BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants.
What’d we talk about?
Marketing With Stats
The guys from Altos Research led a discussion about marketing using real estate stats (inventory, days on market, etc.).
This is nothing new for Redfin. This past summer we added neighborhood pages with MLS powered graphs and tables that are updated nightly. Our Sweet Digs blogs cover the Case-Shiller updates and publish posts based on local MLS data for each market we serve. We still have a lot to learn about what customers want from marketing stats. For instance, Altos charts trends based on price quartiles so you can see how the low priced segment of the market differs from the top. Should we do that too?
Always Be Testing
Kelley from House Chick talked about using Google Web Optimizer (GWO) (see screenshots of how she uses GWO) over the past few months. I liked her statement that, “people who visit your site are voluntary participants with a task in mind. It’s up to you to keep them or lose them.” Several people in the crowd asked about using GWO to test content and themes for their blogs. I think it’d be a better use of their time to use GWO to maximize the calls to actions (newsletter sign-ups or contact form submissions) on their own sites.
Onboard has something brewing they’re calling “Lifestyle Search.” Onboard’s CTO, Liam and marketing VP, Rob led a discussion about the evolution of real estate search. Liam thinks that great search is when a real estate user asks the wrong question, then gets a great answer in return. According to Liam, a great website can figure out what a user really meant to ask. We compared the current state of real estate search to being something akin to Match.com: you need to know what you’re looking for (price, beds, etc). To make real estate search more like eHarmony, a home search would take into consideration your age, whether you had kids, what kind of life style you wanted. I can’t wait to get a demo of what they’re announcing at Inman tomorrow.
Future of Buyers Agency/Brokerage
I hadn’t met Michael Daly until minutes before we led a discussion about the future of buyers agency/brokerage. Unfortunately Tony who introduced us over email wasn’t able to make it. The group started small but grew during the hour. We talked about agent compensation (salaried vs. commission-based), leading a good broker movement, forming a consumer advocacy group, the government’s role in regulation, should single agent-dual agency be prohibited and much more. Unfortunately, we produced no clear answers, but there was definitely a number of agents and brokers passionate about being customer advocates throughout the buying process.
I missed the beginning of the educating agents talk led by Rob, but when I joined it started to morph into a discussion of how to improve agent’s image, the role of the brokerage, and the seven year buying cycle.
It’s my impression that the way real estate brokerages are structured is changing. Why? It sounds like big brokerage brands are focused on getting warm bodies in seats to pay seat fees while cutting costs. Agents on the ground feel like they’re not getting any value from these brokerages. The smart ones are striking out on their own, keeping more of the commission for themselves. These agents have more control of their brand and offer better service to their clients.
At Redfin, I think we’re ahead of the curve of building a better brokerage brand with careful hiring, delivering consistent customer service, publishing agent profiles (complete with transaction and customer review data), and compensating our agents based on customer satisfaction instead of commissions.
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