HAR Hosts Nation’s Leading Real Estate Authorities for a Symposium on How to Meet the Growing Demands of the Consumer

Top executives of Google, Zillow.com, Realtor.com, REALTOR® Property Resource (RPR), the National Association of REALTORS® and other major real estate industry players recently addressed the challenges of meeting future consumer demands during the Houston Association of REALTORS® Real Estate Industry Symposium (REIS). Discussion at the two-day conference centered on the real estate information that consumers are seeking and where they are finding it.

With a growing number of consumers relying on the Internet to search for properties before contacting a REALTOR®, Sam Sebastian, Google’s director of Local and B to B Markets, said most of them are using smartphones and expect to receive information instantly in the palm of their hands. “Consumers want a response from a REALTOR® within 30 minutes of submitting a question online or they will most likely go elsewhere,” he said.

Sebastian added that he believes REALTORS® are lagging behind consumers when it comes to using the Internet, mobile devices and related technology. However, he sees REALTORS® playing an important new role in the high-tech era. “REALTORS® will serve more as information brokers in the future because while data is freely available to consumers, the REALTOR® has the expertise to help the consumer understand what it means.” Sebastian stressed that REALTORS® must incorporate video in their listings and websites to improve their search engine rankings.

Spencer Rascoff, COO of Zillow.com, outlined measures that real estate professionals should take to effectively serve today’s more tech-savvy consumer. These include syndicating their listings for maximum visibility and serving as a guide to help navigate consumers through the real estate transaction. “It’s not about guarding information anymore, it’s about explaining everything to consumers,” he said.

Curt Beardsley, VP of product marketing with Realtor.com, presented his company’s new offering to Multiple Listing Services (MLSs)-a natural language search engine called “FIND.” National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) CEO Dale Stinton discussed the Association’s Second Century Initiatives with Commercial Source, House Logic, REALTOR® Property Resource (RPR) and the REALTOR® Credit Union-all part of NAR’s goal to provide helpful tools to the REALTOR®.

Houston Association of REALTORS® President and CEO Bob Hale expressed concern about services he said the real estate industry has “given up” over the years, including listing information. “A few MLSs have had public websites, but those haven’t ranked highly in their local markets,” said Hale. “The No. 1 reason consumers go to the Web to look for real estate is not to find a home but to determine a home’s value, and we’ve basically given that up.”

REIS attendees also heard from Marty Frame, president of RPR (a wholly owned subsidiary of NAR), which is building a database exclusively available to NAR members of all residential and commercial properties across the country. “The basic benchmark that we’re using is ‘Does this help a member of the National Association of REALTORS® sell a house?’,” said Frame.

“Having the best and the brightest minds in real estate from all around the country convene in Houston for this symposium made for a very productive and enlightening program,” said Houston Association of REALTORS® Chair Margie Dorrance.

Copies of presentations made during the Houston Association of REALTORS® REIS program are available online at www.slideshare.net/HARREIS. Videotaped interviews of the presenters have been posted to YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRwF5cS9CiA.