Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

Poor REALTOR.COM!

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 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?

http://www.matthewferrara.com/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=351&type=image&tab=gallery#

Obviously, someone doesn’t have enough pride in their site to ensure that the NUMBER ONE thing that attracts buyers (and potential business) – – are present by the DOZEN on more than 50% of the inventory. And it’s not just Tampa who hate REALTOR.COM. Apparently the in most other cities are minimally supportive of REALTOR.COM, because they often feel it perfectly acceptable to leave PAGES of 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?

Standards.

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!

 

  • Matt, you are absolutely correct! When one has a cooperative database maintained by volunteers, the level of presentation and accuracy is not going to be consistently good. MLS managers have been fighting this for years–through education, fines for non-performance, and every other technique we can think of. What we know is, some of the members haven’t the skill or the professionalism to contribute to the MLS database in the way we’d hoped for.

    On the other hand, Realtor.com’s foggy future is about more than poor quality of photos and data. It’s also about a business model which is adversarial to members/contributors, and a bad start-up philosophy for the business: “Our contributors are also our customers, and they will be accepting of our incompetence because they are loyal Realtors.

    I don’t know how you remove the bad tastes of early mistakes and poor technology. Maybe you don’t. And maybe the evolution of the online real estate world leaving ten-year-old ideas behind. Whatever it is, I think it’s greater than the fact that our members have trouble with presentation skills.

  • Matt, you are absolutely correct! When one has a cooperative database maintained by volunteers, the level of presentation and accuracy is not going to be consistently good. MLS managers have been fighting this for years–through education, fines for non-performance, and every other technique we can think of. What we know is, some of the members haven’t the skill or the professionalism to contribute to the MLS database in the way we’d hoped for.

    On the other hand, Realtor.com’s foggy future is about more than poor quality of photos and data. It’s also about a business model which is adversarial to members/contributors, and a bad start-up philosophy for the business: “Our contributors are also our customers, and they will be accepting of our incompetence because they are loyal Realtors.

    I don’t know how you remove the bad tastes of early mistakes and poor technology. Maybe you don’t. And maybe the evolution of the online real estate world leaving ten-year-old ideas behind. Whatever it is, I think it’s greater than the fact that our members have trouble with presentation skills.

  • Sergio Enciso

    That was brilliant.

  • Sergio Enciso

    That was brilliant.

  • In an industry that does deals for a living, you have to wonder how the deal that created Realtor.com got done.

    How did NAR ever sell this:

    “OK, members, here’s how this is going to work: Your MLS is going to give this private, third-party vendors of ours your listings for free. They get an exclusive forever, and then they are going to turn around and extort money out of you if you want any chance that people will actually see your listings. Then, they are going to dork up the whole presentation with a lot of advertising that no one would see unless you were providing them with free listings to pull in traffic. No, you don’t get a dime of that revenue.”

    And you wonder why Realtors hate Realtor.com?

    Then, lets consider the “Google factor”. Google showed people that search should be simple, and we know that most moves are local. Therefore, lots of people use listing addresses as keyword searches.

    Go to the “new and improved” Realtor.com Beta, and, where it looks like keywords should go, type “105 Third St Newport RI”…and you get 45 listings, ONE of which is the one you want (and there is no indication of which one that is).

    Now, lets try that same search on Google and the #1 link takes you to the property detail page on the broker’s site (Full Disclosure: My company supplies the site that has the #1 link, as well as 6 of the other links on that page for that listing, and Realtor.com is nowhere to be found).

    You can also get a pretty good idea of what you want to know just by reading the info we put in the page address that Google displays: We tell you the asking price, the property type and the MLS# among other things, right there on the Google Search Result Page (SRP).

    Now why would Realtor.com trade accuracy to show you 44 listings you don’t want? Could it be that, the more accurate their results, the fewer ad impressions they deliver? How could they extort money from agents and brokers for visibility if they had an accurate search engine that subverted their ponzi scheme of “featured listings”?

    The signs of decay you note are just the beginning. The short history of the Web has plenty of examples of companies that held a dominant market position fumbling it to new competitiors: WebCrawler, AltaVista, and of course the biggest choke of them all, Yahoo, to name a few.

    Realtor.com is no different, they just got a reprieve all those years that the market was hot.

  • In an industry that does deals for a living, you have to wonder how the deal that created Realtor.com got done.

    How did NAR ever sell this:

    “OK, members, here’s how this is going to work: Your MLS is going to give this private, third-party vendors of ours your listings for free. They get an exclusive forever, and then they are going to turn around and extort money out of you if you want any chance that people will actually see your listings. Then, they are going to dork up the whole presentation with a lot of advertising that no one would see unless you were providing them with free listings to pull in traffic. No, you don’t get a dime of that revenue.”

    And you wonder why Realtors hate Realtor.com?

    Then, lets consider the “Google factor”. Google showed people that search should be simple, and we know that most moves are local. Therefore, lots of people use listing addresses as keyword searches.

    Go to the “new and improved” Realtor.com Beta, and, where it looks like keywords should go, type “105 Third St Newport RI”…and you get 45 listings, ONE of which is the one you want (and there is no indication of which one that is).

    Now, lets try that same search on Google and the #1 link takes you to the property detail page on the broker’s site (Full Disclosure: My company supplies the site that has the #1 link, as well as 6 of the other links on that page for that listing, and Realtor.com is nowhere to be found).

    You can also get a pretty good idea of what you want to know just by reading the info we put in the page address that Google displays: We tell you the asking price, the property type and the MLS# among other things, right there on the Google Search Result Page (SRP).

    Now why would Realtor.com trade accuracy to show you 44 listings you don’t want? Could it be that, the more accurate their results, the fewer ad impressions they deliver? How could they extort money from agents and brokers for visibility if they had an accurate search engine that subverted their ponzi scheme of “featured listings”?

    The signs of decay you note are just the beginning. The short history of the Web has plenty of examples of companies that held a dominant market position fumbling it to new competitiors: WebCrawler, AltaVista, and of course the biggest choke of them all, Yahoo, to name a few.

    Realtor.com is no different, they just got a reprieve all those years that the market was hot.

  • Steve Heinecke

    I purchased a 6 month showcase package on Realtor.com. I believe the price was $385. Realtor.com generated Zero calls and zero e-mails for me. Granted, it impresses people to see their home “showcased” on Realtor.com but I had enormous difficulty uploading additional pictures into the “showcase” program so, if I did, I know others must have as well. Could be that large numbers just give up and go back to prospecting and serving clients.

    I was not impressed. I’ve never had a problem uploading pictures to any other web site,, only the “Showcase” program on Realtor.com.
    As a side note, after my dismal experience with Realtor.com I decided to call as many other “showcase” subscribers as I could find to enquire about the number of leads Realtor.com generated for them. I e-mailed 45 Realtors and approximately half replied. The response was unanimous. I did not hear one success story. None of the Realtors who replied had received one single call or e-mail from visitors to the site.

    Anyway, I’ll not be flushing my money into Realtor.com anytime soon.

  • I purchased a 6 month showcase package on Realtor.com. I believe the price was $385. Realtor.com generated Zero calls and zero e-mails for me. Granted, it impresses people to see their home “showcased” on Realtor.com but I had enormous difficulty uploading additional pictures into the “showcase” program so, if I did, I know others must have as well. Could be that large numbers just give up and go back to prospecting and serving clients.

    I was not impressed. I’ve never had a problem uploading pictures to any other web site,, only the “Showcase” program on Realtor.com.
    As a side note, after my dismal experience with Realtor.com I decided to call as many other “showcase” subscribers as I could find to enquire about the number of leads Realtor.com generated for them. I e-mailed 45 Realtors and approximately half replied. The response was unanimous. I did not hear one success story. None of the Realtors who replied had received one single call or e-mail from visitors to the site.

    Anyway, I’ll not be flushing my money into Realtor.com anytime soon.

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Well, Steve, everything you write is certainly possible. Did you ever call REALTOR.COM support and ask them what the issue was? I don’t represent them, but I have to say that I do know of many agents who experience no difficulty uploading more photos and videos to their enhanced listings.

    To be totally fair, I’m willing to bet there are a variety of factors which may or may not have led to leads from your listings on REALTOR.COM. Some of which may have been out of your control – such as an abundance of similarly or lower priced listings in the same market place competing for the buyers’ attention, or possibly other market conditions that no amount of internet showcasing could overcome. I’m sure there are many stories of upgraded showcase listings on REALTOR.COM that didn’t generate leads; and certainly as many that did. That’s just life. Purchasing a showcase on any site isn’t a guarantee that the buyers will either a) find or b) like your listing enough to inquire on it.

    On the other hand, I’m sure you agree with me that REALTOR.COM still faces the overall challenge that even with agents like yourself, who are willing to at least try to upgrade their listings on their site, if the rest of the “common” inventory looks really dreadful, it’s going to scare away traffic for everyone. Yourself included.

    I hope you are achieving better success with your online marketing efforts elsewhere. Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog.

    – Matthew

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Well, Steve, everything you write is certainly possible. Did you ever call REALTOR.COM support and ask them what the issue was? I don’t represent them, but I have to say that I do know of many agents who experience no difficulty uploading more photos and videos to their enhanced listings.

    To be totally fair, I’m willing to bet there are a variety of factors which may or may not have led to leads from your listings on REALTOR.COM. Some of which may have been out of your control – such as an abundance of similarly or lower priced listings in the same market place competing for the buyers’ attention, or possibly other market conditions that no amount of internet showcasing could overcome. I’m sure there are many stories of upgraded showcase listings on REALTOR.COM that didn’t generate leads; and certainly as many that did. That’s just life. Purchasing a showcase on any site isn’t a guarantee that the buyers will either a) find or b) like your listing enough to inquire on it.

    On the other hand, I’m sure you agree with me that REALTOR.COM still faces the overall challenge that even with agents like yourself, who are willing to at least try to upgrade their listings on their site, if the rest of the “common” inventory looks really dreadful, it’s going to scare away traffic for everyone. Yourself included.

    I hope you are achieving better success with your online marketing efforts elsewhere. Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog.

    – Matthew

  • Paula Bean

    Excellent article, as always. I believe the whole problem with Realtor.com was brought on by our very own NAR. Who in the world would own a domain name, but let someone else control it??

    I also have a problem with being coerced into spending more money to get an enhanced listing, with more photo’s and a link… it smacks of blackmail. Then again Realtor.com has to make money to stay in business, anyone can understand that. I just think NAR set the whole thing up wrong.

    Having said that – I’ve never had a problem uploading photo’s, I have made money from enhanced listings and featured agent programs, I just resent having to spend extra money to do this. I think it should come as part of our NAR dues (even if they have to raise them a tad for all).

    There are many ways this could have been done better, and many ways it could be fixed, but nobody at NAR seems to care.

    Some of the fault also lies with Realtor.com. I have actually spent HOURS trying to get someone on the phone or by email to inquire about purchasing enhanced products. No phone call, no email – perhaps they should check into a chat with a live person program?

    And you wonder why agents hate Realtor.com? lol, I say we should all deluge NAR with our complaints, after all, NAR is the one who set up this wonderful business arrangement and NAR is the one who can change it.

  • Paula Bean

    Excellent article, as always. I believe the whole problem with Realtor.com was brought on by our very own NAR. Who in the world would own a domain name, but let someone else control it??

    I also have a problem with being coerced into spending more money to get an enhanced listing, with more photo’s and a link… it smacks of blackmail. Then again Realtor.com has to make money to stay in business, anyone can understand that. I just think NAR set the whole thing up wrong.

    Having said that – I’ve never had a problem uploading photo’s, I have made money from enhanced listings and featured agent programs, I just resent having to spend extra money to do this. I think it should come as part of our NAR dues (even if they have to raise them a tad for all).

    There are many ways this could have been done better, and many ways it could be fixed, but nobody at NAR seems to care.

    Some of the fault also lies with Realtor.com. I have actually spent HOURS trying to get someone on the phone or by email to inquire about purchasing enhanced products. No phone call, no email – perhaps they should check into a chat with a live person program?

    And you wonder why agents hate Realtor.com? lol, I say we should all deluge NAR with our complaints, after all, NAR is the one who set up this wonderful business arrangement and NAR is the one who can change it.

  • Realtor.com, as already mentioned, is a plague to any realtor who has their own website and is working diligently to drive traffic to it. They are the COMPETITION! and we as realtors put them in business. The whole premise of its existence is to “help” those realtors who cannot help themselves and create revenue for Realtor.com.

    We have been betrayed by NAR, but is that really a surprise. How does NAR survive – like the UAW – the more members the better. So, by creating some half-baked website that can be used as a revenue source the revenues increase and control is taken out of the hands of agents.

    I think I see Big Brother!

  • Realtor.com, as already mentioned, is a plague to any realtor who has their own website and is working diligently to drive traffic to it. They are the COMPETITION! and we as realtors put them in business. The whole premise of its existence is to “help” those realtors who cannot help themselves and create revenue for Realtor.com.

    We have been betrayed by NAR, but is that really a surprise. How does NAR survive – like the UAW – the more members the better. So, by creating some half-baked website that can be used as a revenue source the revenues increase and control is taken out of the hands of agents.

    I think I see Big Brother!

  • Pete

    As a person looking to buy a home I must say I love realtor.com. I don’t like going to different sites for searches and quite honestly I think the list prices are much lower on realtor.com for the same house adverstized somewhere else. I will agree, I don’t spend much time looking at a listing with no pictures. I will look through the google maps satellite image first.

  • Pete

    As a person looking to buy a home I must say I love realtor.com. I don’t like going to different sites for searches and quite honestly I think the list prices are much lower on realtor.com for the same house adverstized somewhere else. I will agree, I don’t spend much time looking at a listing with no pictures. I will look through the google maps satellite image first.

  • Stephen

    I, like Pete am not a realtor but a consumer and I have to say that I find the site much more useable than most other well known sites (I believe that REALTOR.com has more traffic and more time spent on their site than any other so, it would seem the majority of consumers would agree with me). The fact that there are more listings on the site is a big plus even if under 50% have multiple photos – that still leaves plenty to look at. Maybe realtors should take ownership of how their own listings look on the most popular site?? As far as leads go, I contacted a buyer specialist on the site and have purchased two homes from her. That makes me a lead right??
    Thanks realtor.com for helping me find my dream homes and keep up the good work!!!
    Stephen Dyer

  • Stephen

    I, like Pete am not a realtor but a consumer and I have to say that I find the site much more useable than most other well known sites (I believe that REALTOR.com has more traffic and more time spent on their site than any other so, it would seem the majority of consumers would agree with me). The fact that there are more listings on the site is a big plus even if under 50% have multiple photos – that still leaves plenty to look at. Maybe realtors should take ownership of how their own listings look on the most popular site?? As far as leads go, I contacted a buyer specialist on the site and have purchased two homes from her. That makes me a lead right??
    Thanks realtor.com for helping me find my dream homes and keep up the good work!!!
    Stephen Dyer

  • Joe

    Realtor.com does NOT reflect well on Realtors in general. Get with the modern times folks! This site has beeen F’d up since i sold my properties 10 years ago. I want to buy again, but…..Hello??? Maybe that’s what the powers that be really want……..wouldn’t surprise me…they are all crooks.

  • Anonymous

    Huh? Maybe you could point to some specifics, Joe?

  • RussellShaw

    Your info is actually way way off. Only certain MLS update every 15 minutes, and things like photos only come over once per day if that, some areas its once per week. If agents would take advantage of the programs we pay hard money for, instead of just thinking it should do it itself like a genie in a bottle…..

    Funny thing is the agent I see on the site who are the ones who never cry in blogs about the site sucking, are the ones who pay for the products, actually use them, and also use them in their marketing strategies. Just an observation.

  • Steven G Heinecke

    Matthew,

    I have been out of Real Estate for about a year now. Prior to becoming a Realtor I found Realtor.com very useful for finding properties that I eventually purchased. Their search engines “advanced search” has not always remained consistent however and I have had dificulty since for example finding “lake homes” or “cabins” with “acreage” in Northern Minnesota when those filters were randomly removed for some reason. This frustration with the search engine on the consumer end is no doubt a far greater frustration for Realtors who have listed scenic properties and ultimatley got lost in the shuffle, but I digress.

    Per the above commentary: When I signed up for Realtor.com and the “showcase” listing package, I did indeed contact Realtor.com to request resolution to my problems uploading photos. My photos were high quality,, clients expect it and I have always insisted on it for all the obvious reasons. The “help” I received from Realtor.com was immediate but innefective as the techs informed me that they did not have the capability to handle my
    problem (even though I suggested that I simply e-mail my photos and THEY upload them.)

    Very disappointing.

    As to the lack of leads generated from the Realtor.com site, the bottom line is truly all in the numbers. If 78% of buyers already know a Realtor (the figure seems to vary but seems to always be in the mid to high 70s),, then that leaves maybe 25% of the buyers who are potential “leads”. Granted, Realtor.com is/was the largest Real Estate listing site out there,, however, there are a great many other “buyer magnets” out there draining potential buyers away from the Realtor.com buyer pool. Open houses, Realtors cold calling, mailings, signs, and a multitude of other web sites from broker owned & Realtor owned web sites to Zillow type sites….. all take their fair share of the 25% of available buyers out there.

    So, in retrospect I admit to having had unrealistic expectations from Realtor.coms Showcase Advertizing Package. I fell for the Realtor.com sales pitch,, that’s all.

    The best “lead generating websites” I know of seem to be the ones that a small number of techy Realtors own and manage themselves. These are Realtors who spend an hour or two every day working on their SEO (search engine optimization) and are smart enough to “do it all”. Some I know of have placed higher than their Big Name Brokers on Google. Kudos to them!

    All in all,, due to the internet, Real Estate is a far different animal than it used to be and any Realtor who wants to maximize their advertising dollars on the internet should seek a successful mentor PRIOR to investing. Otherwise,,, what can I say,,, do you hear that flushing sound?!