This week Point2 launched its second public-facing listings website solution for an MLS.
San Francisco Association of Realtors® and its MLS launched http://www.sfrealtors.com/, and I’d encourage my MLS clients to take a look at this effort.
I get a lot of requests to help clients with websites. I evaluate their current website for features, security, SEO, or some other criterion, or create custom specifications and help find developers to build a new website through an RFP. Sometimes I even just help choose a website solution that is already on the market. Some clients start off thinking about building a custom site, custom-tailored to their every dream. Then they realize that it is beyond their budget, and end up choosing a site “off the rack,” an existing solution. When they decide to go “off the rack,” their options are usually to talk to their MLS vendor, if they offer an IDX solution, or to look at other IDX vendor solutions. Point2 has now added a new option.
First, the business angle: An MLS doesn’t have to syndicate listings through Point2 to get one of these websites. Point2 is offering the site at no charge; no dues dollars need to be committed. The costs are covered by a portion of website ad revenue, the rest of which is split with the MLS. As one would hope, there are no competing broker/agent ads on the listing detail page. Only the listing agent’s contact information is displayed on each listing, and it is prominently placed. Of course, there are a lot of other opportunities for advertising to cause channel conflict within existing ancillary service relationships; I’ve already asked how those will be sorted out and how MLSs will stay in control of advertising-related issues, but I haven’t yet received answers. According to Point2, this website initiative is not meant to be a big money-maker for them; rather, it’s a part of their PCM strategy for MLSs, to help them “Protect, Control, and Monetize” their valuable data. I won’t dig too deeply into that strategy here; you’ll want to discuss it with them directly.
On to the website itself: At a high level, the website is a pretty feature-rich offering. Nearly every important aspect of the website is customizable and controlled by the MLS: appearance, navigation, FAQ, contact information, usage terms, MLS social media accounts, and the domain name. The site is very search-engine-friendly and although it’s too early to tell how the site will rank long term, Point2 is doing everything it should technically; it’s really up to the MLS to work on a link-back strategy and take other non-technical steps to improve SEO and traffic.
The search and results interface is good and easy to use. I especially like the feature enabling visitors to compare up to four listings side-by-side. The main thing I’d like to see improved in the search process is to add a single-line “amenities” (e.g., fireplace, pool, and garage) search capability. Otherwise, a picture says a thousand words:
The site also has implemented adaptive design and works well as a mobile web application; it doesn’t lose a lot of functionality in the transition:
Most importantly, this website has some great content that should appeal to consumers. Obviously it will have accurate and complete public-facing MLS content, plus unlimited photos and open house information. Consumers, though, want a lot more than just listing information, and this is the problem with a lot of industry sites: they don’t offer more than that. As ex-NAR President Bill Chee once said to me, “The lion really coming over the hill is the consumer.” This site offers not just listing information but also a property report with a generous amount of public records data, including taxes, zoning, most recent sales price, ownership, title information, sales history, neighborhood price history, and an AVM. In addition, the report offers recent nearby sales (from public records, for now), parcel maps, demographics, statistics, and an incredibly functional map including many overlay options, illustrated below:
Point2 has implemented SSL security for login, registration, and profile management, and is monitoring reactively for scraping. (At some point, I hope they (or their MLS customers) implement Distil (http://realestate.distilnetworks.com) and join the industry-wide anti-scraping intelligence network.)
Are there additional enhancements and optimizations that could be made to the site? Of course! There are many potential areas of improvement including:
- better integration of neighborhood information and lifestyle information into the search flow
- ways to set a Realtor® as my Realtor® and have an omnipresent easy way to share information with them
- social-shopping capability
- traffic and lead reports for individual brokers and Realtors® with a listing-level drill-down
- a number of small tweaks to the interface
But software is never done, and the Point2 solution is on-par with what the big national publishers are offering to the consumer – in fact, it is in some ways superior – and it’s better than almost all of the MLS and agent websites out there today. If you are with an MLS, it’s certainly worthy of consideration.