A couple of months ago I was contacted by the editor for a local news website. They syndicate some of my real estate content and we have had an ongoing relationship for many years.
They wanted to talk about having neighborhood pages with real estate listings on their website, and they wanted to get local agents to pay to sponsor the pages and to pay to advertise real estate listings on them.
The person who called me had been doing research on how to grow a news website and sent me a link to an article about how to expand your website by including real estate listings, and how to get agents to pay for advertising.
Earlier this week, a salesperson from a local news station called me and asked me if I would be interested in being the featured real estate agent on a neighborhood page on a new website. It seems that one of our local television stations has decided to have neighborhood pages with real estate listings and to get real estate agents to pay to be featured agents.
There is another local news station with that same business model, and I suspect a few others will try it. Real estate listings are gold for these websites. Dollars from agent wallets pay the bills. Each month I receive email and phone calls about opportunities to advertise my listings.
I just Googled the address of one of my listings and got 31,600 results. I think I can claim that my listings are being advertised and can be found. But are they being seen by the largest possible audience? Am I missing a website that some potential buyer could be looking at?
Google is indexing many, many websites with listings — 31,600 is a huge number in a market where 3,246 homes have sold in the last 12 months. Is there really enough traffic for everyone who wants to make money off of real estate listings?
Of those 31,600 results, I wonder which website is being used the most by the 3,246 local buyers? How many hits is the listing getting? I also wonder how many websites one of my listings needs to appear on so that I can make the statement that they are being advertised to the widest possible audience?
Do my listings get traffic or even one view on all 31,600 websites? It is, after all, the "World Wide Web." What, exactly, constitutes national advertising, and how important is it? Am I really doing my sellers a disservice if I don’t put their home on every website that has real estate listings on it?
I get traffic reports about my listings from Zillow and Trulia, and, in general, my listings do not get much traffic. Probably because I don’t pay for premium accounts.
I think I am supposed to actively do something to get traffic on the listings and work it for leads. The reports that I get through our MLS indicate that my listings get emailed to buyers hundreds of times a month. All I have to do is put the listings in the MLS.
Agents drive traffic to third-party websites by using various widgets that link back to the sites and by asking their clients for reviews and sending them to the sites. Some sites let agents have blogs and write articles or answer consumer questions on the site as a way of getting free content that will attract consumers and generate more traffic. The third-party websites get plenty of free advertising from real estate agents.
It is my belief that the days of being able to support a website with agent dollars is quickly coming to an end, and that new business models will rise from the ashes. The number of websites being supported by real estate listings is not sustainable with fewer agents and fewer homes on the market. The competition for agent dollars is fierce, and our listings are ubiquitous.
Edina Realty has pulled its listings from all of the big national real estate websites. I refuse to believe that Edina Realty got to be the powerhouse that it is today by making stupid decisions.
I believe Edina is taking back its brand, rather than splitting it up in pieces and sending it out to multiple websites. It is possible that Edina is being innovative and is ahead of its time, and a leader in an industry where everyone advertises real estate the same way.
Edina is cutting out some of the middlemen and dealing directly with consumers. What a novel concept in an industry that likes to send consumers away or ignore them.
I inquired about one of my own listings through Realtor.com. My inquiry went to an office of a large real estate franchise. My question was never answered.
It went to a central lead distribution system and they probably could not find an agent to take it with a 35 percent referral fee attached in addition to the standard 10 to 50 percent cut the brokerage takes on a low-priced short-sale listing. To a consumer it just looks like the listing agent doesn’t respond to email.
Third-party sites are working on providing more services for agents and on educating them, and there is a need for agent education. They are offering all sorts of services to agents and brokerages in an effort to gain more agent dollars and consumer traffic.
Maybe in the end Zillow or Trulia will become large real estate brokerages with their own agents, doing what agents are already doing for them, which is promoting the website and brand. I am very surprised that Amazon.com has not gotten into the real estate business — it seems like a perfect fit and Amazon.com is one of the top 10 websites for overall traffic.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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