Outside of real estate, most people don’t even know what multiple listing services are until they start looking for their first home. Those of us in the industry know that they’re our foundation, providing the listing data and platforms that support more than 90% of real estate deals in the United States every year.
If consumers were looking to MLSs’ websites for clues about how important they are to the industry, they might never know. Many multiple listing services across the continent haven’t updated their websites since the 90s (or earlier) and have an online brand to match. Even though national listing giants like Zillow, Trulia, and others rely on MLSs for their listing data, they eclipse MLS sites. This means the average consumer does not look to MLSs for advice or answers to their questions. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Thankfully for MLSs, they don’t necessarily have to make big changes to have a big impact. MLSs can start taking a few simple, gradual steps that can have a big effect on value for their members, consumers, and the general public. Most of all, MLSs themselves might reap the greatest benefits, with increased market share, authority, brand recognition, and long-term growth. It really is an all-around win! Over time, these tips can add up to big results.
In the time since most MLSs launched their first websites, the field of UX/UI (user experience and user interfaces) has become its own discipline. UX researchers studying how to create the best experience and ensure users find the information they need as easily as possible.
Three key qualities for the UX of all good websites are:
Simplicity– Users have limited time (and limited attention spans). Anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to help them achieve their goal should be removed from your site. These include unnecessary navigation buttons or design elements, outdated text or images, etc. Of course, MLS websites appeal to several kinds of users, so they need elements that appeal to as many of them as possible, laid out in a clear way that puts the important information at the top.
Space – Users need to be able to find what they’re looking for by glancing at your website. To make things easier to see, it’s a good idea to spread them out: add more space between elements and pad images and buttons so they are easier to read.
Value – It sounds obvious, but lots of sites fail to highlight their value to visitors. Why are visitors there, and how do they expect you to help them? The answers to these questions should inform which elements are most prominent on your site. For most MLS and association portals, this means highlighting property searches and members.
Simple, right? But we’ve found that a surprising number of MLSs don’t provide consumer-facing property search. Of course, MLS members can log in and access listing information, but if consumers want to find listings in the areas covered by these MLSs on their own, they have to rely on a website like Zillow or search for listings with individual brokers.
This is a huge missed opportunity. Putting MLS data at consumers’ fingertips is an easy way to go toe to toe with national listing platforms. After all, it’s your data. Providing it on your terms can be empowering, and lead to lots of other benefits (keep reading).
All websites need to be as findable as possible, and the same is true for MLSs. Real estate search engine optimization (SEO) is another area where little changes can have a big impact. If someone in an MLS’s coverage area searches for, “Homes for sale in…”, MLSs want their sites to show up above the national giants. Working a little bit on SEO every day can lead to big results, a huge boost in organic traffic, and a steady stream of leads.
Leads are like gold in the real estate industry: you can never have too many, and if you stumble on a trove of them, you’re set. But many MLS portals aren’t able to share the wealth because they don’t have a way to capture leads from the visitors on their site or share those leads with their members.
In addition to creating a public MLS listing search feature (and allowing users to save searches or get in touch with listing agents directly), there are lots of other ways to capture leads on an MLS or association portal:
And these are just a few of the ways to integrate lead capture on an MLS or association website!
MLSs and associations can also create value in the most literal sense of the word: by turning websites into moneymakers with ad placement, affiliate marketing, and more. It’s a lot easier than you think, and it can be a great way to highlight (and cross-sell) complimentary products and services for your members and consumers. Working with the right partner can make it easy.
“In my 39 years of IT experience, Constellation1 is one of
the best vendor partners I’ve ever worked with.”
– Tammy Owen, Technology Director, Valley MLS
Today, MLSs and associations need highly searchable platforms that are easy to find and easy for both members and consumers to use. This presence provides extra value at every level, helps build local and national authority in the industry, provides critical information for brokers, agents, and (increasingly) consumers, and helps MLS and association brands shine while setting them up for long-term growth.
In fact, we’d go so far as to say that not having a good portal is actually a business risk. Operating a site that looks like it’s from 1990 will not instill consumer (or member) confidence.
To get the most value out of your MLS or association portal and compete in the big leagues with the likes of Zillow, update your web presence with a customized portal from Constellation1. We have the expertise you need to shine online, and our customer testimonials speak for themselves.