OpinionAgent

Opinion: When the Web is for shoppers, where do you find buyers and sellers?

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Takeaways:

  • Real estate websites, apps and other tools are amazing for shoppers, but not great for buyers or sellers.
  • The Zillow-dotloop transaction could be a step toward bridging the gap.
  • We as an industry need to make shopping, buying and selling more user-friendly.   

Take a look at your website. If it’s like most real estate websites, it probably has a lot of great stuff for home shopping.

And we do an excellent job for our shoppers. We have pictures, videos, 3-D walk-throughs, mapping, school reports, walkability scores and like a million other cool little features.

Plus, our sites and apps have all sorts of tools to do searches, save favorites, and set up automatic alerts and more.

But here’s the thing — they’re only for shoppers. They’re not for buyers, and they’re definitely not for sellers.

Most real estate websites are not designed for buyers because they become useless once you find a home to buy.

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For example, I was in the market to purchase a home over the past year, and I was obsessive. I was on every email alert; I was on sites and apps just about every night. I probably logged hundreds of hours looking at homes.

And then once I had an accepted offer, I was pretty much done. Those emails were mostly just annoying spam, and I almost never visited the websites or apps.

Why? Because I wasn’t shopping anymore — I was buying. And most sites have little to offer buyers going through a transaction — doing an inspection, finalizing a contract, getting a mortgage, clearing title, securing insurance, closing and moving.

Real estate websites don’t have resources to help me through that process. They’re useless to buyers.

They’re also mostly useless to sellers. Let me be clear — most sites and apps do an amazing job marketing properties, which is obviously an important service for sellers.

But why do sellers even need to go onto our sites, other than to check to make sure the pictures on their listing are correct?

Think about it: Roughly half of our clients are sellers, and yet we provide virtually no services to them through our state-of-the-art websites.

That’s what I discovered once my home was on the market. Yes, I checked out my own listing fairly often. But there wasn’t much else for me to do.

That brings us to Zillow’s acquisition of dotloop. Full disclosure — my company has a contract with dotloop and a relationship with Zillow.  So this is a — well — interesting development to me personally.

But I’m more intrigued by what this says about where the industry might be going, whether we are finally going to start to see companies building online tools that provide services to clients beyond the shopping experience.

Certainly, I’ve seen more activity in this area in the past few years than I did in the past 10 and not just services like dotloop.

For example, my company has also done deals with Amitree, which guides a homebuyer through the transactional process with customizable checklists, and Updater, which helps make the “change of address” process easier.

They’re both great, and they’re both addressing our need as a brokerage to provide our clients with post-contract services.

And now we’re seeing the biggest “shopping” site merge with one of the key industry players in transaction management.

What that says to me is that Zillow understands the limitations of the services it’s been providing. And that it’s looking to bring the same spirit of innovation that it’s brought to the shopping experience and apply it to the much more complicated, cumbersome and fraught process of buying and selling a home.

It’s just another way that Zillow is challenging the rest of the industry to raise its game. As brokers, we’ve traditionally ceded our responsibility for the transactional experience.

We might do great work helping a buyer find a home and helping a seller get into contract, but at that point, we lose control over that client’s experience. The client is then in the hands of the attorneys, lenders or settlement companies.

That’s one reason so many real estate firms have opened affiliate home service companies in the past decade. It’s not just about generating more revenue from an existing client base; it’s about getting more control over the process of buying or selling a home.

After all, a client might be thrilled with an agent but come away from the experience feeling miserable after going through the rest of the transactional wringer.

But as brokers we need to do more than just have those services available — we need to find better ways to integrate them so that a real estate client has a seamless experience from beginning to end with effortless transitions at each stage of the process.

And that starts with our websites, which need to provide services to buyers who have already found their home, and sellers who have just put their home on the market. Our websites and apps can’t just be about shoppers.

After all, we don’t make any money from just shoppers.

Joseph Rand is one of the managing partners of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate – Rand Realty in New York and New Jersey, and blogs about his local markets at the Rand Country Blog and about the industry at ClientOrientedRealEstate.com.

Email Joseph Rand.