I’ve been utilizing the internet to sell homes longer than almost anybody. My first real estate website was built back in 1998 (which might be considered Web.05) and featured a few spots where I could change the photos and info about homes and a few pages of clip-art and text. It was crude, for sure, but also high-tech and innovative back then. Heck, I was a broker with the first company (Prudential California) to ever accept a real estate contract on a house online. Site unseen, but the buyer had an inspection period to come see the home before the close was finalized.
Today I run a team of Realtors and have multiple websites that have flash, motion video, map-based search, Web2.0 looks and feel, consumer-generated content, self-updating information, virtual tours, online offers, and even property notifications by text message or email. Last week I brought some clients into the office to search for homes with me and the MLS was down so we jumped onto BlueRoof.com because the website takes the MLS info and downloads it onto my own servers twice per day so although we couldn’t access home info on the MLS, people in the office could still search for homes on BlueRoof.com. That’s all good stuff, but does it sell any homes?
My websites today are certainly much fancier than they used to be. They have a lot more stuff and they give a lot more information to the consumer (or agent) using them. But at the end of the day, when I sell a home it’s not because of my website, it’s because I did the work.
People meet me through the internet, but ultimately they want the same things I want when I’m shopping. They want someone to help them look at options, make a decision and coordinate the transaction. Whether I’m shopping for a car or for mutual funds, having solid professional help is what I want. And home buyers aren’t typically going to buy a home simply because they saw it online. They want to go out and walk through the home and see the location and hear about the area. They want to feel the space and listen for a train going by or a neighbors annoying dog that barks too much. And you need to be there to experience these things.
It’s become cliche to say “buy a home online” or “find your home online”, but the reality is that while people do find homes to look at while searching online, they aren’t actually buying their homes online. They aren’t sitting down in front of their computers and pulling out their credit cards to make a purchase. The reason good Realtors are selling as many homes now as ever is the same reason the internet has not disintermediated the Realtor from the transaction- people search online and find agents and inventory- and then they contact a Realtor to help them.
People are using the internet now more than ever to search for property, that’s for sure, but ultimately they aren’t finding homes online, they’re finding us.