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I feel bad for REALTOR.COM. Let me start by saying that I like REALTOR.COM – I really do. They’re a hard working bunch that puts lots of time, energy and effort into promoting other people’s products. They aren’t always perfect – yet they keep trying, and trying, and trying. And they do have the number one real estate destination on the web – so they are doing something right. But for long?

This week they announced their their latest round of new features for the website. Too bad it’s still fairly clear that REALTOR.COM is destined to fail.

Why? Because one group of people hates the site most of all:

The REALTORS themselves.

Gasp! Shock! What a terrible thing to say? Ok, let me try to prove it, then. If REALTORS themselves were fully behind their market-leading website, would you find this when you do a search?

Obviously, someone doesn’t have enough pride in their site to ensure that the NUMBER ONE thing that attracts buyers (and potential business) – PHOTOS – are present by the DOZEN on more than 50% of the inventory. And it’s not just Tampa agents who hate REALTOR.COM. Apparently the agents in most other cities are minimally supportive of REALTOR.COM, because they often feel it perfectly acceptable to leave PAGES of listings without ANY photos on the site. You can check for yourself…

No excuses that it’s MLS’s fault either: REALTOR.COM pulls listings EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES from the local systems. So it’s not a computer glitch or time-delay of pulling data. It’s simple negligence.

Of course, nothing tells us that REALTORS hold REALTOR.COM in disdain more than the creative photos they DO post online. One might think that, if an agent were receiving FREE marketing services from the NUMBER ONE real estate portal in the cosmos, they might do a little to help the site successfully draw in business for them. Instead, the REALTOR.COM sabotage continues from it’s own users.

What kind of sabotage, you may ask? Oh, maybe something simple, like uploading the worst possible content they can find, to create the highest negative experience in the consumer’s mind. Such as:

Now, the first two you might possibly be able to forgive, because perhaps beauty is in the eye of the beholder (if he’s a cyclops, in this case). But the last one? It’s not even a bad shot – it’s a uneven SCAN of a bad shot – and it was uploaded without a second glance.

Now, since we all KNOW that no REALTOR in their right mind would POSSIBLY use these kinds of photos to ACTUALLY try to sell their client’s homes, the only explanation possible is that REALTORS upload these photos to REALTOR.COM in an attempt to scare buyers away from the site. The intent is so obvious: Teach consumers that the CONTENT on REALTOR.COM stinks, and consumers will eventually stop going there, and will then have to find “Jane Agent’s” website. Because, you know, it’s all about the agent, right?

Trying to make REALTOR.COM look foolish doesn’t just stop with photos. Read some of the property descriptions and you can only conclude that they are being written in such a way as to discredit the site and undermine trust by the public.

So, let’s just face it: REALTOR.COM is doomed. They can dream up the best technology, the coolest features and the most aggressive marketing campaigns, but once the consumer lands on the site and starts seeing stuff like this, it’s all for naught.

What’s a leading-real-estate-portal-on-the-brink-of-disaster supposed to do? Here’s a simple idea. Upgrade your site with the ULTIMATE feature. The one designed to capture consumer’s interests and build trust, loyalty and excitement. The ONLY upgrade that will ever make a difference, unless the day comes that no REALTORS are actually needed to sell homes.

What upgrade is that, you ask?


That’s right: If REALTOR.COM ever wants to be more than a slowly dwindling portal – then it had better start implementing some standards of performance before they agree to display just any listing content. Major real estate players are already doing this – a minimum number of photos, videos and content bullet points are the standards for many of the major franchise portals. Other sites are upping the ante, by requiring photos to be reviewed by a human being (Imagine! Good job, Sotheby’s!) and still others have created automatic rules that cause inventory to drop off the site if it doesn’t have a photo within a certain number of days (although I’d make that hours, if it were me).

REALTOR.COM has only one hope: Implement some standards. Set the bar higher than a crack in the sidewalk. Create a new standard of performance for web marketing – to rescue the REALTOR name from its very self. Nothing else will make a difference. The site is already teetering on the edge of annoying with all of the ads; and it’s downright laughable that there are more airbrushed pictures of agents themselves than clean-shots of their listings. The site imploded once in the past, from a money-maker with over-$100-per-share stocks to junk-grade today. Now it’s about ready to enter SPAM-status. And it won’t be fancy social networking, instant messaging or even Blackberry compatibility that will save it.

As long as the listing content, photos and video tours look as bad as they do today, REALTOR.COM is only a few nails away from a dot-com-coffin in the great graveyard in the on the web.

What a shame!