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Independence Day – It’s Your Business

It finally dawned on me. I have been grappling with the idea of single-property websites for some time. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Would a single-property website for a listing enhance the exposure of the home and therefore hasten a sale or would it simply serve to impress the seller? Would a single-property URL be detrimental in that it would cause brand confusion with our widely-promoted and established website which already provides all of the property information in what I consider a very comprehensive and compelling format? I could create a distinct site or blog for the home, but wouldn’t that drive traffic from my site? Conversely, I could create a domain forward and point the URL to the existing page in my site, but wouldn’t that in fact be redundant?

Yahoo! Today I’m on board with the concept of the single-property site, and I have Yahoo! and my real estate company to thank for my sudden clarity of thought.

Let’s Call Them “Prudential”

I happen to be affiliated with a company (who shall remain nameless) who negotiated an exclusive agreement with Yahoo! Real Estate. Without going into specifics, I will be the first to admit that there is great benefit to the agents of this partnership, but it comes with a cost. Agents pay to be included in the program but, more importantly, I fear that as many leads are being driven from me as they are to me.

We Want to Help You (Help Us)

Participating agents can assign a unique Yahoo! Search ID to their listings which, when entered in the Yahoo! search bar, will bring up the full property page. This page is branded with the agent’s information which, at first blush, sounds like a hell of a deal. Further, if a consumer happens upon the property during a search, they will be directed to this same branded page.

Let’s start with the obvious. This is a company branding effort in agent-branding sheep’s clothing. As an example, a client of ours who was relocating back to San Diego was using the Yahoo! site to search for homes. She innocently saved her search and within 24-hours received a phone call from another agent in my office asking how they might help her meet her real estate goals. If I may use a technical term, she was pissed off, not because this other agent wasn’t her agent, but because she had been contacted at all. It seems that “leads” are forwarded under referral fee agreements in which the company (and maybe Yahoo!) profit – at the expense of the agent.

Harnessing the Power (E Pluribus Unum)

Sorry, Greg. That is the sum-total of my Latin. In the case of Yahoo!, if a visitor hones in on a home which is not a “company” listing, any request for more information will be forwarded to a “company” agent under a referral agreement. And this affects me how? Well, by driving traffic to Yahoo!, I am driving traffic away from my site and myself.

We are encouraged to drive traffic to Yahoo! through the use of the sign rider bearing the unique Yahoo! Search ID. Until recently, I was happily on the bandwagon. The sales pitch initially had merit. A picture was painted of the drive-by shopper punching this ID number into their PDA, car idling, and immediately pulling up the property information. We are also encouraged to promote the unique ID in all advertising. It made sense until I realized that we aren’t quite there yet (the PDA scenario) and until I remembered where I am sending them (away).

You Can Find Us On the Web

I am “given” a web page within my company’s site, but it is forbidden to have this page link to my real site, the one I want people to visit. Now, enter Trulia. My company (and yours too, I bet) is feeding all of my listings to Trulia. This is great (I can’t argue with additional exposure), but any Trulia shopper who requests more information on my listing is directed to a nondescript page on the company website. If I am lucky enough to have them click the email button (trulia@prusd.com), the lead will come to me. If they dare to pick up the phone, however, off to a toll free number they go. Poof! Now you see them, now you don’t.

It’s 9:00, Do You Know Where Your Listings Are?

Just in case my Broker of Record is reading this, don’t get me wrong. I truly believe the tools you are providing your agents are superior. I just wish more agents would take responsibility for their marketing efforts. It is incumbent on each of us to fully understand where and how our listings are being advertised. I would confidently venture a guess that 95% of the agents in my office (I am being generous here) have absolutely no clue.

My company’s branding benefits me, but not when it comes at the expense of my own. So I am, for the moment at least, embracing the single-property URL. My sign rider promoting the site is now being placed where the Yahoo! rider previously resided. It is my one, small act of defiance to protect what I have worked so hard to build – My business.

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  • 12 comments

    12 Comments so far

    1. Brian Brady March 30th, 2007 9:31 am

      Kris,

      I just dealt with The PruCA/Trulia problem last night. I was dumbfounded that the listing had no web exposure other than the Trulia site and couldn’t find the listing agent. It was in Orange County so I didn’t have access to the MLS.

      I found the listing agent this morning by calling around to 2-3 offices. My thoughts were, “Will a consumer do this calling around?”

    2. Kris Berg March 30th, 2007 9:37 am

      “Will a consumer do this calling around?”

      No, they won’t. They will call the toll free number and talk to a referral agent. If they are a listing-agent shopper, they will run for the hills. If not, then the referral agent will try to convert them and Pru/Trulia will make a few $$.

    3. Greg Swann March 30th, 2007 9:53 am

      Excellent exploration of a sticky problem.

      Inlookers: If you shop the local commercial sign vendors, you’ll find folks who will make you custom riders in 24 hours or less for around fifty bucks.

    4. Mark Ballard March 30th, 2007 9:53 am

      I think each listing deserves a professionally presented page of photos and information.

    5. Kris Berg March 30th, 2007 10:05 am

      G – Got my riders for about $25 each with a 24-hour turnaround to my door.

      Mark – Each of our listings gets this. It is how to get them there and where “there” is that is the sticky problem, as Greg put it.

    6. Michael Fisher March 30th, 2007 10:18 am

      So, let me get this straight. You are happy that your listings are getting more web exposure and maybe even selling the listing to people in far off areas, but you are upset that you don’t get the chance to double end the deal because the lead may not go to you but someone working floor time?

    7. Phil Hoover March 30th, 2007 7:24 pm

      Kris ~
      If you were with RE/MAX, you would have the freedom to market your listings as you please and all responses would go to you.
      No broker directing leads to agents on lower splits, no special deals to unknown partners, no cut throat, no funny business with fees/costs, etc.
      With RE/MAX, it’s all about the agent instead of the broker’s bottom line.
      You pay to be there, you run your own business, and you don’t have to wonder who to trust.
      I closed a deal yesterday that came direct from our new national MLS on http://www.remax.com and got 100% of the commmision.
      RE/MAX is, by far, the best business model I have ever found in 35 years, including running my own company.

    8. Kris Berg March 30th, 2007 8:25 pm

      Michael,

      I don’t even know where to start, but I’ll try.

      My comments were not about dual agency, about “snagging the buyer” for my listing, or anything else even remotely related. I was speaking from a more global business perspective.

      Let me put it this way. You (the real estate agent) presumably spend countless hours and dollars marketing yourself, your own image, your brand. There comes a point where you need to consider to whom the benefit of your time and money expenses will accrue. Can you really argue that the life blood of your business and your sustained income stream is not, to some extent, the ability to market yourself to new customers? You work terribly hard to earn the trust of your clients and earn their business to get the listing. Why does it seem less than noble to suggest that you might want to derive the benefit of the leads that listing might generate rather than “refer” them to your brokerage? Yes, our first loyalty is to our selling client, but we all know that the most of the people who will respond to our marketing will ultimately purchase another home. There is nothing tawdry about endeavoring to earn their business in the process.

      I will give you another example. A few years ago, my brokerage decided that yard signs at all company listings would display a rider with the company website. Is this about selling my listing? To the contrary, it is about selling my company. Naturally, we vehemently opposed this mandate. Great idea, so we replaced the placard displaying the company web address with one bearing our own.

      I truly do not care who represents the buyer on my listing – You, another agent from my office, or some guy from Alabama. I do care, however, that any residual benefit of my marketing and reputation, both products of years of hard work and a tremendous monetary investment, accrue to me.

      I’ll leave you with this: I do not believe for one second, nor should you, that the Russell Shaws of this world would be “okay” with sending the business generated from their six-figure advertising campaign to the up-desk. Why should we be any less inclined to protect our investment?

    9. Marlow Harris March 30th, 2007 10:11 pm

      Michael Fisher,

      The point is not to “double-end the deal”. The point is that Kris pays a portion of her commission to her brokerage for marketing and promotion. Instead of reaping the benefits of that marketing via the leads from Yahoo, the leads go to rivals and competitors instead, using her own listings as bait. Everyone knows that Buyers rarely end up buying the homes they initially inquire about. But those calls are still “leads” and rightfully belong to the listing agent within the company that generates those leads.

    10. Maureen Francis March 31st, 2007 4:42 am

      Kris,

      I am not a Prudential agent, but my broker has some similar policies. It frustrated me that when I was paying for enhanced listings on Realtor.com the broker changed their logo to flash on and off so that it was more likely to get the click through than I was. And other things…

      We’ve been doing single property sites for about 2 years. Our solution is simple and cheap. A $8 domain name for the property and a $30 sign rider. The domain name points to the page within our own site for that home. That way we get the buyer within out site if they want something else. I am not really a proponent of the standalone single property sites.

      Sellers love it. It provides for great viral marketing when they add the URL to their email sig.

    11. [...] Larry Cragun wrote a brilliant post against being led to being a lead, advising consumers: “To give yourself the best opportunity to select a great agent: don’t respond as a lead from a major website. Instead, find an agent’s website, most have them. Better yet, find an agent that blogs. Visit these sites regularly, you will get to know them, even though it is only in your computer.”  Shortly after Larry posted his article, Kris Berg posted an excellent article over on the Bloodhound Blog, divulging her analysis of the pros and cons of single property web sites and how her broker’s relationship with Yahoo! can direct traffic away from her site.  These two posts presented a slight contrast, with Larry cogently explaining why consumers should focus on agent web sites and Kris explaining how her broker’s relationship with a listing portal was making it harder for consumers to do just that.  Hmmm.  [...]

    12. Sondra Johnson April 3rd, 2007 6:32 pm

      Kris…. great post. I agree, a sign rider with an address URL will please the seller, and give something the buyer will more likely be able to remember (versus a random ID number).
      You can get the URL for about $7.00 (maybe less), a rider for $18.00 (a cost we get), and point it to the web page on your own site featuring the property.

      Our team discussed this, but then opted for a more basic approach- a flyer box with the sign that has a printed home flyer with price and the basics. It’s our brand, the buyer doesn’t have to remember anything and has instant gratification, and has four color photos to review and think about….