Response To Rob - Role Of The Website In Real Estate
It finally happened! I've been called out by Notorious Rob on
his super entertaining, (sometimes controversial) blog - He asks:
Honest Question: Role Of The Website In Real Estate.
In his article Rob claims that based on his assumptions (most of which are completely incorrect, but I'm starting to think were created to bait me into responding) Rob states that he cannot find any use for a Real Estate Website in the typical "transaction life cycle".
Let's start with the listing side:
On the listing side: Listing customers
- Find the agent "usually through referrals"
- Look the agent up on the interwebz and locate the agent's website
- Check agent's background, do research etc
- Call the agent about listing their house (followed by a listing appointment)
- A top producer would likely win the listing (website plays no role from this point in servicing the listing client!) My emphasis.
So let's address a few of these, shall we?
Finding an agent - while it is true that many listings are
acquired through referral, billions of dollars in listings are
transacted every single year that happened "because" the listing
client went to the web, performed a search, found "several" real
estate websites and visited each, read the content (on the
website), checked out their tools, evaluated their presentation and
several other factors and ultimately "clicked a button on the
website" in order to make contact with the Realtor.
So how did the website help make the decision (and in effect provide the listing lead to the customer)
Well first - they found the website! There are millions of sites
out there vying for position / eyeballs - here the quality of the
website (especially in "search engine friendliness" is key). Having
a great SEO friendly website (and great SEO which requires you to
have a great SEO friendly website) is the first step in even being
able to play the game for this particular client (and again it
represents many billions of dollars in transactions per
Yeah So there is that!
First impression (this applies to both selling and buying, and while we're here also recruiting!)
We know for a fact that users visit more than one website on average to make such a major decision. The quality and presentation of your website can play a major role in the decision making process. If it looks like crap, you can't spell and your content is clearly canned (or worse nonsensical / spammy) your are NOT getting any further attention.
Your website is also an indication of your tone, style and a clear indicator of your level of investment in the tools you use to market your listings. One of the first things they are going to check is - how is my listing going to be presented if I list with this Realtor? (This is important to a future point I'll make about participating later in the transaction).
Do research - ok you got me, you're right! A website is definitely the place users typically decide to start doing their research - but..... this is a point FOR having a website.... Isn't it?
Call the agent - who says all inquiries are
calls? I would argue that "website visitors" typically will use a
call to action (form, registration etc) vs the phone in most cases
- in fact, some of our customers don't even display their phone
number on their website (which is a mistake btw) because they want
ALL leads to go into the websites CRM (A good "website" also has a
CRM of some sort built in) - this is especially the case where the
"website" has performed so well, that users cannot possibly handle
every call (they have too many leads) and thus must allow their CRM
to be a part of the vetting process so they can be organized and
follow up on the best opportunities.
Ok - so far Rob is wrong - there is a LOT a website has to do with the listing side (pre-transaction) but what about once the listing customer has signed on the dotted line? According to Rob's assumptions, that's it!
Well if that were true - why would so many clients (my clients)
be so concerned with providing the best features and tools to
display, showcase, feature, banner, make stand out and announce as
coming soon? Why are there single property websites, URL
shorteners, share buttons the list goes on and on!
I'll tell you why - because the INTERNET is THE #1 PLACE PERIOD where buyers go to view homes. And out of the thousands of ways you could chose to make your content (your listings) available to consumers, your WEBSITE is THE BEST PLACE!
Want to know why?
Well if you're one of our customers, you truly care about presentation. You don't want to look like everyone else (in fact it was looking different / high end that landed you the listing in the first place)
You have CONTROL - any aspect of "your" website
can be changed / tailored to match your USP (either by yourself if
you're DIY which is a terrible idea because most (I said most)
Realtors completely suck at web design or you can have your vendor
or a third party that works with your vendor do anything your
budget, imagination and client expectation requires.
Unlimited data - and you own it! And it's not shared! It's private. A great website has a CRM remember? But even if it didn't and you chose a 3rd party, it should at least be able to interface with your CRM which gets you DATA! Us smart marketers these days, we use this thing called data to do things like, oh I don't know - check to see what's working? On a more advanced level, we are able to AB test all kinds of marketing (for the listing, see we're still a part of the listing process) we can mess with layout, format, CTA's, text, size, shape color all to do what? Make the listing more appealing to a buyer and compel them to do more research and inquire.
There is a lot more I could say about websites contribution to
the listing portion of the real estate business but this is already
getting ranty, and I have to move onto the buyers side.
But in short - an amazing website can help you WIN a listing (cause it helps you get found and makes you look and sound great, and it can help you SELL a listing.
Now onto the buy side: Rob says that process looks
- hey honey we should buy a house (honey?)
- They spend the next few months on Zillow / Realtor.com / Redfin / Whatever
- Eventually they find a house they like
- They find the agent (all kinds of mystery here) Really?
- Agent meets them, puts them on a drip, (which all comes from the MLS?)
- Eventually between the agent and the buyers, they find a house and buy it. Again the website plays no real role in the transaction.
Let's talk about Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin and WHATEVER.
If anyone reading this doesn't know what the first 3 are, let me help you out - THEY ARE WEBSITES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But to be fair - they are websites that are "now" brands. So
they have public awareness on their side. And it is absolutely true
that if someone went directly to those "websites" that lead would
likely have no use for another website (or the MLS for that
BUT!!!! What about all the people that don't go to those "websites" - do you know where they go?
Google, Bing, Yahoo (in that order) and then many other search engines.
They do searches for things like "Austin homes for sale" and find sites like www.austinrealestate.com and then just like on the listing side - they are impressed (or not), they do the research and the lead is captured BY the website and placed into the CRM of the website while contemporaneously being sent to agent who btw comes back too the website to login and review the DATA that was collected BY the website and then uses the tools provided by the website vendor to communicate with the lead.
Drips, campaigns, texting, emails, all handled by the MLS? I
don't think so! And even if some MLS's provide "some" of that
functionality - they look like crap! Most agents would be
EMBARRASSED to use the antiquated tools that the MLS provides to
communicate with their clients. And if they aren't - they should
Ok we have covered most of the list - They found the site (thanks Google), they found the home (because the site had an AWESOME IDX search ON the website), they inquired on one or more properties (via the website) they are in the websites CRM (which is now doing a MUCH better job following up than MLS tools ever could AND it's branded to the agent AND if the agent doesn't like it THEY can have it changed AND they are capturing data that will help them convert more leads into buyers.
And guess what - some websites now even come with API integrations so you can push a button and send your data to your transaction manager to handle the closing of the transaction saving your hundreds of hours of double data entry per year.
Once again - there is more, but I hope I have made some of my
Where we are today - Website are infinitely more advanced than ever before, speaking just from my own experience (servicing 65,000 agents across the entire continent for more than 13 years generating BILLIONS of visitors and billions of dollars in transactions EVERY YEAR) - I can say that websites are still THE MOST profitable / predictable and controllable source of revenue that I have ever seen. And they come with a lot of other benefits that other platforms (ie Zillow, Facebook, etc) do not - if they are really awesome - you can customize them or have them customized any way you want to perform even better.
Rob, I love you - I'll see you next week, but you simply have this one wrong.