If you’re not convinced of the importance of a mobile friendly website, don’t bother reading this post. But if you are, you know that property search is one of the most popular features on real estate web sites. Too bad you’re stuck with the mobile unfriendly LoopLink or CoStar Connect.
You can wait it out and hope they’ll do something to improve their mobile search interface. Or you can do something now. Yes, it’s going to cost you some time and money – maybe even a lot of both. But if you want to be on top of the mobile trend, you’re going to have to commit.
Use Your Own Data – Manual Version
The stumbling block for most brokerages is that few, even the larger brokerages, have their listings in a database. Even if they did, they don’t seem to know what to do with it. That’s why so many brokerages enter listings on LoopNet and call it a day.
Smaller brokerages, however, should consider manual listing data entry and upkeep in another location – like their WordPress website. With a real estate specific Responsive Web Design (RWD) theme you’ll be able to create your own mobile friendly search interface – and not have to pay for LoopLink anymore.
If you’re technically inclined, you can set up a WordPress site yourself. If not, I’m going to suggest the only developer I know that specializes in this for commercial real estate. Yes, it’s creGROW and no, I’m not being paid for this link. (If there’s anyone else out there who does this, feel free to make yourself known in the comments!)
Use Your Own Data – Nerd Version
If you do have your listings in a database, get a developer to create an XML file with the pertinent data in it – including links to download images (don’t want to be transferring BLOBs). Think of it as your personal API from which your developer can grab listing data to use on your website including those using WordPress.
And while you’re talking with your developer, ask about tapping into HTML 5’s “navigator.geolocation” object available in most current desktop and mobile browsers. You’ll be able to find the user’s location via an API and/or GPS data from a user’s cell phone or tablet simulating the location service feature you find in mobile apps.
Use What You Have Better
Better Search Criteria
If you’re using LoopLink, take another look at the search criteria you’re using and how useful it is for mobile (yes…you can choose your search fields though it might cost you to make changes…). To simulate “location services”, make sure you add the radius search criteria. That way a mobile user can quickly add a zip code to find properties within a selected radius. Put it at the top – useful for mobile users and desktop visitors alike. LoopNet also has a map option.
For CoStar Connect, you should have that option included in their standard form. There’s no radius option or map display, but users will see a list of listings in the selected zip code at least.
Create Your Own Search Page
Instead of using LoopLink’s canned search page, see if you can create your own. In the past, LoopNet has been amenable to this providing the code required to send the user query to their servers to display the results. That way, you can create a more mobile friendly search layout or even use screen size detection to “serve” different search pages.
The only downside is once the results appear the user is stuck in LoopNet’s search interface. Make sure you include code to open the LoopNet search results in a new window. That way your site search page stays open in another tab/in the background. If the user realizes it’s there, they can clear the form and do another search from your site’s page instead of LoopNet’s.
As an added bonus, you’ll finally be able to know how many visitors are going to your listings search page since it’s now on your site and not on LoopNet.
Find A New Third Party Search
At the moment, only Catylist’s SiteLink offers a RWD search interface ideal for mobile. The only thing missing is location awareness. But if they don’t add that eventually, you may be able to use their listings API, currently in beta, to create your own site search or mobile app with that feature.
Another option is to put your listings on Rofo. Besides always having offered an RSS feed (an XML file/see Nerd Version above) for your listings they have a customizable listings widget. Both are available for an agent’s individual listings but maybe you can talk them into including all your brokerage’s listings to the feed or widget.