Posts Tagged as real estate websites

Five Times Bargain Hunting Leads to Buyers Remorse

Is Your Real Estate Website ADA Compliant?

Brick-and-mortar businesses understand the need to be ADA compliant, but did you realize your real estate website must meet ADA compliance requirements as well? Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals in any place of public accommodation. And the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has made it clear this includes websites.

Do You Have a Parking Spot on Your Website for the Disabled?
According to ADA rules, websites must accommodate individuals with vision, hearing, and other impairments. Though no one had websites in mind when the 1990 Act was written, the DOJ has argued such regulations should be interpreted to keep pace with changing technology. Federal Judicial districts, however, are split. As the DOJ is the one walking with the big enforcement stick, their interpretation is taking precedence.

Confusion Over (Lack of) Rules
The DOJ solicited public comments on upcoming rules back in 2010 – but none have been forthcoming. They are now anticipated to be made public by 2018. However this hasn’t stopped the DOJ from enforcing such ADA rules today. In a recent complaint, H&R Block was found non-compliant after 2 deaf plaintiffs were unable to complete tax returns resulting from the company’s lack of assistive technology (screen reading software and refreshable braille displays).

The Post-Settlement Understanding
As brick and mortars aren’t expected to supply wheelchairs, but an environment (ramps and widened doors) where assistive tech can be used, websites where business is conducted are expected to provide an environment where assistive tech (screen readers, braille displays) will work.

In the interim, NAR President Tom Salomone has contacted Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta noting the uncertain state of the law, and how it has encouraged demand letters, lawsuits and confusion in the industry. Regardless, firms are advised to start looking at their real estate websites from a different perspective.

Real estate website falling behind the times? Refresh with the latest tools and technology from Properties Online.

.REALTOR Domain Coming Soon

NAR secures new top level domain with .REALTOR.

There are approximately 22 URL suffixes [ICANN generic top-level domains (gTLDs)], and you’re no doubt familiar with several, from the most popular .com to .gov, .edu, .net, and more. In early 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—which oversees policies dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable—approved an expansion of the number of top-level domains. What’s more, they decided to allow companies and organizations to create domains for their brands. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has done just that, and will be making the new .REALTOR domain available to NAR and CREA members from October 23rd, 2014.

“This is truly an exciting time for NAR members to be on the cutting edge of Internet technology. When consumers visit a .REALTOR website they will know that they have reached a source of comprehensive and accurate real estate information, NAR President Steve Brown told media.

ICANN is currently in the process of reviewing hundreds, if not thousands, of potential new gTLDs. As part of this process, NAR applied for and secured the .REALTOR domain to showcase its real estate professionals in a “crowded online space”.

The first 500,000 NAR members and 10,000 CREA members to sign up will receive their .REALTOR domain address free for the first year.

The Zillow-Trulia Merger & Your Real Estate Business

Last week, Zillow revealed publicly its intent to buy Trulia for $3.5 billion. Obviously this news (and the rumors we’ve been hearing for some time) are hot topics of conversation in the real estate world. The consolidation will allegedly take place whilst still maintaining the distinct identities of both Zillow and Trulia. Only time will tell. But what will a Zillow-Trulia merger mean for your real estate business?

Last week, Zillow revealed publicly its intent to buy Trulia for $3.5 billion. Obviously this news (and the rumors we’ve been hearing for some time) are hot topics of conversation in the real estate world. The consolidation will allegedly take place whilst still maintaining the distinct identities of both Zillow and Trulia. Only time will tell. But what will the Zillow-Trulia merger mean for your real estate business?

On July 28th, Zillow announced via a press release that “it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Trulia, Inc. … in a stock-for-stock transaction. The Boards of Directors of both companies have approved the transaction, which is expected to close in 2015.”

Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, stated: “Consumers love using Zillow and Trulia to find vital information about homes and connect with the best local real estate professionals. Both companies have been enormously successful in creating compelling consumer brands and deep industry partnerships, but it’s still early days in the world of real estate advertising on mobile and Web. This is a tremendous opportunity to combine our resources and achieve even more impressive innovation that will benefit consumers and the real estate industry.”

Pete Flint, Trulia’s CEO, then commented: “Trulia and Zillow have a shared mission and vision of empowering consumers while helping real estate agents, brokerages and franchisors benefit from technological innovation. By working together, we will be able to create even more value for home buyers, sellers, and renters, as well as create a robust marketing platform that will help our industry partners connect with potential clients and grow their businesses even more efficiently. Our two companies share complementary employee cultures with innovative, consumer-first philosophies and a deep commitment to create the best products and services for our industry partners.”

By the (self-reported) numbers:
• Zillow reported a record 83 million unique users across mobile and Web in June 2014.
• Trulia reported a record 54 million monthly unique users across its sites and mobile apps in June 2014.
• Approximately half of Trulia.com’s monthly visitors do not visit Zillow.com
• Approximately two-thirds of Zillow.com’s monthly visitors across all devices do not use Trulia.com.
• “Maintaining the two distinct consumer brands will allow the combined company to continue to offer differentiated products and user experiences, attract more users and maximize the distribution of free content across multiple platforms, apps and channels.”

The Zillow-Trulia merger might not create the “pricing power” juggernaut that many people fear. We’ve been reading comments by agents and brokers all over the web, and the fact is that many MLS boards and independent agents are starting to pull their listings – they simply don’t want to have to pay to advertise next to their own listings. There are also frequent rumblings about the data and Zestimates on Zillow being inaccurate.

Citron Research cites a deal struck between Realogy and Zillow/Trulia. Realogy—the world’s largest real estate agency, comprising Coldwell Banker, Sotheby’s, ERA, Century 21 and Better Homes—secured a lucrative deal for its agents that “prohibits all other agencies from advertising on their listings” at a cost of less than 95% what any other agency pays. What’s more, Realogy is aggressively pursuing their own online offering that will compete head-to-head with Zillow-Trulia in the consumer-focused online real estate space, with a new product expected sometime in 2015.

“We believe that there is a space in there that we can compete in. It will have features like Zillow and Trulia. It will have features that you wouldn’t put on a real estate brokerage website. An example of that would be Zestimate that Zillow uses. There are certain features that we believe we can effectively do and be able to cast a net outcome, a consumer-oriented facing website arena and be able to capture leads, reviewing [scrub then] as I described, and then put them in the hands of our sales associates so we create the business opportunity,” NRT CEO and President Bruce Zipf is quoted as saying on May 9th during a Realogy Investor Day Q&A.

Rascoff, Zillow’s CEO, has been quoted as saying, “It ought to be quite clear to a listing agent or a broker that it behooves their seller to have their listing displayed on Zillow and Trulia or sites that Zillow powers.”

Indeed, Zillow powers some of the internet’s major property search engines, and together with Trulia will indeed have a massive reach. But for how long, with competitors like Realogy making such significant strides, technologically and on behalf of its agents at the bargaining table? And how long before Keller Williams, Remax, Berkshire Hathaway, or other agencies demand and negotiate the same deals Zillow-Trulia have granted Realogy?

Many real estate professionals feel a loss of power in the face of the deal, which cements a growing resentment at having to pay Zillow to advertise their listings. Online forums reveal many of these agents calling for boycotts, while still others agree there isn’t another viable option.

Inman News contributing writer Joseph Rand writes in his Op-ed “Why Zulia doesn’t mean checkmate,” that: “The bottom line is that Zillow needs listings more than listings need Zillow. Which means that Zillow needs the people (brokers and agents) who take those listings more than they need Zillow.” I’d venture that he is bang on with that assessment.

Where does your business fit in? Do you use Zillow to obtain leads? One thing I can say with certainty is that this isn’t over, and we’ll be talking about the Zillow-Trulia merger for some time to come. How do you feel about all of this? I’d love to hear your thoughts from the proverbial trenches.

How Facebook is Cornering the Property Market

Facebook has more than 1.31 billion active users. According to NAR (the National Association of Realtors), 90.5% of real estate agents and brokers use social media to some extent. In a study of traffic sources conducted by Properties Online, using Google Analytics, single property websites received the most referrals (50%!) from Facebook.

Changes to Craigslist in late 2013 mean that referral traffic from the site can no longer be measured. This gives Facebook a boost in ratings, so to speak. And the social networking giant is doing all it can to maintain its place at the top.

Twitter has been growing, but hasn’t had the impact on real estate professionals that Facebook has. Still, at more than 645 million users, the social media site is a significant force, with a lot of potential. One problem for real estate listings is that Twitter is home to A LOT of information. Tweets can easily get lost and end up unseen. But there is something to the platform – something that has had Facebook on alert for a long time.

You may have noticed the subtle integration of some of Twitter’s features into Facebook this year. Actually, just before the New Year, Facebook began by renaming its ‘subscribe’ and ‘hide all’ options with ‘follow’ and ‘unfollow.’ Facebook is using an algorithm—based on your usage—that then controls the content that appears in your newsfeed.

Another Twitter-ish update was the move to ranking link posts from publishers higher in the newsfeed. This seemingly small change led to big things for Facebook, with publisher content referral traffic from Facebook rising 50%, to account for over 15% of all social referrals. At the same time, mind you, Twitter referrals decreased four percent.

Now, as we know, Facebook is great for sharing photos and videos (and this is great for real estate professionals). But Facebook saw Twitter’s edge when it came to user-generated content and changed its algorithm to rank text-only status updates from users higher in the newsfeed. Their research showed them that users respond positively to these types of updates, and that they prompt more of the same. So, that that and run with it – share your thoughts about a listing, the market, anything of interest, with your Facebook followers.

Facebook may never replace Twitter when it comes to real-time news, but it doesn’t need to. And while a full-blown social media presence is great, if you can pull it off, you don’t need that, either. Facebook is a fantastic option for busy real estate professionals, and it’s gotten even better in 2014.

 

What You Need to Know About Heartbleed

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Heartbleed in the last week. On April 7th, information about the OpenSSL vulnerability CVE-2014-0160, a.k.a. “Heartbleed”, became publicly available. I’m going to explain now what Heartbleed is, and what you need to know about Heartbleed as a real estate professional and a general user of the Internet.

The Heartbleed vulnerability affects OpenSSL, the encryption technology that powers and protects some 60% of the Internet. Even if that makes no sense to you, and you have never given it a single thought, I can promise you that you interact with OpenSSL on a daily basis, if you use the Internet. If you have two minutes and want a quick and very easy-to-understand lesson on OpenSSL and Heartbleed, watch this Mashable video: What is the Heartbleed Encryption Bug?

While we at Properties Online are confident none of our services and tools have been compromised or maliciously accessed due to Heartbleed, as we do not use OpenSSL, we find this an excellent lesson in Internet safety and a good reminder that passwords should be updated often.

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users,” says heartbleed.com.

While your Properties Online user accounts remain unaffected by Heartbleed, you are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly through many of the other websites and web services you use on a regular basis. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet. “Many online services use TLS to both to identify themselves to you and to protect your privacy and transactions. You might have networked appliances with logins secured by this buggy implementation of the TLS. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”

Not sure where to start? Check out Mashable’s HeartBleed Hit List for the passwords you need to change RIGHT NOW. You can also visit CNET for a list of sites that have been patched against Heartbleed.

So, just a quick recap and reminder: Your Properties Online accounts and passwords are SAFE. They were not compromised by Heartbleed. But changing and resetting our online passwords is a time-consuming task we all put off a little too long. We urge you to take this web crisis for the helpful reminder it is and do some password housekeeping.

–All the best from the team at Properties Online