Lost in all of the hoopla around the Realtors Property Resource (RPR) database this past couple of weeks was one of the smartest strategic initiatives that the National Association of Realtors has launched in years: HouseLogic.
And while RPR is and will remain a hot topic for the next few weeks, for the average broker/agent the impact of RPR may not be felt all that deeply. HouseLogic, on the other hand, holds the possibility of being a real game-changer.
What Is HouseLogic?
Since the site is now live, albeit in beta as most Web sites these days appear to be at launch, you can go check it out for yourself at: www.houselogic.com. The first thing you’ll notice is the high quality of design and user interface.
Designed and developed by the world-class team at Huge Inc., a New York City-based Web design shop, HouseLogic is as attractive as a "corporate" Web site can get, and intuitive in navigation.
The color scheme is clean and the typography is clear. The functionality is interesting, and the content seems appropriate for the target audience: active homeowners.
HouseLogic is filled with tips and tricks, advice on various aspects of home maintenance and home improvement, as well as news about real estate and homeownership. Much of the content appears to be syndicated from existing publications via YellowBrix, but there are articles from various freelance writers, newspaper reprints and other content sources.
I have no real criticism; in fact, I think the Web site is handsome, useful and extremely well-designed.
Interestingly enough, there’s a whole section on HouseLogic called "Engage" that offers articles such as "7 Tips for Writing Letters that Change Your Home Town" and "Stop Speeders in Your Neighborhood."
The heart and soul of HomeLogic.com is political advocacy. If NAR is successful here, HouseLogic will permanently change the landscape for Realtors.
‘Wonder Twin powers, activate!’
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Report, in third-quarter 2009 there were some 75.3 million owner-occupied housing units in the United States, with 67.6 percent of all households being homeowners. …CONTINUED
Most of the time, these roughly 75 million homeowner households do not interact with a real estate professional. In fact, if NAR’s projection of 5 million homes sold in 2009 holds true, then some 10 million households (half sellers and half buyers) are interacting with a Realtor in any given year.
What HouseLogic aims to do is to organize some portion of the remaining 65 million homeowner households who are not in the market into allies of the real estate profession.
By offering useful tips, hints and articles, HouseLogic aims to get homeowners more interested in their homes, more interested in maintaining and improving the value of their homes, and ultimately more interested in taking political action that supports home valuations, home sales and homeownership.
For example, if Congress were to start debating elimination of the mortgage-interest deduction, NAR may be able to rally homeowners who might otherwise not care too much about tax esoterica to write their "congresscritters."
If NAR can get just 5 percent of the 75 million homeowners to register with HouseLogic and agree to get contacted about a particular piece of legislation or regulation, then the 1.1 million members of NAR will get 3.75 million new allies.
That would represent, quite simply, the largest expansion of political power for NAR and for the real estate brokerage industry in a century. And NAR is, at its base, a political advocacy organization.
The long-range implications of such a move are staggering. If NAR is successful in organizing, activating, and then mobilizing even a small fraction of American homeowners, its influence at all levels of government would go from powerful to nearly irresistible.
While the political implications are impossible to judge, there are some interesting possibilities for industry change should HouseLogic live up to its promise.
First, the success of HouseLogic opens the door for serious pruning of the ranks of Realtors. Today, political power for NAR comes from its 1.1 million members and their dues. However, the unintended consequence of having so many Realtors means that the Realtor brand loses much of its power.
Becoming a member of NAR is not exactly the most difficult thing in the world. What if it were? What if a licensee had to jump through serious hoops, really prove his/her expertise, dedication to client service, and ethical behavior before he/she could wear the Realtor tag? What if "Realtor" carried the same cachet as "certified public accountant" or "registered nurse"? …CONTINUED
Second, there are interesting possibilities for leveraging HouseLogic as a hyperlocal customer relationship management tool for savvy Realtors. In fact, if there is anything missing in HouseLogic as it is today, it is a way to bring Realtors into the mix in an elegant way.
I rather suspect this was done on purpose, as success for HouseLogic depends on homeowners feeling that it is a resource for them, as opposed to a marketing channel for Realtors. And, let’s face it, Realtors are not generally known for holding back when it comes to marketing properties.
Nonetheless, once HouseLogic has settled in, and has begun to draw an audience, one could imagine opening it up to well-trained Realtors who are savvy in the ways of social media to become resources on a hyperlocal basis to the homeowners in their area.
For example, who better to keep track of local ordinances that might affect property valuations than a local Realtor? If that information can be posted to, let’s say, "millburn.houselogic.com," the Realtor who is serving as the source might find it easier to brand himself as a local expert.
Third, HouseLogic opens up interesting opportunities for collaboration with media companies that are extremely interested in hyperlocal but haven’t quite figured out how to do it. Most Realtor blogs today are concerned with the buying and selling of houses; things like political news, a mainstay of media, are typically avoided by Realtors.
HouseLogic might open up the possibility of partnerships between news organizations that don’t have boots on the ground and the members of HouseLogic who are politically active homeowners and the members of NAR. The possibilities are intriguing.
Tomorrow starts today
The vision of HouseLogic is a grand one. The possibilities are enticing. The impact of a successful HouseLogic initiative is far-reaching. But it all starts with execution today.
The first step — the launching of an attractive, easy-to-use Web site — is extremely positive. HouseLogic.com is a site that any organization could be proud of.
The next steps — maintaining it, bringing the audience together, marketing it, and convincing homeowners to join up, to care, and to become politically activated — are where the challenge lies. Good luck to the HouseLogic team.
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