Crowdsourcing A New Normal In Real Estate

evolutionFirst there was Web 1.0…

By luck and happenstance, I fell into real estate just as Web 1.0 was hitting its stride. Suddenly you weren’t one of the cool kids if you didn’t have a static brochure site up with contact information and a cool .com or .net domain name. A picture of an agent with his or her dog was not uncommon. It was a heady time, especially for a lawyer who didn’t have a clue about any marketing, much less internet marketing (despite the staggering tuition I paid my law school 😉 ).

Then came Web 2.0…

Flash forward to the mid-2000’s and people wanted a little more action from their website experience. They got comfortable filling out forms with personal information and handing over their credit cards to buy things from faceless strangers. They got empowered! And they got impatient!

Suddenly they wanted what they wanted immediately. No longer was anybody content to wait 24 hours for an email response.

That’s when things started to get really interesting and I was lucky enough to be in business with a smart woman who understood the power of web databases and how MLS databases could be manipulated to engage website visitors and engender trust so that relationships with real estate agents and companies could be born.

I am proud to say that we were two female entrepreneurs on the bleeding edge of what you see today on Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com (sometimes referred to collectively and often derisively as the “ZTR’s”) – that is, mega sites with loads of real estate listings and tools to capture consumer information, but not much personality.

Woe to the bleeding edge innovators. Sadly, we didn’t survive the big meltdown in 2007/08. But what’s a little financial meltdown to diehard geeks? What I got was a few years on the sidelines watching the real estate industry stall, while the sharing economy, crowdsourcing and digital content movement exploded. That all got me to wondering….

What’s next for Web 3.0 & Real Estate?

What does the next iteration of real estate services look like in our global, hyper-connected world?

Here are a few of my big ideas that I’m chewing on, rolling around and otherwise playing with:

  • Consumers are tired of the ZTR’s not being real, live real estate brokerages. They are discovering that the ZTR’s have stale data and a posse of uninterested real estate agents whose pictures appear only because they heard that Internet leads are “easy” and that they better offer up their credit cards to get their faces showing up next to other people’s listings on the ZTR websites.
  • I think consumers are ready for real agents who really understand how the minds of web consumers work. It’s not that difficult or expensive for agents to have ZTR-style websites. Just look at my site. Sure it could use more commentary and video, but that will come. What you will find is boatloads of listings, listings, listings! And a realtor who cares.
  • I think that lots of people got burned in the “great price correction” of 2008 and the memory will live on for a good long time. They’re reluctant to trust the real estate agent that Great Aunt Matilda suggested from her bingo club. They want younger, smarter, more savvy agents and they want data they can see and evaluate for themselves — not some stranger’s opinion on valuation.
  • I think that consumers have lots and lots of different favorite digital channels where they like to discover their information and hear other people’s opinions. They are no longer content to hang out on the ZTR’s. They want to talk about real estate valuations and market trends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vine and 10 others I can’t even think of right now or that haven’t been invented.
  • Web responsive matters! We’re all walking around with at least one mobile device and that is how we’re consuming our email, news and information. Real estate websites must be functional on the smallest of screens and everything in between.

These are just a few of the ideas, assumptions and concepts I’m playing around with as we all feel our way toward Real Estate 3.0.

What are your big ideas?

If you’re a consumer, how do you want to experience real estate in the digital age? What do you want from your realtors? Do you like the idea of paperless transactions or six inches of paper at closing? If you’re a real estate agent or broker, how do you see Real Estate 3.0 rolling out.

Let’s put our heads together in true web 3.0 fashion and have an interactive conversation. Belly up below and state your thoughts! Should we take this conversation someplace else? Tell me! I want to know what the crowd wants.

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