- Homes.com has renovated its home search experience from the studs up. The new site allows for group sharing, discussion of listings and using mobile images of homes as the baseline for a search.
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When a real estate company initially hires a web design firm, the company will ask the firm to share a few websites that inspire it. This gives the company a place to start, and a look inside what the firm prefers. That concept is one of the primary drivers behind the all-new Homes.com, which launched last week to place emphasis on user experience.
The new website was developed in conjunction with Norfolk, Virginia-based digital marketing firm, Grow.
The site’s approach is more about service than shopping, presenting real estate consumers a range of methods to find a house in a minimalist, distraction-free and heavily malleable interface.
Whereas the homepage of Zillow actively pushes its calls to action, e.g. “Buy,” “Rent,” “Sell,” “Zestimate,” the new Homes.com’s approach opens with a softer pitch, offering the user a light, first-person “fill-in-the blank” request form to begin the search.
This point-of-entry tactic provides users a sense of control over their options, and interaction with the drop-down menus provides a “sense of calm” before diving into the market.
Once perusing a specific property, Homes.com greatly reduces the shopper’s pressure to reach listing agents by presenting their information and a contact form in a dynamic sidebar.
Users can ask questions as needed out from under the ever-present reminder that agents want their business. It seems like a contrarian approach for listing agents advertising with Homes.com, but this works in the industry’s favor.
The HomeShare feature allows shoppers to share and chat about listings with friends on multiple home search lists.
Listings can be filtered according to “must haves” and “like to haves.”
The mobile-forward, snap-happy consumer of today should enjoy Snap & Search, an engaging way to inform their agent of what they’re looking for when browsing on mobile devices. The function creates a home search based on a picture, i.e., “Show me more homes that look like this.”
The new website provides a matching score that rates each property according to search preferences. When a home isn’t 100 percent, the graph shares that it may be missing that coveted fenced yard or two-car garage.
“This is a built-from-scratch, consumer-first website that integrates the voice of the professional,” said David Mele, president of Homes.com. “We wanted to get out of the sea of sameness when it comes to home search.”
Mele describes Homes.com’s new user experience as “conversational.”
“We wanted to emulate how a homebuyer actually speaks to their agent,” he said.
Gone also is the requirement to search according to hard price filters, as every agent knows a buyer’s initial budget is merely a starting point.
Overall, the new Homes.com operates from the standpoint of an app, as opposed to a clinical, paint-by-numbers method of finding a home. It feels friendlier, and less about business. However, I admit to being surprised by a lack of emphasis on video with the new design, as that’s become a powerful and easy way for agents to push listings.
The Snap & Search tool is currently in beta, which suggests that Homes.com may have designs on rolling it out as a separate product.
There is also a property recommendation tool that for now, uses simple preference matching to offer additional listings outside a buyer’s search. Plans are calling for this to become a more sophisticated, AI-backed feature.
“We evaluated the landscape of home search, and decided we had to come up with a new way,” Mele said.
Homes.com is based in Norfolk, Virginia, and is currently the fourth-largest home search portal.
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