After a night of investigating some new website stuff, a new spam filter for the blog, some interesting new prospects for playing flash video, an overall assessment of website performance… I got to thinking about a common thread in many different real estate blogs. Articles with titles like:
I got to wondering WHY MLS.ca seems to have lost in real estate searches to Google and others. So I did a little looking around, I went over to MLS.ca do do a little checking. Now I realize real estate agents do not use MLS.ca to do searches, and that may be why nothing has been done about it. Here are a few of the website atrocities I noticed:
- Load time from the time I typed “mls.ca” into my browser, until the time I had relevant search results for properties in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver was an astounding 40 seconds. As a reference, I typed “Kitsilano Real Estate” into google and was presented 109,000 search results in less than 1 second.
- Ease of use Count them, 5 maps I had to click on!
- The British Columbia portion of a map of Canada.
- Then click on “Vancouver – Lower Mainland” on a map of BC.
- Next (when it loaded), I got to choose “Greater Vancouver”, I thought “Great! finally the area I want!”.
- Wrong! Assuming that I am immigrating to Vancouver from say, Toronto (some say escaping rather than immigrating) I needed to determine if Kitsilano is in VW, VE, BU or RI.
- That aside, after choosing VW, I finally get to choose between KT, FA, AR or gag me now…
I feel sorry I had to write all that. You probably didn’t read this far! I wouldn’t.
So Why did I have to click on 5 maps, then select my property search criteria just to see listings!
Before someone points out the “Advanced Search” page on MLS.ca would have been quicker, I will try to recall the the last time I clicked on the advanced search link in google. Never! Why? Because I don’t have to.
It is not too late, some basic site redesign, speed enhancements and a proper marketing effort could save MLS.ca. The call for change might have to come from the people who don’t use it, the Real Estate Agents.
About 2 weeks ago, someone mentioned ComFree to me. I felt obliged to evaluate their website and found nothing that significantly differentiates them from all the other FSBO sites out there. They offer website listings, publish a magazine of their listings every 3 weeks, and provide marketing packages for homeowners that include brochures and signage. But about a week ago, I saw my first ComFree television commercial. During the past week I noticed billboard advertising across the city and heard multiple radio ads as well. ComFree is obviously well-funded to market in such a traditional and cost-ineffective way, but it may be the tipping point that differentiates them from all the other companies that offer similar services.
A good realtor is well worth the commissions that they earn. They carry a large overhead and spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars marketing listings. There is no guarantee of any compensation for an agent if a home does not sell. But still there exists a public perception that many real estate agents are overpaid for the service they provide. Perhaps it is too easy to become a realtor. Definitely, not all agents fall into that “good” category either, but that can be said of any profession.
Will Comfree acquire a significant portion of the Real Estate Market here in Vancouver? They currently have 9 listings on their website. They have a long way to go. But they claim to have one third of the market in Edmonton and a 15% share in Winnipeg. I will wait and see how events play themselves out, but for anyone connected to the real estate industry here in Vancouver, it is worth watching.
We found an article in The NY Times titled “Making Every Pixel Count” about how photography may be your best chance at getting people to come view a property. This reinforces what we have been saying about listing pictures,
In the first paragraph they get straight to the point
“Less-than-flattering pictures can turn buyers off and lead to lonely open houses”
Good photos will grab people’s attention and help you sell a home.
Our photos stand out. People who know us tell us that they can spot our pictures immediately, that they stand out from the rest.
I recently came across a website that claimed to list new houses & condos Canada wide. This site had listings in Ontario, Alberta & BC. I wanted to learn more so I entered their forum area to see what people were saying. To my dismay, the forums were littered with spam, I could not count a single legitimate post.
Real Estate Blogs & Forums can be a great addition to a real estate website. If you are thinking of starting or maintaining a blog or forum, I would suggest getting advice from someone who can help you maximize the benefits. Dara Sklar of Realty Support can assist you with all of your website needs & questions.
While we were out today, we found a Sirius Satellite Radio handset on the ground. We called Sirius Customer Service when we got back to the office, told them what had happened and gave them the serial number of the handset. The customer service rep I spoke to was very helpful, even though he had never been asked to help return a lost handset before. He looked up the users account and is supposed to contact the original owner tomorrow to arrange its return.
While I was in school I spent some time as a customer service rep for a large company, I know it can be a thankless job. I was impressed by the Sirius rep so I wanted to say thank you. I wonder if this is par for the course?
We attended the Vancouver Real Estate Tech Meetup held by Ubertor founders Michael Stephenson and Stephen Jagger held at Ceilis Irish Pub on Smithe Street. It is a great opportunity for realtors to talk with technology-based service providers about the real estate industry.
Leon Ng and his team from the Real Estate Channel gave a talk on the power of video. Leon used a few examples from YouTube and spoke about the viral nature of video and social networking websites.
Dara Sklar of Realty Support also did a website review for Adriaan Schipper of RE/Max Crest Westside. Dara is truly an expert in the Ubertor software. Her assessment looks for opportunites to improve ones website by adding one or more of the porwerful, but often overlooked features of Ubertor sites. She also suggests ways to improve the written content as well, resulting in better search engine results.
My favourite part of the night is the meet and greet at the end of the night. I had a chance to speak with MJ Ankenman of RE/Max Masters Realty. She just posted her inaugural episode of “Chat Realty”. In her first videocast, she interviews Ron Sowden of Dekora. I like the concept and hope she keeps it up!
I also spoke with William Urrea, Vice President of Sales for iSign Media. You may have seen their vertical screens at various locations around the city. They offer a very compelling product and another avenue for advertising for realtors here in Vancouver.
Sound interesting? See you at the March Real Estate Tech Meetup.
I was looking at real estate video tour providers in other cities and I stumbled upon Nashua Video Tours. They are a New Hampshire based company that services the New England area including Boston. They have a promotional video that starts off by asking, “When was the last time you walked into a house and spun around like a top?” I have yet to hear of anyone that truly likes the experience of using a 360 tour (panoramic tour) to view a house. With video on the Internet quickly approaching the broadcast quality of television and consumers wanting the convenience of video on demand, video is without a doubt, the ideal medium to showcase a home on the Internet. Stop making potential home-buyers dizzy, get a Video Openhouse Tour!
Here is the Nashua Video Tours promotional video. Enjoy!