The online world is a rather small place. The real world is a rather large place. Today a step is taken to make the real world as accessible and “small” as the online world. REALTOR.com International is here.
I have client who live all over the world. I have clients in Singapore; who moved here from Geneva; who own land in Italy; who have property in France; who own land in Brazil. I often wonder what the properties are like in those areas, what the cost of real estate is, the rents are, and a lot more. I also have clients who move here from China, Ireland, Scotland, India, Australia and Russia – they wonder the differences in our real estate market from theirs.
The other day I was honored to participate in a REALTOR.com webinar presentation of the new REALTOR.com International website. My initial thoughts were wow, REALTOR is going International, and not really having any expectations of anything beyond that. I was blow away. The insights and the nuances of the product were amazing and powerful. The uses are many, and the potential is huge.
We are so Americentric here we don’t realize that the way we “do” real estate here isn’t the way it is done around the world. With the new REALTOR.com International we can actually make the real estate experience transcend language barriers, as well as economic and geographical boundaries. The brilliance and forethought that went into the creation of this site is evident. The time that must have been taken to develop it was apparent.
Awesome User Experience
I give it an A+ for design. As a UI designer and visual psychology specialist I have to say the user experience is great. The site design is aesthetically pleasing, simple and straightforward. The color palette was very well chosen and easy on the eyes. I was instantly impressed with the experience for the user. Easy to navigate, obvious flow and appealing to the eye will give them a really good time on site result. Interestingly enough it reminds me of what I remember of REALTOR.com from the late 1990′s when I found the house my Husband and I bought on the site. Design aesthetics vary by culture and country, so to create a site with, literally, universal appeal is asking a lot of anyone but REALTOR.com and NAR did this successfully.
The function and form unify to create a really useful site. Using some of the familiar REALTOR.com widgets for the search, as well as a really amazing widget for language and currency conversion, as well as a robust mapping system you can zoom into the northern Italian mountains and spot homes along a specific lake that are for sale. With a nod to local markets and the differences in terminology REALTOR.com International offers question mark icons by some search parameters to explain what is meant. For instance, in some parts of Europe they don’t search by bedrooms and bathrooms, but merely by total number of rooms, so explaining why the site is asking someone in France to specify the bedrooms and bathrooms desired is important.
The currency widget was powerful and very helpful. With the upswing in International buyer interest in US properties, it helps to translate the property prices into a native currency of a foreign buyer. Each listing shows the native price, but directly below that price it will display the converted price. With immediate support for 11 countries, 11 languages and 20 currency conversions the site is well on it’s way to world real estate dominance.
One of my pet peeves with a lot of search sites is where they get their data from. I am very vocal about my objection to scraping. I pay for multiple IDX feeds from my MLS so I can provide fresh content to my clients, so when given the opportunity I piggy-backed on a question that Lani Rosales from AGBeat/AgentGenius asked to inquire about the quality of the REALTOR.com International data. I know I can rely upon REALTOR.com to have the most current real-time data available, so the big test for me of REALTOR International was the quality of the data.
Errol Samuelson, President of REALTOR.com, answered my question himself explaining that the REALTOR.com International data was coming from three different places. The first is from real estate associations via NAR partnerships (hence the partnership with NAR in releasing the site), the next from local brokers or US based franchise partners, and the final was International Portals. Errol continued on explaining that the feeds themselves are server feeds from larger associations, as well as daily uploads from smaller companies. He seemed almost apologetic that some of the data would only be updated once a day, it wasn’t so long ago that was the case for REALTOR.com so it certainly seems like a reasonable refresh rate to me.
The U.S. continues to be a top destination for international buyers from all over the world, and Realtor.com remains a natural choice for international buyers because we offer the largest, freshest and most accurate collection of property listings available online. In recent years, foreign buyers have increasingly become interested in owning real estate in the United States. Like millions of U.S. consumers, they trust the Realtor.com brand to help them connect with Realtors and find the property that’s right for their needs. Opening up the world of real estate on Realtor.com to include an international search experience is a natural evolution of our offerings at Move. We’re very excited to help hundreds of thousands of Realtors grow their businesses beyond U.S. borders as they connect with international buyers.”
- Realtor.com President, Errol Samuelson.
I followed up with a question about whether REALTOR.com and NAR would be working with some of the participating countries to help develop more advanced data sourcing and the answer was yes. This is very exciting to me, as I like to be as much in the know as possible with my clients, and International referrals are tough when you don’t know the geography or values. Passing a client blindly off to an agent in another country can be a daunting process as you really feel as though you abandoned your client. With the new International site I can direct my client there and still have some interaction and part of the purchase process.
National Association of REALTORS worked with Move.com (the parent company of REALTOR.com) to develop the site. I am sure the debate will arise quickly about the monies that were put into this sort of development process and how does it benefit us as NAR members. I think it benefits us in more ways than we can immediately know, and was a generous and wise investment on the part of NAR and Move to help expand the growing movement toward customer service over sales in the industry. To prove to the public that we bring value, we bring information and we bring experience that cannot be found anywhere else.
Another member benefit? With over 2.6 million International visitors in the last 3 months to REALTOR.com it is addressing a need and acknowledging the growing international interest in the United States.
It Isn’t Just for International Users
One use I immediately thought of was the domestic use of the International site. I often have clients who may speak English as a secondary language, sometimes it is much more comfortable to search for a home or make a major decision when the information is available to you in your primary language. This site will also allow those clients to be able to search the US and Canadian properties with greater ease and understanding. The currency conversion widget can also help in a very similar way.
What does it mean to the real estate agent? It means greater ability to educate ourselves and relate to our International clients, as well as a trusted resource providing information that has been sourced from credible sites.
What does it mean to the real estate client? It means they can have the world at their fingertips, literally.
Oh and pretty soon we can search for Castle’s and Chalet’s in France. That’s pretty cool for us house junkies.
Want more information? Stop by the REALTOR.com Booth at NAR Annual in Anaheim, they’ll be happy to tell you more!