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Don’t Blame the Victims: Online Marketing & Agents

August 19, 2008

I went to post a lengthy comment on FOREM regarding this excellent post, but something went wacky with Joel’s Captcha system (socket not found or something?) and I lost it all. 😦  Argh.  So I’ll just respond to Joel here.  But do read his whole post, as it is excellent.

My comment, which I attempt to reconstruct, had to do with this:

Agents should be syndicating their listings across the Net, taking dozens of high quality photos of the home, creating single property sites, doing video tours, blogging about their listings’ key selling features. Any or all of these approaches can add value (either real or perceived) to the bottom line of the transaction.

While Joel is absolutely correct on suggesting all of these steps, I can’t bring myself to blame agents at least for their failure to syndicate listings.  They are the victims, not the perps, at least as far as this issue goes.

Consider that in the 21st century, the real estate industry still lacks a common data standard for sharing listings data.  Consider that we still have hundreds of local MLS systems, each of which has its own data scheme and its own business rules.  Consider that we have dozens, if not hundreds, of websites each of which has its own data scheme and its own business rules.

As I’ve mentioned before, some agents are putting their listing into as many as a dozen different systems.  Even at 5 minutes per entry, that’s a full hour of the day that the agent is not spending actually practicing real estate.  If you have 8 listings, that is a full day’s worth of work where the agent has done literally nothing but put listings into websites.

Joel talks about taking dozens of high quality photos — great idea.  But how many photos can be displayed on any particular website or MLS?  In one site, it’s unlimited; in another, it’s one photo; in yet another, it’s three photos.  Is there any common way of designating photos so exterior shots and interior shots can be distinguished?

Data standards NOW! Woo-hoo!

Data standards NOW! Woo-hoo!

So who are the perps?  Who is to blame?  As the great sage Michael Jackson once said, “I’m looking at the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways.”

The perp is all of us in the real estate industry.  For whatever reason, we have failed to deliver on the promise of the computer era, the Internet age, and the networked world.  Without question, syndication of listings was in the best interests of home sellers and buyers everywhere.  Brokers, industry associations, MLS, technology providers — we all failed to implement a common data standard for easily and quickly sharing listings data.  In some cases, parts of the industry actually fought against sharing data.

Rather than trying to reduce the amount of work that an agent has to do to properly market her client’s property, we have put barrier upon barrier in her way.  The wildly disparate IDX rules are just one example of such a barrier.

I know progress is being made.  But that project has been a classic story of one step forward and two steps back.  And no matter what data standard we come up with, we still need to deal with obnoxiously complex IDX rules by a couple of hundred MLS organizations.  We still need to deal with common standards for photos (size, quality, number, labelling, etc. etc.).  There are business rules that need to be worked out — mixing FSBO with MLS listings, for example.  There are laws and regulations that need to be reexamined in light of the new technology and customer environment.

In any event, at least as far as syndication of listings goes, I am willing to give a pass to agents for now.  They are the victims of a system that has, and is continuing to, fail them.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. jimkimmons permalink
    August 20, 2008 11:18 am

    I was also unable to comment on Joel’s post. I think that there are online tools out there now that do make the process bearable. With the way that technology adapts and innovates, a standard among real estate professionals and/or their associations may never penetrate the third party applications continually innovating in this area. What I wanted to add to Joel’s comments follows:

    The “average” real estate agent or broker will probably never do all that you mention here. I just listed a home with 103 photos, ten tour videos, its own blog site and syndication to almost 100 websites, with video syndication to five.

    Using online tools and services, it isn’t that difficult. We just shouldn’t expect the average practitioner to do all this. What’s wrong with that concept. The average real estate agent right now doesn’t take a third as many CE courses in how to do their job well as they do marketing courses on how to get more business.

    Let’s wish the “above average” agent and broker the best, as they are going to develop into the powerhouse real estate professionals in the future. Average will always be just that.

  2. August 20, 2008 1:17 pm

    Jim – that’s an astonishing feat. 103 photos, 10 videos, its own blog, and syndication to 100 sites! I hope you will post something about how you did it. What tools did you use, how long did it take, did you need third-party vendor help (designers, etc.) or did you do it all yourself, etc. Do you have your own blog?

    If not, please send the post my way and I’ll post it here — crediting you in full of course.

    Your point is well-taken — the above average agent will find a way of getting things done. And yes, there are tools out there, but… I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that those toolmakers would dearly love to have a single data standard.

    Furthermore, the improvements our industry needs to make will first help the excellent agents like you who are willing to put in the work. It will filter down from there. But while the average agent is trying to adopt to the new, easier way, you guy will be up ahead doing new things. It’s how things work.

    I do wish the “above average” people the best; I consider it an honor to work with them. But I still can’t blame the “average” agent for failing to do as well as they could with interactive marketing, until we solve a couple of problems first. What can I say — call me a bleeding heart 🙂


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