New England home buyers now have a one-stop source on the Internet to find home listings, neighborhood profiles, home-buying advice, rentals, moving guides and financing information. The source is The Boston Globe’s new Boston.com real estate portal.
Boston.com, the digital arm of the newspaper, recently launched its new real estate section, which encompasses listings and information about metropolitan Boston, suburban areas and popular vacation spots throughout New England. The new site offers more comprehensive home searches and consumer-targeted features, plus more advertising opportunities for realty brokers and agents in the region.
Newspapers haven’t ignored surveys that show vast numbers of people are using the Internet as a source of information and that online advertising revenues have increased over the past few years. Boston.com is just one example a newspaper that is leveraging the power of its established brand to harvest new opportunities on the Web. A number of other similar ventures also are up and running or set to come online in the next few weeks.
Jeffrey Goldman, owner and president of Premiere Properties in Boston, advertises on Boston.com because the Web site is well known among consumers. His company advertises for-sale listings within the portal’s “featured listings” section, a new feature on the site.
“We get an exorbitant amount of inquiries as a result of that type of advertising,” Goldman said. “I’ve had buyers tell me that every time they move to a new city, the first thing they do is type the city name dot-com (in a Web browser), so Boston.com has been an incredible tool in promoting our properties.”
Mike Smith, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston, channels all of his advertising into the newspaper’s Web site. He also believes the site has a powerful, recognizable brand among consumers.
“I advertise there because it’s Boston.com,” he said. “People more and more are getting real estate information on the Web.”
The option to include basic listing information on Boston.com has been built into the new proprietary platform utilized by MLSPIN, the area’s most prominent Multiple Listing Service. Brokers and agents simply check a box on MLSPIN to add the listing to Boston.com.
The newspaper Web site displays only basic listing information, according to David Gilmartin, director of classified advertising for Boston.com. But agents can add multiple photos, virtual tours, name and contact information, branding and links to their Web site at an additional cost.
The new Boston.com real estate platform enables agents to track how many times the property has been searched, how many times the property was forwarded to someone else by e-mail, how many times it was printed and other statistics. They can also track each time a someone clicks into the agent’s Web site from Boston.com. These functions enable agents to gauge their return on the Boston.com investment.
“It’s really our goal to connect the consumer to the Realtor,” Gilmartin said.
The Boston.com real estate portal isn’t exclusive to MLSPIN members. In fact, for-sale-by-owners can add their homes to the newspaper’s Web site as well.
The real estate portal offers an e-mail alert service that sends home buyers a message whenever a listing appears that matches specified search criteria. The e-mail uses an HTML format that allows the recipient to click through for details.
Boston.com has been promoting its relaunched Web site through radio ads. Site traffic jumped 20 percent in the first week compared with the previous week, Gilmartin said.
Boston.com appears in the highest natural search rankings for “Boston real estate” in popular search engines.
Consumers can search such categories as resale homes, luxury homes, condos, new construction, open houses, homes for rent, apartments, or vacation rentals. They can search by region or community, click through featured listings and developments, or narrow their search by selecting from a list of specific criteria. They also can browse recent home sales in a selected neighborhood.
“We’ve really given consumers more options for search. The site is very data- and listings-driven,” Gilmartin said.
Gabriels Technology Solutions built the technology Boston.com uses for its real estate portal. Gabriels also works with real estate brokerages to build and implement Web-based database applications. The company built the technology that powers The New York Times’ online real estate portal and portals for The Palm Beach Post and Daytona News Journal in Florida and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The company over the next few weeks will launch new real estate portals for several other newspapers, including the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, and the Cox Ohio Group, comprised of the Dayton Daily News, Hamilton Journal News, The Middletown Journal and Springfield News-Sun.
Tan Chan, Gabriels’ product manager for Boston.com, described the real estate portal as one Web site where consumers can find housing that fits their needs, regardless of who represents the property.
“Sometimes people want to reach out and touch a broker and sometimes they just want to gather information,” he said. “This enables them to do that.”
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