I’m at the National Association of Real Estate Editors meeting in downtown Dallas. We’re at a lovely hotel/condo called The Magnolia, which is a building that used to be owned by Mobil Oil. There’s a huge red Pegasus at the top of the building. In fact, right now I’m sitting in a ballroom called the Pegasus Ballroom.

Big surprise. It’s Texas and oil is king.

But, I digress. I’m here to catch up with colleagues in real estate journalism.

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This morning, there was an interesting panel on selling your home in the Internet Age.

Key stat: Most people, like somewhere north of 85 percent of everyone, starts their search to buy or sell a home online. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, for buyers who start their search online, 82 percent wind up using a Realtor to buy a house. Of those buyers who don’t search online, only 65 percent use a Realtor. So, Realtors should like the Internet, but adoption has been slow.

According to Errol Samuelson, of Realtor.com, the next five years of the Internet will change much more quickly than the last 10 years. He believes that consumers want more. They’re currently on seven sites trying to figure out which information is best or most accurate. He believes consolidation is coming and the way that Web sites add information and make it a one-stop shopping will be key to their success.

Here’s what he sees coming down the pike:

  1. You’re going to see what’s happened to the process of buying a car on the Internet happen to the real estate industry. You’ll see real estate sites become more comprehensive in terms of the information Web sites are going to provide. In a few years, consumer will go to one to three Web sites to get information. That’s what’s already happening with search.

  2. You’re going to see an increase in quality. Any time you look at emerging market or a disruptive technology, consumers will trade quality for flexibility for price and portability. Think about digital. In the beginning, you traded the quality of a regular camera for the flexibility and functionality of a digital. Today, you don’t have to trade off anything. You get high quality, flexibility, functionality and a low price with a digital camera. With real estate sites, you’ll see a rush toward quality. You’ll see all the listings (most sites only have 1/2 to 3/4 of all listings available) and great, deep information.

  3. Real estate Web sites will focus on the consumer. The Web sites have to be transparent, so that consumers can really see everything that’s there and find it easily. Next, they have to invite generated content. Consumer journalism is everywhere, but people like to participate, and this kind of thinking is starting to permeate the Internet. It’s at the heart of Web 2.0. So, look for real estate sites to increasingly allow consumers to participate. (Zillow.com is a great example of this.)

It’s been an interesting conference. Tune in Sunday morning at 11am EST to hear more about the world of real estate. Listen live at www.wsbradio.com.

May 9, 2008