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Op/Ed

Are traffic metrics for the big three real estate search sites BS?

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For years, I’ve looked very closely at the traffic data for Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, and it seems the race to the top is built on some very faulty assumptions because it doesn’t compare apples to apples. Yesterday, we broke the story that Realtor.com is severing ties with all search portals, even MSN Real Estate, stating that real buyers search through their site and mobile apps, not through third party portals. A lot of money goes into buying traffic, but if the traffic numbers game doesn’t work, companies must transition.

A few years back, ActiveRain had to clean their subscription house down to actual users versus ghosts in order to establish a real value. Despite going IPO, Zillow and Trulia avoided this very step, but why?

Let’s talk about the metrics that matter

There are several factors Zillow and Trulia have most in common in the reporting of traffic with Realtor.com, it’s a blanket total traffic number, but how those metrics break down is not made public, and therein lies the rub.

The data provided by third parties like comScore show desktop search versus mobile, but what percentage of those users are actual customers (buyers/sellers)? Further, in the reporting of subscriber accounts, what percentage are ghosts?

Realtor.com’s move makes a lot of sense because the aim is to go directly after actual buyers and sellers, which is likely smaller than the total number of views/users of any of the three. Also, it will give their customers (Realtors looking to make a spend) a better idea of actual users and behavior.

In the traffic metrics, I also wonder what percentage are actual Realtors or Professionals, versus actual real estate buyers and sellers.

Even more, I wonder what percentage of real estate listings on Zillow and Trulia are actual ghosts. Have you personally ever searched Zillow for rentals? The real listings versus scams nears that of Craigslist. Not to mention, dubious real estate professionals post listings that are pretty pictures, but the house is not available or worse, never was available.

Why would Trulia move ActiveRain into their domain, if the intent wasn’t to score another metric for traffic (not to mention the SEO benefits of the move (but that’s another story))?

I also wonder how many users of mobile apps are consumers versus agents in the field who use real time geolocation to continue to show properties while on the go.

Urging the big three to offer meaningful stats

Here is what I’m getting at. None of us really knows the total numbers within the traffic – real subscribers, and real listings on site are the determining factor of the quality of the lead opportunities provided to professionals.

These are the new metrics we’ll be asking about. Traffic is irrelevant except that it does increase odds in the numbers game of getting a real buyer, or a consumer uploading a listing.

My suspicion of why Zillow has moved to the top in traffic metrics is because Realtors are out to sell, not lease. Renters aren’t looking for Realtors, they’re looking for a house. Zillow takes renters very seriously, knowing full well the nation is in an inventory crunch. Obviously, Zillow or Trulia focusing resources on rentals gives a giant advantage to their total metrics score, but again, we don’t know, because the real estate world has us so focused on one big number to please investors and sound competitive.

How to compare apples to apples, not apples to BS

By now, most Realtors have invested in their own website, and understand that their internal metrics never match that of a third party company’s like comScore that takes data and extrapolates it. Further, they know there are many more metrics available aside from total traffic numbers.

That said, in order to compare apples to apples to help Realtors and brokers determine where they should invest their marketing dollars, the big three should report the following:

  1. One traffic metric that strips out all visitors to rental properties, FSBO properties, forums, or anything that is not directly a real estate listing for sale.
  2. Then, that metric should include two numbers: traffic from Realtors vs. traffic from real estate consumers.
  3. We’d also like to see mobile users broken down into consumers vs. agents.
  4. Eventually, the portals will need to report the number of user accounts that are inactive, just as social networks can, rather than reporting the whole number.
  5. Also useful is reporting the number of ghost listings versus legitimate listings (especially for Zillow’s rental section), or dumping them altogether, which they’ll say they do and have, but we know better from experience.

What the industry is desperate for is specificity and we’re not getting it. Personally, I believe that stripping out FSBOs, rentals, and real estate professional users, Realtor.com is still in the lead with consumer traffic looking to buy or sell a home (if you truly compared apples to apples). If Realtor.com spent as much time focused on renters as their competitors and more, Realtor.com would swallow them whole. Renters are future buyers after all, and this market is temporary.

The bottom line is that it’s time to change the paradigm on what we consider metrics, which should be similar to how professionals break down their own internal traffic data on their own sites. This way, real estate professionals and brokers know where their dollar is best spent.

Why does this matter? It’s your money.

The Real Daily's Founder and CEO, Benn Rosales has dedicated the past two decades to consumerism in and out of the real estate space. His passion is adding value to professionals' lives and sincerely hopes that you enjoy The Real Daily - just one more example of the evolution of empowered real estate practitioners and consumers.

Op/Ed

Make better decisions in 2018 by quitting (wait, hear me out)

(EDITORIAL) 2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something. Embody the phrase “less is more” by quitting and letting go.

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Around this time every year, people everywhere gear up to attack New Year’s resolutions with short-lived vigor, while people like me get ready to ridicule some of the more over-the-top examples of the “New year, new me!” crowd. This year, perhaps we should consider the adage “less is more” by cutting old habits rather than implementing new ones.

Put simply, it isn’t feasible to jump into 20 different hobbies/routines/lifestyles every time a new year rolls around, yet we seem to convince ourselves otherwise every January 1st; if your heart isn’t in what you’re trying to do, you won’t stick with it, no matter how much you “want” to do it.

Take the gym crowd, for example: you may have an objective understanding that working out is good for you while actively hating the gym, making it difficult for you to stick to what ends up being a shaky resolution.

What IS feasible is taking stock of everything that you do that doesn’t fit into your paradigm of operation. Do you spend an unwanted extra hour or two on the computer each day? If so, perhaps it’s time to start drawing the line at 5:00 sharp rather than letting clients hold you over.

The same goes for personal preferences as well: you may feel as though you need to devote countless hours of your time to weeding or cleaning, but it may be better for you to focus on the things that actually matter to you.

Obviously, we all have responsibilities that demand our attention (we’re not suggesting that you start ditching your kids’ soccer practice in favor of Tequila Tuesdays) but it is possible to exaggerate those responsibilities’ importance.

What you do with the spare time from your lifestyle pruning is completely up to you; however, by focusing on your actual hobbies, interests, and passions, you’ll most likely find that your quality of life improves while your day-to-day stress level decreases exponentially.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something; instead, consider making it the year that you close some overdue chapters in your personal book to make a little more space for the things that you love.

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Op/Ed

Technologists still think they can supplant Realtors #eyeroll

(EDITORIAL) It’s an age-old tale, but a new Alexa app implies they’re going to put Realtors out of work. Sure thing, buddies.

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Gertrude Stein once wrote that, “everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

No doubt about it – the more information one can get, especially in a critical business negotiation – the better. But, as with many things, the volume of information becomes so overwhelming that we lose focus of what bits of information are truly important, how to deploy what we’ve learned from them, and how to use them to our advantage.

In a bygone era, Realtors used to serve as the founts of knowledge about a home – its features, its relative worth in the market, and what the neighborhood, schools, and modes of living around the house were like. With the rise of the Internet era, as well as multiple companies that aggregate this information from other places, consumers now need no longer rely on their Realtors for all of that information, being able to find it, along with interior and exterior pictures of the home, online.

So, some reason, with the continued expansion and refinement of the capabilities of online shopping, there won’t be a raison d’etre for Realtors any longer, with the home buying experience being able to be distilled and handled virtually, perhaps as easily as ordering a new house through Alexa.

After all, car buying was a very different experience just a few years ago, and now, through the efforts of Carvana, among others, one can now research, buy, and have delivered a car without ever leaving one’s house.

We get pitches every day from companies that seek to disrupt real estate, the most recent an Alexa app that claims to sell you a home (subtly indicating it doesn’t take a Realtor). Eyeroll.

Technologists continue to fail to take into account the added value that Realtors bring to each transaction and interaction with both home buyer and home seller. While providing information on a home and neighborhood no longer may be at their core mission for every interaction (although they must be prepared to do so), the ability for the Realtor to navigate the process of sale and purchase, intercede in negotiations when necessary, and frankly, to keep everyone’s emotions, which are often frayed, in check to keep the sale moving forward is vital.

For most of us, purchasing a home is the largest and most significant financial investment that we will make. While the internet, and technology-based disruptors in the space are amazing at providing us with information to narrow our choices when selecting a potential property (or, in the author’s case, providing too many choices), it doesn’t give us access to an expert on the process, a coach in negotiating the finer points of the sale, nor a counselor when things get hectic or the process hits a snag.

Using the services of both allows the customer to get the best of both worlds—data and information combined with someone who knows how to distill it into action, and that’s what a Realtor does – gets consumers into the action, in the right place, at the right time, and fights for the best outcome possible.

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Op/Ed

How to get a meaningful head start on your resolutions without magic

(EDITORIAL) Most editorials about resolutions offer apps or tricks, but let’s take a more meaningful look at how to make this your year.

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If you’re like most people, you abandoned your 2017 New Year’s resolutions in February or March. With 2018 just around the corner, you may be wondering if it’s really worth setting goals for the new year. After all, you didn’t do too well this year. What’s the point?

I believe that we need goals, personally and professionally. We fail, not because we aren’t committed, but because we set lofty goals that aren’t measurable and realistic.

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by doing things differently this year.

1. What is it that you really want to change?
Instead of thinking about what you should do differently, what would make you happy? Resolutions that matter to you personally are more likely to be seen through.

2. Focus on three things:

  • What is one thing you want to start doing?
  • What one thing would you want to stop doing?
  • What is it that you’re doing that you want to continue doing?

3. Set goals that are SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Instead of saying that you want to eat healthier, tell yourself that you are going to incorporate more color into your menu.

How? By choosing one unfamiliar piece of produce each week and learning to cook with it. Or by selecting a salad when you go out for fast food.

Think about small changes that you can make, instead of making broad, sweeping changes.

You don’t need to download productivity apps or buy a whole bunch of equipment to make lasting changes to your routine. But you do need to really think about your resolutions to have a good handle on what you really want to change. Go into 2018 with determination to be a better you.

Carefully consider your goals to really identify what you want and how you can make lasting changes.

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