Realtor.com to beef up agent search, will revamp profile pages first

Lessons learned from AgentMatch being incorporated into new tools

Realtor.com has not given up on providing consumers with more sophisticated tools for finding an agent and, as a first step toward that goal, is updating agent profiles on the popular consumer site to give agents the ability to highlight their transaction data, team info and client recommendations to consumers.

When agents authorize it, the new profile pages — expected to launch in the third quarter — will pull in multiple listing service data like price range of homes they help clients buy or sell, a map showing their current listings, showings and closings.

Portraits image via Shutterstock.
Portraits image via Shutterstock.

The revamped profiles follow on the heels of realtor.com’s experiment with AgentMatch, an agent search tool tested in two markets last year that allowed consumers to search for agents using MLS statistics and client recommendations as filters.

AgentMatch was controversial — many agents raised concerns about the validity of statistics-based rankings — and realtor.com shut down AgentMatch testing in December.

AgentMatch “is a dead project,” said Ernie Graham, realtor.com’s senior director of product management.

But lessons learned from AgentMatch will be incorporated into an agent search platform that will be rolled out on realtor.com some time after the new agent profiles are unveiled.

Realtor.com scrapped over 100,000 lines of AgentMatch code and started over to build the new platform, Graham said. But the firm learned some valuable info about how consumers search online for an agent from AgentMatch.

Agents can stay away from statistics if they want."

For example, Graham and his team discovered that, rather than poring over MLS stats, consumers spent a majority of their time on AgentMatch delving into agents’ online profiles, which featured recommendations, their bio and other qualitative information about them.

Realtor.com is incorporating that takeaway and others from AgentMatch into its new consumer agent search and discovery platform, Graham said.

Graham shared some details about realtor.com’s new profile pages with Inman News, but declined to talk specifics about the search portion of the platform.

Meeting consumers online

According to surveys of consumers by the National Association of Realtors, only 9 percent of buyers and 4 percent of sellers found their real estate agent online.

% Found agent online % homebuyers who searched for a home online % homebuyers who found their home online
Buyers 9% 89% 43%
Sellers 4% N/A N/A

Source: 2013 NAR Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers

Given that 89 percent of homebuyers searched for their home online, the gap between consumers searching for a home online and finding an agent online is going to shrink, many in the industry believe.

Realtor.com and its chief competitors, Zillow and Trulia, are trying to figure out how to connect consumers and agents online in new ways, and beefed-up profile pages is one.

All three portals generate leads using agent ads or lead forms that show up next to listings, but rich profiles are increasingly important to driving consumer contacts to agents on the platforms, they each have said.

Zillow and Trulia agent profiles currently feature bios, ratings, reviews or recommendations, active listings, past sales and more. Zillow and Trulia began putting agents’ sold listings on their agent profile pages last year. (Compare the profile of Jeff Silva, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, on the three portals: Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com.)

The “Find a Realtor” tool currently in use on realtor.com is of limited utility, allowing consumers to sort results alphabetically by first or last name, or to apply a few filters, such as professional designations and certifications. A search for Realtors in Detroit, Michigan, turns up 460 agents, and provides little information that would help consumers choose one who might be the best fit for them.

The same search on Zillow.com produces 833 results, and users can sort results by agent ratings submitted by Zillow users, listings and recent sales. They can look for agents specializing in niches by applying filters like “short sale” or “relocation.”  Trulia allows users to sort results for 521 Detroit agents by homes sold and user recommentations, and apply similar filters.

New realtor.com profile page

The new mobile-responsive profile pages on realtor.com are powered by realtor.com’s profile management system, SocialBios, which the firm released out of beta in November as part of an effort to shift consumers’ connection point with agents from listings to agent profiles.

“We’re treating these pages as landing pages for conversion,” Graham said. “That’s the big goal.”

Graham pointed to the “Ask a Question” button up high on the sample page that, in its softer language, nudges consumers to reach out to the agent as an example.

The pages are designed to highlight the value of each agent, whether they’ve been in the business 30 days or 30 years, Graham said.

By including information about the homes and area hotspots where agents have “checked in,” consumers can see newbie agents’ work or activity even if they don’t have many transactions under their belt.

The pages are also designed to pull in info from sources like Facebook, blogs, MLSs, Foursquare, LinkedIn and others so agents don’t have to manually update the page, but can trust that it maintains a current representation of their value as an agent, Graham said.

The design for the realtor.com profile pages will not vary from agent to agent, but customization will come from content.

Agents choose a large cover photo that will serve as the backdrop for their photo and two call-to-action buttons: the one prompting consumers to ask the agent a question and another that directs users to agents’ contact info.

A short bio and info about years of experience, specializations, geographies served, and designations and certifications also show high up on the page. The designations and certifications section includes icons that give consumers more info when they tap or roll over with the cursor.


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