I know this will be as popular with some agents as using a road map or set of questions when following up with a prospect 😉
I have been selling real estate online at a pretty high level for about 6 years now. I have also done a lot of A & B testing with required registration and without. Our analytics tell us that required registration, if done correctly, will convert more closed transactions than not requiring a registration. I know a lot of agents will argue differently but, I am sure they have not actually run two sites in the same market tracking and comparing the data.
Both the sites we tracked had over 40,000 unique visitors a month and were in the same market. We tracked the data for approximately 6 months and the site that had the required sign up actually had a 35% higher conversion rate. It also had about 40% higher (conversion rate) email inquiries requesting information about properties than the one without a required sign up. It makes sense that would happen based on the fact that there are more users getting daily emails of new listings. Plus if you are an active agent that likes to call users that sign up to see what you can do to help. You are naturally going to convert a higher percentage of prospects into actual closings.
Another interesting test we ran side by side at a later date was when we actually required a registration. These results totally surprised us.
1. The first one we required registration when the user clicked on the property to view more details. We loaded the property and then our registration form popped up.
2. The second one we let the user view 4 properties and then had our registration form would pop up.
We were amazed to see that the one that required the registration earlier actually had a 5% higher conversion rate then the one that required to registration after viewing 4 properties. I think that may be because the users were annoyed.
With all that said, I would only require a registration if your site is easy to use and the user knows that they are going to be able to view properties. If you have a long confusing registration form, the user is redirected to another page and they are not really sure what they are signing up for. You should either get a better site or not require a registration because you will definitely have a high bounce rate.
I am sure the big national real estate portals like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and their employees would definitely not agree with a required registration since they are in the business of selling ads and placements based on page views and clicks.
If you are an agent that is serious about converting more business from your website, you might want to consider requiring a registration — remember, only if you have a web site that is set up correctly to do that. I think it is the difference between being a proactive agent versus being a passive agent.