ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
by Cynthia Martens
“In the future, we’re going to be doing more business on the Internet then we do downtown,” said real estate agent Roger Perkins of Re/Max in Hillsboro.
“It’s been very beneficial.”
Perkins is referring to the ability to list homes for sale on local and national Web sites that can be accessed by potential home buyers.
Perkins’ comments reflect a growing involvement by real-estate sellers in Marion County to use the Internet to enhance their businesses.
The information contained on these sites includes biographical histories of the real-estate agents, details about homes for sale, photos of the homes and in some cases interior pictures, loan information, and even calculators to get an estimate of mortgage payments.
“Five years ago, they were actually predicting that people would be buying all their real estate over the computer and that real-estate people wouldn’t even been used anymore,” said Delores Dalke, owner of The Real Estate Center in Hillsboro.
“That hasn’t happened.”
Although listing homes on the Internet hasn’t replaced agents, it has been used by them as a tool for selling homes.
“I think it’s a valuable tool,” said Becky Nuss of Real Estate Specialists in Hillsboro.
Local agents can choose where they will list their clients’ homes for sale, such as a Multiple Listing Service, Flint Hills Board of Realtors Multiple Listing System and Web sites designed specifically for their firms.
The Real Estate Center can be reached on it’s own site at www.hillsboroproperties.
com. Real Estate Specialists can be found at www.centralksrealestate.com, Leppke Realty and Auction at www.leppke.com and Hillsboro Re/Max agents Marlene Fast and Perkins can be reached at www.realtor.com/
wichita/marlenefast and www.realtor.com/
Charles Kannady, with Kannady & Associates Real Estate in Marion, does not currently have an agency Web site but said one is being created to offer to his clients in the near future. He said he currently uses realtor.com.
Nuss said her agency’s most recent contract was written because people saw the house on realtor.com.
“They drove out and looked at it,” Nuss said. “And they called and bought it.”
Realtor.com is a consortium of all realtors who choose to pool information about their listings into the MLS Internet system.
“We submit our listings into the MLS, and realtor.com picks them up off of the MLS system,” Nuss said.
National Web site information sources, such as realtor.com, homeadvisor and usaproperties, help agents reach more potential buyers outside of their local community, Dalke said.
“We do get calls from all over the United States based on our information being out on those national sites.”
The MLS system also has a service that informs Dalke how many times people have pulled up the Flint Hills Board Web site, she said.
“It’s thousands of times per month, so there’s a lot of people out there looking at those things,” she said. “How many are in the market and how many are curiosity, we don’t know that.”
Dalke said she not only counts on her Web site to reach potential buyers searching the Internet, but she also uses it in her office with clients who need to quickly access information about available properties.
Firms that offer an agency Web site can design it to suit the needs of their clients and the philosophy of the company.
The following is a composite of information found on four Web sites from Hillsboro agencies:
n?”Home page” is designed to introduce the company and provide access to all the information on the site. It often contains biographical data about each agent’s real-estate experience and includes phone numbers, fax information and e-mail addresses;
— “Contact the agent” offers a form to fill out requesting a response from an agent. This page usually includes a message box, and the request for information can be e-mailed to contact the realtor;
— “Selling advice” suggests ways to enhance the curb appeal of a home before it goes on the market and tips for preparing the interior of a home to make a good impression on prospective buyers;
— “View current listings” includes details about homes, business real estate and land available. Each home is usually listed with an identification number, address, current listing price, number of beds and bathrooms, square footage and city. A picture of the home is often included, and a simple click on the image can enlarge the photo and give more specific information about the home;
— “Find your dream home” offers a form to fill out, which will help the agent determine what type of home the prospective buyer wants. With the click of a send button, the completed information can be e-mailed to the realtor;
— “Mortgage calculator” provides an on-line service to calculate down payments and monthly mortgage payments of homes in the buyer’s price range;
— “Requirements to prequalify for a mortgage” offers loan-prequalification information that can be submitted to the agent, who can use it to help with loan-qualification issues;
— “Comparative market analysis” enables sellers to fill out information about their home and e-mail the agent, who will look at comparable homes sold in the area to determine the suggested asking price of a home;
— “Neighborhood information” contains an overview of communities such as Hillsboro, Goessel, Lehigh, Peabody, Marion and Canton. The average home cost, age, square footage and lot size will usually be listed;
— “Links” furnishes helpful on-line information about related real-estate issues. Included on this page are such links as Eco-block homes, consumer-credit counseling and the Hillsboro Real Estate Directory;
— “Relocation tools” displays interactive tools to help the client stay organized and make educated decisions when buying or selling a home;
— “School information” provides reports of pertinent information about educational facilities in particular communities.
Kannady said he feels real-estate Web sites are important tools. But he has been cautious about developing an agency site for the following four reasons: security, time involved, computer glitches and difficulties locating a particular site.
“We feel like the people we work for-their security is the most important thing,” Kannady said.
He said he has seen sites, outside of the county area, where agents put in information about whether a home is vacant.
That information poses a security risk, he said.
“I think we’re liable and responsible, and that’s what people expect,” he said.
Constantly updating information can take time, relying on computers can be difficult if they crash, and he also questioned how difficult it can be to locate a Web site.
“Unless the people know what site to get into, they don’t know how to get the information,” he said.
Real-estate agents contacted said they agreed that caution was necessary to protect the privacy of their clients. Dalke said she was also cautious about the expense involved maintaining a Web site.
On the positive side, those polled offered the following advantages to listing information on the Web:
— Information is put out quickly and efficiently;
— Buyers and sellers become more knowledgeable and informed about the market;
— Agents are more prepared because they know the needs and wants of the buyers before they meet them;
— Prospective buyers outside of the community and in the international arena are reached;
— Buyers can shop on-line any time of the day;
— Agents and their qualifications are easily accessed and trust is built up quickly;
— New real-estate agencies have the chance to get their name out in front of people in addition to those more established firms;
One of the selling tools available on two of the local Web sites is a virtual tour, which includes interior photos of rooms in a home for sale.
It got mixed reviews from the agents polled.
Dalke does not include interior photos because she said she has had some resistance locally for security reasons.
“And I really feel we’re important in the mix as real-estate people,” Dalke said. “I don’t think people get a real good feel for houses until they walk into them.”
Re/Max and Real Estate Specialists offer interior photos, and Perkins said his agency has a minimum of five photos in homes chosen to be on the virtual tour.
But no interior photos are currently available on either agencies’ Web sites.
“I’ve sold them all,” Perkins said.
Re/Max offers another option called “the 360 virtual tour.”
A camera sweeps each room of the house on the tour and records that in the data base. When prospective buyers get on the Internet, they can manipulate that information to see “virtually” every corner of each room.
–Although the charges for this service vary with the agencies, Perkins said at Re/Max the agent picks up the cost of that service.