I welcome you to the magical world of the internet. It was not long ago that we used a paper map to get directions or referred to the Yellow Pages for a business, but today through the use of tracking technology and the internet we can find out what is around us with the click of the button. Imagine living in a world whereby you can access all the information you require about a piece of property from your phone via the internet. Internet technology has played a pivotal role in facilitating remote transactions in various business sectors.
This paper shall therefore set out to explore the benefits of the World Wide Web to real estate agents. To this end, a brief description of the internet technology shall be provided and its benefits to small scale businesses outlined. In addition, the applications that can be used to facilitate business transactions shall be outlined and their applicability to the real estate sector addressed. This shall be achieved by applying the correlative method of research which seeks to identify the relationship between two or more variables. Information presented herein shall be collected from various credible sources such as journals, books, articles and internet websites focusing on this issue.
Arguably one of the most epic accomplishments of the 21st century was the invention of the computer and the subsequent creation of the internet. These two entities have virtually transformed the world as far as information processing and communication is concerned. Organizations and business owners have extensively employed the use of computer systems as efficient global communications became the defining attribute of successful organizations.
Key among the systems is the integration of information technology in project management. As such, the internet has played a pivotal role in facilitating easy and accessible communication in the global scene. Thanks to the internet and related applications, people no longer have to travel far and wide to transact business. In addition, the high costs incurred through travelling and boarding have significantly been reduced as a result of internet technology, which enables people to carryout their businesses at the comforts of their homes and offices.
As such, the internet is of great benefit to anyone who wishes to tap into the global market. Real estate agents stand to gain from this opportunity if they apply it in the right manner. This proposal shall explore how the World Wide Web benefits real estate agents in an environment characterized by uncertainties and excessive competition.
Background of the study
In the past few decades, the real estate market has witnessed significant changes in regard to housing prices, technology and competition. Gone are the days when people used paper maps and word of mouth to search for a house or a buyer. The global population has risen significantly and people are desperately looking for a space they can call home. This high demand of houses backed by the limited supply of affordable homes has led to a housing crisis in most parts of the world.
As if that was not enough, high costs of living have forced many people to work for long hours so as to meet their personal and financial needs as well as those that they are responsible for. As such, people no longer have a lot of free time to look for houses. This responsibility has been entrusted to real estate agents whose primary role is to find occupants for empty and available houses. Considering this state of affairs, this sector has proven to be a lucrative and long-term source of cash for many agents.
However, despite this demand for houses, only a few real estate agents end up being successful in this sector. Their success is based on commitment, sales skills and a reliable social network. For those who are limited in such resources, their lives as real estate agents are often brief and painful. In the recent decade, advancements in technology have provided all realtors with an opportunity to compete in a leveled field. The internet and other technological applications have proven to be of great importance in the establishment of social networks, customer base and market expansion. To this end, a realtor in Miami has a chance of selling to a buyer in other States without necessarily going door to door looking for buyers.
Statement of the problem
While there are arrays of business opportunities on the internet, many business owners and organizations remain adamant to changing from their traditional ways of transacting business. To most people, the internet is a complicated world, characterized by high risks and uncertainties. To others, it presents their businesses with avenues through which they can grow and benefit from international business opportunities. This is the perception that has plagued the real estate sector. While some realtors view the World Wide Web as an ally to progress, others view it as a tool that enables Forney realtors to con and extort innocent buyers. While their assumptions carry some level of truth, the benefits that can be accrued from this technology far outweigh the perceived risks.
In addition to this, no one can stand and state that he/she understands the internet fully. It is a network whose full potential is yet to be realized. As such, some of the requirements needed to succeed in e-commerce remain unknown to many new and old realtors who wish to use it as a medium of transacting business. This proposal shall therefore explore various tools that could be used to ensure that online real estate businesses reap the full benefits associated with this type of business.
Before I start my paper I would like to tell you a little about me and why I chose this topic. I graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management with a minor in Studio Arts. I then worked for a computer company as a Business Analyst and Project Manager. These days however, I am a Realtor. Therefore, my interest in these two sectors played an integral role while choosing a topic to research on. This is further backed by the fact that this research will enable me to gain some useful insights that I can later apply in my own real estate practice. As such, I am optimistic that this research will help me generate more strategies that direct my business towards successful and strategic marketing and sales advantages in the real estate sector.
According to Dreyfus (2009) the internet is commonly referred to as the information superhighway. The origin of the internet can be traced as far back as in the 1950s and 1960s just about the same time the computers were being invented. To understand the internet, we must take a closer look at the word itself. The word internet is a combination of two words; inter (short for international) and net (short for network). As such, the internet is short for international network. This is a technological term which refers to the connection that enables two or more computerized devices to share information across a world. The World Wide Web can be defined as a search engine that enables people to explore search, add and remove information that is available on the internet (Pogue & Biersdorfer, 2006).
Weber (2004) states that the internet came to being as a result of visionary people in the 1960 who saw a great potential in sharing information through computers. At that time, the aim of the inventors was to share information regarding research and scientific developments in various fields of study. The author further contends that the internet has experienced significant changes since its invention. Some of the changes include speed, coverage and accessibility. Two decades ago, the internet was reserved only to a selected few. However, it has radically gained prominence and today; it is among the leading sources of information, business opportunities and communication. As such, the internet is essential to those that wish to extend their knowledge, business and expertise to other people across the world. This sentiment applies to real estate agents because the demand for houses is high in all corners of the world.
The Effect of the internet on small business
Small businesses suffer many challenges in today’s business environment. Hedbor (2005), states that small businesses cannot effectively compete for resources, market and clients due to large organizations. This he attributes to the fact that small businesses cannot do extensive research on how to improve their businesses, they cannot expand their market and most important of all, they cannot advertise as much as it is required due to financial constraints. This is unlike large corporations, which have unlimited resources and financial backing to carryout these activities.
The internet has to a great extent changed this status quo. Williams (2010) asserts that through the internet, small businesses can access free and usable information on how to improve their businesses thereby enabling them to research as much as they can about their market, products and services, and client base. In addition, the internet provides small business owners with a cheaper yet effective medium of advertising their products and services. The influence that advertisements have on the people is colossal as can be inferred from the rise in sales for corporations that engage in large-scale advertisement.
While most media outlets cover specific areas, the internet covers the whole world. As such, advertising through the internet enables small businesses to market their products abroad, thereby increasing the revenue gained by such businesses. Current statistics indicate that a significant percentage of the global population connect to the internet each day. This means that the chances of making new clients are significantly higher over the internet as compared to other forms of advertising, which are in most cases localized.
In addition, Bidgoli (2004) contends that the internet has helped in the communication efforts of small businesses. Communication is arguably the corner stone on which any successful relationship, be it business or personal, is built. The importance of effective communication is universally acknowledged and as Greene and Burleson (2003) demonstrate, a lot of research has been taken on the subject and numerous books written so as to help people improve their skills so as to make them more effective in their communication efforts.
Through the internet, businesses can communicate to their clients in regard to product and operational improvements (Goldenberg, 2008). In addition, the internet has proven to be an effective tool to use when a business wished to carryout research regarding it products and services. For example, in most websites, businesses post surveys and questionnaires that viewers should answer. The information gathered from these tools can later be used to rectify problems, improve products, services and processes, and most important of all; to learn what the targeted market expects from various products (Schenck, 2005).
Evidently, the internet has proven itself as an ally to small businesses. Not only does it provide them with a leveled competition ground, but it also enables them to better their products and services through research and communication. In addition, Schenck (2005), states that using the internet as a competition and marketing strategy is more effective and cheaper that conventional means such as radios, televisions and newspapers.
The average entrepreneur is very limited on his knowledge of the internet. In addition, their limited access to capital, and time constrains keep the small business owner away from the internet. Simply through a Google search, one can shop around for a professionally built site and you would find that the average professional site ranges from $2500-$6500. A lot of these companies offer an array of services from email set up to search engine optimization. Because most small business owners are ignorant to the available resources online, they end up exhausting their resources on services they could be getting for free or for a minimal cost.
The future of E-commerce
Meier and Stomer (2009) assert that we live in an information age where technology is as important as the businesses that we involve ourselves in. Nowadays, computers have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Be it at school, at home or even at the office, we often find ourselves using the computer to simplify and accomplish specific tasks. Electronic commerce is rapidly becoming a way of life as organizations and individuals try to take advantage of globalization.
In most developed countries, the use of hard cash is becoming a thing of the past. Plastic cards are proving to be the future of transactions. As more businesses engage themselves in online transactions, the need for offices is becoming lesser each passing day. Today, more and more people are buying and selling products and services online (Board, 2003). Examples of prominent online shops include Amazon.com and eBay among others. Actually, there is no single field that does not have its products and services online. Anything and everything you need can easily be found and bought through the internet. This means that as this trend continues, E-commerce will be the preferred means of conducting business in the future. It is cheap and offers a variety of products. This means it offers consumers more freedom of choice than conventional means.
The real estate market
In today’s world, buyers often prefer to have a look at potential houses online before they decide to invest more on it or physically see it (Richard, 2004). As such, the internet offers buyers this convenience and at a cheaper cost. Kidd (2000) states that it is important for an online realtor to have a website through which the properties for sale can be displayed to interested buyers. This saves both the realtor and the buyer valuable time that would have otherwise been wasted on annoying calls that are made to inquire details about a particular property.
In most cases, these websites allows a property seller to display four or five photos of their property as well as details regarding its location and price. In addition, buyers are able to see the finest features of different properties at a go without necessarily visiting all the houses (which is time and money consuming). Most of the websites that advertise property attracts many customers thereby increasing the realtor’s chance of making quick sales (Swanepoel, 2000).
In addition, listing one’s property on the internet is cheaper and more convenient than conventional means such as newspapers. Vieira (2008) reiterates that once you place a property advertisement on a real estate website, the property is advertised until it is bought. This saves the realtor a lot of money considering that advertising in the newspaper would require you to pay weekly fees to keep the advertisement running. In addition, the fact that one can place numerous pictures on the website is more convenient as compared to newspaper advertisements which are in most cases allow one picture to be placed on the advertisement.
Similarly, properties advertised on the World Wide Web are show cased 24hrs a day seven days a week. This increases the chances of getting a buyer faster considering that most people surf the web almost everyday (Sweeney, 2008). This is contrary to newspaper advertisements which depend on how many people buy the newspaper (often very few people look at newspaper advertisements).
In addition, the price of advertising a property online is cheaper than the cost incurred in advertising over the radio, television or newspaper. Most advertisements are placed on different websites at a price range of $50 to $70. On the other hand, advertisements placed on other mediums of advertisements triple this amount if not more. Considering that this is a one time payment as compared to regular fees paid to maintain an advert in other mediums, the World Wide Web is the better option for realtors.
On the same note, Lucier (2005), states that online realtors can edit the details of their properties upon convenience and at no extra cost. This means that they can change the photos, payment details and viewing dates whenever they deem it possible. This process is quite difficult and costly when using other advertising mediums. In addition, most websites offer their clients a wide array of payment options. As such, transactions are conducted swiftly and safely. However, these options are not available in other mediums thus making transactions timely and costly to both parties involved.
Selling online is a good strategy of leveling risks. According to Zeller (2007), online realtors have a large client base from different walks of life and regions. As such, when one area is not doing so well, another one might. This is among the unique advantages of doing business through the Web. When people in America are complaining about financial crises, those in U.K are looking for investment opportunities. As such, this enables online realtors to spread their risks, all the while stabilizing their income.
The Research Method
According to McGuire (2008), the most suitable tool to use while evaluating situations is analyzing the correlations that exist between the aspects presented. As such, the study shall use the descriptive correlation research method. This is because it seeks to identify the relationship between two variables which in this case are the World Wide Web and its benefits to real estate agents. The data collected will consist of testimonials from some selected realtors and reports from various sources related to the benefits that can be accrued from using the World Wide Web. The data collected shall then be compared to data generated by other related studies to evaluate the efficacy of the World Wide Web in regard to its positive application in real estate marketing. To answer the questions designed for this study, the key concerns shall be established to provide guidelines for the interviews and questionnaires, as well as the criteria to be used in data collection.
Data Gathering Procedure
As earlier mentioned, an evaluation methodology shall be used to design the procedures through which the purpose of this study can be realized. Primary source of data will include questionnaires and face to face interviews conducted in various organizations across the country. This is the best method of acquiring accurate data due to the credibility of the sources and the minimum costs incurred through these techniques. In addition to this, I shall organize appointments with at least six realtors from whom I expect to get a brief overview of the perception towards internet use in real estate agencies and the reasons as to why online property marketing is most suitable for their business.
On the same note, I shall also conduct interviews with various local residents (at least 20 residents) from different areas in order to gain insight on the points of strength & weakness of using the World Wide Web as a marketing tool for real estate agents, as well as recommendations suggested to better the process.
Additionally, I shall also interview various internet users in order to understand the areas of difficulties and advantages of implementing this marketing tool in real estate marketing as well as their opinions on how such policies affect the performance of real estate marketing.
Secondary data shall include peer reviewed articles related to this topic as well as books used in class and other online sources. These sources shall be used in order to further support the findings from the primary sources. In addition to this, I shall use the various marketing theories formulated by various scholars that tries to explain the relationship between these two aspects. A SWOT analysis for at least two agencies shall also be carried out in order to gauge the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may arise from using this method of property marketing.
As per demographics, flow charts, and other graphical representations shall be used to further explain the relationship between the two variables under different circumstances such as boom and recession periods, inflation and market segmentation. Finally, a cost benefit analysis shall be done in order to evaluate the efficiency presented by this tool as relating to the performance, development and financial stability of the selected agencies. The cost benefit analysis will help in determining the best course of actions as well as the establishment of recommendations related to this topic.
Buying the Domain Name
Before you start building your site, you must first chose a name. The name must be easy to remember and it either must be the name of your company or it must represent it (Stair & Reynolds, 2011). A good example would be IllyriaRL.com to represent Illyria Realty. Luckily for us, IllyriaRealty.com was available for purchase. We chose the extension “.com” because that is the most common and the most widely use. The website that we chose to use for the purchase of the name is none other then the reputable Godaddy.com. Not only does Godaddy.com make the search easy by employing a Google like interface, but they also provide a lot of support to their products. For example, one simple needs to type the name one desire on the search and if it is available, one has the option to purchase it.
Hosting and Building a Site
Once the site name has been purchased you need to start building it. For this we have chosen a site that is very easy to use and very economical. Although some hosting sites and domain purchase sites offer economical “cookie-cutter” sites for an additional price, Godaddy.com who for a price of 4.99/month, hosts a site for you for free and in addition, provide a low quality web template for free. However, we decided to go with another site all together.
We chose to use Weebly.com as our site building platform. Weebly.com is very easy to use and provides clients with high-end web templates. The templates are professionally designed and can be easily modified by someone who has very little web development experience. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use Weebly editor. This is so important because the reason why web development is so expensive is because it is massively time consuming. Every detail, every line has a code that must be written by a programmer. If the programmer makes a mistake, it will not be deciphered correctly on the web browser.
Aside of purchasing the domain name from them, Weebly allows you to host with them for free. In fact, you do not have to purchase the name at all, if you do not mind using their name on the URL that is. Weebly allows you to use a subfolder, which means that your name will appear in this manner: www.IllyriaRealty.weebly.com. However, this will not give you the image of a professional company thus you are better off purchasing the domain from Godaddy for only $10.00/year
In addition, if you do not purchase the Weebly package, starting at $7.00/month, Weebly will place their company name as a footer that says that it was designed for free. Although small enough, it really does not portray a professional image of your company. Thus it is advisable that you pay the small fee because the professional design of the web pages is very much worth it. Another reason why we chose Weebly was because this company has outstanding customer support. They provide you with step-by-step instructions to set up your email, web site name, footer, tags, Google Analytical and they provide you with $100.00 towards Google Advertising.
Advertising the site
What good is a site if no one knows about it? This is a very common mistake that amateur web developers make. They believe that just because they loaded a site to the web, it will automatically draw clientele. The truth of the matter is that a site needs to be advertised. Because we received a $100.00 of Google Ad words in credit for free from Weebly.com, we decided to use this as a form of advertising.
For this we have chosen Google Analytics. This software can be easily integrated into the Weebly platform and can let you know how much traffic you are receiving on the daily basis.
Having researched the sources stated in this paper, it has become necessary to put some of their theories to the test. In theory, the information that has been accumulated should prove successful. However due to the overwhelming information that was accumulated, we shall only concentrate on one method and further explore it and apply it to our company.
It was very difficult to try every method that we came across on our research and we have found that above all, one of the methods that stood above the rest. This method proved to be easier to follow and to implement. However, we understand that this method alone would not provide the necessary results. As such, we shall be fusing it with other theories and methods that we picked up along the way. The basis for that we chose to explore first is described in the book called Empowered; Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers’, Transform Your Business by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler.
According to the book, four technologies now put more power in the hands of both consumers and employees (Bernoff & Schandler, 2010, p. 12). As described in the book they are: Smart phone devices, cloud computing services, pervasive video and social technology. The usage of these technologies has proven to be a powerful tool that can transform the way we do business today. They are significantly cheap, ease to use and easily accessible. In addition, they are common in the sense that they have a large number of users that are growing exponentially each passing day. Collectively, these technologies allow for the convenience and mobility that is essential in the real estate sector. In addition, communication is made possible via social Medias to share pervasive videos and information regarding different properties that are up for sale.
Three out of four consumers in America and four out of five in Western Europe have a mobile phone (Bernoff & Schandler, 2010). In 2009, 17 percent of the adult population, both in United States and in Western Europe, already had mobile internet access (Bernoff & Schandler, 2010). Today however most of the smart phones have internet packages that come with the standard cell phone plans and phones such as the HTC status are built around social media such as Facebook. These devices allow users to fully integrate the functionalities of web technology with their mobile phones.
From the interviews, it was evident that most real estate agents have shifted towards online marketing. From the selected subjects, 60% admitted to have benefited greatly from this method of marketing. The remaining percentage used conventional means and some were oblivious to the benefits of the World Wide Web in their business.
The questionnaires showed similar results as most people preferred to do online marketing as opposed to face to face selling. Some of the benefits cited in the questionnaires included cost effectiveness, timeliness and reliability. Statistics gathered from the comparison indicated that the agencies had made more money through this method as compared to the revenues recorded from previous methods.
While implementing a lot of the principles and data collected from the primary sources, we wanted to try a few of the methods. However, given the time constraints and the low capital we decided to try a web advertising campaign. We expected that by the end of the process we would known how to buy a name for the website, how build it, market it and establish our own brand online.
Once we posted the website and we went online, we expected to use a web advertiser to market our services and bring more people to the site. Given that we were not investing a lot of money on the advertisement campaign and the time constraints we did not expect a massive popularity of the site. The point of this paper was to bring into light the possibilities that the World Wide Web can bring as compared to traditional advertising methods.
The expected outcome of the project was to build awareness of our services, to let the outside world know that we have a web presence and that we are competing for their business. We expected that we would hit a learning curve as we maneuvered our way through the various advertising application and their components.
During our test of Google Ad words we expected an average daily hit of about 40-50 visitors on the daily basis. However, given the short time we had to prepare this research paper we had to shorten the testing phase to only one week. As a result of this we only received an average daily hit of about 8-9 hits. More specifically, we only got 60 hits in the past 7 days and we had an impression on 100,109. This means that our ads displayed in searches and other sites 100,109 times in 7 days.
This paper set out to showcase the benefits that real estate agents can gain from using the World Wide Web as their preferred marketing medium. Cost effectiveness, dynamism and flexibility have been seen to be the greatest strength of online marketing. Online marketing also overcomes problems that are inherent in traditional marketing such as physical resources limitation and inability to attract a global pool of clients. The personal convenience that online marketing offers has also been seen as a major advantage.
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