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Product Review

Realtor.com Gets a Facelift

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realtorcom-search-homes.jpg

Realtor.com landing page


Overview

My general thoughts on the new and improved Realtor.com is that it is modern in appeal. I am surprised, however that they opted for a narrow width rather than a 1024 px wide screen to better take advantage of the valuable real estate on the landing page, but narrow width is acceptable in today’s web2.0 world. I really do enjoy the fade blues and grays that compliment the association’s branding as well as the rich blues and grays that do appeal to a buyer in that it sets a comfortable setting in which to relax and search. I would, however, warn the designers that muted sites do not work well in enticing buyer enthusiasm, so I would highly recommend they punch up the minor details that pull a content consumer more deeply into the site. Colors that sell links are needed to capture curiosity and a monotone page just doesn’t do that- you’ll note the green “save the search” box and red houses that indicate a Featured Tour in the next image- notice how they very subtly sell you inward to do something?


featured-results.jpg


Search

Search is simple from the front end and I am very glad Realtor.com did not go off the deep end on mapping. From conversations I’ve had all around the country with idx developers, map searching is highly overrated according to the data and not actually in high demand by consumers.  I have not seen this data, but it seems to be a concensus among several that what is most appealing to consumers is the ability to switch to mapping when necessary and Realtor.com answers that call either way- consumers also want pictures, and lots of them, and again, Realtor.com does it very well actually.

As you can see from the image above, Realtor.com answers to it’s advertisers (Listing Agents) with Featured Listings but I am not sure that placement is a good idea over all. I would almost prefer there were no blue featured box at the top. In my mind it would almost be better if the results were shifted up, and the top 4 results were in blue. This creates a more seamless results page that takes the buyer on a journey rather than confusing the home seeker. This is more of a preference, but not a requirement, but none the less, you’ll notice the user’s ability to switch into several views. This is an area I would suggest colors that sell links explaining to the user that there are options- thus building time on the site and user comfort. Overall, I love the large result boxes with big beautiful images framed with a fantastic contrary colored font that delivers the information the consumer is looking for.


detailed-information.jpg


Detail Results

A very clever results page advertises the listing agent very well by giving them plenty of valuable real estate on the page. It is hard to miss a well laid out bio. Large beautiful images meet the end user, increasing the overall experience and delivering the seeker to the email contact button. I, for one, would prefer more emphasis be placed on direct contact information such as the agent’s phone number. Another interesting feature is the “days on this site.” This lately has become an issue of great debate and I am glad to see “days on market” continue to be devalued in this fashion. Also notice on the right, below the agent’s logo, you will find the agent’s other listings- this is a valuable resource for the agent and the home seller as it adds additional exposure to all listings, and we all want that.

I am not sure I appreciate why the Brokerage information is listed along side the agent’s information in such grand form.  I’m not listing homes to make the office phone ring in every case, so I am hoping this is a feature you can disable or devalue in some way.


map-results.jpg


Mapping Feature

Ah, the moment of truth. Realtor.com opts for Virtual Earth (thank you) complete with bird’s eye view of homes. This is a personal choice on my part, but VE is just a much prettier map and interface. Although you’ll not enjoy the use of Google Street View, I have a feeling it will not be missed. The search feature is as fast as it is nimble and I believe over time this system allows for flexibility and growth.

Again, I would note that email contact seems to be the most emphasized and there is a lack of a phone number at this end of the page. This may be a mistake only if the buyer is looking for it. Why confuse them or force them to scroll up when you could simply fit it in?


home-search-grid-result.jpg


The Grid Search

Realtor.com does introduce it’s own way of assisting home buyers narrow down their map with incredible detail by allowing a grid on general searching that gives the user a head start in locating areas with listings.  I would really need to play with this feature a bit.  I am really not sure what value it (grid results) brings as there is no populated area information, school districts, or anything I can see that really ads to the search, but I could be missing something with this one.


The Wrap

Here are my suggestions:

  • Better links that sell.
  • More emphasis on agent phone contact.
  • Pull together results to better lay out a path for the the home shopper.
  • Better emphasis on toggle options in results.
  • Brokerage contact information on results pages should be devalued.

Overall

I think the new Realtor.com site will delight users as it is a quick load, and the size of images and sheer quantity of images will give the consumer the visuals they really need to complete a more concise search. I also believe Realtor.com made the correct choice in not giving the map the dominating real estate on the page. I believe that users will not care all that much about the missing Google Street View as I am hearing from consumers more and more that they’re not to hot on the idea of their home being visible to anyone who wants a peek.

I do think that Realtor.com is lacking in the fun factor department, as there really isn’t anything here that isn’t found other places online. In saying that, consumers who are serious about compiling neighborhood information, homes in their budget, and want the best visual experience, they’ll find it here on this no fluff, just the facts search site. I will more thoroughly review the new Realtor.com once it is fully operational and during more peak hours, but for now, I can say that Realtor.com answers serious home hunter’s needs, it isn’t confusing or loud, and it is well designed to feature your listings as well as your professional photography.  I did notice that poorly thought out images agents upload that are undersized or just bad in general stand out like a sore thumb in this image feature environment, so beware.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Scott P. Rogers

    May 17, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Benn — thanks for the thorough review! I had navigated quickly through the beta site and had appreciated many of the new features or UI elements that you highlighted. I think it’s great how they have started adding additional photos on every listing (instead of just listings where the listing agent pays for a subscription).

    One other note — if you do use the map for searching, the number of search results per grid panel is pretty fun. Again, I concur with you that using maps for searching and displaying results seems a bit overrated, but it is a fun feature to play around with nonetheless. Jim has a screen shot of the map grid over at realcentralva.

  2. Benn Rosales

    May 17, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    eh, I missed adding my section on grids, thanks for pointing it out! I’ll put it up in a bit. I am not sure that’s the fun element I was hoping for, but yes, it a creative way of dividing areas. I wondered though as I played with it was it really helpful to a user that is relocating.

  3. Scott P. Rogers

    May 17, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    On the fun stuff — it’s my understanding that there will actually be quite a bit more information about the neighborhood, schools, points of interest, median income, etc when the beta site goes live. If I recall correctly, ALL of this information used to be attached to ALL listings on the beta site. Perhaps this is now what will be available on listings where agents pay the subscription fee??

    Perhaps someone who attended the session on Realtor.com at NAR Mid-Year can speak to this…..

  4. Benn Rosales

    May 17, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Scott, I have a suspicion you’re right on that one, which is why I reserved the option to go back once they’ve take off the training wheels. Thanks for that heads up btw.

  5. Larry Yatkowsky

    May 17, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    A little off topic: For those who are interested the Canadian Real Estate Asscociation is unveiling their new site as well. This in part is to do with copyright of MLS and REALTOR.

    They are changing the URL from http://www.mls.ca to REALTOR.ca. By going to realtor.ca they feel this will improve our profile. To be seen.

    Personally, I think we are piggy backing on to REALTOR.COM or if one was suspicious you could put a case forward that eventually we’ll all be one happy family. To quote Benn, I’m just sayin…..

  6. Eric Blackwell

    May 18, 2008 at 7:02 am

    I think the changes are a solid step in the right direction…and thanks for a thorough and quick review. I think of more importance is going to be what they will do with the ‘enhanced listings’ now that they have said that they will no longer charge REALTORS for having all of the photos up there.

    I think they need to provide relevant information to the consumer and this is a lot closer to doing that then they have been.

  7. Bill Lublin

    May 18, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Benn – You are the man – I have not been a big fan of REALTOR.COM as a source of business because I am philosophically committed to driving traffic to my company site, and the ROI has been pretty dismal from REALTOR.COM in the past. That being said, I felt that we needed to spend money there just to have that presence as part of our marketing.
    With this redesign, and your very thorough analysis of it, I’m thinking they may have made some smart business moves that will bring additional value to the table.
    I’m just sayin’ 🙂

  8. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 9:59 am

    These changes are way overdo and I wish they would move out of beta. Nice to see they are making the changes needed to stay relevant in todays market.

  9. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I am curious why they are still in beta with the new site. Anyone from Move, Inc listening? What is the plan/ time table?

  10. Eric Blackwell

    May 18, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    My “guess is that they will move into production soon. That is based on the fact that they made a few announcements that came out in BHB (Dave Phillips’ piece).. I think they may well have been waiting more for the announcements on pricing to roll forth…

    From the beta, the tech side looks ready to go IMO.

    What’s the word on pricing now that they are not gonna charge to have all of the photos up?

  11. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Eric they have charged for multiple photos for years. You have to use the enhanced listing package to get them. Have they mentioned changing the pricing structure with the new layout?

  12. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    It is my understanding that all listings will have four photos — for free — without having to be an enhanced listing. If you pay to have an enhanced listing, you will be able to add many more photos, and even videos. I’m sure they will update their enhanced listing sales pitch soon . . . here is the current pitch.

  13. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Scott on the page you linked to they say “Basic Features: 1 Photo”. Didn’t realize that we can now add 25 photos for enhanced listings…might be time to start taking more neighborhood photos.

  14. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Ken — right, without paying R.com, you currently get 1 photo (soon you’ll get 4). If you pay R.com for enhanced listings you currently get 25 photos (soon you’ll get video too).

  15. Overland Park Real Estate

    May 19, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Now all they need to do is stop gauging agents on the cost of their profile and added features and they would be in business. They are the only site I know of with an advertising business model and still charges so much for agent profiles and additional images on listings.

    My opinion…Take in all the listings content that you can get your hands on from agents and you will attract more traffic. This will give you more click throughs to your ads, which will drive up what you can charge your advertisers. If R.com would have done this from the start there would never been a way for T.com or Z.com to come in and take their market share.

  16. Thomas Johnson

    May 19, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I am not sure I appreciate why the Brokerage information is listed along side the agent’s information in such grand form.

    Come on Benn! NAR exists for, of and by the brokers(who, by the way, own the listings). See also, why you can’t get a buyer’s rep agreement to stick, why the seller pays the fees in a world with buyer agency, transaction brokers and all the other joys the Kelman rails about. I, for one will have assumed room temperature by the time that this stuff is resolved.

    Thanks for the thorough review. In ERAHouston, with HAR.com (the public side of our MLS) getting a billion hits a month, I rarely look at Realtor.com except to make sure my listings are there. A strong local MLS that has a public facing search function kind of makes Realtor.com irrelevant.

  17. Jim Duncan

    May 20, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Realty Times has a good story today that is worth a read – if only if the NAR/Realtor.com people would take it to heart.

    A sampling:

    Why should agents be excited about paying Realtor.com for privileges they can get for free elsewhere?

    There are other sites like Zillow climbing up Realtor.com’s back that offer agents a lot more for free.

    If Realtor.com is supposed to be a member benefit, it’s missing the mark, and making the NAR vulnerable. Franchises don’t owe the NAR the time of day. They compete with the NAR to provide benefits to agents. And they just trumped the NAR big time with their own member benefit – unlimited listings and enhancements on Zillow!

  18. Benn Rosales

    May 20, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Jim, I read that and honestly I think it is nieve. I do not believe that the so called free services out there will always be free- it just isn’t cost effective over the longterm even if the cost is lower than r.com. I do agree with the article that R.com misses the mark on many levels, but nothing in this world is free once the vc money stops flowing. Obviously these are just my opinions, but ones based on real world realities.

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Housing News

Avoid Blah-Blah Conversation With This Voicemail Cloaking Device

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Please Dear Lord, Don’t Let Them Pick Up, So I Can Leave A Voice Mail and Make A Quick Get Away.

You know those times when you have to return a phone call, share an update, remind someone about something?  And those times where there’s no getting around it, you have to make the call and deliver your message, but you’re short on time, patience, courage, or ___________?

Guess What? I Have Good News For You.

There’s an App. for that, and it’s called SlyDial.  At the Inman Reboot event in HoustonChris with TechSavvyAgent dropped this cloaking device on us.  Basically, SlyDial is a clever smart phone tool.

SlyDial allows you to make a call from your cell phone to their cell phone, but their cell phone won’t ring. Instead of their phone ringing, SlyDial lets you dial directly into their voice mail, and leave a message. Yeah, that’s right, call directly into their voice mail, and their phone doesn’t ring. Check it out, it probably works on your smart phone.

You can get more details and info here.  The App. is free and straight forward.  It looks like the picture below when it’s launched on the iPhone4.

It’s that simple.  Good luck with it.  I was wondering in which situations you’d use something like this?

Thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Photo Credit

PS.  fyi, I don’t work for, nor am I in any way associated with, employed by, or even know anyone at SlyDial.  In other words, there’s nothing in for me by saying nice things about SlyDial, except the pleasure of telling you about a tool you might find handy.

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Product Review

New Realtor.com iPhone App

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Realtor.com launched their new iPhone application and gave a few of us the chance to play with it and tear it to pieces before the launch (maybe they didn’t quite put it that way, but it’s the way I’m approaching it).

When I first open these new apps, I always think of the intent and this one is pretty obvious.  The Realtor.com iphone app iss totally and completely designed with the end consumer in mind (sorry Realtors if you thought it could be about you).  It’s about providing the latest property information in the quickest, easiest and most user friendly fashion possible.

When you open the app, a home screen gives you several options, including searching for nearby homes for sale, nearby open houses or perform a new search by location or MLS ID.  You can allow for the app to use your current location and it actually gives you nearby listings currently for sale (also giving you the option to narrow down your criteria).  This can be really cool if you are driving in a neighborhood and just want to get property information without having to even get out of the car or make a phone call.  (Bad for agents that rely on the client to actually make that call to capture their business).

Realtor.com iphone app screen shot

You can view a map option or a list option of properties and are able to actually click on any given one and get detailed information, not only on the property, but also the listing agent and the brokerage (very similar to what you see on Realtor.com).  You can scroll through photos of the listing and turn the phone to get bigger photos and you can save the property and include notes to go with it.

Realtor.com iPhone app screenshot

What’s even more fascinating is the option to contact the listing agent on the spot.  You can call them by clicking on their telephone number, you can email them,  visit their site and add them to your contacts.  (I know I’m an over achiever, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could tweet or facebook them as well?).

Realtor.com iphone application
My favorite feature is the “drive around and use your location” to find listings – but you can also enter an address for a particular listing and/or its surrounding competitors and even enter the MLS number.

Great move on Realtor.com to empower the consumer.  Personally, an educated consumer is the best one in my book, but here’s the beef many will have…You can now say “Buh Bye” to Buyers’ Agents, with this app, listing agents will have the upper hand – this will give quick and easy information to the local consumer (not the end for those buyers agents that work with absentee and relocating clients).

Problem?

I can now see me getting bombarded by calls from people who “forget” to tell me they are working with another agent and just wanted quick info.  I can also see my clients calling other agents just because their information was handy.  We’ll just have to see how this extra communication tool will evolve….it could be detrimental for many.

The question of who does Realtor.com work for will inevitably come up.  Many will criticize this as a tool of disintermediation, but if we are smart, we will not only know how to use this information in our favor, but we will welcome it with open arms.  I do wonder if it could be possible to personalize this particular iphone app for a fee so that Realtors can offer it to their clients (of course I would try to come up with a win-win for everyone).

For now it’s time for everyone to make sure their contact information is correct on their listings, and especially Realtor.com.  Listing agents will have the ability to answer inquiries on the spot, staying above the competition with customer service always at the top of the priority list.

And for the record, I’m not associated with Realtor.com, so feel free to kill it if you have the itch.

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Product Review

Desktop Analytics – Polaris

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Keeping Track

polaris2 I’m a big fan of keeping a pulse on the health of my blogs and sites.  Polaris has released a desktop application that allows you to keep track of your Google Analytics, on your desktop. 

The free version only allows monitoring from one account, while the $15/year version will allow multiple accounts.

The system features are very easy to setup and it works on the AIR installation system, which most of us already have with the Twitter apps.  It was quick to download and install. 

 

Polaris shows total visits, pageviews, activities by date, visits statistics and tons more.  Essentially anything that you would benefit from in Google Analytics, but on the desktop.

newpolaris

The current product is cool, but the company is also advertising some interesting upcoming products.

    • Dopac
      • Dopac is our flagship web analytics solution that brings Google Analytics to your desktop with a host of new features and possibilities. Based on the success and experience of our previously released beta product, the “Google Analytics Reporting Suite”, Dopac takes the original experience to the next level and brings a lot of new concepts to the table.
    • Rayet
      • Rayet is our strange kid on the block. It’s experimental, funky and fun!
        With Rayet we are aiming to make web analytics reporting smarter. Instead of generating a lot of good looking graphs and charts Rayet will cut to the chase and analyze your data for you. Rayet will give you suggestions on how to improve your website experience based on the analytical data available. By comparing different time samples it will tell what works and what doesn’t. Being in very early development there’s currently no release date planned yet.
    • Phobia
      • Phobia is made for one single purpose; impress your boss, client or anyone else you need to suck up to. It gives you data ownership by allowing you to export or synchronize your data in any given format. Anything from smart looking spreadsheets, pretty PDF’s or entertaining presentations is entirely possible! More info on features and release will be up here soon.

       

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