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Is the Post-Internet Real Estate Search Experience Better or Worse?

Brian Boero from 1000Watt has alluded to a theme in previous writing (I can’t remember the exact post though to link to):

The post-internet-enabled real estate experience is worse than before.

He mentioned that again on an Inman Connect panel I saw last week in San Francisco. Greg picked up on it as well.

There are two big components to the “real estate experience”: the search process, and the transaction (which I’m not discussing in this post).

Prior to the internet, your search experience was either walk/drive around town and look for lawn signs or, talk to an agent who knew everything on the market. You may have looked at several homes your agent manually curates for you.

Today, you likely search dozens of websites, several mobile apps and look at hundreds of listings. Perhaps you look at two dozen homes in person with an agent.

Bottom line: buyers have access to exponentially more information (which is great) — but they also spend considerably more time looking at homes (not necessarily a good thing).

You used to talk to an agent because you couldn’t get any information without one. Now, you talk to an agent because there is too much information available, and you want someone to filter through the crap and give your relevant, curated, personalized advice.

Is today’s real estate search experience really that much better than it was prior to the internet? (it’s worth noting Inman Connect included a panel called “How the Media Flunks the Truth Test: Confusing the Public for Clicks“)

I still firmly believe the future of search is super simple, curated search (see here and here).

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • As a home buyer pre-internet and post internet I think the experience now is much better. Pre-internet I found my home via a stamp sized black and white photo in a home magazine. Now I can see up to 25 large color photos of any home that interests me, plus stay on top of new homes that hit the market so I don’t miss anything. I think this is a better experience.

    Yes there are more options now, more information to sift through, but that is better than pre-internet and not having access to new listings.

    Regarding curated searches, we already do this. We setup what we call a Watch List for our leads and clients. In the last month we sent out 258,719 curated search emails to our leads. Setting up these custom emails for leads and clients is my largest marketing expense.

    • What specifically is a watch list? is it manually curated on a buyer by buyer basis?

      • Yes, we manually curate it for each buyer. It is one or more searches setup to send them listings that meet their needs. We then follow-up on each Watch List we create to see if any changes are needed. Many of our leads appreciate getting notified of the listings that meet their needs.

    • Do you use a specific system to send out these watch lists? Like a special tool or program? Would be curious to know how you manage that system.

      • I developed my website so we use something I wrote, but all Realtor websites such as Real Geeks, Boomtown, etc. support a Watch List I think.

        They might call it something else, such as signing up for new listings that meet your needs, but it is the same concept. I get regular emails from a competitor who uses Boomtown and they are pretty good about this and tracking the user.

        • I should further clarify how we do it. We use a VA to create these Watch Lists. We do it based on what people are looking at.

          I developed a summary report that shows what a lead is viewing by price range, neighborhood, etc. What we found is looking at every property they viewed is more time consuming to extrapolate what should be on their Watch List, so the summary report is sorted by what is most important to them.

          For example, if 80% of their searches are from $700,000 to $1,000,000, but then they browse 2 properties over $1,000,000, we won’t even show the over $1,000,000 on the summary report. We want to focus in on where most of their searches are being made. The summary report eliminates searches that don’t meet a minimum threshold. Then it sorts what is left from most popular to least popular. This allows the VA to focus in easily on what is most important for that client.

          • Thanks for the clarification. I have a system that sends similar things out. But if sounds like your system is more robust and does it better than most other services. The advantage of developing your website that way is having that control and customization.

          • Right.. but the downside is every little thing you want done takes custom coding. Pluses and negatives to both approaches for websites.

          • As I write my own code that is an upside for me. If I want to make a change, I can do it. Many changes just take minutes.

            I think the big negative if you do it yourself and don’t code is the cost. You can still get everything you want, but you have to pay a lot for it.

            That is what makes those ready to go packages so nice. They have almost everything you want, and probably a lot of things you did not even know you needed until you start using it, all at a nice monthly flat price.

          • I have used a couple of those “ready to go packages” or services. The hardest part is picking the right one and finding the one where the cost makes sense for your utilization rate of what they offer.

          • Of course. It is how you want to show your value. For some, being able to code everything how they want means they have complete control.

  • I’m not buying it. Pre-internet, you asked an agent and they showed you what they wanted to show you. It may have been the best available, and may have been everything available, but you didn’t know for sure.

    Ignorance is bliss.

    You can still do that today, if you’d like to. Or, you can do a lot of research on your own and cover your bases. Just because some consumers allow themselves to become overloaded by information doesn’t mean the entire process is becoming worse.

    • Agree with you. You didn’t know whether the agent was showing you everything or not. Even today, I’m not sure you really know or not. You have to trust your agent has your best interests in mind.

      I’m not in a position to say, really. Since I’ve never bought a home. I did just go through the rental search process, and that was pretty crappy.

    • Yeah I can totally relate to your point of view here. I think Brian is pointing his narrative towards brokerages and tech, reminding them to design more elegant solutions as possible. I don’t take it literally.

    • Peter Liem

      ….It is like buying a car. Some people spent hours comparing price between dealership for the best prices and negotiating with the sales person. Then They spend next several day searching the internet and found that the price that they paid was just the average. They become obsessed instead go out there and enjoying their brand new car.

  • Looking at this from both sides:

    The Consumer: As mentioned, post internet search for the buyer is better. You have less risk of an agent only giving you what they want to show you, and anytime the consumer has more information, it is a benefit for them. A more informed and smarter consumer means other companies have to step up their game to stay relevant in the market. At the end of the day, that usually will mean a better product.

    Real Estate Industry: From our standpoint, this is frustrating because the consumer visits and goes to so many places during their search. We spend time and money building our product and we don’t like getting outplayed by the big websites/services.

    From my standpoint, as a full service brokerage, we see the most value in our work when we can take the customer from the very start and help them all the way to the end. We don’t want users on our site because of “clicks”. I don’t even make money that way. I want them there because that is truly how I can assist them better.

    I like the post internet search for the consumer. I just have to adjust my strategy in areas to find ways to show value to our clients. I teach and train my agents to understand value to their clients is from their protection and negotiation skills in real estate. In reality, clients come to them already doing the home search and knowing what they want. As an agent, if you can get them through the process with no hassle, that is worth a lot to a client, especially if you are negotiating on their behalf and getting them a better “deal”.

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