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The ambitious plans of one brokerage to attract 20- and 30-something home buyers

RISMEDIA, Jan. 26, 2007-(MCT)-Beefing up its Web site, hiring younger sales agents and redirecting its advertising dollars to nontraditional venues are all part of an ambitious plan by Edina Realty to tap into the growing pool of 20- and 30-something home buyers, company President Bob Peltier announced yesterday.

"To move forward over the next five to 10 years, we have to be positioned differently than we have been in the past," Peltier said in an interview before taking the stage in St. Paul at the annual Edina Realty Expo.

At the heart of these shifts in corporate strategy is research that says that 80% of all home buyers start their search on the Web.

"I think there are plenty of tools we can continue to add," he said. "There's no question the tech age is the information age. … The more information we can give, the better the buyer we'll have."

Peltier, the younger brother of Ron Peltier, CEO of Edina Realty and parent company HomeServices of America, said that developing a sophisticated Web site packed with statistics, data and information about the market will help draw more buyers and sellers who fall into the Generation X and Gen Y age groups, which he estimates at 121 million.
To that end, the company is pursuing marketing relationships with search engines such as Trulia, Google, MSN and Yahoo.

Already, the company has created a searchable database that lets users check previous sale prices for houses sold through the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

And in the coming year, Edina Realty plans to buy the rights to the coding and software used by Cyberhomes.com, a national Web site that uses a variety of sources to establish home values in an instant.

To reflect its changing philosophy, Edina Realty plans to redirect a much greater share of its $7.5 million to $8 million advertising budget to other areas, mostly in the form of advertising that will direct traffic to its new Web site.

That means a 50% reduction in traditional print media advertising and a shift toward media more commonly frequented by Gen X'ers and Gen Y'ers, including weekly publications such as the Rake and City Pages, more electronic billboards, regular radio spots and more online advertising.

Recruiting younger agents will be part of the company's strategy. Recent research from the National Association of Realtors shows a growing gap between the median age of the average home buyer and the average Realtor.

The company added more than 700 agents to its roster last year; it now has 3,200 Realtors.

This new strategy represents a fundamental shift in the way sales agents viewed themselves and their jobs. At the dawn of the Internet age a decade ago, many agents were threatened by the increasingly fat pipeline of information that was available to buyers and sellers. Many resisted early attempts to share information about listings and sales data with other agents and the public.

The shift started with the move away from printed listings and "sold" books toward Internet listings. Then came broker reciprocity, which allowed various companies to share listing information. And then last year, Edina Realty built a searchable database of sale information that it posts on its Web site after the board of the Regional Multiple Listing Service decided to allow sold data to be made available.

What does all this portend for the role of real estate agents in this new world? Bob Peltier said agents will be just as needed as ever. Increasingly, their role will be to help buyers and sellers synthesize the growing amount of information they have access to, Peltier said.

"Their buyers and sellers' big concern is 'how do I decipher that information?' "

One thing is certain, he said. Hoarding that information will no longer serve the industry. "Information is free and plentiful," he said. "So that's no longer an option."

For more information on Edina Realty visit www.edinarealty.com.

Copyright © 2007, Star Tribune, Minneapolis
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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