According to a study by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 90% of real estate agents have websites. And one of the most common features of these websites is a property search. Most agents assume that a good real estate website needs it, but is that really true? Let’s take a look.
What is a property search?
Plainly speaking, a property search is any tool that hooks up to your board’s MLS feed and auto-populates all listings into a searchable map. Users can search for listings by entering any parameters that the board provides and viewing the listings that meet those criteria.
Why you might not need it.
Once you understand how (and why) visitors use your site, it becomes clear that having a property search is less than essential.
1. It won’t attract people to your site
Nearly half of all home buyers start their buying process by looking at available homes online. And when a typical buyer wants to look for homes, they start by typing something like “[city name] homes for sale” in Google, and then click on the first link that appears.
Nearly 100% of the time, that link is going to be for a major search platform, like Zillow or Trulia, or a national brokerage, such as RE/MAX or Century 21.
While you can focus on SEO to draw new visitors to your site, the reality is that you will have a very hard time competing with major brokerages or search platforms for this particular segment of traffic. And traffic to these sites is increasing year-over-year.
Instead of trying to change user behaviour, you’re much better off focusing your time and effort on activities that will actually help you attract qualified traffic. Creating detailed neighborhood guides for your farm area, for example, is a great place to start with your SEO. Or creating targeted ad campaigns to drive traffic back to your listings.
2. Your site visitors won’t actually use it
Many agents have a property search on their website, but few actually look at how their site visitors are interacting with it. And the reality is, very few people are interacting at all.
Avenue monitors how our clients’ websites perform over time, and we’re always looking at ways to increase engagement and conversion rates on our sites. Based on the data we’ve collected from thousands of sites, only 6% of organic traffic to our client websites actually interact with the map search feature at all. The remaining 94% of users view the homepage first, then either the testimonials or contact page second.
And that makes sense to us.
By the time someone visits your website, they’re probably already interested in you as a real estate professional. Maybe they’ve gotten a referral from a friend, or seen an ad online. At this point, they’re trying to learn more about you and decide whether or not they’d like to work with you.
A property search doesn’t help them make that decision.
If you treat your website as an online resume, which it is, you’ll realize that there are far more important elements to focus on than the property search.
3. You could be missing out on an opportunity to impress
Your board has thousands of listings. It’s part of your job as a real estate professional to help your clients cut through the noise and find the right property to suit their needs.
And while your client may be able to go searching for listings on their own, they’re also relying on your experience and expertise to help them. You can create a more customized, nuanced, and personalized list of potential perfect homes for your client, and this is exactly the service that they’re hiring you for.
Real estate is a competitive market, and as information becomes more publicly available, what will set you apart from your peers is the client experience and level of service that you provide. If you view a property search simply as a tool to save you time, then you’re missing out on the opportunity you have to provide an excellent client experience.
At Avenue, we offer sites with or without IDX integration and we fundamentally believe that both are valuable. Ultimately, we believe that your website is an extension of your brand, personality, and resume. And the best websites are the ones that tell the best story.
To see some websites without IDX integration, see Our Portfolio.