Many of us have our own websites that we have created ourselves. They belong to us, not our company or brokerage or web host, right?
A few years ago, as an experiment, I purchased a “Connecting Neighbors” website. I was intrigued by the interactive nature of the site and I loved the automatic monthly newsletters that I could adapt to my own chosen neighborhood. It was a template site, yet allowed for a good deal of customization. I could create pages and content, including neighborhood photos, school info, entertainment, arts, events, recipes and local real estate.
And I did that. I added photos of local restaurants and shops, parks, schools and events. I added stories about neighborhood happenings and highlighted local fund-raisers, pancake breakfasts and lasagna dinners. I added new listings as they became available, and I added hundreds of links to local and neighborhood websites that would be of interest to those who lived in or who were relocating to the neighborhood.
The coolest thing about the website was that, theoretically, after it was set up, you wouldn’t have to do anything. Because it was interactive, readers could add their own content without being registered, and Connecting Neighbors would monitor the content for anything that was inappropriate. Readers could add information about their church picnic or the winner of the local elementary schools soccer match. It actually worked pretty well.
The cost of the website with the automatic newsletter mailing was $39.95 a month, and I had thought it worth-while if I had been able to get a critical mass of readers together to keep it fresh and updated.
Alas, I could not, and it was up to me to continually add content.
When they raised the price in January to $59.95 a month, I thought it time to bail and just chalk it up to a lesson learned.
However, when I went to cancel, they kept the site live.
When I pointed out to them that I had cancelled the website, I was told by a representative of the company: “Please note the website still remains live online so it can be resold by our sales team.”
I was shocked. They had removed my name, photo and contact information from the site, but kept the name and all of the original content and photos online and they were attempting to market it, fully customized, to another real estate agent.
Of course, I couldn’t let that happen. Fortunately, I was still able to access the site, so I could delete all of the photos and original content and add my own disclaimer to alert any unwary agent in the future that the website contained content that I had compiled and created.
Luckily, I also owned the domain name, so I was able to redirect that to another page I had created, but I’m guessing other unwitting real estate agents may not be able to do that and they may become a victim of this company. Respected names in the real estate industry, including Michael Russer and Allen Hainge, are partners with Connecting Neighbors, and I hope they will look into this unfair practice so other agents are not victimized by their actions.
Connecting Neighbors urges agents to purchase not only the website through them, but the domain as well. Hence, when the website is discontinued, Connecting Neighbors can just sell that site to another agent, even though it may be a very elaborate site, with a customized look, feel and brand, created by one particular agent. Nothing belongs to the agent, it’s all owned by Connecting Neighbors, even if created by the purchaser. This is good to know if you’re considering working with this company. It’s potentially a valuable product, but may not be worth the cost in the long run since once you start with them, they can just raise the price and if you discontinue, all your hard work, branding and unique domain name can then be sold to another.
The right thing to do would be to just take the website offline when the service was cancelled and not try to resell the site to another before removing all of the custom content.