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My Tech House Hunt

January 03 2012

I’m about to step off of the sidelines and onto the playing field. After a year as a real estate technology commentator, I’m becoming one of those people I write about all the time: the oh-so-elusive consumer. You see, my husband and I want to buy a house. We’ve picked our neighborhood and established the square footage and beds/baths we need. Now, we have to find “it” – the right house for us.

Obviously, this is already an emotional journey, but I’m going to make a scientific endeavor as well, documenting the role that technology plays in our house hunt. This weekend we drove through our desired neighborhood and spotted a few “For Sale” signs, so I think today is a good time to begin this column.

A Few Introductory Notes
We are already homeowners. However, we don’t want to list our current home until we’re sure we’ll find what we want. This is a reminder to all you agents that buyer leads are very often seller leads as well.

I also want to point out that, like many people, I did not begin my search online. We began our search by driving through our aspirational neighborhood and building castles in the air. Low home prices (and advice from trusted sources, as I’ll talk about later) were the reason we decided to see if we could make our dreams become reality. This is another reason that the first agent that we contact will be from a yard sign.

Fix Your Signs, People!
Seriously, it’s time to do better with yard signs. As Victor Lund has told me repeatedly, this is a real estate agent’s most effective marketing/advertising. Why, then, are most of them a #fail?

Let’s take this weekend as an example. I’m cruising along the road and I see a sign in front of a cute little house (with a killer view of the ocean). “Hooray,” I think to myself, “our first contender!” Now I need to know more about the property.

I’m in love with my Smartphone, so the first thing I look for on the yard sign is a QR code, one that would send me to a listing details page on the agent’s website. Unfortunately, there was no QR code on the sign. There was no flyer box, and obviously no flyers, to give me any information about the property.

The next thing I look for on the sign is a Web address. Believe it or not, that was missing too! All that this sign included was the broker’s logo and the agent’s name and phone number.

So, what’s a Smartphone-loving, technologically-proficient consumer to do? I went home and pulled up our local MLS consumer-facing website (because I want to be sure I’m getting the most accurate, up-to-date information) and did a property search. Our MLS consumer-facing site is powered by Rapattoni and I was curious to see it in action.

It took me a few minutes to sort through my search results, but I eventually found what I was looking for.  I was frustrated that I did not have the option to search for a specific address or neighborhood; my only choice was to use a form with search criteria. I didn’t even have the option of a map search, which would have been more user-friendly.

So, based on my experience, here are a few tips for improving your signs:

  • Include the agent’s name, phone number, and website.
  • Include the broker’s name, number, and website.
  • And – this is very important – include flyers or a mobile alternative (i.e. a QR code or a service that offers recordings about a property like Ifbyphone). If you want to learn more about your options, you may want to check out companies who offer QR codes, mobile search, mobile applications, and mobile websites.

Stay Tuned
I’m amazed by all the revelations I’ve had in the very short time I’ve been wearing my consumer hat. Stay tuned for the ongoing tech house hunt saga! In the meantime, do you have any advice for me?

Other articles of interest: dsSearchAgent IDX | Top Producer IDX