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Realtors Embracing the Internet

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RISMEDIA, June 7, 2007-(MCT)-Instead of putting real estate agents out of work, the Internet has become the enterprising agent’s best friend.That’s the opinion of Linda Kepple, who heads the Keller Williams Premier Realty office in Peoria Heights, Illinois. Not only does the World Wide Web help agents do business, it has also accelerated the growth of real estate teams, she added.

The first reaction to the growth of the Internet was one of concern, said Kepple. “In the early 1990s when we first saw that people could find homes on the Internet, we all wondered what (Realtors) were going to do,” she said.

But agents discovered the advantage of going online instead of the unemployment line, Kepple said.

“The Internet changed the delivery of real estate. It actually made it easier-for the customer and the agent,” she said. “In most cases, people don’t want the real estate agent out of the deal.”

That’s because buying home is too personal a decision and too large an investment, said Jeff Kolbus, president of Trader’s Realty in Peoria. “The customer wants to have someone who can guide them through it — to handle the paperwork and close the deal,” he said.

Kolbus said prospective customers who check the Internet for homes has reduced the number of properties Realtors now show. “Agents spend their money on Web sites instead of gas,” he said.

Realtors need to know how to keep up with technology to communicate with their customers, said Kolbus. “We find that young clients don’t necessarily want to meet with you in person as often. They might prefer a text message sent during business hours,” he said.

The Internet has also expanded the use of real estate teams, said Kepple, who heads her own eight-person team. “You have to be able to provide customer service. Agents are creating a brand, a brand that is marketed online” she said.

For Steven Streight, Web analyst and sales manager for SpyderHost.net, a Peoria Internet company, real estate companies now make up a big part of his firm’s business. “We help provide Web sites for Realtors. As more of the public goes online, they’re seeking information,” he said.

Real estate Web sites shouldn’t just focus on listings, said Streight. “People are looking for help with things such as storing furniture and moving, items that are interesting to read,” he said.

Agency Web sites reflect the importance of the Internet in today’s market.

“Every part of our business is on the Web site,” said Rhonda O’Neill, controller and Webmaster for Jim Maloof Realtor, who has managed the company’s site since it went online in 1998.

“Along with listings of houses, we have rentals, information about our welcome center and classes scheduled for agents,” she said.

The importance of the Internet when it comes to real estate transactions can’t be underestimated, said Kepple. “If you ignore it, you stand to lose,” she said.

Copyright © 2007, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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