Comparing & Choosing Real Estate Companies Online

You’re beginning your search for a new home or real estate. Where do you start to find a professional and reputable real estate broker who you can depend on?

In an age of such high technology searching for a broker through an online search in the area of your interest is a great place to start. With diligent and through examination of the entire brokers website you will be able to get a good feel for their professionalism, integrity and ability as well as to gain a feel for them being a good match to represent you. Here are some things to be aware of as well as to look for when examining their website.

To begin, so many folks don’t realize when going online and doing property searches for through real estate company websites is, that they are actually getting information not directly from the Multiple Listing Service as the website says, but what is called an IDX. It would be illegal for real estate brokers to give the public information that is strictly intended for professional real estate brokers that are members of the Board of Realtors in that particular area. Yet you continually see comments and enticements that say “search the MLS for free” or some variations.

So what’s the big deal, right? Hey, it’s a matter of detail which all real estate brokers should be aware of and if they are ignoring it then guess what, chances are that when you are entrusting them to represent you in what could very well be the biggest transaction of your life, are they going to be overlooking details which can ultimately put you at risk. I caution you, if you land on a real estate site that says “search the MLS” move on. Let’s face it, there are more than enough real estate brokers so be wise in how you select yours. When looking for property online, look for a real estate company who rightfully represents where the information you are receiving is coming from.

It is a good start to enlist a real estate broker from the area who has a passion for the details. You can do this if you would take the time and go through their website. It will say a lot about the quality of the broker and their company. You’ll see the broker’s passion and vision. No passion or vision, then move on. If you find the website gives you more hype than constructive information and direction, move on. Check the content, is it sloppy with errors, obviously not proof read?

Read the description of their listings. Do they seem like very little thought went into them or are rich with visual language forming pictures and feelings? I tell you, sometimes it seems like the descriptions given to properties give the impression that the broker is a little put out with having to do this. It is imperative for the broker to be creative and eloquent in writing description to draw potential buyers to the property as well as high quality photographs. Are the pictures reflective to the qualities of the property or just a snapshot? Does it appear that real effort went into representing the property as best as it possibly could be?

The time to you take to investigate in detail any website and therefore the broker and their company representing these areas will pay off. Ask anyone who has had a bad experience with a broker less than professional and they’ll tell you to do your research and enlist the best you can. The commitment to details, beauty of design and depth of information of the website as well as its ease of use will be reflective of the company, broker, and broker associates.

Accessing Real Estate Internet Marketing Practices of the Top 50 Real Estate Companies

In December 2008 a detailed analysis of the Top 50 Real Estate Companies’ Websites, recognized by Real Trends Report “The 500 Largest Brokers in the U.S. (Ranked by Closed Transactions sides for 2007).” Real Trends is a leading source of analysis and information on the residential brokerage industry.

The main objective of the analysis was to highlight the SEO practices of major Real Estate Companies as well as emphasize with real examples, the importance for all Real Estate Companies to place SEO at the top of their marketing agenda.

What is SEO?

SEO (SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION) is the process of making a website and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. SEO includes technical tasks that make it easier for search engines to find and index a website for the appropriate keywords. Web SEO helps a website gain top positioning for relevant words and phrases. If a website is not found on page 1 or 2 of a search engine, then that website will not enjoy website traffic, online exposure, and online profitability.

After viewing countless websites every month, ranging from small sites to large multi-page web-sites, while doing a variety of SEO research to try to identify what’s working and what’s not cutting it for Real Estate websites, there were a few issues that come up frequently. These Optimization factors were divided into 7 SEO CATEGORIES.

Note: The categories that are discussed in this report only touch the surface of what is required to gain top Search engine placement. Like Real Estate, the SEO world is constantly changing and it takes a true professional to keep up with new SEO trends, tools and practices..

Measurements

This study evaluates the websites of the Top 50 Real Estate Companies as recognized by a re-port published by Real Trends entitled “The Largest 500 Brokers in the U.S. – Ranked by Closed Transactions Sides for 2007”

The following factors were considered:

  • Traffic Ranking
  • Number of Search Terms a website ranked for
  • Google Page Rank
  • Number of Pages indexed by Google
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Page Titles
  • Website Validation Errors

Real Estate Landscape

Real estate is about building relationships. Nowadays, these relations start online. The need to embrace the Internet is evident in most industries, but for Brokers and agents, optimization and the Internet is paramount and a core factor for success. Having an online, visible and prominent website voice and an online platform to showcase your listings and make your services known to sellers is crucial.

According to the 2007 National Association of REALTORSĀ® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 84% of all homebuyers used the Internet as an information source.An astounding 84% of ALL buyers identified the Internet as a source in their home search. This percentage amount included 87% of first-time buyers, 82% of repeat buyers, 79% of new home buyers and 85% of buyers of previously owned homes.

With a plethora of Real Estate Websites to choose from, can home buyers and sellers easily find your site?

In today’s challenging market and economic downturn, every dollar spent needs to have relevance. Advertising and marketing costs are on the rise and what used to work no longer does. Media today has become fragmented and gone are the days when companies launched a campaign on TV and reached masses of consumers. Traditional media vehicles such as newspapers, magazines and TV, simply do not make the phone ring like they used to. This is because consumers today are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day and they have almost become immune to traditional media. People use the internet as their resource.

Studies indicate that the Internet has become the go-to source for home buyers and sellers. The Internet provides a 24/7 source of information and buyers and sellers can browse and look for WHAT they need, WHEN they need it, without having to be distracted by hordes of other irrelevant marketing messages.This means that you need to position your Company and Agents’ website for top rankings in the search engines.

Top Real Estate companies have relied on name recognition, but with a host of major companies to choose from, clearly only a few would get “top-of-mind” awareness. Subsequently, even the most established companies need to optimize their websites to constantly maintain their market position.In a world dominated by the Internet, what matters most is not having concrete processes for your marketing and sales funnels but a SEO Real Estate optimized website that potential clients will find in the first place.

How Should I Choose a Real Estate Company?

Joining a real estate company, whether you are considering a move, or joining for your first time, is an important decision and one that you should make carefully and deliberately. So what factors should influence your decision-making process?

To be perfectly honest, my company didn’t know the answer to that question, so we conducted a survey. We queried half a million real estate professionals and discovered that the vast majority of agents choose a brokerage for only five reasons, and we’ve made it our mission to excel in all five areas.

1. Your Company Should Find You Customers. Join the right company and you’ll immediately solve the number one problem facing agents today: not enough customers. Some companies give their agents leads, while others don’t. Our company doesn’t. You’ve probably heard the adage, “Buy a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life.” So instead of giving our agents leads, we teach our agents how to find their own customers.

We provide our agents with both our telephone and our website lead capture technology, enabling them to produce as many customer leads as they can work. The typical agent who uses our lead capture technology spends about $250 a month in advertising and generates between 80 and 90 customer leads, or enough leads to complete about 3 deals a month.

However your company goes about getting you business, make sure and select a company that solves the “no-customer” problem or you likely won’t survive in this business long enough to choose another company.

2. Your Company Should Provide You With Productivity Tools. Today, most agents spend a fortune on various tools and software. You should look for a company that will provide you the tools you need to do your job. When I say tools, I’m not talking about a fax machine and copier. I’m not talking about a computer that the agents can come in and use. What I’m talking about is tools like a website, lead capture technology, and a full-featured client manager application.

Our company’s agents each get their own state-of-the-art LCM Web Gateway, their own LCM Phone Gateway, their own personal Agent SimpleSite website, their own integrated Pipeline Client Manager, and Pipeline Virtual Assistant and mobile applications. They also get access to our productivity calculators, business planning modules and much more.

If your company isn’t providing you these basic tools then I hope they’re providing you with a much better split so you can buy them on your own. Today, real estate is virtual, and not having the basic technology tools to practice in today’s virtual environment is like trying to run a foot race in combat boots: You start out at a huge disadvantage in a highly competitive business. Don’t do it.

3. Your Company Should Train You to Succeed. Many companies talk about training, but few actually provide it. Look for a company that will help you get better at being an agent. Our industry is constantly changing and successful agents are always learning.

Having the best tools and having an endless supply of new inbound customers won’t help you at all if you don’t have the basic skills needed to turn those opportunities into closed transactions. That’s where training comes in. I believe that there are several fundamental things that a REALTORĀ® must have if he’s to become a mega-producing agent. Just as technology is crucial to success today, so also is training.

Let’s be honest here: most of us haven’t done a lot of studying since we left school, and the temptation is to try to get by without having to do the work. I know that. But that’s all the more reason to make yourself do it. Average agents won’t. You want to be a top agent!

I’m going to make a confession here. I don’t really like to study either, but that’s what gives me an advantage. My peers never crack a book, while I read about two books a week. Do I do it because I like to read? NO! I do it because I need to continue to push myself to be the best I can be.

If I am to be at the top of my game — if I really want to be the best — then I have to make myself do those things that I don’t necessarily want to do. Remember how your mom used to make you eat spinach? Well, I say eat your spinach.

I realize it’s a hassle to continually take training, but this is your profession. Be a professional. I promise you that there are agents calling me every day asking for help because they really want to go to the next level and the help they need is not available at their own brokerage! What a shame.

Find a brokerage that encourages a learning environment and find a broker that will help you grow. Frankly, that is part of what you should be getting for your agent split, and if you aren’t, you’d better be getting enough additional money to find your training elsewhere.

4. Your Company Shouldn’t Waste Your Time. At the end of the day, the only thing you have to sell is your time. That’s precisely why our company doesn’t waste our agents’ time with sales meetings, caravans, floor duty, or other non-productive company meetings. Find a company that won’t waste your time. Find a company that empowers the agents to be productive while maintaining the support, community, and structure that many agents crave.

When I was a brand new agent, I was in a very traditional Century 21 office. We had a company meeting every Tuesday afternoon. We had “sales meeting” on Wednesday morning, followed by a two-hour caravan. We had no less than 2 half days of floor duty, and another 2 half days of sitting in a builder’s model home.

Add to that the wasted time of dealing with the bureaucracy of the office structure, and about one other hour-long meeting a month and we are talking about over 20% of my available time! If you want to make $100,000 this year, and work a forty-hour week, then your time is worth $50 per hour.

And all the wasted time adds up quickly. Those time-wasters would have cost me $400 per week or $20,000 per year! That is like paying over $1,600 a month in rent! Is there any wonder I only stayed for two years? I couldn’t afford to stay! And that brings me to the final concern: money.

5. Your Company Should Pay You Well. Ask most agents what their commission split is, and they won’t have a clue. It depends on whether it’s a cross-sale or in-house sale. New or existing. January or December. Most company commission plans are a shell game. In my company, our agents keep a minimum of 80% and any agent can make 90% by being a top-producer or a top-recruiter. Period. And that’s 90% with no office rent, no transaction fees, no administrative fees, no nickel and dime fees, no fees period.

If your company split needs an MIT graduate to calculate, you can bet it’s because they don’t want you to know how little you actually make. Find a company that pays you well, that doesn’t have a complicated and elaborate compensation plan, and make sure and factor in any rent or other charges.

For example, if you pay $1,400 a month in rent, in a market with an average commission of $5,000, and you do one deal per month, your effective split needs to be adjusted downward by 28%! So if you think you’re at 100%, you’re really at only 72% before factoring in any copies, faxes, and other fees!

Let me sum it all up like this: When you choose a company to work with, make certain that they solve your customer problem. Make sure they provide you with the basic tools you need to be successful in today’s virtual real estate climate. Make sure they provide training to keep you at the top of your game, and make sure you invest your time to take that training. Finally, make absolutely certain that they don’t waste your valuable time and that they pay you well.

Finally, after looking at all five of those areas, you need to choose the one you like and respect, and that’s my quick answer.