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The Top Ten Real Estate Brokerage Websites in America

Based on the 2008 REAL Trends 500

A special report presented by:

Table of contents
About 1000watt Consulting and RealTrends Executive summary Introduction: A call to action What we learned: Takeaways you can implement now Selection criteria The Top Ten Brokerage Websites in America 2 3 4 7 10 11

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About 1000watt Consulting
www.1000wattconsulting.com 1000watt Consulting provides consulting services to real estate brokerage companies, franchisors and MLS organizations that want to connect with their markets more effectively, and in new ways. Our services include brand analysis, Web strategy and design, social media planning, copy writing, marketing and advertising, and much more. We also work with media companies and technology vendors that need help navigating the complexities of the real estate industry. 1000watt Consulting was founded by Brian Boero and Marc Davison. Brian and Marc have both worked in the real estate technology industry for over ten years. Prior to co-founding 1000Watt Consulting, Brian was CEO of VREO, Inc. At VREO, he created and marketed Real Estate Dashboard®, a software application that made the vision of paperless, mobile real estate a reality. Before joining VREO, Brian was President of Inman News, the nation's leading independent real estate news service and content provider to consumers and the real estate industry. In his seven years at Inman, Brian was instrumental in the growth of the company's content syndication, conference, subscription and advertising businesses. Prior to co-founding 1000Watt Consulting, Marc Davison was a founding partner of VREO and served as business development director and brand strategist. Prior to VREO, Marc served as consultant to Inman News, where he and Boero met in 1998. Marc attended Princeton University and began his career in advertising, at the legendary agency Young and Rubicam. In 1984, Marc left Y&R to found DGE entertainment, a full service PR agency focused on the music industry.

About RealTrends
www.realtrends.com REAL Trends, Inc. is a publishing and communications company considered to be a leading source of analysis and information on the residential brokerage industry. REAL Trends is based in Denver, Colorado. With 19 years of continual growth, REAL Trends continues to provide real estate professionals with new and innovative resources on the latest industry trends and strategies into the future.

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Executive Summary
“The Top Ten Brokerage Websites in America” report is based on a detailed examination of the corporate websites maintained by the 500 largest brokerage companies in the Unites States as established by RealTrends’ annual RealTrends 500 list. Every website was reviewed based on several criteria including usability, content, features, and design. Principals from both 1000watt Consulting and RealTrends were involved in the selection process. The results are placed in the context of a larger discussion of brokerage Websites, which notes that good brokerage websites are few and far between. The report offers reasons why this is the case, and suggests a pathforward. Takeaways gleaned from our review of all Websites operated by Real Trends 500 companies are also offered. We did not include franchisor websites in this report as their basic requirements place them in a category of their own. There are excellent "brand" or franchise sites, but they are for another report.

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Introduction: A call to action
The websites discussed within this report stand out as excellent examples of how a real estate brokerage company can use the Web to connect with its marketplace, drive business and enhance its brand equity. They are oases in a desert of lost opportunity. Over the course of two months, we walked through this desert, meticulously evaluating five hundred brokerage websites. We clicked. We read. We tested. Too often we came across sites that were windblown shells of their late-90’s glory. Or offered nothing to refresh users thirsty for such basic things as easy access to listings, or information on local neighborhoods. Things should not, and, as we shall discuss below, need not be this way. It would be easy to conclude that this report, and the judgments contained herein, are missing the point: The companies in the RealTrends 500 are, after all, among the most successful real estate firms in America. And indeed they are. But the era when a brokerage can be successful with a less than excellent website (that is a component part of a larger Web strategy) are over. We need not repeat the demographic and behavioral shifts of real estate’s customer here. But these realities, paired with a contracting market and the operational changes such a contraction ultimately requires, make mastery of the Web channel imperative. While each of the sites listed below display significant mistakes, they are, on balance, fine examples of what this sort of mastery looks like.

The broker’s dilemma
Why are excellent brokerage websites so few and far between? There are many answers, but there are a few factors we often run across and were apparent in our examination of these five hundred websites. First, there is what we might term the “vendor headlock.” Most brokerage websites of 2008 were built and launched in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. These websites are very often tied to back-end systems that manage core advertising, marketing and reporting functions for the brokerage. And, all to often, these systems were built by “legacy” vendors that have not kept pace with the dramatic changes in information technology, Web programming and content delivery that have marked the past two to three years. Nor have they adjusted their prices to reflect the precipitous decline in the cost of things such as storage, bandwidth and development time.

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Some companies avoided the headlock by building their own Web platforms. This has worked well for some, but has prevented many others from adapting as quickly as they should to the changes at hand while creating an internal cost center of significant proportions. Many brokers are thus frozen in technology time while the Web progresses. A second and related factor at play is the organizational complexity of the average real estate brokerage. Brokers often feel that a break from a timeworn web platform would be calamitous. Some vendors are all too happy to encourage this sentiment, preferring to keep the monthly hosting fees rolling than to offer a path forward. Lastly, many companies have perhaps too eagerly offloaded elements of their Web strategy to third party sites that display their listings inventory for free. This often leads to “punting” on the company website itself. Listings syndication is a good thing (with the right partners) but it does not obviate the need for brokerage companies to formulate a homegrown Web strategy and create a compelling website destination of their own.

A cool drink
Our general impression, having emerged from the desert to report our findings, may seem negative. And we will not sugarcoat the current state of brokerage websites. But we are far from pessimistic. The websites below show that brokerage companies can get things right on the Web. And beneath the hype about Web 2.0 lies a host of happy realities for companies that seek to follow in their footsteps. The number of free or nearly free applications and platforms available to a real estate brokerage is breathtaking. Information from school reviews to recent solds is now freely available. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), widgets and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) make integrating such information a matter of hours, not months. In short, many things the average brokerage pays for are now free. Tools for leveraging the intellectual assets within a brokerage company (the market perspectives of management, the street-level expertise of agents) to better connect with consumers are widely, and often freely, available. Video players, slide show and photo plug-ins, and, yes, blogs, can be deployed cheaply. Finally, the general lack of excellence among brokerage websites presents a big opportunity for companies that move aggressively to pull ahead of the pack. A glass of water tastes good in the desert. Companies that offer consumers a compelling Web experience (and re-deploy marketing and public relations resources to support such an effort) will be richly rewarded. They will also likely realize

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significant cost take-outs. We do not mean to suggest that creating a great Website is easy. It is not. We have witnessed many such efforts first hand. But it is possible and in many ways easier than it was even five years ago.

A beginning
It is on that optimistic note that we offer the list below. We hope this report serves as encouragement for brokerage companies that seek to create websites commensurate to their already considerable offline success. We do not pretend to have the last word, and recognize that there will be legitimate disagreement over our findings. Let this then be the first word in a long and fruitful conversation. The real estate experience matters. We can do better. Brokers can do better.

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What we learned: Takeaways you can implement now
This study revealed a number of good ideas, and a ton of not-so-good ideas. It also suggested a number of actions, small and large, that should be considered. Following are just a few of our top takeaways.

Call things what they are
Home search is “Home Search.” A map is a “Map.” Email listing updates are “Email listing updates.” Far too often companies called these things something else. Don’t be “creative” with your naming conventions. It confuses users and is engagement death. The most common example we saw in this area was the label “Quick search.” This appeared on nearly 25% of home pages and was often complimented with some sort of presumably “non-quick” or advanced search. The search function should be simple and clear, with advanced options available – if at all – via a simple link that says, “More search options.” “Quick search” prompts the user to think. If the user has to think, they will probably leave. Call things what they are and you will see better results.

White space is your friend
A brokerage website need not be a tight arrangement of rectangular jpegs. Resist the impulse to fill every available inch of screen with something. It hurts you. Any good website design creates a visual hierarchy for the user, clearly drawing the eye to what is important. Moreover, pages filled with images are slow to load.

Give users what we know they want
It has been nearly fifteen years since online real estate was born. In that time, we have learned a few things about what kinds of real estate information consumers want when they go online. The NAR and the California Association of REALTORS® alone have issued dozens of research reports on this subject. The bottom line: Consumers want these things: 1. 2. 3. Listings Home value and market information (recent solds, median prices) Neighborhood information (e.g., school reports, crime data)

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If you do nothing else with your website, make sure that these elements are well executed and prominently displayed. We observed listing search elements that were poorly displayed, outdated market data, and, in most cases, a complete absence of local information. This last element is most puzzling, as the local knowledge stored within a brokerage company is a powerful differentiator – no classified site or media company can match the street-level knowledge locked within the brokerage.

Reject convention and perceived standards (in real estate)
As we noted below, adhering to generally accepted best practices and established standards for web usability and design is a good idea. However, we encourage you to break with many of the common Web practices seen within real estate. As we note above, the evolution of brokerage Websites has followed a twisted path, guided in part by suboptimal vendors. It has also suffered from the conflict between consumer and agent needs. But perhaps most significantly, the industry has tended to jump on new applications without placing them in the context of a larger strategy, or changing them based on new information. Mapping is a good example. Sometime in 2004, it was decided, somewhere, that mapping was an unquestionably good thing. Many brokers then added mapping to their sites without serious consideration for usability, often slapping mapping onto creaky IDX displays or detaching “Map search” from the main search function entirely. In the meantime, many of the online real estate sites that pioneered the use of map/listings “mashups” moved to de-emphasize maps as a search paradigm, using them as a tightly integrated complement to list-based listings displays. Don’t follow your peers. In most cases they will lead you astray.

Don’t write website checks you can’t cash
Be realistic about your ability to handle tools and applications you place on your Website. We came across numerous “live chat” buttons on brokerage sites. Not one of them connected us with a live person. Another common error was placing “Free home valuation” or “Home value estimate” on the home page, only to lead the user to a lengthy form with no explanation, no sample, and no promise of what to expect. In an environment where free information and instant gratification prevail, messing with user expectations in this manner is something to avoid.

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“If granny has three eyeballs, don’t set her on the front porch”
That quote is from Lyndon Johnson, and we find it to be good advice when thinking about content and social media elements on brokerage websites. If you don’t have capable writers in your organization, don’t pursue a company blog. If your CEO is brilliant, but uncomfortable in front of a camera, don’t feature her in Web videos. We saw many examples of blogs loaded with bad writing and frivolous content. And several instances of video that served to diminish the professionals being featured. No blog is better than a bad blog; no video is better than sloppy video. Know your strengths.

Consider re-tooling your marketing department
Make your marketing director the “Managing Editor” of your company’s website. As we have noted above, exposing the local knowledge and expertise within your organization on your website is imperative. Doing this effectively takes effort. Right now, the marketing and communications department is perhaps focused on traditional tasks that either produce limited results (e.g., endless press release creation) or are becoming prohibitively expensive (e.g., print ad management, development of print marketing collateral). Think of your organization as a media company. Your website is your channel.

Expunge the word “template” from your vocabulary
Maintaining brand consistency and integrity across a national network is a good thing. Applying bad, one-size-fits-all website templates across dozens (or hundreds) of brokerage companies is not. Two national brands well represented in the Real Trends 500 painted an almost universally dismal web picture due to circa-1998 affiliate website templates. The temptation to go with the “preferred vendor” or implement a quick template is great. They usually cost less than a custom design. But as we note above, not only are the days when “successful brokerage” and “bad website” can coexist numbered, but the cost of design and development are likely to be less than the last time you checked – if you look in the right places.

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Selection criteria
This study reflects the opinions of its authors. But every effort has been made to eliminate subjectivity. What colors we like, what we personally prefer when looking at real estate online, and our reactions to the brand presented on these sites are of no importance. All five hundred websites were evaluated based on the following criteria: 1.) 2.) 3.) 4.) Design: The extent to which the appearance of a Website serves to enhance the brokerage brand and encourage consumer engagement. Usability: The extent to which the Website and its contents are structured to give users what they want, when and how they want it. Content: The extent to which a website contains information consumers want in a format and voice that encourages interaction. Tools and applications: The extent to which a Website contains elements that helps users make decisions.

Evaluation on each criterion is based on: a.) What we know empirically. For example, ten years of consumer behavior and research tell us that listings, home values/market information and neighborhood information are the key pieces of real estate content consumers look for, usually in that order. The proof is in the clicks. Accepted standards for web usability and design. Certain standards and best practices in these areas are beyond dispute in the general web environment. Cross-browser compatibility, CSS, navigation metaphors and taxonomies are all areas where best practices have been identified, and can be applied to the Websites at hand. Our own professional experience. As we note above, we don’t know everything. But we have lived and breathed online real estate and its impact on real estate brokerage for more than a decade. We are students of the Web and have put what we’ve learned to use hundreds of times, in varied contexts. Our analysis may not be perfect, but it is well informed.

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c.)

Disclosure
1000watt Consulting provides consulting services for Terabitz, a technology company that developed two of the websites in the Top Ten.

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The Top Ten Real Estate Brokerage Websites in America
Note: An overview of each site is presented, along with screen shots. Features or elements that are noted as positive in the text overview are marked with green circles; areas that noted as needing improvement are marked with a red circle.

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10 Meybohm Realtors www.meybohm.com
It is worth noting that this website was built for 2008. Not only did Meybohm avoid the cramped 800x600 optimization that characterizes most broker sites, it offers a site that displays equally well in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Literally hundreds of websites we examined fall down on cross-browser compatibility, rendering them unusable for over one quarter of all consumers. The design, while a bit more cluttered than we would like, is nonetheless very good. The brand is presented clearly and professionally. Home search is handled very well. It is placed in the most prominent piece of screen space and is represented in clear language (i.e., no “quick search,” “MLS,” etc.) and advanced options are properly labeled as “see more search options.” Each listing display features a small map showing the subject listing’s location. Open houses – another key element – are also featured prominently on the home page, something most brokerages fail to do. The company also features community information both on the home page and on listing detail pages. While the integration leaves much to be desired (the information pops up in a window hosted by the content partner) the idea is on target. Recent solds are also provided, though they are also not as tightly integrated as we would like. Information becomes more valuable in context. The Meybohm site does not handle email listing alerts well, which is a significant issue because they are the closest thing to a “killer application” real estate brokerages have ever seen. This function is labeled with a puzzling image of a monitor with RSS symbols. Not until the third bullet point is the user told they get “new listing emails.” In summary, Meybohm has covered all the major content and feature bases, executed a pleasing design, and made the site usable for the vast majority of users.

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Howard Hanna
www.howardhanna.com

While the design and color palette of this website lends itself to an older style, like Meybohm the designers avoided the cramped 800x600 optimization and made sure the site displays equally well in IE, Safari and Firefox. The design, while blocky, ultimately works because each element on the site serves one of two important objectives: It support the company’s brand identity or effectively highlights a key differentiator. The site has neatly merged the variety of search options typical on a brokerage Website into one element combining home sales, open houses, new homes and agent search. Search has been placed properly in the center of the page. Although the “Quick Search” nomenclature is used, it is supported by an effective search that incorporates important paramaters like school district and neighborhood. The “100% money back guarantee” serves as the brand anchor for Howard Hanna. This guarantee is clearly promoted on the home page and featured consistently throughout the site. The site also highlights the number of homes the firm has sold this year along with something we have never seen before: The amount of money available to be lent to customers through their mortgage department. These elements instill a sense of confidence and excitement based in fact. The Howard Hanna site could use a lighter design and better copy writing. We also feel they miss the boat on email listing alerts, burying them under the opaue moniker “Howard Hanna Homefinder.” In summary, Howard Hanna has covered all the major search features and uses its website to communicate its unique value proposition in a way many companies would do well to emulate.

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Nothnagle Realtors
www.nothnagle.com

It is clear from the moment you arrive at Nothnagle's website that they are hyper-focused on sellers: A major differentiator from the crowded space of buyer-oriented sites. The website also has a clear and defined search section well placed in the top left hand corner. nothnagle.com is optimized for all major browsers. Most brokerages actively market to sellers, but Nothnagle’s attention to seller services on its website is supported by copy and features that answer every seller’s burning question: How, exactly, are you going to market and sell my home? “Nothnagle TV” blends search, virtual tours and video into one interesting and differentiating feature. While the application loaded slowly and did not offer as many homes as we would have liked, the idea is novel. Some of agents could have put a bit more work into their videos but we also realize this is a new medium and a learning curve is expected. While the site has a strong focus on sellers, it offers buyers a complete set of tools. Search is called “Search” and offers users a simple interface for searching by parametaers including school district and open homes. Listing results pages have a section displaying open homes for the coming weekend including day, date and time. The listing display pages themselves are unremarkable. But we were impressed with how many agents offered several contact options, including SMS. The Nothnagle site also offers a host of applications suited for today’s real estate customer. This includes well executed map search, a search interface optimized for mobile devices, and live chat. Overall, Nothnagle delivers a superior website experience. The site copy does need to be reviewed from a marketing perspective. For example, prime screen space is wasted for calls to action that relate to benefits that are often not adequately explained.

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PMZ Real Estate
www.pmz.com

It is clear that PMZ knows its customer and has responded to its market. In an area particularly hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, PMZ offers market data (“real estate trends”) right from the home page and includes REO’s and short sales among its advanced search options. pmz.com displays well in IE and Safari, but does have just a few CSS issues that show up in the latest (as of this writing) version of Firefox, 3.0.3. Home search is displayed very well on the home page: Clear, simple, and properly labeled. Simple dropdowns for price, beds and baths are still the best way to structure these core parameters and PMZ nails it. Agent search – typically among the most poorly executed elements of a brokerage website – is done very well, offering search by language right from the home page. This one feature says a lot about the lengths they go to service their clients. The market data presented (from a content partner) offer a transparent preview of the marketplace. No one here is attempting to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes as the reports clearly illustrate a very real story, including days on market – a data point often obscured or manipulated. This is the type of critical decision support information consumers love. The “What’s Happening in my Neighborhood” feature on the home page is perhaps the most novel use of email alerts offers we saw, using them not just to serve buyers, but engage sellers, owners, and nosy neighbors. We found this to be a commendable way to generate leads: The user is given quality information in exchange for their contact information. This site would have ranked even higher if the initial listing results page offered thumbnail images of homes – a curious, and important, oversight. The listing display pages were a bit too Spartan and left us wondering about the properties listed. Also missing was information about the neighborhood, schools, and larger community.

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Hasson Company Realtors
www.hasson.com

Hasson is the first site on the list that offers what might be termed a “Web 2.0” look and feel. hasson.com displays perfectly in IE and Firefox, but does present a few minor glitches in the latest version of Safari (3.1.2 as of this writing). This underscores the need for ongoing browser compatibility testing. Hasson is about all about searching for homes in Oregon. The website offers a host of search opportunities including list view, map searching, ZIP code searching, “simple” searching, address searching and “MLS” search. Search by proximity to a selected school is the one option here that offers enough value to be labeled separately. Search options are overdone, and if these elements were not executed as well as they are Hasson would not have made the list. A “Find similar homes” feature on listing detail pages is a nice touch, offering a bit of Amazon-style merchandizing for home shoppers. An area map centered on the subject home is one click off the detail page and well done. On the negative side, school, neighborhood and market data were nowhere to be found on either search results or detail pages. Finally, Hasson suffers, as of this writing, from MLS rules in its market that prevent display of property addresses in an IDX display. This rule is slated to change later this year. Hasson offers great area guides that include a host of images and relevant content that covers everything from demographics to shopping, dining and pet related information. While this information is well organized, we found it odd that the link to it appeared at the bottom of the page. This information would be much more valuable to users in the context of search results or property details.

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Intero Real Estate Services
www.interorealestate.com

The Intero home page looks and feels unique, and evidences exceptional design quality. The interface deviates from the typical square and rectangle boxes employed by most broker sites. The imagery is inviting yet does not overwhelm the page or distract the eye from important features. interorealestate.com displays well in all major browsers. Email alerts, mobile (specifically, iPhone optimized) search and live chat are all available from the home page. More remarkably, they are properly labeled and explained with just enough copy to describe the feature and communicate its benefit. IDX is done particularly well on Intero’s site. Search results are displayed in a list and a map, side by side – the most sensible application of map views we have seen. Properties chosen on the list view pop up easily on the map, allowing the user to gain a sense of exactly where the home is located without having to toggle between different pages. Intero’s integration of market and local amenity data is another stand out. Users can overlay amenities on a map displaying a property, and demographic and market data are all available, and tightly integrated, with one click. With all the attention and focus on outside search sites and how well they have done in appealing to the real estate customer, Intero has done a great job offering a website that rivals any search site on the web. While the site is a technological wonder, it is missing personality. There are no neighborhood videos. No blog. No voice or expression that offers some sense who they are as a company and the unique knowledge they offer. Intero would do well investigate social media to address this, given its apparent technology aptitude. Additionally, we found the “Sell your home” element on the home page to be confusing: Why is the user forced to give their location? The data that result from submitting the form are not placed in the context of an Intero value proposition. This is promising, but needs further thought.

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Corcoran Group Real Estate
www.corcoran.com

What else can you say about a website that has been cited as one of the best, if not the best, real estate site for the past ten years? The site’s design, content and fidelity to the Corcoran brand have made it a benchmark for a long time. But the site is showing its age. Corcoran.com does not display properly in either Firefox or Safari, rendering it useless for approximately 25% of consumers. This is inexcusable in 2008 and should be fixed immediately. Were there not so much done right on this site, this would have been cause for disqualification. The home page strikes an uncommon balance between usability and design, but does fall into the “Quick search,” “map search” trap. The latter is completely separate from the main search module and very difficult to navigate. But no one beats Corcoran at content and merchandizing. The famous “Corcoran Report” a comprehensive survey of market activity, is called out on the home page. The report, started by founder Barbara Corcoran, now leverages the personality and insight of her successor, Pamela Liebman, in a manner any brokerage would do well to emulate. “This week’s values” is a novel approach to highlighting properties in a manner consistent with buyers’ current mindset. But the listing detail page is where corcoran.com really shines. No other brokerage comes close. Not only are the basics (property photos, contact information) done well, but each page is loaded with information that helps the user answer the question, “can I live here?” Information on schools, amenities, demographics – even subway lines – are available in the context of each listing. A partnership with Zagat provides reviews for restaurants around the listing. Users are also invited to compare a listing to others like it and open house information is displayed clearly and includes a weather forecast for the day of the open house. corcoran.com needs updating, but is still a great brokerage website.

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Briggs-Freeman Real Estate
www.briggs-freeman.com

briggs-freeman.com nails the basics. From design to content, this site does the important things right. Start with the images at the top of the home page. Rather than take the easy road and paste in generic jpegs, each of these images is taken from a home listed for sale. When the user clicks on the image they are taken directly to a listing display page. Home page animation is dicey as a general rule, but this is a nice blend of image and utility. Home search, while not labeled as we would like, is nonetheless done very well, eliminating the options that confuse this key element on most brokerage sites. Open house alerts are positioned well, with a clear call to action. “The Latest News about Dallas” is featured on the home page and we were pleased to find one website that took the time to address the realities of the marketplace - an element almost all other sites avoided. Equally impressive is the local market update element on the home page where a snapshot of each neighborhood market is presented. Consumers want this information and Briggs-Freeman gives it to them. The IDX display on briggs-freeman.com is marvelously simple and usable. Search results are displayed very clearly and tools for sorting, saving and refining searches are easy to use. Search results are kept in the frame on property detail pages, which makes browsing through results easy. Email listing alerts should be more clearly and prominently featured (they are buried here under a link for “save this search,” which takes the user to a registration page lacking adequate explanation). But overall, the site’s IDX display is a model of usability. The site contains several neighborhood profile videos featuring the company’s president and CEO. They are well done and illustrate how new tools and media can be used to leverage the knowledge within a brokerage company. Unfortunately, these videos are buried deep within the site rather than placed under a “neighborhoods” tab on in context with the listings display. In summary, this site, while missing progressive features like RSS and mobile applications, makes up for it in almost every other category.

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Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty
www.russlyon.com

Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Real Estate offers an extraordinary combination of great design, content and tools. The design effectively supports the luxury promise of Sotheby’s brand, and while perhaps a bit cluttered, is nonetheless elegant. russlyon.com displays well in all major browsers. Search is handled very well on the home page. Not only is the search element clear and simple, but email listing alerts are called out by their name, a rare plus. Search results are presented with a side-by-side list view and map view interface, avoiding the mistake of compartmentalizing map search too many companies make. Neighborhood, amenity and market data are all tightly integrated with search results and property detail pages. Other key pieces of content are also positioned well on the home page. The “Community videos’ are professionally produced and offer a useful view into the communities the company serves. When the user clicks on the video home page element, they are taken to an exceptionally well-organized video player/video index combination. A iPhone-optimized version of russlyon.com is also featured on the home page – a plus for iPhone users and an effective way to communicate with everyone else that the company understands technology. The company was one of the very few we reviewed that got blogging right. The “Luxury Home Blog” displayed on the home page is well structured, but, more importantly, features well written, thoughtful posts that showcase the knowledge of the CEO, EVP and Chairman. Our chief complaint with russlyon.com is the inordinate amount of space it dedicates to three “Featured properties” on the home page. While we understand the business and political pressures that often motivate brokerage companies to do this, we think this has compromised the user experience. Any one “featured” property is almost certainly not the right property for any given user.

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After much consideration, we concluded that no single website met the level of overall excellence that would merit the label “Best brokerage website in America.” We are not being coy. This is not a cop-out. Each site we considered for the number one slot had significant flaws – a browser compatibility issue here, a jumbled search experience there. At the end of the day, it just didn’t feel right. This is not meant to downplay the sites on this list. They all reflect excellence in different ways, and the people behind them should be commended. But no one has hit the home run we have been waiting for. There is still room to grow. In the end, we wanted to leave this spot open. It is up for grabs for any brokerage that wants to take what is already being done to the next level. The tools are available. So is the content. If there’s a will in a brokerage company, there are plenty of ways. Is it our hope that next year someone will make awarding the top spot a no-brainer.

Brian Boero & Marc Davison 1000watt Consulting www.1000wattconsulting.com

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