As I discussed several months ago, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service is discontinuing its feed to Realtor.com. Audrey Cohen of the Seattle P.I. did an in-depth story about this, and Joel Burslem at The Future of Real Estate Marketing comments upon this move.
I have such mixed feelings about this, as I would really, really like to support my trade organization, the National Association of Realtors. However, I just wish Realtor.com was a non-profit website rather than a separate money-making venture, functioning more like our local public MLS site, just there to serve as a congregator, and not an advertising vehicle and means and method to sell more ads to us Realtors and our leads back to us.
Cohen’s story quotes Mike Skahen, owner of Lake and Co. Real Estate and a Northwest MLS board member. He’s upset about the move and feels that it was done to shut out small companies like his. “Big real estate companies that control the Northwest MLS board want to impede competition on Realtor.com and, more importantly, Google”, said Skahen. He also said it would be “ridiculously inefficient” and more expensive to have brokers send listings on their own into Realtor.com.
I’m sure he’s a nice man, but I believe he is mistaken. Even if the larger firms have colluded and conspired to veto the MLS feed to Realtor.com because they think it will benefit them in some way, it won’t and he should rejoice, as he and his firm will now have a marketing edge. He can send his owns firms listings to Realtor.com, Google, Trulia or wherever else he thinks will benefit him, and then use that as an advertising advantage over the competition. For instance, Windermere will not send a feed to Realtor.com and Coldwell Banker Bain will not send a feed to Google and if Skahen’s firm sends to both, he can use that to his advantage when trying to get listings. It won’t cost any more, as I see his website already has a feed through Logical Dog. This is a non-problem for his firm and for any other firm out there. It’s MORE freedom, not less.
For even smaller firms than Lake & Company, it may take a few bucks, but if they don’t have a website yet and have been relying on Realtor.com to get leads, perhaps this will motivate them to get it together.
You can add Real Bird to the basic site, as they use a integration of a Map-based MLS Search service with the Northwest MLS (NWMLS) IDX feed, and this could be an inexpensive way for a small firm to put an interactive map on their site without a lot of fuss. It’s only $159 a year and exports listings to Google Base, Edgeio and, it says, “1000′s of syndication partners”.
And Zillow had a little blurb about Mike Rice (Eferi Web Development) who has come up with a way to add Zestimates, charts, beds/baths and historical sales data to websites in a very easy way. Mike has offered to help web site owners add this functionality for $49 to the first 50 interested people.
Combine that with Logical Dog’s easy MLS feeds for about the same price, and you’ve got a great real estate website for less than $500 and at a cost of less than $100 a month.
Smaller firms should empower themselves and take their marketing and success into their own hands. Instead of handing their destiny to an outside entity, they should grab the reins and take control of their business and its future. Take the money that would be spent on buying leads or advertising on portal sites and build your own site and work your own leads. Learn or hire someone to assist with SEO. If it’s a small town you’re working in, you won’t have much competition and should rise to the top in organic search in a short period of time. Jump start your leads with some PPC, put your website URL on everything you print, publish and advertise in or on, and do some high-profile community programs with your new website prominently displayed. Create original content for your website, add some information about the local area and different neighborhoods in the towns served. Exchange links with other real estate companies around the state. Start a blog with real estate information about the towns you serve. Perhaps lease a moving truck with your website splashed across the side and drive it all around town and advertise that the use of the truck is free when they use your services. Join clubs and social service organizations and make sure all your agents do the same. It’s a people-to-people business, after all, and no website, no matter how cool or hi-tech will replace the personal touch.
If you take control, these changes are great opportunities to grow and build a business and forces you to assess the direction and vision of your firm. The larger companies may have more money behind them, but there will always be room for the small independent, locally-owned real estate brokerage.