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December 13, 2005


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Risa and David Weiss


With my success on-line in selling real estate, I can speak from experience and as somewhat of an expert on how to convert web surfers into happy home sellers and buyers.

REALTORs across the country - please, please, please do not give away our greatest asset - OUR DATA. People will register on your site to view the data, and will not be scared away - TRUST ME.

In the past year, I've had about 1300 users register on my Chicago MLS Search site at http://chicago.yourinternetagents.com/chicago-mls-search.html and search for homes. Do the math - even if you can convert just 1% of the leads, that's more than one transaction a month.

And if your new buyers have a property to sell, too, maybe you get another 3 or 4 to add to your 13, for a total of 17 transactions. It's a no-brainer.

But don't give away OUR data for nothing. Try this scenario on for size:

Your potential client surfed all day long on your free, no-registration IDX site, picked a dozen properties they liked, then went to a friend-of-a-freind who was a REALTOR that never bothered to even set up a web site and said, "I went on so-and-so's site - here are the properties I want you to take me to." And you never even got the chance to sell yourself and your services to them.

Don't give away OUR data.

Tim O'Keefe

Agreed and thank you for your consitently great commentary!

How Good Is Your Data Anyway?????????????


For starters I have enjoyed your comments and the other agents on this article.

However I have to disagree them. The consensus out there is that the MLS is moving towards being free and accessible by all.

My main reason for agreeing with this shift is the fact that by not sharing the MLS, Realtors are going against their very own ethics codes. By not exposing the listings as far and wide as they can the brokers are not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities to their sellers.
All this in the name of profits from their buyers agents that use this proprietary MLS data. Its wrong, and it is about time the US Justice Department did something about it. (if anyone out there doesn’t agree, don’t just believe me… check out http://www.antitrustinstitute.org/recent2/464.cfm and see what they are meeting about in Washington)

If you and the other agent (and i figure most agents out there, myself not included of course) feel that this is a bad idea.... well I could see why. By capturing the leads you are able to milk a small conversion ratio from the data.

How about adding new and proprietary data to the MLS so that even if the data is free, you become a resource not a gatekeeper to these web surfers. A good example of this would be this very blog that you have created.

That is what I have done and will continue to do. In my opinion the days of making a living off MLS data by itself will soon be over. The agents of the future will bring extra resources to the table and sales will correlate with agents "Value Add".

Now before you say it, this is in now way an attack on you two personally... just by having a blog and discussing these issues I can tell you guys bring that extra value add that i am talking about.

I wish you guys a profitable 06'... but just know that people out there like myself are creating alternate business models to capture the changing market demands this article discusses.

PS. Who actually enters in correct data in those entry forms anyway :)


Tim O'Keefe

I do appreciate your comments anonymous.

You implied in your post that you think I might be an agent. I used to be years ago. But I am an Online Marketer. I run http://SpiderJuiceTechnologies.com , and mostly specialize in Real Estate agent and Mortgage Broker online Marketing. This includes search engine optimization, pay per click marketing and lead capture consultations.

Agents and Brokers invest a very pretty penny with us. They also pay heavily for their other online tools like websites, CRM realational databases and follow up systems.

So, I am selfish in my posts as my "take" on events are from an ex-Realtors point of view and for the benefit of my clients. If my clients don't make money, we don't make money.

If they are not capturing customer data, my huge looming question is, "why be online"?

Here are some big lessons that I have learned from my years competing online:

1. You are competing against not just other agents online. You are competing against companies like Homegain, Lead Aggragator Companies, and others.

A search in Yahoo right now for the term Ventura real estate rendered just 5 agents/brokers. The rest were non-local agent websites. I have done searches before that showed only one agent. I assure you that these companies love that the MLS could be open and free. That will make them more powerful, and you less vital to the lead part of the home buy/sell equation. Then of course they will sell you the lead;-O

2. Searchers are by and large looking for information. In the case of the home sale or purchase, that search is to compare homes(meaning from a search engine, this may not be true for others that see your URL on a card or ad).

As most veteran agents know, buyers do not pick the first house they see.

3. Since most buyers (according to one study) can take up to over a year and a half to buy, I don't think it prudent to risk that they will remember their bookmark off one site. Only an adequate CRM process can remind them of where to find you. Isn't that a nice service to offer the visitor?

4. The over riding rule is that the money is in your list, not your website. The website(s) sole purpose is to create that list.

I think where most agents go wrong is that they try to balance between the image/brand and the lead capture, but that is a discussion for another day. Many have not defined the purpose of their website.

Free Information is Worth How Much?

Real Estate agents for years have given away their time and money in the name of service. Perhaps it came from the often used 30 points of action/flip book idea.

It seems the industry is stuck in 'loving them into working with me' scenario. That never sat well with me when I was an agent, and it certainly does not now. This is analgous to I want my Wife to love me (in my best Austin Power voice, "yah baby"!). But I certainly do not want my prospective attorney loving me. As I would see this as cheap sales tactics.

I suspect this idea of a free-open mls, without registration, is part of the 'love them to death' strategy?

I consult with hundreds of agents and brokers a year. Currently, I find that it seems like the public is perceiving that the MLS data is a free service anyway. This is a problem. As buyers or sellers will say, "please take me off your list. I bought from an agent I met at an open house."

What value does Free currently hold? ZERO!

This is the Napster affect I spoke of earlier. If you give it all away, you don't have anything else to sell them.

::You said: By not exposing the listings as far and wide as they can the brokers are not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities to their sellers. ::::

Most agents do offer a tease of the listings information (neighborhood,price,size, etc) that coaxes the visitor into the registration form to see more. How can this be wrong? What I argue against is just giving away all the pictures, addresses and complete information about a property such that you in effect running a charity.

::You Said: MLS is moving towards being free and accessible by all. ::

Agreed. And if NAR does not do something to make it such that they are inserted into this disentegration of the current model, the industry will be unrecognizeable.

I really believe, that there is a push to disentegrate the current real estate models. It is unreasonable to think it will change anytime soon. Usually trends however, are proceeded by short bursts of similar activity. Punk Music preceeded rap as an example.

Flat fee and free open listings, are a look into the future.

And NAR had better have plans to insert themselves into the changing lanscape.

::You Said: If anyone out there doesn’t agree, don’t just believe me… check out http://www.antitrustinstitute.org/recent2/464.cfm and see what they are meeting about in Washington ::

I don't much faith in politicians and think tanks to fix things. And I certainly don't look towards them on issues of wrong and right. As they usually dont get the real world. However, I went to the site and I saw some commentary on price fixing and what not.

The first question to consider is there a problem?

I am not sure there is. The argument is that all the agents are charging 6% or whatever.
Well what is the alternative? I think the assumption is that if there was a totally open database people would freely buy and sell real estate and we would have Nirvana.

Then why don't we have that for Stocks and Bonds and other markets?

At the end of the day, the salesperson/broker is neccessary. It is a people business. And the website is merely a way to get them into your sales funnel.

The web cannot sell a house. It will never happen.

::You Said: How about adding new and proprietary data to the MLS so that even if the data is free, you become a resource not a gatekeeper to these web surfers.A good example of this would be this very blog that you have created....
That is what I have done and will continue to do. In my opinion the days of making a living off MLS data by itself will soon be over. The agents of the future will bring extra resources to the table and sales will correlate with agents "Value Add"....
Now before you say it, this is in no way an attack on you two personally... just by having a blog and discussing these issues I can tell you guys bring that extra value add that i am talking about. ::

I appreciate your kind words. The reason that I blog is that it allows me to become a thought leader. Thus, my blog acts as proof that I know what I am talking about when someone wants to work with me. It also builds my list.

Thus, the authority of my industry is why I blog. I do not give away our proprietary processes. I merely proove out thru my writing that we really do know what we are talking about. When you are an obvious expert, it makes it a whole lot easier to sell something.

The mistake I see many agents make is that they start blogging about stuff that has nothing to do with why they are an expert.

If I was still a Realtor, I would blog about everything that concerned the prospective buyer and sellers in my industry. I would stay away from journalistic type endeavors and attempt to show my total grasp of all things that can affect property values and home purchases. It would be very opininated. Opinons are what seperates you from the large herd of other Realtors.

I am not saying you have to be dry. I think my blog tends to be dry sometimes and could probably use some more bubbly personality.

So by all means put personality into it. As this is who these buyers and sellers are going to work with. But realize always the risk of dampening your expertise.

As an example, displaying pictures of someone who just closed on a house you sold is kind of cool and offers Social Proof that you know how to do what you write about.

The extra value I provide on this blog is, in my humble opinion unique, and clearly positions my expertise over my subject matter. As it should. I see most blogs as unclear attempts to add value without knowing the goal of the site. Serving A Top Sirloin to a Vegetarian is not adding value (although to me it would be!).

Thus, we have to focus on what is value to the consumer.

The themes in my blog are what I think are the looming issues that most agents/brokers are considering.

I guess I will leave you this. If the Search Engines changed tommorrow. If they all dissappeared. What would you be left with? The right answer is your list. The money is and always will be in your list.

How Good Is Your Data Anyway?????????????


Thanks for the great response. I am not the experienced bloger that you are so i will compose my thoughts and write more soon.

Hawaii real estate

well i guess i better change my site. maybe this is why i keep getting junk information from people who are just wanting to look at mls info.

i suppose if someone wants free information it's out there anyway.


Tim -
2 things:
1 - Let's be straight about the facts. The Napster case was Metallica standing up for proprietary ownership of copyrighted creative and intellectual property. If you want to pick bones about articles posted in news media how about giving the author credit. Grabbing content from a news source, quoting the entire article, and adding you own commentary is why countless rap artists lost lawsuits for sampling other artist's property. Real estate listings are not intellectual property and comparing open access to the MLS with the Napster case is ludicrous.

2 – You started your commentary saying that a real estate web site has never sold a house. As an owner of a web development firm for real estate offices I can honestly say that you're dead wrong. We have a client who both listed and sold a house via their web site once they offered open access to MLS listings.

Capturing data is critical, but the reason Ebay and Amazon have been so successful is that they allow “window shopping”. You said that you wouldn't spend time with a window shopper. That's fine – open access to listings allows you to do exactly that: not spend time with window shoppers. At the same point by requiring a login for MLS listings you're telling window shoppers “either talk to me or I'll have security throw you out of my store”. A recent prospect gave us a list of 60+ contacts from one month from his site which required a login for listings. 90% were garbage! One of our clients had the same amount of contacts from his open listings site: 90% were valid! By requiring visitors to log in you're capturing information, but spending more time and money weeding out the bad information.

There is an argument to be made for data capture. There are ways of capturing data from open MLS web sites. To be honest: requiring a login is both ineffectual and non creative. Educated and experienced web users will find the information somewhere else if you don't give it to them, and educated and experienced web users are exactly who Realtors need.

John B


I guess I better chime in because I wrote that article in RIsmedia.

I appreciate your comments, but if you could let me comment on your comments :)

"I have yet to see a Realtor Website sell a property. That is not the point of a Real Estate agent website. Or an ad, open house, or any other promotion that features a property. The point is to build a data base of prospects. Everyone should know that very few people ever buy a home off an ad. Especially as markets soften."

My Comment:

You're absolutley right. Actually the website should also enhance the realtors "brand" in the visitors mind. It should also capture those visitors who are ready to buy right now (I think some statistics say around 4%). At Ion we see the goal is capture those who are ready to buy right now and give information to those that aren't ready to buy...with as many calls to action as possible. Our research shows that a majority of the leads that require a login are junk.

"Thinking that a consumer will loyaly just come back to a real estate website without prodding shows complete misunderstanding of the web. If you are driving down the street and want a Slurpee. On the right hand side is a 7-11, and on the Left is a Circle K, which one are going into. The most convenient one to pull into. Comparatively there is no unique difference from the two stores. The visitor knows that your listings are the same as the other sites listings."

My Comment: I can't vouch for other real estate websites but our statistics show that many of first time visitors are returning. I guess this is where your 7-11 / Circle K analogy breaks down in our case. All we do is custom websites with integrated MLS data (no framing). Our tag line is "Attract or Repel, It's your choice". Our sites are attractive and standout...people who aren't ready to buy right then come back.

"Sales is about qualifying. And if I had a person come into my "widget" store, I would not spend time with that person at all if they continued to window shop. I can still be pleasant and humble. But if I place any value on my time, service, or product, I had better be picky. Any top producer in real estate that I have ever known is extremely particular about their time and who they are willing to expend that time with."

My Comment: And how much time is the realtor spending with those who don't contact them? How about those who fill out the contact from as joeblow@joeblow.com. We've seen it. People fill out bogus information because they are not ready to talk to you yet. Those who are ready to buy or sell fill out good info...they have not reason to fill out bogus info.

"Information for a price. The transaction that occurs on a website is I have homes with extensive information. If you want it, I have it. The price for admission is your name, email, phone + or -. People by and large will not come back to your site because you were so kind to give out all the information. Study a great upcall Realtor in any office. They have this attitude that you will not find out all you want to know about this property unless the callers gives up some revealing informationabout their motivation. And they then go thru a dance of give and take."

My Comment: We actually work with the top producing agents and brokers in RI (at least 100 transactions per year). Also study the big lead generation companies. Realtors are getting sick of them because generally they get non motivated buyers or sellers and have to incubate the leads...let the buyer or seller incubate themselves.

Tim, I think we just have a different approach to arrive at the same goal. Shoot me an e-mail sometime and we can continue the debate....john.boudreau@ionmarketinggroup.com

Great blog btw....happy holidays..

Hawaii real estate

Tim, anonymous, and others,
i have found that on my site, if people want to give me info, they will give me bogus name and email etc. I'm not sure people get stopped by the info asking or not, but I do get a lot of bogus.

For a while I was on page 1 of Google on "honolulu real estate" but somehow last week I fell off, so now I can't even test your theory because my traffic dropped off of http://www.honolulu-realestate.net

I'm trying to take your advice and start blogging alot and promoting my blog to get traffic to my other site, but it's a slow process? how many years of blogging at http:alohatony.blogspot.com before I make a real impact?

i googled "real estate blogs" and some not so good ones actually come up on page 1. Geez, I can do better than that!

Toronto Real Estate Blog

Re : "I have yet to see a Realtor Website sell a property."

I sold at least 4 properties this year as a direct result of exposure on my site or mls.ca

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