My Florida Regional MLS (MFRMLS) is one of the five largest MLS companies in America with more than 50,000 subscribers serving the central Florida region, including major US cities of Orlando and Tampa. They have operated an MLS consumer facing website since 2008 at MyFloridaMLSHomes.com . In an effort to improve the effectiveness of their consumer site as a subscriber benefit under NAR’s basic service guidelines, they have launched an entirely new site at https://www.state27homes.com/
When large MLSs launch consumer facing websites, WAV Group examines the strategy to observe best practices that other MLSs may learn from. There are a number of keynotes to this new site that should not go unrecognized by MLSs who are considering a new site or the relaunch of their existing site.
Changing the name of your website is no easy consideration. There are benefits to maintaining an established online URL that include name recognition and search engine optimization. The old brand of My Florida Homes MLS was certainly a long brand, but it did a very good job of stuffing many SEO rich keywords into the URL. The new brand was contrived through a process of crowd sourcing possible names from leaders and subscribers to the MLS. Each name was evaluated for its domain name availability and social media name availability. In the end, the shorter name of State 27 Homes was established to recognize that Florida is the 27th State in the Union. It lacks the MLS keyword that consumers know and trust, but their communication plan around the brand compensates for that.
MFRMLS made an important decision in the conversion. The old site had some very important features that made it effective. Principally, the old site was constructed with a purposeful intent to allow the site to be completely branded as an agent’s IDX website. Since 2008, every MLS subscriber has been provided with a personal URL, like myfloridahomesmls.com/agentname. Agents have long been able to provide that URL to their clients. Registered clients have been able to search the entire site and have all communications and leads from that personal URL go explicitly to them. Agents have tens of thousands of consumers registered to their personal URLs on the old site, with lots of saved searches and daily notifications. To abandon the old site could have been very disruptive to the relationship between the agents and their registered clients. As a result, the old site will stay up for as long as it takes for agents to transition their clients to the new site.
The new site has maintained the same agent-branding feature as the old site. To view a sample of an agent’s personal URL (PURL), visit https://www.state27homes.com/agent/dawnastone. You will see Dawna’s photo at the top of the page and any consumer who registers through Dawna’s PURL will be affiliated with Dawna.
To see what Dawna’s agent profile page looks like, to a consumer who finds her through the Find an Agent feature, visit https://www.state27homes.com/search/agent-profile/dawnastone.
The data plan for the new site is the same as the last site. They display the information that their subscribers get from the IDX feed, which includes all active listings and a few years of sold properties. They elected active, pending, and recently sold properties, but not off market listings.
One remarkable feature already mentioned is the agent branded version of the site which makes it like an IDX website. But there are a few others that are worth mentioning.
TLCengine is a company that harvests many data sources to predict a consumer’s total cost of living (TLC). Before TLC, consumers looked mainly at mortgage and property tax, but had little or no visibility into cost of daily commuting, utilities, insurance rates for home and auto, or even more obscure costs like maintenance or childcare. On State 27 Homes, all of that information is customizable to the consumer who completes their profile. This is a truly differentiated feature not found elsewhere.
Down Payment Resource
Florida is rich with government sponsored programs that are available to help consumers with home ownership. State 27 Homes has integrated the Down Payment Resource qualification widget into every listing detail page to inform consumers of programs that they may qualify for. This has long been a feature inside of many MLS systems, and could be another excellent differentiator to the State 27 Homes site for consumers to take advantage of.
With more than 50% of consumers using mobile devices for home search today, the mobile strategy for State 27 Homes is vital to the long term success. Their old site was not very user friendly. The new site deploys responsive design. A website development feature that modifies the website display layout to respond to the browser of the user. It stacks up the information for users on mobile phones, tablets, or desktop browsers in either the vertical or horizontal display to optimize the consumer experience.
To date, MFRMLS is sticking with their My MLS App mobile application from CoreLogic. Like their consumer sites, their agent provides this application to consumers. MFRMLS was among the first MLSs to launch My MLS App, and agents have tens of thousands of consumers already registered. It would be highly disruptive to the relationship between agents and their consumers using My MLS App to replace that product.
As with any website launch, what you see on State 27 Homes is phase one. They have many opportunities on their roadmap to improve the site. It would be premature to offer critiques. However one outstanding industry-wide problem is visibly obvious. The effort by the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) and Upstream to define a structure of data for saving searches and favorite listings on search sites is vital.
Today, there is little ability for technology applications to share or transfer customer saved searches and favorites across platforms. If you switch MLS systems, the saved searches are usually lost. If you switch websites, the saved searches are usually lost. If you have a mobile application from different vendors, the save searches are rarely synchronized. If the broker or agent has a personal website or CRM, the customer record is not shared across applications.
According to Merri Jo Cowen, MFRMLS CEO, “MFRMLS fully supports standardizing and distributing contact information and other data among cooperating websites, as long as permission is obtained by the broker.”