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HOUSE HUNTING ONLINE
By Daniel Eaton
There are a growing number of online real estate sources on the Internet. Few are doing it very well. What does it say about the real estate agent and or company when we have this terrific tool called the Internet and when you search a real estate web site you consistently see "Photo not available" or worse yet, you're looking at this listing in July and the photograph is of a home with a snow covered front yard.
Today's consumers are complacent. We don't demand much and what little service we do get will get less as time goes on. If I were one of those sellers, I would be quite upset, as the person who is representing my interests is doing a poor job. On one web site I did a search on my hometown. I found 44 homes for sale, which there were only 5 that's right, only 5 with a photograph of the front and 1 with a snow covered front yard.
As homebuyers and sellers don't we deserve better?
When we visit a real estate site are we looking for that perfect home or are we simply eliminating the contenders? In the olden days, before the Internet, you know about 5 years ago, real estate agents performed the search for us. They queried a private database called a Multiple Listing Service(MLS). They would present the homebuyer with a computer printout of the home particulars. The more efficient real estate agents set up appointments to see the homes for sale first hand while other would let the home buyer drive by the property to see if they like the neighborhood and see the inside of the home.
The Internet empowers homebuyers to do their own searching and when the address is available, drive by the property. In essence, the job of the real estate agent.
The key players in the online real estate game are the companies and trade associations that control the inventory. The multiple listing services. There are two major players. Cyberhomes by Moore Data Services, and Realtor.com by the National Association of Realtors®. These companies are aggregators of information providing the consumer with a simple, one-stop shop to locate housing information and agents.
Newspapers are being challenged by online counterparts to their homes, jobs, and general classifieds sections. Newspapers used to be the only game in town. Most metropolitan areas have only one or two major daily newspapers capable of sustaining a thriving classified sections. Many newspapers have failed in bring their classified sections online. One of their major downfalls is following their past business practices. Since they were indeed the only game in town, and in some area the only newspaper they attempted to take their monopoly business practices online. Needless to say it didn't work. Newspapers are finally realizing that the Internet is based upon cooperation.
Some newspaper are making a go at bringing the real estate sections to the Internet. The Chicago Tribune has an online version of their real estate section. Some of the major newspaper chains are building networks of classified advertising such as the Knight Ridder with their HomeHunter Product. Even new construction is getting online with New Home Network by a consortium of newspaper companies including CNI, Times Mirror. Tribune, Gannet, Knight Ridder,and the Washington Post under a JOA called Classified Ventures.
There are a surprising number of upstarts looking to hedge some of the inventory from realtor.com and cyberhomes.
They realize that its easy to compete with these goliaths simply because of the large amount of real estate
inventory at any one given time. Here are a few independent leaders:
Who's the winner in the online real estate game? The company that provides the consumer with the broadest and most accurate service available. The ultimate winner will be the home buying consumer who has access to the Internet.
(c) 1999-2011 Daniel Eaton, All rights reserved
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