Other folks have already praised the new Real Estate Marketing Report Card, which the company was kind enough to alert me to via email. (/wave at Brian Thibault). And if you can get Joel Burslem to say the following, you probably don’t need my two cents:
It’s a great promotional tool – one that’s clearly designed to encourage people towards listing their home on the site (a $299 one-time fee).
The proliferation of consumer search portals has given rise to all kinds of syndication tools like International Listings as well as Listhub, Postlets, vFlyer, Point2 and others, that do the heavy lifting for agents and brokers to get their listings out across the web.
Savvy sellers, who in this market are going to want to see that their agent is doing all they can to move their home, are likely going to be checking the various search sites to make sure that they find their house. A tool like this one, while clearly a gimmick, helps make that possible.
But I blog to please myself, and honesty is more or less the first rule of blogging, so…
I give the Real Estate Marketing Report Card (RE Report Card hereafter) a grade of C-. That is probably an unpleasant grade, but allow me to explain why.
The design is very clean. The tool is actually fun to play with in a way. And the report card makes excellent use of AJAX in displaying the information in a clean, visually appealing way.
It is simple to use (although, I do have some pet peeves) and the average consumer would immediately grasp what the purpose is and what to do.
Given the grade, you probably anticipated that this section would be larger than The Good.
First, the data input has some odd behavior. Why do I need to put in Zip Code if I’m already typing in the city and state? Do a lookup, willya?
Second, more substantively, all that the RE Report Card does is to check to see if the listing is syndicated. The quality of the syndication is not examined (and it isn’t clear that it could be examined by a computer program).
An agent could do a godawful job of listing my house — one dingy, ugly photo, horrible description, outright lies like “Desperate owners! Going cheap!” and the RE Report Card would still give the syndication a green check mark, and up the overall grade.
For something like this to be truly useful to the consumer — instead of being just a cool little curiosity — there has to be a way of grading the listing & syndicated listing on quality.
Third, even on a straight syndication basis, there is no way to enter other websites. That the agent’s own website/blog is missing is truly odd in this day and age. Same with the broker site, or the franchise site (if part of franchise).
The Ugly goes to the heart of agent value.
What RE Report Card does, in my opinion, is to value the listing agent’s efforts strictly on one dimension: as a syndicator of listings.
In an age where agents are trying very hard to brand themselves as local and subject matter experts, picking out this one aspect of their job and grading them on it (and in a flawed way at that) can and will lead to rather unpleasant conversations. No matter how many open houses you’ve held, no matter how many buyer agents you’ve negotiated with only to have things fall through, the client will simply regard you as B- material because his listing isn’t syndicated to Lycos.
Furthermore, the natural question that arises in my consumer mind is… “I wonder if I can just bypass Ms. Six Percent and do all this syndication myself?”
As it happens, I get a suggestion right at the bottom of the RE Report Card:
Not happy with your listing’s web presence?
Put International Listings to the 30-day test and submit a luxury property listing today. Our real estate listing syndication technology is the best in the business. When you list with us, we’ll work with our extensive list of high-traffic partners to syndicate your listing wherever it’s eligible. Competing sites will list many syndication partners, but then their listings won’t actually appear! You won’t have that problem with International Listings; list through us, and within weeks you’ll see your property all over the Web.
Give us the chance to show you our value for a full month. If you then decide, for any reason, that your listing didn’t meet your expectations, just let us know. We’ll promptly refund the listing fee.
The listing process only takes a few minutes, and your listing is live within hours: Add your listing now! Just $299 – click here.
Um, okay… except that as the disclaimer says:
International Listings LLC is not a licensed real estate broker. We do not represent or negotiate on behalf of property owners or prospective buyers, advise property buyers or prospective buyers regarding real estate transactions, or take actual part in real estate transactions.
So if a consumer actually tried to call International Listings to do precisely what International Listings suggests, presumably they would be met with… what exactly?
If RE Report Card was never intended as a consumer tool, then it needs to be hidden behind some sort of security measure to prevent not-fully-informed consumers from running their house on it and making angry phone calls to their listing agent.
In commercial real estate, listing agents routinely provide the client with a weekly/monthly report of activities. These reports can be a relatively involved, time-consuming affair. But when you’re listing a $300M office building, you or someone on your staff had better be spending the time.
I think that’s the way RE Report Card needs to evolve: as an agent/broker tool (sort of as Joel Burslem suggests) with a far stronger qualitative measure.
If I were the customer, I would want my listing agent (who is taking 6% of the sale in my eye, since I don’t know about agent splits and whatnot) to send me an emailed report every week with:
- Listing Views, by site
- Inquiries, by site & total, for the week and month to date or YTD
- “Serious Conversations”
- Actions (e.g., contracts, walk-thrus, showings, home inspections, etc.)
- Buyer comments/thoughts even when deals fall through so I can judge for myself what the market is saying
- Appendix with a screenshot or links to every site where my listing is syndicated, including the agent blog, the agent site, the broker site, the franchise site, etc.
- Updated comps/CMA showing competitiveness with the rest of the market.
Thing is… I’m just not sure that an agent needs some online tool to do this. An Excel spreadsheet would work just as well.
The issue is the “doing it” part, I suppose.
In any event…
RE Report Card — a beautifully designed, neat and easy to use tool, with serious flaws: C-.