register to view property detailsToday I received an interesting email from a visitor to my website who had just registered. I had tried to call her which, as you may know, is something I do with every person who registers on my website. I like to personally thank each and every person who registers on my site for their visit and see how the site is working for them. I get terrific feedback from people this way, have interesting and enjoyable conversations with people about what's prompting their home search, and in general learn a great deal about what people are looking for in the way of real estate. In fact I find that many of the choices people are making when it comes to real estate are linked to lifestyle choices (living on the lake, walking the kids to school, downtown Madison condos, etc) and as you may know, our motto at Lake & City Homes Realty is "Homes that fit your lifestyle." I really find that aspect of real estate to be fascinating. It gives me great insight into what's driving people's decisions and therefore what type of home is going to be appealing to them. Anyway, back to what happens when I call visitors who register on my site. Sometimes when I call people they need help setting up a Saved Search or saving a property to their Favorites folder. While some are a year or more away from making a move, others have immediate questions about a property or want to schedule a showing right away. Just yesterday someone needed to see a property in two hours (before the sun went down because the home had been winterized and there was no electricity). But this morning was different. The woman who had registered on my site did so with an invalid phone number. So I tried to email her to establish contact and see how I could help. This is a portion of the email reply that I received. "It is unfortunate that you require people to provide their personal information in order to browse home listings." So I explained to her - and I want to explain to everyone else out there - why I require site registration. But first I want to point out that this is the first person in 11 months (and two days, to be exact!) since I launched my website who has given me negative feedback about registering. I'm not so arrogant (or naive) to believe that there aren't others who haven't thought the same thing, however. In fact, I'm the first to admit I don't like registering on websites. But I have my reasons for running my website this way and would like to take this opportunity to explain.

Requiring people to register on my website in order to browse property details (not property listings, as the site visitor incorrectly stated) is a business choice that I made only after a great deal of consideration. I weighed the pros and cons extensively and tried both methods for several months before committing to the current model. It all boils down to this: the reason I require registration is in order to provide exceptional service to people trying to accomplish their real estate goals. Providing exceptional service requires a great deal of personal attention and follow-up which I’m unable to do if I can’t contact the person by phone and/or email. Moreover, an important part of the service is receiving listings (ie property alerts) by email. Clearly it isn't possible to receive email alerts without a valid email address.

That being said, I respect people's privacy. If you do not wish to be contacted by phone or receive email alerts, that is your choice and your right. In this case the person was not really looking to buy (they just wanted to know more about Middleton Hills after reading an article about it) which is really pretty atypical of the site visitors I'm accustomed to. In other words, most of my site visitors are actually on the site to use the tools we've made available to locate real estate for sale or to find out more about listing their home with Lake & City Homes. For the occasional visitor who isn't seriously looking they are of course still welcome to use our site anytime. I do, however, require valid contact details (name, phone number, and email address) and some sort of response when I ask how I can help. Without that, a great deal of time gets wasted trying to follow up with people who don't respond. That just takes time and energy away from clients who are actively working with us.

Real estate is an industry and a subject I'm incredibly passionate about. I take a great deal of pride in running my own brokerage and providing an uncommonly high level of service. I don't enjoy registering on websites any more than the next person but when the tools are as good as the ones we've scoured the globe to provide, and the service is a reward unto itself, I have every confidence in the world it is worth consumers' effort to register. And while we avoid resting on our laurels and continuously strive to improve our site, we hope that your own personal experience with Lake & City Homes and backs that statement up. Either way, please let us know!

Do you have a viewpoint about forced registration? Please post your comments on our blog. How do you feel about registering on our site? Do you think the tools and service merit it? How could we improve your experience?

For more information about working with an experienced, dedicated Realtor on your next Madison real estate project, please call Lake & City Homes Realty broker|owner Jolenta Averill at 608.628.9701.

Posted by Jolenta Averill on
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Hi Jolenta,

I also force registration on my website for a couple of reasons. First off, I am in a business that requires me to generate leads in order to succeed. Whether that lead comes from my website or from a sign call, I use those tools, have paid a lot of money for them, and have to maintain them with my time. Because of those factors I need to know if what I am spending my money on is a good investment for my business. By requiring registration I have direct access to much needed feedback of my visitors. If they don't like something, I can get crucial information as to why, and use that feedback to be better for the next person and keep my business afloat.

Secondly, it's nice to meet people that are using my website, and sometimes they need that extra help when you call or email them. Most of the people who give me valid contact information on my website are happy when I call them right away to help them, and they like the emails they get about market conditions. Sorry for the book, but I think the forced registration is something we do to better understand our clients. :)

Posted by Lisa In Logan on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 at 1:55pm

Jolenta, I'm also a firm believer in forced registration. My feeling is that the detailed listing information is something of value. I'm just starting to test a new registration page that validates the phone number before allowing visitors to register. You might want to check it out on my Sacramento site. If you want more information on it let me know, this wasn't something REW did for me. ;)

There are always going to be people who are put off by giving personal information but I feel then I haven't given them enough reason to want to register. It's definitely something I've been working on. On my Davis website I have had a comments field on the registration page, I've gotten comments like I will never use you as an agent because you asked me to give you my information - well aren't they going to give their information eventually to someone? Not everyone who visits our sites are going to be good fits as potential clients nor are they always going to be home buyers. I try not to worry about it and focus on the people who give good, valid information.

Posted by Carolyn Gjerde on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 at 9:57pm

Jolenta -- It'd be interesting to see what a home buyer outside of the browser that was written about in your article has to say about it. That aside, I echo much of what Carolyn and Lisa have already said. Real estate is a business just like any other and the cost to provide these solutions for consumers is not free to us. I think it's reasonable to expect that a potential home buyer who finds value in using your website and, more specifically, your search solution, be required to register so that you can continue that interaction with them offline and help them buy a house. If buyers don't want to register then that's fine, use or or the multitude of other sites out there that don't require registration. Until there is a better way for commission only salespeople (real estate agents) to engage prospective clients we will have no choice but to use the tried and true method of required registration to view home listings.

Posted by Josh Ferris on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 3:03am

Hi Jolenta - I'm a REALTOR up in the frozen north *Canada* and it's been my experience that regardless of how professional you are, you can't be all things to all people. That's to say that there will always be visitors to your website who aren't happy with how you conduct your business *and require registration to view listing DETAILS*. Here in Calgary we have no choice - if we want to provide website visitors access to FULL DETAILS (this would include significant information on properties not included on most websites) we are REQUIRED to ask for registration AND also use an email verification process whereby registrants aren't allowed full access without a verifiable code response *this filters out all invalid email address submissions*. It works well - I find that most people who complain about registrations aren't likely to commit to using you when it comes time to put the rubber to the road. By the way - great looking website!

Posted by Jim Sparrow on Saturday, December 19th, 2009 at 4:47pm

I think everything you said in your post, and the things said in the comments make sense. But what it really comes down to is what's better for business, right? If you are able to run a better business and provide better service by requiring that people register, then the requirement makes sense. But if you are losing a lot of potential clients by requiring registration then it starts to make less sense. I don't know the answer to this question, unfortunately. We have no idea how many people *might* have browsed your site and contacted you and been really good, legitimate clients had it not been for the registration requirement. You could argue that the willingness to take the time to register is an indication that a client is good/serious, but maybe not? I know that I personally hate registering for websites. Have you considered removing the requirement for a trial period, just to see how your business is affected? But yeah I mean, the bottom line is that it is your business and you have to be happy with it, so if requiring registration is what you want to do, well, that's reason enough.

Posted by Jane Michaels on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 at 3:47pm

As someone had pointed out above, we are in the business to find buyers that need help finding properties. If we don't have any buyers, we don't stay in business- it's that simple. I think that there are a select few that have something against forced registrations (as buyers), but I feel the majority know and understand that you're not in the business of reselling anyone's information- you're just trying to find someone that would like to buy a home. I wish we could hear from a buyer's perspective!

Posted by Mike Ciucci on Monday, January 11th, 2010 at 10:58am

OK, time for a home seller and buyer to comment on this one :) Jolenta provides a service that is above and beyond what others in this area provide. She is extremely professional and not an "ambulance chaser" (for lack of a better phrase) agent. She works very hard providing the tools both sellers and buyers need. She works long hours to provide that incredible service and prides herself in this--as she should. Her expertise surpasses every other agent out there.
As a seller it helps me to see her market statistics and see what other homes like ours are selling for and see what current marker trends are. As a buyer--well I just cannot say enough about how easy Jolenta's site is to navigate and it has a wealth of information that again, surpasses everyone else. She has so many search features that you can drill down to EXACTLY what you are looking for.
Should you register for these services-ABSOLUTELY. If you are looking. . .there is a reason. If you are not ready to purchase or sell when you sign in--you can tell Jolenta that. She is not going to hound you. If you are just trying to get a feel for the market because somewhere down the line you are going to sell or buy-well she can tell you what you need to do. When you are ready you can call her back and be WAY ahead of the game.
Again, as a seller, OK you can laugh at me now Jolenta. Holy cow--the woman is a task master. "Get rid of that hideous wallpaper!" (after doing it I now know why no one would buy a house with wallpaper). "Take out half the stuff in here--it's too cluttered." I have to say--I like less clutter and I think I will probably dump half the stuff I put in the POD when I buy my new house. Her no nonsense expertise transformed our house. Her business skills brought the right buyers.
Register--it is worth every letter and number you put down. I mean it--and don't put in a phony email address or phone number. It is just rude to do this. The technology Jolenta provides you is not free--to her. You on the other hand simply need to provide a name, email and phone number and get free access to information you will not find elsewhere.
Like I said, if you are a dabbler right now--simply tell her that.
And--don't forget to read the blog postings and look at all the information she provides within her site. You would be a fool not to register. Sure you can go to Trulia or Zillow and get virtually no information and oh, it’s also so outdated that it’s not even accurate anymore. But hey, if you want to eat Twinkies instead of having a 7 course meal provided by the best chef in town (that chef being Jolenta Averill) bon appétit! Did I mention it does not cost you one dime to enjoy the feast she prepares for you? Personally, I’ll tap in a few letters and numbers and forgo the Twinkies!

Posted by Karen Erickson on Monday, January 11th, 2010 at 2:02pm

There you go, Mike - a bonified buyer perspective for ya. Thanks heaps, Karen! Great to hear you're happy with the site and the service!!

Posted by Webmaster on Monday, January 11th, 2010 at 3:03pm

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