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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, Feb. 12, 2008-Steve Chapa joined his family’s business-Chapa Realty in St. Peters, Missouri-four years ago. Responsible for what he describes as “a little bit of everything,” Chapa’s most recent endeavor was a big one: building an online presence and advertising program for the entire firm.

Having relied solely on print advertising over the course of the company’s six-year history, Chapa realized that it was time to venture elsewhere. “We were strictly running print ads,” says Chapa, “and with so many people online, we decided to switch things around a little bit. We had never hit the Internet market or had a Website that was fully functioning and doing what we wanted it to do.”

With this in mind, Chapa refocused his attention to building an effective online presence. Surprisingly, finding a vendor to work with was the easy part. With the merger of Harmon Homes and Homes.com, Chapa was able to continue working with his print rep, who is now fully versed on all Homes.com online offerings as well. To date, the relationship and the results have more than met Chapa’s expectations.

At press time, Chapa’s site was just up and fully functional. Listings that his company enters into the MLS now automatically appear on Homes.com as well as several other significant sites, such as Yahoo! and Trulia. He is utilizing Homes.com’s Featured Listing program that advertises Chapa Realty’s chosen listings at the top of key regional search results on Homes.com. “No matter what page consumers are on, our listing remains at the top of the page,” he adds.

The decision to expand from print to online advertising boiled down to common sense for Chapa. “Everybody’s online,” he explains. “I’m online, you’re online-it’s just how things are shaking out in this economy.”

That said, Chapa still fully believes in the value of print advertising and intends to incorporate a print program back into his advertising campaign once his online initiative is safely underway. “People looking for houses are still looking at print ads and classified ads, and in magazines on the racks at the grocery store. It’s still good to have that covered as well, and we want to go back to that.”

In the meantime, Chapa reports that the transition to the company’s Web presence has been “real easy.” His next step will be to take advantage of Homes.com’s Blockbuster ads, a banner ad that appears on those search pages that Chapa has purchased the zip codes for. “If people search St. Louis for homes, that’s when our Blockbuster ad comes up. Even if they go to a different page and search through millions of listings, our ad is right there. The ad links directly to our Website.”

Chapa is also excited by the functionality of his Homes.com site: “You can come to our site, tell us what you’re looking for, and then we set you up with your own custom e-mail. Customers then actually have their own prospects cart and any properties we send to them go directly into their cart. They can weed through what they want and what they don’t want, and then receive real-time updates. Any time something changes on the property, it changes in their cart as well.”

This functionality allows Chapa and his agents to connect with customers via e-mail, suggesting alternate properties based on the ones they’ve already saved-all in a very non-intrusive way.

Down the road a bit, Chapa looks forward to getting back into print advertising. “The print ads will walk hand-in-hand with the online advertising component. There is definitely still a market for print. People still like to grab those magazines off the shelves.”

For more information, visit www.homes.com.

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