This is really a grand topic to inspect. Realtors and their associations are coming to grips with how they internet should be used, and other real estate professionals, like myself, are having similar debts. Most of these concerns deal with how much information should be placed on the web, and who should have access to it. The other concern is what is effective marketing for homes on the web. All of this begs the question of which direction is the web heading, when it pertains to real estate.
You see real estate agencies realize that sharing information about the properties they are offering helps all involved. A Realtor from one agency can quickly find a home offered by a Realtor from another. This sharing of information is done through a service called the MLS (multiple listing service). Some information posted on this service can be sensitive, so it might not be a good idea to publish it for all to see on the web. Houses are such physical things that need to be experienced before a purchase. How do you market a home on the web? A friend of mine was one of the first internet webmasters to create a site for virtual tours of homes. These tours are amazing to watch, but do they help sell? I have seen some Realtors offer statistics as a means of encouraging buyers and sellers to use their service. Other Realtors have set themselves up as voices of authority on the web (I must mention a preference for their blogs or sites, since I feel that these Realtors help educate the public). However, when you look at the number of Realtors there are in comparison to the number who have a true presence on the web in any format, you will notice that many Realtors have not taken to this medium.
In the past month, I conducted my own survey of how real estate was being marketed on the web. It was unofficial and limited to the information that I had access to gather, so it is by no means the ultimate word. The sites which seem to be getting the most buzz are those are creating message boards and lists of homes. They also help you find a professional in your area. In a way the sites are focused on offering you information, but in a crowd mentality sort of way. Who will know better how to perform a job, the person working at the job, or someone in a home office far away from the task? Sites like Wikipedia can produce fine works describing a topic by relying on the crowd. The crowd may not see the big picture though, so it lacks the focus to go in the correct direction. This happens when false beliefs are held by many people, so those beliefs will perpetuate, while the true path lies idle. The crowd can provide useful information (since they are performing the tasks), but I saw a backlash building on some sites against this information. Some questions posted specifically said they did not want to hear from others like them, but from professionals in the real estate industry. This wave may grow as more people wake up to the fact that they have been listening to bad advice.
Some sites seem to offer the bare minimum of information. The sites were created to have a web presence, but you can see that their owners are not working with them. Such sites do not work for their owners, since they are ignored by surfers, so they fall into further disuse.
The twist are sties that offer some type of graph or spreadsheet showing statistics about homes sales or such. Do you remember the book Lying with Statistics? Basically it showed how numbers can be manipulated to cause you to think in a certain way. I found that the numbers in these sleek pagesaveve wrong pictures on many occasions. I think that would catch up to their authors.
I have read or heard for some Realtors that they feel that blogs are the future of the web. I am biased; I love producing my blog, and contributing to another. However blogs are not necessarily good. I have seen some that are just pictures with a brief description of a house. Others that just present stats. One blog was from a Realtor who was awarding his staff for something each week, to show potential customers that he had a winning team. There was not much else on the blog, and the awards were starting to sound fake, but I was sure glad to learn that Mary won for best house cleaning.
Where does the future lie for real estate and the web? The majority of home buyers are thirty to thirty five years old, and this group is increasing turning to the internet for assistance with their home buying decisions. This group will be looking for expert information, and to those who will show that they are actively providing it. However, they are also used to the idea of sharing information among themselves. There will no great push towards purchasing homes sight unseen, so visiting homes will stay prominent, but instead of looking at many of them in person, consumers will take virtual tours of many homes before they narrow down which ones they really want to see. Photographs of homes do not meet this need. To meet the need of authority and crowd suggestions, maybe blogs should add a message board feature that could be overseen by an expert. I know that you might think comment section of blogs meet this need, but those are not the same as being able to post your own questions. Two boards could be set up: one for questions being answered solely by professionals, and one where consumers can discuss the issues that are important to them. Maybe then the site could include a way to find professionals in a specific location. Some site are close to this model, but I am suggesting some minor changes in a direction that could have been more agreeable to the consumer's needs.