  2. Chris Shouse

    June 4, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Daniel,
    Well said and some thought provoking comments. Don’t fight engage:)

  3. Daniel Rothamel

    June 4, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Steve,

    You are right on the money. Consumers ARE going to choose engaged Realtors. As an industry, though, the attitude needs to change. As of right now, however, the individual Realtors out there who take a more engaging attitude are have a major advantage going forward.

    Chris,

    I’m glad you were provoked. Now, go provoke others!

  4. Natalie Langford

    June 4, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I’ve embraced Zillow and Trulia with every appropriate listing. When not residential, I turn to commerical sites. Anything beats sitting on my rump waiting for business to come to me. At the end of the day, the goal is for my listings to be found, shown and sold. If I end up with clients as a result of my being engaged, I’ll be doing the Snoopy Dance!

    Recently received an invitation to a brokers open where the listing agent has dared us all not to come because he has no door prize and no food and only has a house to sell. I checked out the property. 223 days on the market, 1 photo (our mls lets us do 30 for free) and when I Googled the address, all that popped up was some random blog that only displays some cut and pasted list from an unidentified source…You’re right – get engaged, damn it!

  5. Julie Emery

    June 4, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Make love, not war!

    You can stick your head in the sand. You can resent the heck out of the way the world works. But in the end, the only way to win is to get ahead of the curve and stop playing catch up!

    We tell our sellers that they can’t keep trying to catch up to a falling market. What are REALTORS and NAR doing with techology?

  6. Bob

    June 4, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I think many are using the term “engagement” in the military sense.

  7. John Lockwood

    June 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Can’t we just go steady?

    I’ve always treated Zillia and Trulow like what they are: something that bloggers care about. I don’t care what NAR’s doing. I just do my own little obsessive-compulsive publish or perish gig, and clients find me that way.

  8. Frank Jewett

    June 4, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Do Zillow, Trulia, et al replace the open house? Agents traditionally claim open houses are a complete waste of time because the odds of a buyer walking in are low. Are the people using those websites lookers or buyers? I guess the response is “Who cares? It’s free publicity!”

    Has anyone here looked at Walmart classifieds, the new Craigslist? More free publicity, especially for foreclosures that aren’t listed on the MLS. I guess banks are counting on consumer engagement, too.

  9. David G from Zillow.com

    June 4, 2008 at 10:24 am

    @Daniel,

    Yes, we do!

    Great post.

  10. Barry Johnson

    June 4, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Daniel can I make a toast? Thank you for being the one to write this!

  11. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Daniel;
    I can’t get engaged, I’m married 😉

  12. Benn Rosales

    June 4, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I hear comments aren’t working- checking it out… disregard

    if anyone else is having this issue, please email me benn[@]agentgenius.com

  13. Jim Duncan

    June 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Benn – Why are you trying to keep English majors out of the comments with the higher math?

    Daniel, et al. – How can we reach out to those who don’t read/write blogs? Those of us in this space typically ‘get’ it, but the majority don’t and have their heads in the collective sand – wishing we could go back to the days when we were the gatekeepers.

    We need the majority (even if it’s only 51%) to recognize that we all need to change, but how do we get to them?

    Maybe these internets are just a fad …

  14. Candy Lynn

    June 4, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    “All of these sites offer numerous ways for the consumer to participate in the process. There are comments, there are Q & A forums, there are custom searches, saved searches, heat maps, the list goes on. . . All of these features are designed to recognize the power of the consumer to control the process and make it easier for the consumer. It should also be noted that many of these features encourage interaction between the consumer and the agent/broker. This not only engages the consumer with the information, but the consumer with the professional. That is a good thing for everyone.”

    Great example of what I call “stickiness” in a site. Get them there, keep them there & keep them coming back!

  15. Benn Rosales

    June 4, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    @Jim Math is part of the requirement for mariage licensing.

  16. BawldGuy Talking

    June 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Consumer oriented? Engage the consumer? What does that mean when boiled down to its essence?

    A certain Mr. Shaw puts it this way: ‘Consumers aren’t looking for agents, they’re looking for a home.’

    I’ve said the same thing, but differently forever: People in general, whatever the agenda, want RESULTS. The rest is what makes those pretty balloons in Del Mar stay in the air. 🙂

    Keep bringin’ it Daniel. As usual, you’re callin’ ’em as you see ’em.

  17. Brad Coy

    June 4, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Well put Daniel. I’m always curious as to the motives of those who still think that having control over the inevitable log-jam release of information is working somehow to their benefit.

    Consumers have gained more traction than ever in the past few years due to the web. Real Estate will not be the exception. Get educated as to what the details are, what your clients are looking at, and how they are using this information. I have found that they are much more educated for doing the groundwork for you, this makes the difficult parts of your job as a Realtor much easier when it gets to the real challenging work of buying and selling a home.

  18. Ricardo Bueno

    June 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Confession: I’m one of the ones who used to give Zillow a bad rap by saying “but their data isn’t as up-to-date…”

    But that’s slowly changing. I’m getting involved. Though slightly more with the likes of Trulia and their Q&A forum. It’s like you said and we’ve discussed this before, consumers want to be with someone who’s “out there” (so-to-speak)…someone who’s engaged.

    If networks like LinkedIn, Trulia’s Q&A, Active Rain, etc. are going to allow me to be top-of-mind with more and more contacts, I’m there. I’m mean hey…it works!

  19. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    June 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    When everyone has something it becomes worth less. Its the ones that can be inovative and come up with new ideas. Realtor.com had it by themselves and got nothing. The major brokers in our area have sites that share the info. Local people will tend to go to those. Very few people in this market have heard of tuwillo or Zulia.

  20. Daniel Rothamel

    June 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Jim,

    I think that reaching those who DON’T currently blog or aren’t on Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever, is something that needs to happen. That is something that might have to be accomplished through more traditional means such as education classes, presentations, etc. I tell people all the time, whether they blog or not, that I need more agents out there like you and the agents found here at AG. That would make my job a whole lot easier. There is a change in philosophy that must take place. It will take time, but we need to do whatever we can to speed up that process.

  21. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 4, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    The biggest issue I have with 3rd party sites isn’t what their business model is today, as much as it is what is their business model TOMORROW?

    Are they going to establish themselves as the “real estate leader”? If so, WHEN and HOW MUCH much are they going to CHARGE those very REALTORs that made them the real estate leader in the first place – by the real estate agent providing listings, content, advice, etc on THEIR site?

    I view their “free” advertising now like a crack dealer giving away free samples. Once the industry, and consumers recognize the 3rd party site as the “real estate leader” – then they can ream the real estate agents with advertising costs, and selling back leads.

  22. Bob

    June 4, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Once the industry, and consumers recognize the 3rd party site as the “real estate leader” – then they can ream the real estate agents with advertising costs, and selling back leads.

    The industry had their shot and missed the mark. Can’t blame a smart business person for building a mousetrap that attracts more mice, regardless of who owns the cheese.

  23. Frank Jewett

    June 4, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Jennifer, the dirty little secret of Web 2.0 is that it is Web 1.0 all over again. Most websites can’t charge because the barriers to entry are too low, the competition for market share (rather than profits) is too great, and with no geographic limitations, clients are free to jump ship at any time.

    Don’t like ActiveRain, jump to RealSeekr. Don’t like RealSeekr, there are a dozen alternatives. Don’t like any of those, wait a month and another will emerge. We saw what happened to Zolve when they tried to monetize their platform. It went from expensive to cheap to free in less than a month.

    Do you think it will be any different with listings? Walmart.com’s classified section has almost twice as many listings as my MLS. Can they monetize that. Probably not, since the same listings are on at least a dozen other sites if not more. Aggregators are bleeding market share to each other. None has enough of the right eyeballs to force you to pay to list on their platform… except the good old cable company MLS.

  24. Russell Shaw

    June 5, 2008 at 12:39 am

    That may be the PR. One of the dumbest things NAR ever did was to give REALTOR.com to Homestore. The site, as it exists now is actually designed to make money for Move (formerly known as Homestore). Driving leads to agents is way down on the list of importances. Selling agents the ability to “enhance your listings” and banner ads and zip code exclusives, now that is important.

    If REALTOR.com actually did what they really should have done – Zillow, Trulia or any of the endless other sites designed to compete with them wouldn’t have made it out of the starting gate. Not one of them. If REALTOR.com had really been driving leads to agents instead of attempting to line their pockets at the expense of agents (all the while with NAR executives blindly “overseeing them”) every agent in America would have found REALTOR.com a very worthwhile website.

    Having a site that is “good for agents” doesn’t mean “bad for consumers”.

  25. Russell Shaw

    June 5, 2008 at 12:41 am

    >>REALTOR.com is a site that displays listing information to the consumer for the benefit of brokers. It is not a consumer-centric site. It is designed entirely around the goal of driving leads to agents and brokers.<<

    That may be the PR. One of the dumbest things NAR ever did was to give REALTOR.com to Homestore. The site, as it exists now is actually designed to make money for Move (formerly known as Homestore). Driving leads to agents is way down on the list of importances. Selling agents the ability to “enhance your listings” and banner ads and zip code exclusives, now that is important.

    If REALTOR.com actually did what they really should have done – Zillow, Trulia or any of the endless other sites designed to compete with them wouldn’t have made it out of the starting gate. Not one of them. If REALTOR.com had really been driving leads to agents instead of attempting to line their pockets at the expense of agents (all the while with NAR executives blindly “overseeing them”) every agent in America would have found REALTOR.com a very worthwhile website.

    Having a site that is “good for agents” doesn’t mean “bad for consumers”.

  26. Barry Cunningham

    June 5, 2008 at 5:52 am

    I hear a lot of agents who spend a lot of time bi#tching about the likes of Trulia, Zillow, Zolve and all the other likes out there and I really wonder what’s the problem.

    I have owned a few other “businesses” and never thought my competitors were “stealing” my business, they were beating me at what I did. I had 2 options…actually 3.

    1. Keep going on my current course and be satisfied with my declining market share.

    2. Quit..close up shop….or my choice…

    3. Step up my game and COMPETE.

    The Zullia’s of the world are in business. Realtors are in business (I think)…instead of having the continuing discussions about your market coimpetitot, why not step up your game and compete?

    If any of the services or competitors in your market including other Realtors are exploitable, then by all means tell the public why they need to utilize you INSTEAD of your competitor.

    Of course, this means that one would actually need to be IN “business” and run their operation LIKE a “business”. (i.e. spend money to overcome their competitors)

    It’s a pretty simple business accumen. Yet so few Realtors follow or even know what to do. Other than Russell, who has from what I understand become an institution in Phoenix, how many other Realtors know or are even capable of establishing themselves as THE agent in a market.

    His success did not come by accident.

    I applauded Daniel’s post here becasue he recognizes that your competitors have already ENGAGED the consumer. Why haven’t you?

  27. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 5, 2008 at 8:53 am

    @ Bob >>”The industry had their shot and missed the mark. Can’t blame a smart business person for building a mousetrap that attracts more mice, regardless of who owns the cheese.”<>”Don’t like ActiveRain, jump to RealSeekr. Don’t like RealSeekr, there are a dozen alternatives. Don’t like any of those, wait a month and another will emerge. We saw what happened to Zolve when they tried to monetize their platform. It went from expensive to cheap to free in less than a month.”<<

    Bouncing from place to place only works if all have equal visibility and exposure.

    If a site shows up as #1 in the search engines for critical keywords, it has greater exposure. And, they can charge handsomely for it once they are secure in their position.

  28. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 5, 2008 at 9:03 am

    @ Barry – Most agents do NOT run their business like a business because quiet frankly, the barrier of entry into the field is so low, that just about anyone that has failed at multiple other jobs can take a 2 week class, pass a test – and BAM! They are now a “real estate expert”.

    This is evident in the extremely high failure rates of 80% of new agents getting out of the business within a year. And 90% getting out within 3 years.

    I have nothing but respect for Zillow, Trulia, and the rest. They have some extremely good persons on staff – that make Bill Clinton look like he’s tongue tied.

    It really comes down to that a lot of agents do not understand HOW they are helping Zillow & Trulia out compete them in the marketplace – and that later on down the road, there will be a greater price to pay for any short term gains they perceive that they are getting now.

  29. Barry Cunningham

    June 5, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Jennifer..you absolutely get what so many others do not. They simply do not understand how to run a BUSINESS. Look at who the CEO’s and heads of Zillow and Trulia and Homegain are…that should really give people a clue.

    It reminds me of Ray Kroc and hamburgers. Too many people, even to this day, think that the McDonald’s business model was based upon fast food. Those in business know it wasn’t.

    These discussions about the Trulia’s and zillow’s of the world are nonsensical. And you are one of those who gets it.

  30. Jed Lane

    July 30, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    No where in any of the comments is it stated that most of us are members of NAR. It is a member run organization and if you want to engage the industry work on the local committee that is addressing MLS issues.

    This is turning into much more than a comment so I’m going to another platform to post and then submit to Daniel.

    We need to take control of our own destiny and use the data set that is ours to drive traffic back to us and not through a third party that wants to charge us for the leads generated or placement acheived.

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Business Marketing

Gloves that translate sign language in real time

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new wearable tech translates American Sign Language into audible English in real time.

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Advancements in technology never cease to amaze. The same is true right this moment as a new technology has been released that helps translate American Sign Language (ASL) signs into spoken English in real time.

This technology comes in the form of a hand glove – similar looking on the front side to what one would wear in the winter, but much more advanced when in view of the palm. The palm side of the glove contains sensors on the wearer to identify each word, phrase, or letter that they form via ASL, and is then translated into audible English via an app that coincides with the glove.

This is all done in real time and allows for instant communication without the need for a human translator. The signals are translated at a rate of one word per second.

The project was developed by scientists at UCLA. “Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them,” said lead researcher Jun Chen.

The hope is to make communication easier for those who rely on ASL, and to help those unfamiliar with ASL adapt to the signs. It is thought that between 250,000 and 500,000 people in the United States use ASL. As of now, the glove does not translate British Sign Language – the other form a sign language that utilizes English.

According to CNN, the researchers also added adhesive sensors to the faces of people used to test the device — between their eyebrows and on one side of their mouths — to capture facial expressions that are a part of American Sign Language. However, this facet of the technology is not loved by all.

“The tech is redundant because deaf signers already make extensive use of text-to-speech or text translation software on their phones, or simply write with pen and paper, or even gesture clearly,” said Gabrielle Hodge, a deaf post-doctoral researcher from the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) at University College London. “There is nothing wrong with these forms of communication.”

What are your thoughts on this advancement? Comment below!

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Business Marketing

Stand out with video as part of your resume (but be careful)

(MARKETING) This new tool helps you stand out in the job market, as video now dominates – so it’s possible to use this to your advantage (with caution).

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job market video

In the midst of a pandemic, people are finding themselves thrust back into the job market sooner than expected due to mass company layoffs or underemployment as a freelancer. Fields are oversaturated and jobs are sparse so it can be hard to stand out in today’s job market.

Although standing out in the job market is hardly a new problem, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use some new and creative solutions. One company, VCV.ME has designed a tool to help you get creative and stand out from your competition.

VCV.ME turns your traditional resume into a video à la Instagram stories.

The process is simple. You answer a few questions and upload a video of yourself then the tool will provide you with a sharable link.

VCV Founder and CEO, Arik Akverdian, believes that video is the future saying, “Video will represent 80% of all internet traffic by 2021 according to Cisco, and according to eMarketer 94.1% of millennial internet users were streaming digital video in 2019. With growing demand for video social media such as TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram stories, and others, we’re bringing the short video format to the job market.”

There are some obvious limitations to using this tool in your job hunt.

First, not all employers will take videos as part of an application both for technical and legal reasons.

On the technical side, many automated tracking systems are not designed to filter that kind of file, so there may not even be an opportunity to showcase it. That’s not to say there aren’t some work-arounds. Many job applications will have a place for applicants to link to their portfolio or websites. An alternate option for this tool could be to place the video introduction on your website.

Another problem with the tool is how it exposes candidates and hiring managers to bias.

As more companies work to remove bias from their hiring practices and hire more diverse candidates, a video intro just won’t fly. Some companies have removed names and even alma maters from their applicants in order to make more unbiased hiring decisions. A video introduction would expose many characteristics that people have conscious and subconscious biases towards such as race, gender, age, and ethnicity.

Although VCV.ME’s intentions are to help candidates stand out in the job market, it’s worth questioning whether they would be standing out for the right reasons, so tread carefully.

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Why should you take Facebook’s ‘Summer of Support’ courses

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Every company can use a little marketing advice, well Facebook has partnered with big companies to give you some free digital marketing courses.

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marketing courses

Our world has turned into a place of upheaval and unrest and we are continuously surrounded by more and more evidence of it. One thing that the majority of us are constantly seeing is announcements from companies. Some of those are about closing hours, but others are more helpful. As they all attempt to get used to this new world that COVID-19 has created we begin to see some different tactics. Some are only politically motivated, but others are more focused on helping out their communities.

Earlier this week Facebook announced that they will be putting on a six-week digital marketing education series. This series will be an extensive collection of videos with a full in depth set of courses that will cover a large amount of topics. The company has put together a cast of renowned entrepreneurs for the presenters as well.

The topics will be done in themed weeks starting on June 24th, and running through the month of July. They include categories such “The Changing World” & “Resilience”. Focusing primarily on the world that is here and now, with recommendations on how to adapt to it. With this world in a constant state of flux the push for adapting to change and staying in front of the tide is crucial for a small business.

The next two courses will be going forward with discussing “Reinvention” & “Re-Emergence”. Encouraging struggling companies to take a serious look at their potential for moving forward, or changing the things that they can to stay more on top of their client base. They also plan on attacking the confusing world that we will have when things get closer to normal.

The last two weeks are focused on community and customer care, which is actually their names as well: “Customers & Commerce” & “Community”. These will help develop a sense of how your business affects your community and the impact you have on it. Keeping that in mind you can then develop a plan for how you want your community to see you and shape things within it.

These courses are all set up for free and open to anyone. With a completely online set up with their new “Summer of Support” mini-site they are prepped to reach millions of people. They’ve organized this with a range of partners as well: Dell, PayPal, American Express, & Small Business Roundtable. A helping hand for people who wouldn’t currently be able to source things like this.

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