If your real estate agent barely knows how to use
e-mail, you might want to consider finding someone who does.
That's because many are harnessing Web-based tools to help sell homes in
this tough market. After all, 87 percent of recent home buyers in the United
States say they used the Internet as a resource during their home-buying
process, according to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors.
And, the same research found that nearly one-third first learned about their
newly purchased homes from an online resource.
Here are five tech-savvy strategies agents should be using now to help
sell your house:
1. LIST EVERYWHERE
In recent months, agents have been promoting listings through as many Web
sites as possible.
Bettie Meinel, vice president in charge of training and recruiting for
Century 21 Laffey Associates in Greenvale, says her agency pushes its listings
onto 25 other Web sites.
The National Association of Realtors has even come up with an "E-pro"
designation for agents who complete a 45-hour course in which they learn about
online real estate information sources and referral networks. They're taught
basic computer skills, from sending e-mail attachments and downloading photos,
to more advanced techniques such as creating online home tours and hyperlinks
to their Web sites. Some 40,000 agents in the United States have gotten the
E-pro designation, according to the National Association of Realtors; six
(possibly a few more) have it on Long Island, says a spokeswoman for the
Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. [CORRECTION: About 150 Long Island
real estate agents have the e-Pro designation for being tech-savvy. Because of
incorrect information provided by the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island,
the number was incorrect in Friday's Your LI Home. (A17 ALL 4/2/2009)] Meinel,
who holds the designation, says she doesn't think it has caught on in a big way
here because many agents are already fairly tech-savvy. However, a spokeswoman
for the Realtors' group suggests that it might be because there are no
continuing education credits available yet in New York for the E-pro course.
L.P. Finn, director of corporate services for Northport-based Coach
Realtors, suggests sellers ask agents for a list of sites where their home will
be listed. "If they [brokers] can't cast a big net using the Internet, they're
not doing their job," he says.
Amy Bohutinsky, vice president of communications for Zillow.com - one of
the nation's largest real estate Web sites, with 5.5 million monthly visitors -
says agents should include detailed information about a home and neighborhood
as well as many, many photos. "That first impression is online," she says.
"That first impression needs to be stellar. People are used to finding lots of
In addition to paid sites such as Newsday.com, there are free sites,
including the ever-popular Craigslist.org and newer ones such as Postlets.com,
which links listings to free real estate sites and social networking sites.
2. DO SOCIAL NETWORKING
well as the more business-oriented LinkedIn.com to promote homes to customers
and other agents in their network. Sellers also can post listings on their own
profile pages on these networking sites to spread the word among their friends
and family members.
"Two weeks ago, I had a Facebook pizza party in my office, in which several
of my agents created their Facebook accounts, profiles, etc.," says Valerie
Van Cleef, branch manager of Coach Real Estate Associates in East Norwich.
"Some of the agents are now using Facebook every day to promote their open
houses, upload photos of properties they represent, post links to informational
articles about the Housing Stimulus bill and other timely issues, and also
joining real estate clubs on the site, benefiting from broker-to-broker
referrals that way."
Many real estate pros also use Activerain.com, a networking site for
agents. It includes blogs by professionals on timely real estate topics. Agents
can ask one another questions and send each other leads, typically in exchange
for a fee. Plus, they can keep their peers apprised of what they're doing,
from attending industry conferences to running open houses.
"Agents from all over the country are sending me referrals," says Century
21's Meinel. "It's a way of getting leads you might not be getting otherwise."
3. USE REAL ESTATE SITES
Consumers rely on Trulia.com, Zillow.com and other real estate sites to
research properties and determine what they're worth, based on sales of
comparable homes. Agents are enhancing their own listings on these sites to get
in front of these consumers. The sites also allow agents to post their open
houses. For consumers, "it's a forum to get information in an easy, friendly
way with no obligation," says Coach's Finn.
Agents can provide a "feed" to Zillow.com, automatically pushing their
listings to the site for free. The listings can include the agent's logo,
personal photo and contact information. Each listing can have up to 50 photos
and a link to a virtual tour.
On Trulia.com, agents can pay a fee to have listings featured prominently.
Many agents are encouraging customers and prospects to set up an account on
Listingbook.com, which has Multiple Listing Service properties for sale. The
site provides updates on home listings every 45 minutes, including price
changes (and a history of them), sales, homes that go to contract and new
listings that fit a user's criteria. Agents also use Listingbook to promote
"Listingbook is a fabulous tool. I call it the MLS on steroids," says
Coach's Van Cleef, who says one of her prospects has logged on to Listingbook
926 times in the past nine months.
Listingbook can also provide valuable market intelligence to agents. "I
have a $314,500 listing in Ronkonkoma; 300 people got the e-mail but only seven
showed up [for the open house]. That says they [sellers] may need to adjust
the price," says Century 21's Meinel.
Other real estate sites worth checking out include Realtor.com, the
official site of the National Association of Realtors, and Homegain.com, a real
estate information and marketing site.
Consumers search listings and look for agents on these sites and on the
Multiple Listing Service of Long Island - MLSLI.com - which also provides
4. CREATE VIDEO TOURS
Virtual tours have been around for some time, but in the past year
agents have been using videos instead of photos and putting virtual tours on
YouTube, the video search engine. When a home seeker types keywords, such as
"condo, Hempstead," into youtube.com, listings with video virtual tours come
up. Agents are hiring specialists to create virtual tours (at no cost to the
customer) or doing it in-house, says Century 21's Meinel. "Most consumers click
on those first [listings that include virtual tours]," says Meinel, explaining
that Web site operators monitor such activity.
Typically, a home's virtual tour on youtube.com is linked to the agent or
homeowner's profile page on Facebook and other networking sites, as well as the
Realtor's home page. "You have to put your pictures wherever the buyer's going
to be," says Mollie Grossman, Roslyn-based director of sales for Prudential
Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Many agents now offer prospective buyers the option to have listings
sent to their BlackBerries or other smart phones. A text-messaging number often
is listed on the "for sale" sign. Buyers can instantly receive information and
schedule an appointment to see the home.
Unlike ordinary e-mails, these messages beep as soon as they arrive.
"Texting is urgent and instant," says Pierre Calzadilla, senior manager of
strategic partnerships for Trulia.com, who recently gave a presentation to Long
Island agents at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Texting buyers about
a hot listing is "a great way to drive a quick response," he adds.
Century 21's Meinel says texting is also a valuable tool for her agents to
communicate among themselves and expedite sales. "You can text all your agents
at once. We alert agents about open houses and new listings immediately," she
says. "We probably use it [texting] more for in-house than for consumers."
Sell-it-yourself Web savvy
Home sellers who don't hire agents are using many of the same online tools as
the pros. An example is FSBO.com in Atlanta, a site where sellers can list
homes "for sale by owner" starting at $69.95 for nine months and have the house
put on Multiple Listing for $299.
"The old days of looking through newspapers or looking for yard signs are
over," says Michael T. Malkasian, FSBO.com president.
When you list online, information is updated in real time. There's no space
limitation as there is with print ads. Sellers can include as many photos and
videos as they like.
FSBO.com is about to launch a text messaging service so sellers can send
listings to potential buyers' smart phones. "It will use a five-digit number,
like voting (for a winner) on 'American Idol,'" he says. Home sellers are
assigned the five-digit number for their listing. Would-be buyers send a text
message to that number to receive the information on the home.
Other for-sale-by-owner Web sites include www.Byowner.com,
- MARLENE GIVANT STAR