WASHINGTON, D.C. — Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson today announced the availability of free blog sites for all Realtors and also announced several new and planned features for the popular property-search Web site, which is operated by Move Inc. and is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors trade group.
The retooled site, he said, is incorporating Web 2.0 principals such as consumer interaction, richer data and online video.
Realtors can sign up for a free Realtor.com blog at http://www.featuredblogsignup.com. A planned section at the Realtor.com site will allow consumers to view an assortment of blog posts individually chosen by site editors for inclusion on a featured blogs page at the site. These blog posts can direct traffic back to the Web sites of participating Realtor.com bloggers.
About 1,000 agents have been testing the blogging platform for the past four to five months, said Samuelson, who spoke during a session at the National Association of Realtors’ annual legislative conference in the nation’s capital.
Two weeks ago the company launched a redesigned version of its Web site, built on a new software platform, Samuelson said. New features include a new mapping platform that uses Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and a counter that calculates the number of properties that match the search parameters and adjusts in real time as the user tweaks these parameters.
While it’s free for Realtors to post basic property information at Realtor.com, the company charges for enhanced property ads that receive preferential placement at the site and have additional photos. Samuelson said that there are a range of additional features that will soon be released for those enhanced listings, and the company has no immediate plans to raise the cost for this service.
Enhanced listings will soon be capable of hosting embedded online video that can feature an individual property, agent or company, Samuelson said. He noted that popular online video site YouTube.com has been gaining viewers rapidly, and its audience is growing at a rate that is expected to eclipse the total cable television audience.
Enhanced listings will also be able to carry up to 25 photos as opposed to the current limit of six, he said.
Realtor.com is also planning to release detailed neighborhood information for enhanced listings that will feature a range of data on demographic, school and amenities for a given search area. This data will also be interactive with the site’s property search and mapping, and Samuelson used the example of a consumer using the site to search for homes close to a church or synagogue.
“School information is a big factor when looking for a home,” he said, and the new data will show the map locations of public and private schools for a given area, as well as detailed information such as the number of students per grade, test scores and other performance metrics. The neighborhood data will be available at the site within the next 30 days, he said.
Site developers are also building a neighborhood-finder feature that can locate suitable neighborhoods based on user preferences.
While the early days of the Web were somewhat like attending a theater event, Samuelson said that Web 2.0 “is more like an improv act — and you’re part of the show. The audience becomes participants.”
And it’s not just about technology, he said. “This isn’t just a technology change — I really do believe this is a cultural change.”
In addition to YouTube.com, he also cited examples of a range of other popular Web 2.0 sites and tools, including wildly popular social network site MySpace.com, social bookmarking site del.icio.us, Yahoo’s photo-sharing site flickr and question-and-answer site Yahoo Answers.
The new features at Realtor.com are intended to improve usability, provide more comprehensive content, extend the site’s reach and to provide a forum for interaction between Realtors and consumers, Samuelson said.
Blogging is growing very rapidly, he said — there are an estimated 23,000 new blogs created every day, or about one every three seconds. And there are an estimated 71 million existing blogs.
The Realtor.com-branded blogs will “give Realtors the opportunity to tell their story … (it will) give every Realtor the opportunity to get up on the stage, talk about community, talk about trends,” he said. “By providing greater transparency on the site I think consumers get to see the value (Realtors) provide.”
Several more site enhancements are planned and will be phased in over time, he said. “Every 60 days you’re going to see something new and improved … put up on the site.”
Samuelson did not discuss a secretive venture at Move Inc. that is being led by former Realtor.com President Allan Dalton and former National Association of Realtors Chief Economist David Lereah.