Expanding your Market With a Little Help From the Competition

By: Melanie Speed

Sometimes it's easier to work with the competition than to keep competing with it. That lesson has helped many tech-savvy real estate agents prosper even as competitors stack up in the online realty world. As new business broaden the industry and offer valuable new services, agents are learning how to carve out their niche and, in some cases, form partnerships that benefit both parties - examples of this evolution in online real estate have ranged from national listings sites to for sale by owner portals.

Successful agents realize that online competition generally doesn't replace the basic functions of a real estate professional: understanding a client's needs, and handling the sales transaction. Those functions don't include developing technology or offering free software, although many clients are attracted by this. That means agents and brokers can let other interests unveil new widgets while they focus on their areas of expertise. And new widgets are plentiful - from mapping technology to social networking sites, real estate sees more new tools unveiled every day than almost any other industry.

Competition to display online property for sale listings is one of the biggest stories in real estate these days. Many agents instinctively want to protect their right to display listings exclusively, but this isn't always the best strategy. Many national listings sites provide a search tool that displays listings across the nation, and small scale realty operations have a hard time competing here. Buyers and sellers aren't always aware what type of site they're on when searching listings, but they tend to appreciate the ability to search and compare nationwide. Many agents have taken a pro-active approach here, sending their listings to as many national sites as possible, thereby increasing exposure for their clients. It's also possible to be registered as an area broker with many national sites, so that when users click a listing they're re-directed to the broker's personal site for service in that area - for example, if a user clicks a listing in Portland, Oregon, they're redirected to the sponsoring broker for Portland, who might pass the lead to another agent in the area in exchange for a commission. This approach can bring a broker nationwide exposure and significantly increase their market with little or no extra work.

Most agents and brokers also tend to have little patience for independent for sale by owner websites, because they cut realty professionals out of the selling process. But they also generate a lot of traffic for real estate related keywords, and not every owner who decides to sell fsbo follows through. Many sellers quickly find the process frustrating, and turn to a real estate professional for assistance - that's where well-positioned agents and brokers can benefit. By partnering with these sites, tech-savvy professionals can expand their market again with very little work.

Success in real estate often comes from partnerships and deals with other professionals, and many top agents and brokers are learning that competitors are some of the most useful partners out there.

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