Property Websites as New Paradigm
Property websites can do a much better job of presenting a home than a traditional real estate listing. But their effectiveness requires attention to content and the use of specialized search engines. Obvious benefits. The main reasons for the increasing popularity of single-property websites are fairly obvious. Owners love them and push their realtors to provide them, no surprise there. Buyers have the opportunity to meaningfully scan new homes before investing the time to physically visit homes they’re serious about. For realtors, this translates to showing about half as many homes before getting a sale. In some cases, the savings can be much greater. A $99,000 short sale in my neighborhood went through more than 135 showings, a lot of work for not much profit. The home’s online listing consisted of a single blurred photo. A single-property website could have done much to identify buyers and eliminate non-buyers. Deeper reasons. Traditionally, realtors bring buyers to homes. But just as often these days, homes on the Internet bring buyers to realtors. Websites based on the former paradigm give top billing to an agent or the agent’s brokerage, whereas property websites based on the latter paradigm normally give top billing to the home. This new paradigm provides an opportunity to tell a home’s story, a story that the home’s future owners will buy into and become part of, a story that traditional online real estate listings can’t begin to tell. Telling this story begins with asking the right questions. A couple of examples should make the point. A realtor in my area has a listing for an oceanfront cottage that is half off a tall cliff and held up by studs, I don’t mean pilings. The studs appear to have been pushed askew by the ocean and repeatedly patched. How long before the home falls into the ocean? Has a structural engineer been consulted? Would a sane banker consider this home a sound investment? The owner wants $1.2 million, is he for real? How much of the lot is still available to build on? Obviously, somebody has to answer these questions before the home can sell. What better place to collect answers than on a single-property website? The listing for a woodland lot near my home presumes the new owner will build. Its four roadside pictures were taken in winter. What does the lot look like during the other three seasons? Will the new owners be able to see the neighbors from the back yard? Who will move the stone fence to accommodate the driveway? And what better place to collect answers than a single-property website for the future owners to study at their leisure? Skeptical concerns. All of the major search engines favor well-established sites with many visitors and many incoming links. Google actually “sandboxes” new sites for three-to-six months, by which time a home may well have been sold. The sandboxing can be evaded by using sub-sites of the realtor’s own site as property sites, but there is still the popularity issue, as property sites need have only one viewer, the home’s new owner. Consequently, the use of specialized real-estate search engines is essential. These sites generally have their own agendas but usually provide for a “property site” link or “listing site” link that can be used to advertise a home’s property website. Another concern is the problem of what to do with a website once its home has been sold. One possibility is to include the website as part of the home. The busy new owners will be grateful for pictures to share with friends and relatives. And if the new owners are blog-inclined, the property site can be the start of a new family website. A third concern is that putting the street address in a URL may be premature from a sales perspective. URLs such as “secludedWoodedLot.com” or “breathTakingOceanfrontCottege.com“, may be preferable, though perhaps not if the website is destined to become a family blog. Conclusion. Single-property sites represent a powerful new paradigm whose effectiveness depends on how it is applied. For more ideas on this new paradigm, see jgwilliamsdesign.com.