Realtors looking for special bond with consumers
By Mary Ellen Podmolik
February 26, 2010
The National Associaton of Realtors is adding its entry to the ever-growing number of Web sites out there offering guidance to homeowners and anyone thinking of buying a home.
Here's what Houselogic.com, its new Web site, doesn't have: advertising. Here's what it does have: plenty of information to guide you through the journey of homeownership and if you register, a potential request to support the Realtors' position on housing-related issues.
It's the first time the Chicago-based association has tried to foster a real relationship directly with consumers. Traditionally the national group seeks support from its own members, like the 12,000-strong Chicago Association of Realtors. Now it's decided that it'd like the weight of consumer support behind it, too.
The Realtors don't plan on asking consumers to throw their support behind every issue. But if there was a proposal on Capitol Hill to, say, do away with the mortgage interest rate tax reduction (which there isn't), the associaton might ask registered users of Houselogic to write their legislators.
In focus groups conducted during the past two years regarding the site's development, the association said consumers weren't put off by such outreach.
"We're a big voice in Washington and we would like to develop a relationship with consumers. We call it a marriage of common interests," said Frank Sibley, a senior vice president at the association. "There is a sense of benign hopefulness that consumers have. They want to know that there's an entity out there protecting their interest as homeowners. They like the idea that there's someone between them and the federal government protecting their interests."
Beyond establishing that bond with consumers, the goal of the site is to provide education — with no commercial interests — to consumers about what's likely to be their biggest investment, their home.
But we're not not talking decorating trends here, or whether granite is passe. It's all about the dollars and sense of a project. For instance, a section on basement remodeling includes articles on the return on investment of such a project, good options for basement flooring, adding an egress window and the various building codes and requirements that should be considered before undertaking such a project. Each article includes the time involved to complete the project, and the low-to-high cost estimates, depending on whether it's a do-it-yourself effort or professionally done.
Another article delves into shopping decisions, like buying refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines.
Beyond home improvement, other sections of the site tackle inside and outside home maintenance, tax deductions and incentives, and finances and insurance. None of the articles mention brands or companies because the goal of the site is to make consumers aware of issues they should consider and questions they should ask contractors and product vendors.
Registration on the site allows a user to construct project binders and receive personalized content based on their ZIP code.
"A big key here is we don't have anything to sell," Sibley said. "We want to give unbiased, highly ethical information about protecting the value of their home. "It's important that you know how to maintain it and improve it and improve its value. We're not competing with Martha Stewart."
Material on the site is provided by freelance writers, and biographical information is included at the bottom of articles so readers can know the writer's backgrounds. The types of articles will change, depending on the season. While there is no advertising on the site or links to suppliers of the various products talked about in an article, paid sponsorships may be offered in the future to help monetize Houselogic.
One other thing the association has no plans to do is share the personal data of registered users. Sibley said some Realtors have asked whether they'll have access to e-mail lists and the answer is an emphatic "no."
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