The world has changed. Many consumers that used to want to live the “American Dream” of homeownership have given up on that dream – at least for now – and have turned to renting, instead of buying. They may have lost their home, or simply don’t believe that buying a home is a good investment anymore. Still others simply cannot afford to buy a home because they have lost their job or they have been forced to take a lower paying job just to keep food on the table.
Are we just going to abandon these folks because they aren’t buying a home “at this moment”? We may not be trying to ignore them, but in fact we are by not providing any options for them to learn about rentals from organized real estate.
Did you know that nearly 1/4 of all real estate traffic online is going to rental sites like Rent.com, Apartmentfinder.com and others? Collectively, leading rental sites have MORE traffic than Realtor.com, Trulia or Zillow. And that number doesn’t even include the huge focus companies like MSN Real Estate and AOL Real Estate are placing on rentals through their partnership with Move.com.
At the MLS Cloud conference in Houston we talked about ways to make MLS Consumer Websites more attractive and sticky. Most MLS consumer sites do not include rentals. Historically it has been really difficult to encourage rental companies or even agents for that matter to submit rental listings. They didn’t see as part of their core business. Times have changed, though. Consumers are now switching back and forth from home ownership to rentals seamlessly. Some properties for sale are also for rent especially in some of the more distressed markets. Are MLSs do all they can to address this unmet need? Have they put a full court press on this opportunity as a way to keep consumers engaged with the real estate community until they are ready to come back and buy again?
I would highly suggest that every MLS with a consumer-facing site think about a way to make it really easy to shop for rentals and for sale properties. You will secure more consumer eyeballs and you may gain some new property manager subscribers at the same time. If we’re serious about making MLS sites one of the most important tools we offer to subscribers, then we need to break ground on some new thinking.