The Internet is the largest free market economy in the world. According to Siri™, 2.954 Billion people use the Internet every month. In the real estate industry, more consumers go to Zillow® than any other single real estate website. But that is changing. Some MLSs like IRES are actually drawing more consumer engagement in their local market and it is making a significant difference to MLS participants.
MLSs measure listing engagement with their websites and syndication websites using services like ListHub™ and ListTrac™. These companies either get traffic statistics directly from publishers (like Zillow) or put tracking software on websites that collects and reports on listing engagement.
Listing Views and Inquiries (leads)
In this chart from ListTrac™, we see that the IRES MLS consumer website, www.ColoProperty.com®, and client portal have an almost equal number of views as compared to all real estate portals displaying IRES listings – that’s all portals combined! Moreover, the consumer engagement represented by inquiries (leads) is more than double that of all Portals combined! (see chart below)
Recently, IRES took a bold step by collaborating with other MLSs in the state to display their listings on ColoProperty.com at no charge. Leads continue to be delivered directly to the listing agents and IRES also provides a monthly summary of leads to the partner MLSs or Association, as well as direct access to a ListTrac™ dashboard for their listings. Inquiries are rolling in for the newer areas added, which is exactly what everyone hoped would happen.
Traffic vs. Consumer Engagement
There is no doubt that having consumers visit a website carries a lot of value, but it should not be over appreciated. Investors rallied behind traffic value so much in the late 90’s that it nearly collapsed our economy when the bubble burst. We have learned that the true value of the Internet is engagement with a website and the resulting commerce. No doubt, the fact that Portals generate 1/3 of the consumer engagement with broker listings is an amazing feat. Some might review that as a startling risk if the Portal allows FSBOs. The good news is that the MLS is generating 3 times more leads and engagement than publisher sites.
In the case of Zillow, traffic is vital to their business. They sell advertising, not houses. The more traffic they obtain, the more they can charge per impression. This year, Zillow announced that they have changed their advertising model to charge by Zip Code. Consumers can sell their homes on the site for free. Agents, Brokers, Lenders, Loan Officers, Property Managers, or Brands pay a fee. In many cases, the price of advertising on some publisher websites is equal to or greater than MLS fees.
Last year, the National Association of REALTORS® revised the MLS policy to make MLS consumer facing websites a basis benefit of the MLS. IRES, like many MLSs, has been operating a consumer facing website since 1998 as a benefit. The website caries the interest of all MLS participants by only displaying the listing broker on their listing. This feature, among others, is in line with the industry adoption of the Fair Display Guidelines, or what many call “My listing, My Lead.” IRES treats their consumer website as a Center of Excellence like many other services they offer their brokers.
IRES is also a founding supporter of the project known as the Broker Public Portal (http://www.brokerpublicportal.com), a collaborative venture between real estate brokerages and MLSs to create a national consumer home search experience defined by simplicity, integrity and common sense. For 20 years, how people find homes online has been imagined and defined by those who sell ads, not homes. This is our turn to speak, to imagine and to deliver a better experience. This initiative exists because consumers and professionals deserve a home search experience that is more straightforward and clear than those offered by advertising-driven media companies.
By the way, if you are a broker – ask your MLS for the Listhub report and Listtrac report. This is definitely information that you will want to use to inform agents and consumers about online marketing effectiveness.