Most consumers have no idea what Internet Data Exchange (IDX) is, or what MLS stands for, and they don’t care.
Buyers want to know which homes are for sale and they want to see pictures. They want instant information when they want it without having to contact an agent.
There are so many myths about real estate and we like to perpetuate them with our marketing.
Some consumers that land on the home search page on my website believe that all of the homes on the site are my listings. They don’t understand broker reciprocity (the agreements that allow brokers to publicize each other’s IDX listings), and in the early stages of house hunting they don’t care. They just want to see the house.
I have had buyers find homes for sale on competitors’ sites and ask me who they have to call if they want to see the home. Some buyers assume they have to go to the listing agent, and we count on that. We can sell our listing, or we can have the buyers as clients.
We do a great job confusing buyers. A buyer may find a home listed for sale on one website and not find it on another, or the same home may be listed on a few sites and priced differently on each of them.
Edina Realty, a large local competitor, just decided that it is not going to give the major third-party sites its listings. I will be watching, but I suspect that the homes will sell just as quickly or as slowly as they did when they were listed on the third-party sites.
As a competitor, I don’t feel like they just gave me a big advantage and I am not doing the happy dance. But it will give me a chance to gather some data, and it is an opportunity to get some numbers that I can learn from.
I will still be sending my buyers emails from our MLS with information about Edina Realty listings if they fit the buyers’ criteria, and I will continue to recommend the Edina Realty website when buyers ask which local site is the best. If one of my buyers is having trouble finding Edina Realty listings, my access to the MLS will help the buyer.
It is not at all unusual for one of my clients to show me information that he or she has printed from the Edina Realty website. Buyers should choose the website that is the fastest and easiest to use. My value as an agent isn’t in my website — it is in my experience and expertise.
Real estate websites are used to market to sellers, too, but we confuse them with half-truths. One of my direct competitors gives sellers reports that show how many "hits" their home gets on the company website. Agents pitch the website, and most sellers don’t understand that their home will be on all the local brokerage IDX websites, regardless of which company represents them.
Brokerages, including Edina Realty, use their Web presence as a recruiting tool. But there are so many websites with listings on them that none of them have a very big market share. As an agent, I would not be attracted to the brokerage with the best website unless it somehow translates into more money for me.
Having a website with real estate listings is not enough to give an agent or brokerage a competitive advantage because it is so common. There is information that consumers search for that is rare. The kind of information that a real estate agent acquires with time and experience, information about neighborhoods and housing styles and photographs of streets and parks.
What do consumers think about the decisions of the National Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee, or of a large brokerage like Edina Realty? They don’t know anything about it. They just want to find homes for sale and information about buying homes.