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Open houses easier to find on real estate Web sites

The three largest real estate companies are sharing online listings of homes available to tour.

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By Amy Rolph
Herald Writer
Published:
Finding open houses in the Puget Sound region is getting easier — click-and-scroll easy.
Prospective home buyers who go to the region’s largest real estate Web sites can search for open houses coordinated by most Northwest Multiple Listing Service members through an interactive map that combines data from competing brokerages.
The technology isn’t new; the listing service launched its public open house feature in 2004. But this summer, the Seattle-region’s big three — John L. Scott, Coldwell Banker Bain and Windermere — adopted the data-sharing tool.
“It definitely enhances the customer experience when buyers can access open-house information in one place, rather than going to each brokerage’s Web site,” said Dick Fulton, executive vice president of Coldwell Banker Bain. That company started utilizing the open-house program in June.
The service has long been offered by a handful of smaller brokerages, including Redfin and Lake Real Estate.
Now that the big three are on board, Lake Real Estate owner Mike Skahen believes it’s just a matter of time before smaller real estate groups adopt the interface.
“Everybody will have it on their site within a year; they have to,” he said. “That’s where people will go to look for open houses.”
The John L. Scott Web site has featured the open house Web site since the end of July, spurred to include the service after a study conducted by the company indicated home buyers are twice as likely to look for open houses online than in a newspaper.
“Our decision to post all open houses from all real estate companies on JohnLScott.com was quite simple given the change in consumer behavior in recent years and the declining reliance upon print advertising as part of the real estate search process,” said Joe Spencer, chief operating officer with John L. Scott.
Skahen, an early advocate for the open house feature and a listing service board member, said Realtors will keep moving further away from traditional means of advertising listings. That will likely mean even fewer advertisements in regional newspapers — and another blow to the brittle backbone of the struggling newspaper industry.
“We used to have 10 to 20 ads in The (Seattle) Times,” Skahen said. “Now we have one or two.”
The open-house service is free for brokerages and sellers and could encourage suburban agents to host more open houses.
“This is truly the new world, and it’s a better world,” Skahen said.
The public open house feature doesn’t have a stand-alone Web site. To use the feature, prospective home buyers visit a participating brokerage’s site.
The interface varies based on which site is hosting it, but it generally includes an interactive map with home icons, multiple photos of properties and contact information for the hosting brokerage’s agents.

Read Amy Rolph’s small-business blog at www.heraldnet.com/TheStorefront.

Contact her at 425-339-3029 or arolph@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Real Estate

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