Hitchin’ your wagon to the right horse

Last week Yahoo announced a partnership with Prudential Real Estate to market homes on their website.

From the press release sent to me last week by Haley Boruszak, a PR gal from Fleishman Hillard, an international public relations firm:

“Yahoo! Real Estate provides a complete set of tools and access to comprehensive listings including MLS properties in partnership with Prudential Real Estate, classifieds, apartment rentals, for sale by owner, foreclosures, and new home listings. Yahoo! users can easily access this information by visiting http://realestate.yahoo.com or by utilizing Yahoo! Search or other Yahoo! properties such as Finance, HotJobs, and the Yahoo! home page.”

So, I went to the site to see what all the fuss was about and played with it a bit, but was less than impressed. One can find property relatively easy, but when one wants to view extra photos or get more info, a buyer must enter all their contact information to be contacted by a Prudential agent.

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Why would Prudential waste so much money on a (what I am sure will prove to be) useless lead generator? One can go to Coldwell Banker Bain, Windermere, John L. Scott or dozens of other websites and look at all the information and photos, without sacrificing any privacy. Yet on both this Yahoo site and on the local Prudential site, one must first “register” before viewing.

And when one wants to use the site to find a Realtor, when clicking on the tabs, one isn’t lead to a Prudential site but to Homegain, where one is then asked to enter their personal information to then be contacted by dozens of Realtors, all from different companies, not just Prudential.

I can’t believe that this is a partnership that will last, as I just can’t imagine it will result in enough leads to pay for itself. Why align yourself with another company, pay them a franchise or referral fee, and be at the mercy of them and whatever referral fees they want to charge now and in the future? Better to spend that money on a good advertising campaign, public relations and excellent SEO advice instead. Built a better website, add some good sticky content, perhaps embark on a paid placement campaign, those things would make a lot more sense and pay off better in the long run that tying themselves to a real estate portal whose prices can only go up. It’s short-sighted for Prudential and other real estate firms to affiliate themselves with portals, as it builds the portal’s brand and importance, rather than their own. Prudential should strive to make their local or national sites the “go-to” site for real estate information and spend their money on that goal for the future.

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  1. Gary Hodges

    Hi Marlow,

    I just wanted to tell you I agree with you 100%. The only issue I am struggling with is how do you balance “site content” with “contact me” scenarios? I mean, are you professing to just allow visitors to your site with total access to an IDX feed, and hope that you generate a lead from that? I do also realize, being married to a real estate agent, combined with me being a Web site builder, that the importance of being able to “initiate contact” with a potential client has to be the # 1 goal; correct?

    To clarify, it’s also just as important to provide valuable “free” information, home searching of MLS, etc…

    Recently, my wife has come across this service called “Home Buyers Marketing II, Inc.” (If you want more on this I have built a page on her site that addresses this) http://www.mynewhomekentucky.com/homesforsale2.htm

    Furthermore, it replaced an IDX linked page for searches. The reason for the replacement of this was that MLS’s don’t offer the saving of a search criteria that a ‘searcher’ has specified. It also does not email new listings, matching that criterion on a regular basis.

    The idea behind it, is the hope that a potential client will utilize the services of a Real Estate agent that offers this and/or the partnered service with the mortgage company that has established a relationship with that agent.

    Now, knowing that this service probably cost thousands of dollars to provide; shouldn’t there be some way to “enroll” them in this service, with the hopes that the “searcher” will make contact with that agent and/or mortgage broker?

    I know about Windermere and Caldwell Banker, etc., providing this. But, it’s a brokerage and for that broker, leads from there service may or may not be fair, with respect to its agents. So, this method provides the “little guy/gal” have a similar service. As it really is the ‘agent’ who does all the work.

    As a disclaimer, I cannot adequately say I am qualified to represent all that “Home Buyers Marketing II, Inc.” has to offer in this sense. I am merely a website builder married to a Real Estate agent, trying to support her and the industry in my ‘neck of the woods’.

    I do respect your Blog, and most that you have to say. Furthermore, I am aware enough to know that most agents get most of their business by “referral”. At the risk of saying something that I may not be qualified to say (getting in the dog house with my wife) :) I am reaching here for what you think in this regard, as I have mentioned about “Home Buyers Marketing II, Inc..?

    Thanks again for a great site and for you being you.


  2. Kris Berg

    Marlow, As a Prudential agent, I agree that it is a less than perfect partnership (as all are). However, I suspect that Pru sees it as just expanding their reach, and one tool in a tool box to give their agents (and therefore their clients) broader online exposure. The most unique part of the Yahoo/Pru partnership is the Yahoo! Search ID number posted on signs and advertising which allows full property information to be pulled from a PDA. Gimmick or useful marketing tool? That remains to be seen, but their agents are using it as a successful listing tool (at least for now). As for the “must sign in” stuff, I couldn’t agree more, and I have personally shunned that approach on my personal website for years.

  3. Andrew Hodge

    I have to agree with you. I made the mistake of using a lead generation service (HV) and the cost per lead was not worth it. I have spent a lot of time and a very small budget on improving my websites and I now get far more leads, and better quality leads, each week than I did through the service in a month. Building your own branding is far better and more sustainable than outsourcing lead generation. After all one of a Realtors main jobs is lead gereration. Our sellers depend on us to generate buyer leads for their homes, and the buyers want us to find sellers with homes that they want to buy. As much as double ending is rare, if a Realtor® cannot gererate their own leads, through what ever methods preferred, then are their really doing our job?

  4. Marlow Harris

    The debate to register website guests before viewing listings is on ongoing one. It depends upon your business plan and your IDX and features offered by your local MLS.

    Here, we\’re lucky to have our MLS offer excellent feeds that are easily customizable. All searches return results with my photo and contact information. Buyers are able to search by map, enter criteria, receive updates, save their searches and have new listings delivered directly to their mailbox. It\’s excellent. But if you don\’t have that capability, then I see no reason not to go with an outside service.

    However, the question of requiring guests to register is a difficult one.

    In locales that do not have public websites where all listings are available to view, then I guess it\’s a personal decision. By requiring folks to register, you risk the chance of losing quite a lot of people who don\’t want to give up personal information.

    But in our area, virtually all listings are free and available on all the other real estate websites. Even our MLS has a public site with all the listings on it. So it doesn\’t make any sense for any of us to require registration, including Prudential. Better they should offer all information for free, build better buyer and seller content, perhaps incorporate a revolving \”Featured Agent\” program, and offer updated news and information about their market area. Then, they would have people return to their site voluntarily for information and updates, rather than be compelled through tricks or requirements. They could still capture leads though, through a little more \”useful\” features. For instance, on my site, I offer all listing info for free, but if they want to save their search and have new listings delivered to their inbox, then they have to enter their email address. Though I never contact them directly, every listing sent to them is branded with my name, photo and phone number. I put the ball in their court, and they have the option and choice whether to work with me or not, and it seems to work well for both parties.

  5. Greg Tracy

    This relationship is a success for Prudential because of the additional leads it is generating for the company and the exposure it is bringing the company, but it is a loss for Yahoo as it hurts their credibility and exposes the reality that Yahoo will do almost anything for a few more bucks.

  6. Richard Johnston

    I definately agree branding Prudential with Yahoo is a big mistake. Yahoo should definately stay independent and through the partnership with Realtor.com, integrate their properties while building a set of tools to make the user experience more informational. Also, Yahoo’s partnership with Homegain.com is a complete waste. Anybody using homegain is like throwing yourself in front of a pack of lions.

  7. Pingback: Information wants to be free — and browsers just want to shop without being hassled . . . | BloodhoundBlog | The weblog of BloodhoundRealty.com in Phoenix, Arizona
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