The last week in July, the movers and shakers gathered in San Francisco for Real Estate Connect. According to the most recent research, rather than being “connected,” our industry is suffering from a massive case of “disconnect.”

The Real Estate Connect conference provides a great opportunity to brush elbows with the best in the business. Virtually everyone who attends shares the vision of doing business online. This year I was hoping to hear good news about how agents are doing in terms online marketing. Much to my disappointment, the news was terrible. 

According to NAR, somewhere between 71-78 percent of clients begin their search for a home online. According to a study from the California Association of Realtors, the average Internet buyer looks at six houses and takes two weeks to purchase. In contrast, “traditional buyers” look at 15 houses and take seven weeks to purchase. The CAR study also shows the average Internet buyer spends $470,000 on their home whereas traditional buyers spend only $350,000. Furthermore, the Internet is now the number two source for generating buyer and seller leads, second only to yard signs. Bottom line: Internet buyers are gold.

The most shocking news for me at Real Estate Connect was our industry’s huge disconnect. We are currently spending 96 percent of our advertising dollars offline and only spending 4 percent online. In fact, we spend 56 percent of our marketing dollars on print advertising and 23 percent on Buyers’ Guides. In other words, we spend 79 percent of our marketing dollars on print advertising that produces only 8 percent of our sales. We are literally wasting multimillions blindly by continuing to market as if the Internet doesn’t exist. Traditional brokerages complain about new business models such as HomeGain, Service Magic and Lending Tree. The only reason these companies are successful is the brokerage community has failed to keep pace with our client’s migration to the Web. No wonder powerhouses like Barry Diller eye the billions to be made in real estate and have set out to “stake their real estate claim” on the Web.

Compounding the problem, agents who market on the Web often fail to recognize what the consumer wants and needs. Every time I hear Alan Dalton speak, he always quotes the statistics from

“The number one thing Web visitors want is plenty of pictures.”

What do most agents continue to do? They prominently display their picture on the front of their Web site with no link to the Multiple Listing Service. When they do post a listing to, most provide only one picture. Few go to the expense of having a virtual tour.

Even when agents generate Internet leads, most do a poor job of following up. Twenty-five percent of Internet buyers expect instantaneous follow-up. Another 50 percent expect someone to follow up within two hours, and 100 percent expect follow-up within one business day. Agents who do respond, hit the jackpot. Fifty-seven percent of clients who search the Internet end up doing business with the first person who contacts them. What is amazing is 70 percent of the agents take at least two days to respond, and another 58 percent of agents do not respond at all.

Perhaps you read “Who Moved My Cheese.” The story is about rats living in a maze where their cheese supply has moved. The rats who have an existing storehouse of cheese are surviving on their dwindling supply. Others are still looking in the same place hoping the cheese will magically reappear. In contrast, one rat sets out to discover a new source of cheese and ultimately finds it. The rats who stay put end up starving.

Make no mistake about it. Barry Diller is in the real estate industry for one reason only–to make a profit. He knows the “cheese” is on the Internet and that we are doing a poor job of marketing in this powerful medium. Our “traditional cheese supply” is dwindling. The question is are we going to stay put and “starve” or are we going to make the shift from “disconnect” to “connect”?

Bernice Ross is an owner of and can be reached at


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Inman Connect is LIVE today! Join us and thousands of your peers from wherever you are.Register Now×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription