The Great Real Estate Listing Debate

Where to list homes for sale has become a massive, ongoing debate. Should real estate marketers and home sellers worry about listing on the big, online platforms or should they be running away from them? If not using the MLS for selling homes, where and how should homes be listed and marketed for sale effectively, and profitably?

Is the MLS Still Relevant?

Before debating the relevancy of third party, home advertising platforms, it makes sense to consider whether the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is still worth looking into. In the past, the MLS has traditionally been responsible for the majority of real estate transactions. Despite the many varied efforts of Realtors, often the sale has resulted from the listing being found by another real estate agent via the MLS. With the MLS still being the central tool for both buyers and sellers, agents, no matter where they get their leads from, are likely far more important than any Zillow or Trulia.

Most don’t see the value in either listing through a Realtor, or buying properties which are publicly advertised through the MLS. The extent of the real value does vary. It varies based on resources, marketing skill, negotiation experience, priorities, and the deals which are stuck for paying commission, as well as how hot the market is. Each investor needs to do their own math, and should take the time to determine the most profitable method of buying and selling for themselves. The same goes for individual home sellers and whether they have the luxury of using a Realtor and waiting on the MLS, or are better off selling a house fast for cash to a qualified investor.

Zillow, Trulia &

Over the last few weeks, Inman News has documented more high profile cases of major real estate brokerages pulling listing syndications from these portals, switching those they use, and one major company coming back after a hiatus. It’s a tough call for those in the real estate business. Syndicating their home listings to these portals can be extremely counterproductive. The more they do it, the more power they give the portal, which usually winds up in increased costs and lower profit margins, not to mention hurting their own branded efforts. When they don’t use them, they can wonder if they are missing out on visibility. So it’s really a question of web traffic versus visibility.

What many should be focusing on is the longer term, bigger picture, and net ROI. Are they doing real business through these platforms? Will they effectively be putting themselves out of business by using them now?

It isn’t really any different to the Facebook issue. Facebook was embraced by the real estate world in a big way. The real estate industry certainly had a big part in the success of Facebook. However, the value of all the work was stripped down, and has become a pay to play platform. The same game plan is now playing out on LinkedIn, Twitter and even Pinterest. Accordingly, when you don’t own and control the platform, you are at the mercy of the whims of those that do.

Third Party vs Proprietary Real Estate Websites

There is no denying that third party sites, whether social media platforms, directories or other blogs, can be beneficial – sometimes even essential. They can truly provide critical leads and great ROI in the short term. However, if real estate agents and investors aren’t building their own platforms and assets, they will always be held at ransom of others, and be fueling the competition, while being one month away from being priced out of business.

Realtors and investors do need to embrace some third party promotion. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your site, blog or deals are if no one can find them. Data seems to suggest local and niche sites are where the real deals happen online, and are what will deliver long term survival and profitability for real estate companies and independent pros. Note that other third party sites don’t have to mean Zillow or Trulia or at all. They could be industry blogs, online magazines, forums, classified sites like Craigslist, and news sites.

Effective Real Estate Marketing for Traffic and ROI

One of the biggest problems for real estate marketers is that they don’t know their ROI. Agents, investors and regular sellers are so busy with other things few have any idea what the real return on any marketing channel is. Most don’t bother to check. Very few bother to look at Google Analytics regularly, even though it is free and right in front of them. This alone can make all the difference in improving ROI.

Others fail to understand how to calculate their real marketing ROI. This may be very easy, depending on the medium. If you only put out a sign that costs $30, and sell the home to the first caller, the math is pretty basic. The same goes for a newspaper ad, even if you field 100 calls.

Direct mail, cold calling, email marketing, real estate blogging, and PPC can all be more complex. Real estate pros and companies need to know the cost per lead, and net cost per deal done – including all labor and material costs. The ROI may be far better than the above, but it is important to pin down, and constantly be improving it.

Even Google Adwords can be deceptive. Remember pay-per-click is different to pay-per-closing. Adwords can be great, but so can blogging and in person networking. A good blog post can go on bringing in leads for years. Ultimately, the ROI on that can far exceed many other channels. In person deal making can be huge too. If you attend an event or seminar, and put together a deal in an hour, what’s your ROI on that?

Moving forward, real estate pros need to keep an eye on mobile and in person marketing, consistent high quality online marketing on their own platforms, and let’s not forget branding.