• New Howard Hanna's company website HowardHanna.com, has been designed with features to help consumers research their property market.
  • The features will give buyers and sellers access to a combined search for active listings, recent sales and public property records.
  • Making your company website as transparent as possible to consumers will help build a more trusting relationship, the company argues.

Two years ago, the Howard Hanna Real Estate management team looked at the information that real estate portals Zillow and realtor.com were providing to consumers and thought they should be doing more to enhance the consumer experience on their own website.

“We pride ourselves on being consumer-centric. We asked: ‘Why are consumers looking at our website and then going to realtor.com or Zillow to gather research?'” said Hoby Hanna, President of Howard Hanna Midwest.

“Due to IDX [Internet data exchange], we weren’t allowed to have sold data and days on market, but that changed this year,” said Hanna, who said his business lobbied the National Association of Realtors to that end.

The result? Howard Hanna, the fourth-largest real estate company in the country, launched a new website last week, HowardHanna.com, which evens the playing field.

What’s new about it?

Consumers are able to do a combined search for active listings, recent sales and public property records, giving them a complete view of their market.

“It’s about being very transparent to the consumer. You can find public records data, you can find out what your home’s worth and what your neighbor’s house is worth,” said Hanna.

And the Pittsburgh-based company, which has expanded to 205 offices across ten states in the last few years, has put some real money behind it.

“It was a seven-figure capital expense that we earmarked,” said Hanna. And that was before staff costs were factored in — such as expanding the IT team.

Howard Hanna has also partnered with CoreLogic to gain public record access.

Howard Hanna

Hoby Hanna

“Having one trusted resource where people have all the public records data, makes it a richer consumer experience,” added Hanna.

The back end

The company spent six months on market research, invested in more computer services and worked with 1000Watt, an agency that specializes in real estate and mortgage branding, marketing and innovation, to create the website.

The upside for Howard Hanna is that by offering more information on the site, it gives its agents the opportunity to connect with prospects online in new ways.

Along with this, the consumer will have “clear calls to action” to get the assistance of a Howard Hanna agent so the website launch should translate into more traffic, more visits and more leads for Howard Hanna agents.

“We believe that the leads should go to the listing agent because they know the house best. With Howard Hanna listings, we are driving that (traffic) right to the listing agent,” said the MidWest President.

Neighborhood photos, community input

Another feature on the new website, enlisting the contributions of both consumers and agents, is called Hanna View neighborhood photos.

The Hanna View feature allows consumers and agents to display current photos of the community surrounding every listing. Howard Hanna agents can submit and get credit for community photos from their mobile phones.

“When you are buying a house, you are buying a lifestyle, you are buying a community — if someone want to post a picture of a meal they had at a Michael Symon restaurant in Cleveland, then they can,” said Hanna.

“They can say: ‘This is why I like living here.’ It takes them further,” said Hanna.

“Sellers like to tell the story of how they raised their family in their neighborhood,” he added. “We are finding that the consumer likes being involved.”

Market snapshots and AVMs for sellers

A market scan is another new feature aimed at sellers. By typing an address into the HowardHanna.com homepage, consumers will instantly receive a snapshot of market statistics, active listings and recent sold prices around the property address that has been searched. Two automated home value estimate are also included.

More to come — lots more

The company has a white board full of other ideas to come, said Hanna.

One high on the list is something similar to Facebook Chat, a consumer chat service for the website in 2016.

“People can say: ‘I saw this house and it’s beautiful, you should look at it,’” said Hanna.

Also planned for a March launch are more interactive social-media-type reviews of Howard Hanna agents. “There seems to be consumer interest in that,” said Hanna.

“It’s all about making everything very transparent.”

Linking it all together

After a period of substantial expansion, the website will “tie everyone together” at the company, said Hanna, who added that Howard Hanna remains very much a family-owned business.

“We think 2016 will be another growth year for us,” said Hanna.

Howard Hanna sold around 52,200 homes last year and had sales volume of $9.89 billion.

Email Gill South.

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