The Future of Online Property Searches

Posted on March 14, 2018 by Katie Shapiro 

Here in Aspen, searching for properties remains “on mountain time.” That is, while residents and visitors alike might be internet savvy, traditional methods are still used to market properties. Whether in one of two daily newspapers, nearly ten glossy magazines, or in locally produced television commercials, the audience is broad. Targeting a specific geographic location, age demographic, or lifestyle interest of a buyer in such a saturated and transient market is much more of a challenge.

As 2017 was winding down, Inman, a leading real estate resource and media outlet, released a report begging the question “Is Facebook coming for Zillow?”

The social networking authority unveiled a major update to the Property Rentals section of its Marketplace, implementing a new front-end interface allowing mobile users to search for properties using more filters than ever before. In official partnership with Zumper and Apartment List, potential renters can search directly through their Facebook newsfeed with the touch of a screen or click of a button.

And for sellers? Posting and advertising listings on Facebook is an ever-growing opportunity to reach more eyes than ever before. A Zillow/Facebook relationship like the one already established for rentals could change the way buyers search for property online.

Inman reports two strategic points for sellers of the future to note:

User experience is key, pitting search versus match. The current consumer experience on real estate portals, such as the Aspen Glenwood MLS or Zillow itself, is focused around searching and browsing. Visitors scan a map, enter search criteria or browse through featured listings. It’s the equivalent of flipping through a glossy magazine or scanning the pages of a newspaper classified section.

The innovative nature of Facebook advertising lends itself to a matching experience. In the future, real estate listings will be targeted to consumers based on what Facebook knows about them (in the same way it already targets advertising).

This targeting is among the most sophisticated in the business given the amount of information Facebook knows about its users. The majority of Facebook users won’t be searching for real estate. Instead, they will see real estate presented to them.

All-of-market versus some-of-market. Real estate portals maintain their reputation as the best place to find a home because they have all of the inventory available in the market. When a consumer is searching for a new home, he or she wants to look where all of the properties for sale are available.

Facebook’s marketplace strategy, on the other hand, is not predicated on having all of the available real estate listings. At least for the foreseeable future, until a Zillow/Facebook, or similar, integration happens, the listings available on Facebook will only be those uploaded and posted by brokers or companies. So while the consumer experience on Facebook today can target and match listings directly to visitors, it doesn’t represent the entire market of possible houses for sale.

But, as the Inman article suggests, change is on the horizon. What are brokers today doing to keep up?

Top producing Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty broker Pat Marquis has emerged with a competitive edge by investing the majority of her marketing efforts away from print into social media channels and custom produced content.

“Historically, we have to admit that advertising and engaging on social media reaches more people period,” says Marquis. “I’ve quickly found that it’s faster and more beneficial for my clients. It’s only the beginning here in Aspen of how things are changing.”

Her first major new media project in embracing her new focus was a full-scale film shoot to highlight her highest profile listings. After meeting top-producing Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty agent Seth O’Byrne last fall during a social media seminar he hosted, Marquis was instantly, well, sold.

Regularly traveling to teach tricks of the digital trade to Sotheby’s International Realty offices across the country, O’Byrne has skyrocketed to success through storytelling. For many of the O’Byrne Team’s properties, he plays director/producer for mini-films enlisting high profile industry crews and actors from nearby Los Angeles to shoot, produce, and collaborate. A self-described “shameless self-promoter”, he often steps in front of the camera with his marketing director / photographer Frank Glaser capturing every behind-the-scenes moment for even more content. He’s amassed more than 20,000 Instagram followers for his electric persona, honest commentary, date nights, travelogues, and dream-worthy real estate posts. 

What triggered O’Byrne's interest in social media as a venue for real estate? “What happened for me—in 2010 when the market started turning around—I had a revelation to start advertising my listings on Facebook when it first started fixed $5 ads. I was one of the first paid advertisers on Facebook…ever!…in the City of San Diego. It started my fascination with digital marketing,” explains O’Byrne.

Also a content consultant for “social media rebrands”, and rightfully so, O’Byrne was hired by Marquis to spend a few days in Aspen last month. With their Los Angeles camera crew in tow, the crew set out on ATV’s in Aspen’s backcountry and even up in the air with Aspen Heli Charters over the course of two jam-packed days of shoots.

O’Bryne and Marquis on the set of their shoots in Aspen in February.

O’Byrne and Marquis on the set of their shoots in Aspen in February.

After wrapping their first day on location, I caught up with both O’Byrne and Marquis in the Mountain Social lounge at the St. Regis Aspen Resort to get some tips and tricks of the trade to help sellers understand the role of social media in property advertising.

“It's not the market scene,” says O’Byrne, it's the market research and the market data social media provides. What I find, and why the revolution has become so huge is the marketing that we do on social media, is that it aggregates attention and it's measurable. You get instant, incredible feedback—it’s why social media is just so much more powerful.”

Marquis adds: “Our clientele has changed significantly over the years and we have to up our game to really meet their needs. They’re coming to us now already having done their research online—they’re knowledgeable and they know exactly what they’re looking for.”

Going forward, brokers like O’Byrne are embracing change.  You bake the cookies, you do the flyers, you do the open houses. That is marketing without any market research. And that to me is an enormous waste of time. I think what the last generation of realtors has had a hard time reckoning with is that what they used to do that worked doesn't work anymore.”

To that, Marquis adds: “We have to really open up our minds as far as change and we have to listen to our clients. One certain thing we can count on is change.”

The future is in video, according to O’Byrne: “It’s a medium that people are willing to consume. The written word, although I get a lot of response from it, people don't really absorb or connect in the way they do through video.”

And in teamwork: “What I always advise brokers, when they think about content creation is, if you're not great at creating content, work with people who will help pull it out of you. O’Byrne also says, “You don't necessarily need to be the one creating all the content but the content needs to be unique to you.”

Follow the creative folks mentioned in this article on Instagram:


For a PDF download of the full Inman Article, CLICK HERE.

To watch the behind the scenes video of O’Byrne and Marquis’ video collaboration project, The Edge of Aspen, click below. 

Categories: Company News
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