The first thing most consumers are looking for is anonymity. Consumers want the freedom to search the internet for housing information, loan qualification guidelines, home improvement tips, and more without the onslaught of phone calls and emails following up or trying to gain their business. Online companies, like Zillow and Trulia, provide a free and hassle free environment for consumers to browse homes and collect the information they desire without having to commit to working with a professional. Many consumers that are gathering information aren’t quite ready to begin the home search or apply for loan, but may be 6 months to a year down the road. Consumers that are still in the pre-home searching phase want to have the freedom to see what’s out there on their own and are willing to settle for a semi-flawed search or slightly inaccurate information to do so. Having to contact a professional, either real estate or lender, creates a sense of commitment to most consumers that they just aren’t ready for.
Another important feature to the online seeker is the amount of information they can gather. Consumers want to be able to find all the information they feel is necessary to make the right decision in buying or selling their home. Three primary questions most consumers have when entering the real estate market are: Whether this is a good time to buy or sell a home? What homes are for sale in the area and price range they want? What is their home worth?
Successful internet sites, such as Zillow and Trulia, provide numerous pages of extensive information covering pertinent topics, including property details, pictures, tax data, area schools and information, crime activity, and transit information. Zillow sets itself apart by providing this information to the public, where other real estate sites only provide this information to brokers, forcing the consumer to interact.
The online marketplace has provided consumers with the ability to review, rate, and recommend different services and professionals, creating years of user-generated content that creates an in-depth perspective on a particular area or professional. Staying active in social networks and the blogging sphere allows brokers to create and share their own experience and expertise in particular neighborhoods and market conditions becoming more relevant to consumers.
Staying involved in the online marketplace and mobile environment helps to connect with the largest majority of consumers. Todd Carpenter’s article “Why online consumers love Zillow and Trulia more than you,” reports that 68% of home shoppers use mobile applications at the start and throughout their research. Also, 77% of respondents said they used mobile applications at home, demonstrating the power of the mobile marketplace and its virtual reach to consumers. Dominating this platform is essential to connecting with the new online customer.
Just being online and having an internet presence isn’t always enough. Engaging the consumer on multiple levels of their home search establishes a holistic real estate resource, ensuring the consumer’s needs are met from the start of their real estate life to the purchase of a home and beyond. Providing an open market place where consumers can estimate what their home is worth, search for a new home, manage their home financing, and make smart decisions on home improvements allow consumers to be connected to professionals and consumers in the areas they are interested in.
Brokers should create an unparalleled experience for their consumers where they can access the information they desire and when ready, can be connected to the professionals that will give them the best experience online and in person. In the end, the home search always requires face-to-face customer service, but staying relevant in the online marketplace will create a presence that captures those initial seekers.