The real estate industry has become a goldmine. According to the US Census Bureau, as of April, there have been approximately 673,000 homes sold in the US in 2019. This is 12.4 percent more than in 2018. This trend is promising. And as a result, the real estate industry is experiencing growing competition and rapid changes.
Did you know that increased competition from digital firms is one of the main challenges for real estate companies? That’s what the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found when they interviewed 6,000 executives and senior managers at real estate firms.
If you’re in the real estate business and are concerned about the changing rules of the game, you’ve come to the right place. This post shows you what to focus on when breaking new ground for your business. How to be successful in real estate? Ask yourself the four “how can I” questions to build or grow your real estate business.
1. How can I outpace competitors?
Lots of real estate businesses face the issue of figuring out a competitive advantage trying to uncover secrets to success. No wonder they’re challenged by such a task: the Zillow Group (the owners of Zillow and Trulia) is a real estate marketplace which claims 59 million unique monthly visitors.
So how can you define a specific benefit you can offer your potential and existing customers? We studied some representatives of the digital real estate market and noticed three patterns to their success.
Focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else
Focusing on one feature to build a well-polished service is one of the proven tactics to win your customers’ hearts. AuctionFox and RealtyBid.com, for example, chose to specialize in real estate auctions and deliver the best foreclosed real estate via web and mobile.
These platforms are designed for finding and following online property auctions. On these web-based and mobile auction platforms, homebuyers can watch auctions live, conveniently bid on properties, and connect with real estate agents to close the deal either online or offline. Equipped with additional functionality such as automated bidding, powerful analytics and reporting, and document management, web auction platforms are useful not only to ordinary people but to real estate investors.
Spot unsatisfied demand and meet it
Did you know that there’s high demand for software that facilitates resident-manager relationships? According to a report by Buildium, 61 percent of renters would prefer to pay their rent online or via a mobile app. Property managers are also trying to make their workflows more efficient. The above-mentioned report states that 39 percent of property managers are considering upgrading their time management and business processes.
Apps like TenantCloud and Cozii offer more efficient property management. These were among the first apps to spot a relatively vacant niche and fill it – and quite successfully. However, even these apps are far from perfect: TenantCloud, for example, is often criticized by users for poor functionality. We invite you to read our post on how to build a rental search app if you’re involved in the rental property business.
Copy the leaders but keep an ace up your sleeve
Zillow Group is an international real estate company that operates across the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico. But this geographical reach comes with certain disadvantages. Among them are a lack of details on neighborhoods and sometimes incorrect information.
Having spotted Zillow’s inability to provide details on neighborhoods, NeighborhoodScout started offering a robust service for exploring neighborhoods in the US in 2002. For $39.99 a month or more, users can get access to school reports, crime rates, and housing appreciation rates. Neither Trulia nor Zillow offers this kind of feature.
What’s more, the Trustpilot consumer review website rates Zillow only two out of five stars (which means “poor”). False information is one of the most common complaints among users. Zillow can provide outdated property information such as listings of homes “For Sale” that have already been sold months ago. Realtor.com spotted this weak point and built their own system that integrates with multiple listing services (MLS) to make sure all listing are up to date. As a result, Realtor.com is considered a great place to start searching for property.
2. How can I win users in this dog-eat-dog world of digital real estate?
We used the report by NAR mentioned at the beginning of this article to identify basic features to attract users to your real estate platform. Each statement you’ll see in this section is grounded in numbers from the report.
It’s obvious that your real estate company can’t stay afloat without offering your services online. But what does “online” really mean?
Web and mobile presence
In 2018, 93 percent of homebuyers used a website and 73 percent used a mobile website or app to find properties. You should enable homebuyers to use your service via both a website/web app and mobile app for iOS and Android.
Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia are all available as websites and in the form of iOS and Android apps. Your business plan should also include such implementations.
Powerful UX that meets users’ expectations
A quality online presence means convenience for customers. But how can you ensure convenience? Here are the top three things that require close attention when developing a real estate app.
Quality media and exhaustive property information. More than eight in ten buyers find images of and details about properties to be the most important information in their research. We suggest working with professional photographers to ensure the highest quality of photos. It’s best to provide multiple photos of a property from different perspectives. If you want to dive deeper into the requirements for photos, take a look at our article on how to build a real estate business with the help of a web platform.
By the way, digital virtual tours are the next step toward providing users with more complete information on properties. Check out our case study on a home tour app we developed for Zillow.
Precise search. More than half of buyers interviewed admitted that finding the right property was one of the most challenging steps. A digital property portal should be capable of ensuring prompt and filtered results based on a user’s search query.
The Redfin app allows for flexible search thanks to its Search Nearby and Search by School features. The Trulia app was originally tailored to narrowing search results. Trulia users can draw boundaries on the map to find properties in specific neighborhoods. Trulia offers over 30 filters, such as hardwood floors and homes with pools, as well as a custom keyword search. It also allows users to look for homes by type of property, including single-family homes and foreclosures.
Permanent customer support. In 2018, 87 percent of homebuyers communicated with an agent. Providing seamless communication can speed up the buying process from the start of the search to the closing of the deal. Communication can take different forms. The most comfortable form is via a messenger that allows for file and video sharing. With voice and video calling functionality, buyers can speak with property owners, agents, or brokers to receive property insights.
Making use of technologies
Implementing cutting-edge technologies is recognized as one of the biggest challenges by 46 percent of real estate managers. The reason for such concern lies in the dizzying variety of technologies available and uncertainty as to their efficiency. But two technologies in particular have proved efficient for real estate apps and are worth your attention.
Big data. Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, and lots of other real estate platforms provide users with real-time data including from surveys and listings. Big data allows these platforms to do that, as it helps to automate the analysis of large volumes of data. For example, Zillow’s Zestimate tool allows users to estimate the value of properties in a certain area. Zestimate takes into account publicly available and user-submitted data and considers home specifications, location, and market conditions.
Trulia uses big data in their Insight service to analyze a customer’s preferences, financial status, and purchase history. This helps Trulia provide its customers with better conditions and offers.
Drones. According to SoldByAir, 83 percent of home sellers prefer agents that use drones to advertise their properties. Drones let homebuyers see the full exterior of a property without the need to organize a visit. Drones can shoot a whole area in minutes. Trulia Neighborhoods provides drone footage along with photo galleries and reviews to show homebuyers what life is like in a neighborhood. Note that drones are comparatively costly and require skilled operators. Companies such as Meero solve this issue by matching professional photographers with customers.
The list of technologies that can improve your work and service is rather long. Read news on industry portals like Inman and CRETech and follow opinion leaders such as Mike DelPrete (a real estate tech strategist) and Rob Hahn (an observer of big trends). We would also like to share with you an informative post featuring advice from members of the Forbes Real Estate Council on how to stay on top of real estate technology changes.
3. How can I retain customers?
To retain users, see what rivals are showing up ahead of you in search results. Then create a marketing plan containing practical steps you can take to increase your brand’s reach and recognition – consider search engine optimization and listing aggregation management so as to move your brand up the search results list. In addition, consider the following business practices that have proved effective for ensuring user loyalty.
Social media activity.47 percent of interviewed realtors said that social networks are among the top tools that give real estate companies high-quality potential customers according to NAR. Be aware that it takes consistent content posts and news to keep your audience engaged. Lots of users decide to engage with your business solely through social networking. If you allow for comments on your posts, your audience will appreciate your responses. Getting a response will make them more loyal to your brand.
Loyalty programs. Loyalty programs help homebuyers and real estate agents get deals and discounts from the brands they engage with. Build a strategy for separating your users into categories to make sure you’re staying in touch with the most loyal customers and those who refer people to you most often. Get inspired by Best of Zillow, a system based on customer feedback which determines and rewards agents who provide exceptional customer service. Redfin’s discount in the amount of 1 percent (the usual listing fee is 1.5 percent) for the most loyal customers, provided in some regions of the US, is also worth your attention. Take a look at our article on apps to ensure customer loyalty for more information about loyalty programs.
Push notifications.Localytics states that most app users who have enabled push notifications will use an app for at least nine sessions. Based on this information, we suggest you consider implementing a well-thought-out push notification strategy. It’s likely to include listing updates based on a user’s preferences and any other updates related to the user’s stage in the buying process. You can read about the technicalities of implementing push notifications to inspire user loyalty in our post on three essential types of push notifications.
Note that today’s app users crave personalization. They prefer their interactions to be tailored to their interests, location, and in-app behavior.
Think about ensuring clear app onboarding and in-app messaging, as they have also proven effective for user retention.
4. How can I retain agents?
Don’t forget that retaining agents is no easier than retaining homebuyers for your real estate platform. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an established real estate agency or a startup – your work is to make agents’ lives easier so they can make more money for your business. Take into account these factors to build your agents’ loyalty.
Functionality designed for agents. Agents need an app tailored to their work, as real estate is a dynamic business. 92 percent of agents prefer to communicate through text messaging. The Zillow Premier Agent App allows agents to respond to leads on the fly. The app also enables agents to connect leads from different sources, set tasks and reminders, and assign tasks to other сolleagues. Providing offline mode can also give you a competitive advantage, as this feature is preferred by users but hasn’t been widely implemented by real estate apps yet. ShowingTime allows real estate agents to access showing instructions for upcoming appointments while they’re offline. We invite you to read about implementing offline mode in this post.
CRM to track clients. A customer relationship management (CRM) system tracks buyer and seller leads throughout the property sales cycle. The Zillow Premier Agent CRM enables a salesperson to check what homes their clients have viewed, communicate with clients, manage tasks, and set reminders. Reporting tools help agents track their performance.
Comparative market analysis software. Agents perform market analysis for their clients when setting a listing price or making an offer. Cloud CMA is a tool that provides comparative market analysis.
Agent rating system. An agent rating system will motivate your agents to provide better service. In Zillow, buyers and sellers rate agents for their process expertise, responsiveness, and negotiation skills. According to Zillow, agents rated as the best of Zillow close deals 40 percent more often than other Zillow premier agents.
Now you know what effective strategies to focus on when planning to start a real estate business or expand an existing one. Yalantis has vast expertise in building real estate software solutions. We’ll gladly share with you our vision and use our experience to bring your idea to life.