- Using your website or app compels you to use your own technology the way a client does.
- I wanted to experience the real estate industry, and particularly my website, as a client, and I kept finding limitations on our site that annoyed me as a user -- stuff that I would never have discovered if just by clicking around and "testing" the site.
- What we think buyers want might be different from what buyers actually want; you'll never know that until you use your site the way your clients have to.
How often do you use your own website or app?
Yes, I know that you probably bookmark your own site. You’ll hop on to look up an individual property, or you’ll check out a new feature to make sure it’s working. But how often do you use your site the way that an actual buyer would?
That’s one of the reasons I think that real estate brokers should be forced to move every five years — because it compels you to use your own technology the way a client does.
Just like every hotel owner should book a room at least once a year, every restaurateur should occasionally put on a wig and fake mustache and eat a meal. And all brokers and agents should periodically buy and sell a home using the tools that they provide their clients.
OK, maybe you don’t have to buy or sell something. That could get expensive. But you should do more than just an occasional click-through to see what the property detail page looks like. And you need to do more than just hire some firm to do a website usability study. You need to do it yourself.
It’s amazing what you’ll learn. In the past year, I went through the process of buying a home, and I vowed that I would not “cheat” and go into the back end of the MLS to get information.
I wanted to experience the real estate industry, and particularly my website, as a client.
And it was my website developer’s worst nightmare because I kept finding limitations on our site that annoyed me as a user — stuff that I would never have discovered just by clicking around and “testing” the site.
And probably stuff that “professional users” might not have uncovered. After a bunch of emails and memos, he’s not speaking to me anymore, and I honestly don’t blame him.
To be fair to my guy, I also used the portals as a comparison and found that they often had the same annoying limitations.
For example, no one gives me enough good sold data. As a broker, I know that we have lots of historical limitations on providing sold data to users, and I don’t want to get into all that.
But as a homebuyer — that stuff is gold. I’m trying to figure out whether a listing is well-priced, and the only comparison point I can generally find is other listings for sale — which is not helpful.
Nothing is as useful as sold data, but our industry still has an almost congenital aversion to providing it quickly and transparently — the last gasp of the gatekeeper mentality.
Similarly, I can never find out what’s going on with listings that aren’t on the market anymore. I save a property. A week later, it’s no longer active.
But from my perspective, it’s just gone. So what happened? Maybe it’s under contract. Maybe it terminated. Maybe it expired. Who knows? It’s an unfathomable mystery.
And those are just examples. The point is — what we think buyers want might be different from what buyers actually want. You will never know that until you use your site the way your clients have to.
Just be prepared for your Web developer to eventually hate you.
Read Part 1, “Realtyperson, heal thyself: Why you should move every 5 years.”
Joe 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.