Selling homes one Tweet at a time

Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | August 27, 2012

In a fabulous riverfront setting, this home is sited in a quiet shore borough just minutes from a private jet airfield.

You might expect to find this real estate listing tucked away in the back of the Wall Street Journal or in Luxury Real Estate Magazine. But Christie's International Real Estate, which listed the property, picked a more provincial place to publish the description -- Twitter.

While you may wonder if buyers really are searching for riverfront manors on Twitter, there is no denying social media is changing the way real estate is bought and sold. Buyers and sellers alike are heading online to view listings, research property details and close the sale.

Here are five ways social media, and technology in general, are changing the real estate industry:

1. More tools to DIY

With the ease of sharing and a virtually unlimited audience, social media has made it easier for homeowners and buyers to connect and complete a sale without the help of a real estate agent or broker. Sellers create websites for their properties, post details on Facebook, upload pictures on Pinterest and then encourage friends to share their home with their social networks.

Even for those who don't want to go it completely alone, social media may be giving some sellers the confidence to use agents offering limited services. ForSaleByOwner.com reports the 2011 Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, published by the National Association of Realtors, found a quarter of all sellers use agents that list the property on MLS and then offer few if any services. Another 30 percent use limited service agents, and only 24 percent use a traditional, full-service agent.

tweeting home sales

2. Reputation takes on new meaning

A good reputation has always been important for real estate agents, but social media has given a whole new platform for customers -- both happy and unhappy -- to air their praise or grievances to the world.

A 2011 Buyers & Sellers Market Survey conducted on behalf of the Prudential Fox & Roach real estate firm highlighted the importance of a squeaky clean reputation for real estate agents both online and offline. Of those surveyed, 43 percent went online to research when selecting an agent. In addition, 63 percent said they were heavily influenced by family and friends when choosing their agent.

In an industry that relies on word of mouth, agents have new minefields to maneuver with social media. Scathing reviews are immortalized on websites such as Yelp, while an unprofessional post on Facebook or Twitter can spread like wildfire across social network sites.

3. Online viewing offers open houses 24/7

Perhaps nothing has revolutionized the real estate industry quite like the vast array of information available at our fingertips. Buyers no longer have to wait for business hours and then request a showing. They can fire up their computer to search listings, view neighborhood details and even take a virtual tour via a YouTube video.

Buyers aren't the only ones interested in seeing home information online. Sellers understand its importance too. According to a 2011 analysis by social media management firm, Postling, 73 percent of sellers say they are more likely to list with an agent who posts property videos online.

4. Instant communication is the new normal

Social media, email and texting have led to a culture in which consumers expect near instant responses to their inquiries. Earlier this year, in the Chicago Tribune, broker Dymphna Fay-Hart related how she first saw a shift in communication five years ago.

At that time, she noticed the traditional method of doing business over a cup of coffee was being pushed aside in favor of more modern forms of communication. In particular, those of the younger Generations X and Y are looking to connect via social media sites or email and expect a response within minutes rather than days.

"Buyers want an instantaneous response," she told the paper. "If you don't get back to someone within 15 minutes via text, email or cell phone, they will move on to the next person."

5. Social media can make sales soar

For those who are able to master social media marketing, the benefits are immense. Jared Weggeland, Director of Sales and Marketing for Southern Crafted Homes, learned that firsthand. After revamping the company's social media program and increasing interactions on Facebook, Weggeland told Pro Sales Magazine home sales from online referrals jumped 64 percent.

What does this mean for the future of real estate? In his industry projections for 2012, Todd Carpenter, Director of Digital Engagement for NAR, says social marketing will become the new normal, and those who will be most successful in real estate are the ones who can fully integrate social media sites into their business model.

Because contracts are signed offline, it's difficult to quantify the number of homes that have sold primarily through social media or other forms of online media. One thing is clear though, whether homes are marketed using multiple techniques, or in 140 characters or less, the #FutureOfRealEstate is currently being written.

About the Author

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.