Agent Generated Media Could Socialize Real Estate Marketing

Call it AGM: Agent Generated Media. A crop of sites have come on board to allow real estate agents to discuss local regions, form professional communities, post insights and help sell properties. While traditional real estate ad venues like newspaper classifieds continue to lose market share in the face of free listings sites such as Craigslist and Google Base, these social networking tools and communities, as well as a newly-launched free listings syndication system, could serve to shake up real estate advertising even more.

Until now, real estate portals have featured home listings and little else. Local real estate resource and marketing platform Localism aims to change that. The beta site geographically categorizes data posted by the 13,000 members of the ActiveRain Real Estate Network, a seven-month-old, free online community for real estate professionals. Localism includes a growing library of AGM posted about cities and neighborhoods across the country. In addition to home listings links and photos, bio pages dedicated to individual agents feature photos and contact information, along with links to posts they’ve made on subjects like navigating South Jersey’s rail system.

“The personal view has been missing up till now and we’re trying to give that voice to the agents,” said Matt Heaton, CEO of ActiveRain. “[Agents] have to have a way to reach out to gain that trust,” he added, speaking at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York yesterday.

Another beta real estate portal, RealTown will let agents create free blogs, and will publish opinions and information originally posted to listservs by “agents in the trenches,” according to Frances Flynn Thorsen, marketing director of Realty World Broker Network and editor for the site. According to Thorsen, it will be ad-supported, mainly by vendors looking to reach real estate agents. The site will also allow users to search for agents and home listings.

Ad-supported agent ratings site Homethinking has been up and running for about a year. The site takes the more standard user-generated media approach, allowing home sellers to rate and post reviews of real estate agents they’ve dealt with. However, said CEO Niki Scevak, when the site re-launches soon, agents will also have the opportunity to post rebuttals or comments to the “thousands” of reviews on the site.

Agents can purchase enhanced listings that appear above free listings resulting from geographically-relevant user searches. Paid profile pages include biographical information and an agent photo, while all agent profiles include site links, contact information, homes sold, and Yahoo maps displaying locations of properties the agent is currently selling. Paying agents can also track when potential clients contact them via phone or e-mail through the site. Users can search Homethinking by agent name or address, city or state.

Better known sites are also incorporating social networking features. Yahoo Real Estate has incorporated Yahoo Answers, letting users post questions or read responses to inquiries related to a search location, such as, “Where can I find a cheap quality house around Orlando, Fl?” Yahoo Real Estate General Manager Michael Yang told ClickZ News, “We laid the first step by linking to Yahoo Answers, and you’ll see us integrate more and more with Yahoo Answers.”

Real Estate pricing site Zillow offers a wiki, allowing real estate agents and users to contribute knowledge on home-buying and -selling.

The onslaught of online venues for marketing real estate surely has some agents, many of whom work for themselves, strapped for time. “A lot of people do feel overwhelmed with all these tools out there,” said ActiveRain’s Heaton.

A new listings syndication service from Point2 Realty Solutions, launched last week, may ease their workload. The Point2 NLS system automatically distributes property listings across any or all of the company’s partner sites, including Google Base, Yahoo! Classifieds, Trulia and Oodle. The service also allows them to alter listings in one place rather than many.

Related reading