Big Brokers Going Local

I listened in on the Inman News Audio Conference today that focused online marketing strategies. It was well worth it and if you have the chance, I’d highly recommend sitting in on one of the calls in the future.

The panel discussed many of the themes that I have been writing about on this blog and I was very interested to hear two of the panel members explain how their companies are integrating local content into the property search functions of their web sites. Both are taking slightly different approaches.

Charlie Young from Coldwell Banker explained how they are layering neighborhood information (local shops, schools etc.) into their map search at ColdwellBanker.com.

Kaira Sturdivant Rouda of Real Living talked about how they have integrated local data into their listings through partnerships with Onboard LLC and Schoolmatters.com. (You can see an example on one of their listings).

Being that I was not familiar with either of these new initiatives, I thought I’d check them out. As tentative first steps, they are impressive – but overall they do little to add to the overall usefulness of the sites.

Here’s why.

Coldwell Banker’s solution only works on a hyper hyper-local basis. That is, the neighborhood icons only show up when you’re zoomed in so far you can only see a few streets. If I’m looking to see how far my new home is from the airport for example, this does me very little good. Furthermore, the map implementation in its current incarnation seemed overly buggy, sometimes the icons showed up – other times they don’t. It was also frustratingly slow.

Real Living’s implementation, on the other hand, is less reliant on technology but also less consumer friendly as a result – which is strange because the company is usually so consumer-focused. Clicking on the community tab on one of their listing pages reveals all kinds of data, but in this case it’s still data without context.

It’s left up to the consumer to interpret the reams of statistics that are presented. In this case, I would think that it would have been better to pick out some of the more meaningful data and display it in chart form or graphically like Neighboroo – right now it’s just a big headache.

This technology is obviously still in its infancy and I’m sure we’ll see both companies’ products evolve over time. In the mean time, I applaud them for being amongst the first out there to take the plunge.

(Full disclosure: I work for a competitor of both companies)