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"You just unlocked the Real Estate Mogul badge!": The Potential of Location-Based Apps

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

I was recently exposed to the addiction that is foursquare. As I only have three or four friends who use the application, I can take comfort in being something of a nerd on the cutting edge (instead of, say, a nerd in a sea of nerds). But regardless of how plugged in my circle of friends and acquaintances is to the latest phenomenon in social media, the fact is foursquare and competing services like Gowalla, brightkite, Yelp, and SCVNGR have geography at their very core, and as such they have incredible potential for real estate marketing applications. This must be what the folks over at  HomeFinder.com were thinking when they partnered with SCVNGR to organize the HomeFinder.com Race for the Home, a competition scheduled for September 18, in which homebuyers will complete challenges at several Atlanta real estate listings in pursuit of the grand prize: “a large down payment toward their dream home.”


But this event, however exciting it may be, doesn’t strike me as the most effective way to use tools like foursquare as a real estate professional. HomeFinder.com’s VP of Sales and Business Development, Mark Tepper, has suggested, “It’s all about reaching home buyers in a meaningful new way and forming a lasting connection. The convergence of fun, gaming, mobile and social is a really powerful way to achieve that.” I agree that making the experience of searching for a home fun and social should be a top priority for any real estate agent–after all, searching for a home usually isn’t fun. At all. It’s nerve-wracking, chaotic, overwhelming, and competitive. So why not take those qualities and turn them into positives by making the process a game? Because exposure is not our only goal in this industry: we also want results. Let’s go back to the word that Tepper himself uses, “lasting.” We want people to visit our properties, yes; but we also want them to immerse themselves in them. We want them to imagine themselves living there. We want them to concentrate on that elusive feeling of “fit,” to decide whether or not this townhouse or that apartment is the right one for them. That being the case, if the thousand or so interested homebuyers walking through your listing are only listening to your spiel so they can write down the square footage and move on to the next challenge, what does it matter if there are a thousand of them?

Instead, we should be thinking about the less glamorous ways we can use geotagging to promote ourselves and our properties. Leslie Lambert of Agent Genius offers several great ideas here. For instance, she suggests that agents prove their expertise in the city, neighborhood, or area in which they operate by frequently checking into local venues of interest and providing helpful information about each. Provide photos of the listings you visit, your office, and, yes, even photos of you. This will show homebuyers and renters that a) you’re active, b) you’re savvy, and c) you’re REAL. Finally, you can create tours of listings–historic homes are Lambert’s example–that offer not just a mad dash through a bunch of random places, but rather a meticulously crafted and thematically linked set of places, a finished product that shows you’re creative, thorough, knowledgeable, and willing to go the extra mile to offer clients an engaging experience of your properties.

image credit: nan palmero, 2010 [via flickr]

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