realty_checkLast week I attended a seminar organized by the National Association of REALTORS at the Doubletree Hotel in Sacramento. The seminar was titled “Survival Guide” and was supposed to be a workshop to teach Realtors the value of social network marketing and how incorporating Internet marketing could help reduce traditional marketing budgets during the current real estate market.

The conference was held from 9:00am to 1:00pm, yet only one hour covered how agents could effectively use Facebook, Twitter, and several other social media portals. To be fair, the presenter was very knowledgeable on the subject and did a good job of conveying to Realtors the nuances of the “soft sell” style of social media versus the traditional direct sales approach. Even so, he neglected to mention his position as Vice President of Realtor.com before proceeding to call all the attendees to join him in worship of Realtor.com for the remaining three hours of the seminar. This bothered me on two levels. First, I’m part of a generation that doesn’t want to be given a free vacation only to find out, with skis in hand and goggles on in the lounge, that it’s only free if I listen to a 90 minute timeshare presentation. If someone is going to hold a seminar to teach Realtors how to take advantage of social media, that had better be the only thing they talk about because I’m going to feel very angry when Realtor.com sales reps are waiting at the back of the banquet hall as was my experience last week.

Second, the idea of selling Realtor.com as the latest and greatest way to market listings on the Internet is pretty shaky at best. I did a little “comparison shopping” with Realtor.com’s competitor, Trulia.com. Trulia.com’s information is a thousand percent better and included actual test scores for schools with links to their websites, crime statistics, and a myriad of other things not mentioned or poorly covered on Realtor.com. Also, the look and feel of Realtor.com is about as user friendly and aesthetically pleasing as IRS.gov.
 
What amazed me most were not the staggering inadequacies of Realtor.com compared to sites like Trulia, but the fervor with which the Realtors at the conference ran to the back of the room to buy featured listing zip codes that were sold like Google stock on a fire sale. Out of curiosity, when did buyers only look at and buy properties that are featured? Don’t most buyers end up looking at all the homes they can and buying the one they see themselves being happy in? These Realtors were signing up to spend, for some zip codes, hundreds of dollars per month. They were also signing up for a monthly fee structure that is based on their past year’s transactions just to have extra photos and their contact information included with their listings. Maybe I missed something, but isn’t this site endorsed by NAR? So, in essence, aren’t we already paying for it?

Try this on for size: Trulia.com is a flat monthly fee; Craigslist.com is free. Realtors need to educate themselves more about the plethora of cheap and/or free portals on the Internet that won’t gouge them to run their businesses.

Or better yet, join a company that already does all this for you.   

T.J. Shanahan
Social Media Manager
tj@rwnc.net