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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Brokers Embrace Role of Internet

Brokers Embrace Role of Internet By SHELLY GARCIA Senior Reporter Back when the dot-com boom ushered in Homestore and other companies that offered listings of homes for sale directly to shoppers, real estate agents worried, many publicly and loudly, that the new services would put them out of business. Fast forward just a few years and, rather than usurp their business, the Internet has become a regular component of most real estate brokers’ daily lives. Many residential brokerages have developed Web sites that allow shoppers to peruse home listings directly, without the assistance of a broker. And last year, the industry went one step further, developing a system that allows any real estate brokerage to offer listings from other brokers on their Web sites as well. “To the contrary, the Internet has drawn a lot of attention from the consumer,” said James Link, CEO of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. “And in fact realtors’ business has not been hurt one bit by the fact that the data is available.” The SRAR makes available to its members the Internet Data Exchange, an electronic version of the multiple listing service directory (MLS) that has been used by brokers for years to get the word out on homes they are representing and to identify homes that fit the needs of the shoppers they represent. But until companies like Homestore began to make those listings available to the public, brokers had always jealously guarded the listings, figuring that if only they had access to the data, shoppers in the market to buy a home would be forced to work through them. What they’ve learned instead is that buyers use these listings to learn about the market and what types of features they can expect in their price range, and then, with a more targeted approach, seek out a broker to complete the process. According to a just-released survey by the California Association of REALTORS, 56 percent of homebuyers used the Internet to begin their search in 2004, up from 28 percent in 2000. And those buyers who made use of the Internet spent an average of 1.9 weeks actually working with the Realtor to make their selection, compared to 7.1 weeks for those who did not make use of the Internet. Investing in technology As the Internet has proven to be a more efficient way to shop for a home and to market one, brokerage companies have begun to spend more on the technology to provide these services. The National Association of Realtors found that half of their members now have their own Web page in a study the group published earlier this year. Brokers plan to spend more than $1,300 on technology products and services this year, up from $900 in 2002, the report revealed. Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. in March launched a new comprehensive Web site, californiamoves.com, that combines the listings of 20 different multiple listing services and offers an average of 105,000 home listings throughout the state. The site allows buyers to peruse the available homes, see photographs or, in some cases, virtual tours, sign up for e-mails notifying them of homes that meet their specifications when they become available or get open house schedules, and even chat with a live representative if they have questions, all that even if the shopper has not signed up with a Coldwell Banker agent. “If a price changes, it’s changed (on the Web site) the next day,” said Ed Heron, a Coldwell Banker vice president who developed californiamoves.com. “If a house is off the market, it’s off the list the next day.” Virtual tours Coldwell Banker provides each agent with his or her own Web site, where brokers can promote their experience and their listings. But in other cases, brokers are putting together their own Web sites themselves or hiring third parties to do it for them. “Agents are doing CDs on individual properties, CDs on themselves,” said Kathy King, regional manager for the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys at Prudential California Realty John Aaroe division. “The use of virtual tours is very common and lots of digital photos are being attached to different Web sites and sent back and forth.” Recognizing the brokers’ need for specialized technology services, software company Network Earth Inc., about a year and a half ago launched AgencyLogic, a Web site design service geared specifically to the real estate industry. The company designs and hosts sites and this month, launched a new service that allows brokers to develop a Web site for a specific property. “It is 100 percent clear that the Internet is radically changing the real estate industry, and it will more dramatically so in the next five to 10 years,” said Brian Weiss, president of AgencyLogic. “The consumer base, many of the buyers (now reaching the point of buying homes) have been weaned on the Internet and they are driving demand.” According to the CAR study, the average age of homebuyers who use the Internet for the process is 38.5, compared to 43.5 years for the traditional buyer who goes directly to a broker. Internet buyers, the study found, also had higher incomes and were better educated than the traditional buyer. Those demographics, coupled with the greater efficiency, has quelled the fears of brokers. “It’s just enhanced our job,” said Bobbi Miller, branch manager of the Calabasas office of Coldwell Banker. “If we get a lead from an Internet source, we’re getting a more educated buyer. It is saving time and footwork.”

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