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The abundance of online buyer-centered housing information has re-shaped consumer buying behavior, which in turn has changed the traditional real estate shopping process. The results of NAR’s 2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers confirm this trend, as 88 percent of homebuyers now utilize the Internet in their home search. A quick Google search reveals 708,000 online real estate marketplaces are vying for the attention of real estate buyers and sellers and the vertical market affiliated with the real estate industry.

Because real estate buyers demand the convenience of online shopping, hundreds of companies and thousands of real estate marketplace platforms are available to meet the need. Real estate professionals make the decision to list properties and promote their services on electronic marketplaces due to their increasing use by the cyber-savvy population.

Although today’s real estate purchasers still focus on the all-important location factor, buyers increasingly find their choice of locations via the cyber-world.

Buyers use the Internet to study the market, financing options, neighborhood preferences and available properties—then create a list of targeted homes. More and more, buyers choose to contact a real estate agent only after they have narrowed their options to a short list of targeted homes. And because prospective buyers find their agent via the Internet, electronic marketplaces that showcase local real estate professionals have become a popular technique for agents and brokers to market their services.

To get millions of eyes on the properties you have for sale and generate sales leads, the location of listings and your professional real estate information on online marketplaces has become an important marketing strategy for most agents and brokers. Pricing for use of electronic marketplaces is trending upward and they often offer a complicated menu of options and costs. It was reported from Borrell Associates. 2011 Report Findings that real estate companies spent over $8 billion to place online ads in 2011 and brokers and agents added another $5 billion in spend for online advertising.

The goal of most brokers and agents is to make the best decision about where to place their listings and where their online advertising dollars will have the most impact. They review online real estate marketplaces from the perspective of which site(s) will deliver the most benefit to their business and prospective buyers and sellers. To find the optimal cyber location to market your properties and your services, it’s imperative to understand the options offered on each site and choose a plan that fits your marketing strategy and budget. In comparing cyber locations for your listings and professional information, one size definitely does not fit all!

When reviewing options and costs, consider the advantages a site offers for your targeted market. Do you have the capability of providing local market expertise throughout an entire zip code so that purchase of one or more zip codes makes sense in growing your business? Do you expect more than one property photo to be included for your property? If so, be aware, as you are often required to pay a higher fee to include more than one property photo. If you are knowledgeable on the use of social media options such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, you can avoid the cost of a bundled package that provides social media training and assists in utilizing these marketing advantages. Do you need assistance in creating an engaging website or is your company website appropriately linked and promoted to attract visitors and optimize search engines? Carefully review how each site handles listing agent information. Will your contact information as the listing agent be available on the property posting or hardly visible?

Also consider the benefits online offer management and negotiation can deliver to you and to buyers and sellers. Out of the 708,000 electronic real estate marketplaces only a handful offer the opportunity to place an offer online and fewer still are capable of conducting online negotiations in real time. Online offer capabilities allow real-time confirmation of offer receipt, and buyers enjoy the convenience of communicating in real time with the seller and their agent. Likewise, when a seller has multiple offers to evaluate and time is of the essence, online offer review and negotiation is a major benefit. It provides a level of convenience and the quick and accurate communication buyers have learned to expect from online purchasing, including offer placement and negotiations at any time.

The benefits of incorporating online transactions into residential real estate sales presents a substantial growth opportunity for real estate professionals choosing to leverage electronic marketplaces to accept, review and negotiate offers. With the overwhelming majority of homebuyers using online marketplaces as a strategic tool to find a home to purchase, online real estate transactions are expected to become one of the benefits agents, brokers and buyers demand as well as a competitive advantage in the real estate industry.

Lisa Barrentine is the president of HomeTelos, a First Preston HT Company. is an offering of HomeTelos.

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