Real estate search’s final hour

Real estate search’s final hour … has not arrived.

Not by a long shot.

Here’s why:

Think about who actually engineered search for real estate. Programmers — guys and gals with 180 IQs — guided by folks who get their kicks from Excel.

There is not enough input from the people who really matter: Brokers, agents, consumers.

Everyone ought to stop for a second and ponder this:

  • Humans don’t search by ZIP code.
  • Humans don’t search homes from space. Or on maps filled with little blue markers.
  • Human don’t analyze comprehensive Census data that pop off listings like a Crayola box of colored graphs, charts and heat maps.
  • Humans don’t understand the difference between a "hybrid," "satellite" or "list" view.
  • Humans don’t sift through 12,000 listings that "match my criteria."
  • Humans don’t "save searches."
  • Humans don’t want to view only eight crappy pictures of a home.
  • Humans don’t want their search experience cluttered with advertising.
  • Human don’t benefit from poorly executed applications that include home-value estimates that can never be accurate, no matter how many Ph.D.s are thrown at them.

All of this … stuff. I applaud it for what it is. But it’s not great. Because in the end it’s very different from how humans actually search for homes.

"I am human and I need to be loved"

  • Humans drive around neighborhoods.
  • Humans meet neighbors.
  • Humans ask lots of questions.
  • Humans like to talk to the seller.
  • Humans spend time getting a feel for the neighborhood.
  • Humans test-drive the commute from prospective home to work.
  • Humans like to look at six homes that match their criteria, to a tee.
  • Humans require affirmation. They like to be gently nudged and influenced.

And most of all, humans like to converse.
They like to tell their agent who they are.
And technology has been making all this harder and harder to do.

If I could set the stage for what search should be, it would be a way to take this next paragraph and turn it into a search experience:

"Hi Barb. This is Marc. My wife and I are hoping you can help us find a home. See, she is an artist. An illustrator to be exact. Works for Disney. Me, well, I can’t draw a straight line to save my life. But I love to cook. It relaxes me.

"Anyway, we’ve been renting and now want to buy. We’re planning to start a family. Actually, we’ve already been trying. What would be ideal is a home with an Arts and Crafts feel rather than the standard split-level. But it has to have a cook’s kitchen. And a nice backyard. One where I can plant basil, garlic and tomatoes because I make a mean marinara.

"We want to be as close to things like mass transit and city life as we can but just far enough away to see the stars at night, sit on the porch and hear crickets. Oh yeah, we want two bedrooms — at the least. Three is better. And enough room to entertain.

"And finally, a space where my wife and I can work from home and be inspired."

Innovation

Programmers: Want to be innovative? Create a natural search paradigm that gets us moving toward this.

Agents: You want leads? Imagine if you could actually describe homes in a manner that reflects how people think. Imagine being able to tag every key word inside the following description:

"Beautiful Arts and Crafts house, close enough to the city but far enough away to enjoy crickets. Or a starlight night. A home perfect for a young family, empty nester and anyone inspired by decor. With a great flow. And a backyard perfect for planting. Sunning. And gathering your thoughts."

Imagine posting 50 pictures. That are clear. With a description of what every picture is and what the room evokes.

Imagine incorporating local data and writing about it. Explaining what a "3" means when describing a school or a test score. Or what a "66" means when describing a housing trend.

You may point out at this point that we can’t even make RETS, a standard for real estate data exchange, work across the country.

That agents don’t take pictures.

That the multiple listing service system is medieval.

I know.

But maybe, they’ve never been really inspired to change.
Or truly show how.

But those excuses are not going to make search’s finest hour come any faster.

Keep pushing.

Marc Davison is a partner at 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.

***

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