I’ll be the first to admit that I like the latest, the greatest, the shiniest — be it a phone, a gadget or a social media tool. But as Chris Smith of Tech Savvy Agent has said, sometimes we need to focus on “the now” before “the next”.

I was reminded of this during a consultation appointment with a top real estate broker in Berkeley, CA last week. I had been looking forward to our appointment for several weeks, and had put together a handful of ideas on how to approach the recent (March 2011) Facebook Page updates. I was ready to discuss iFrames, Pagemodo and the branding power of the imagestrip feature.

Then I took a look at her website. Despite her 20 very successful years in the business, the “news section” stopped in 2006, and the footer copyright was from 2004. Danger, Will Robinson!

Now, there’s an unfortunate standard that has taken hold of realtor websites since the need for a website became apparent about 8 years ago. Many real estate agents have a de facto approach to website design: 1) outsource it, and 2) insist that their photo be front row and center . . . coupled with how wonderful they are, and how much they love the region they serve. Effectively, it projects an “all about me” theme. And you’re not trying to buy an agent, you’re trying to buy or sell a house.

Before Redfin, Trulia, Zillow, Roost and a host of other real estate search & property information engines, that was an acceptable strategy. After all, there weren’t many destinations online to find information about a real estate agent, much less accurate data about a specific residential property for sale. But things have changed.

Any agent who’s held an open house recently can attest to how savvy buyers have become; they visit a half-dozen properties on a Sunday, clutching a stack of property printouts from various real estate websites. They already know how long the incredibly amazing house you’re holding open has been on the market, what the layout is, even what the current owner paid for it (tax records are readily available, especially on Redfin). Our value as buyer agents is difficult to validate when your open house attendees come equipped with the same info you’re eager to present.

Here are the sections a 2011 real estate agent website MUST have, front row and center: 1) “What’s the Market Like?” 2) “What’s my Property Worth?” 3) “Search Listings” and 4) “Enter Your Email Address” for a FREE item of value — be it an article on how to effectively stage your home for sale, how to navigate the escrow process or any other relevant information that they can not get anywhere else.

More importantly, don’t jump into the quickly advancing world of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn if your current “face” online — your website — was created before the advent of Facebook — and hasn’t changed since. The good news: there are many easy-to-use services and templates that can bring your .com into this decade. And realtors, this means you might have to use a photo of yourself that wasn’t taken 10 years ago . . . in fact, feel free to leave the picture out altogether.

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