ORLANDO — Heading into 2017, Realtors have plenty of creative opportunities for finding new customers — and not necessarily in the old-fashioned way, like putting out lots of those For Sale signs that people see when they’re driving around.
The trend in marketing this year is far more likely to be digital.
Times have changed.
There was a time when Realtors wanted a prominent office right in their city’s urban core, inviting prospective buyers to drop by and start a search for their dream home.
Today, it seems what a Realtor needs most is a virtual office — an online presence that stands out and provides crucial information, particularly for first-time home buyers in their 20s who are used to conducting every possible search on their smart phone.
If a Realtor decides to devote 2017 to putting up For Sale signs and advertising their downtown location in the local newspaper, they’re likely to miss out entirely on where the buyers are looking.
Like everything else, from cars to books to vacations, people are doing an increased amount of their searches online, and that applies as much these days to buying a home as it does to anything else. Today, buyers are not selecting a neighborhood and then driving around looking for those For Sale signs, but instead visiting the fast growing number of real estate websites that offer them something those For Sale signs can’t: all the information they need about a home before scheduling a visit. Forget about just finding out the price, square footage, amenities or tips about the neighborhood: the best sites can provide them with a virtual tour of the home, going from room to room to see what it has to offer.
Not surprisingly, Realtors have discovered that if they want to find customers, they need a strong presence in cyberspace.
Here are some useful tips for Realtors who don’t want to be left behind:
1. Create a website.
There are plenty of easy-to-use site providers like WordPress that enable a business to create an appealing site that customers will visit. Don’t rely entirely on the written word — provide plenty of photos and visuals. Make sure the site is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Most of all, showcase why your company is the ideal one to guide buyers on every step of the process, from finding the right home to the last step of getting the keys to the house in their hands.
2. Remember the iPhone users.
Make sure your site has been adapted for iPhones. Studies show that 52 percent of all home buyers have used an iPhone in their home search. Don’t lose out on these customers with a site that can only be read on a desktop.
3. Employ social media.
Sites like Twitter and Instagram are ideal for reaching young buyers, providing the opportunity to show them photos of the homes you’re listing. But while most real estate agents have their own social media site, it’s been estimated that only 9 percent use these sites to market their listings. These sites are free and generate heavy online traffic, so not using them is a missed opportunity for sure.
4. Create your brand.
Don’t use your website or social media presence just for your listings — create your own brand as well. Emphasize who you are and why you stand out in the field. Use the sites to demonstrate why you’re going to make the entire process simple and cost-effective for buyers. If buyers feel they can trust you, you’ve made a connection that will likely pay off handsomely in terms of future word-of-mouth business.
It’s more important than ever to understand the Millennial market, what they’re looking for, and how they go about finding it.
A few other real estate facts from 2016 to make note of:
* 80 percent of all home buyers do their searches online;
* 68 percent of all first-time buyers are Gen. Y;
* 83 percent of all home buyers want to see pictures of the property online;
* 88 percent of first time buyers are buying homes through an agent.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..