By RET Staff
Posted by: RE Technology
(Originally published by RE Technology here
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Upon news of iHomefinder's recent release of their search engine-friendly iSearch Optima IDX solution, we were inspired to take a closer look. You can take a peek for yourself with their demo site at http://www.anyhomesrealty.com
We began our review with the interactive map search, as this is often the first place a potential homebuyer will begin, particularly if they're new to the area.
After zooming-in on a region of interest and selecting one of the properties, we arrived at a listing details page. The information here was extensive, without feeling overwhelming (thanks to a nice page layout). Detailed listing information is available for active listings as well as recently sold properties (where provided by the MLS), and includes:
- Standard MLS data (such as price, beds, baths, etc.)
- Remarks from the seller (unique and new features)
- A photo gallery with photos as large as the MLS will provide. Up to 50 photos can be displayed.
- A Google map.
- Google Street View, if available for the listing's street.
- A mortgage calculator.
- Info on local schools from GreatSchools.
- WalkScore information.
- Space for additional tabs (neighborhood data, demographics, etc.)
- Customizable widgets in the sidebar (for example, featured properties, a "request more info" quick contact form, Twitter feed, etc.)
And, importantly, the detailed listing page presents several opportunities for visitors to engage with an agent or broker by requesting more information, saving a showing, or signing up for email alerts. Visitors can also share listings on Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media sites.
In addition to interactive map search, iHomefinder offers a form-based property search for consumers who wish to drill-down with specific criteria for their search. The implementation here was nice, with easy selection (or de-selection) of multiple cities, an optional advanced search, and the ability for the agent or broker to include widgets with their featured listings, open homes or other properties of interest.
One of the other features we noted was the "property organizer." With this tool, users can save properties, see them all compared on a map, rate them (ratings visible only to the user and the agent/broker), and comment on them. These comments are private between the agent and the user.
We also liked the built-in WordPress blog. A very nifty tool allows the user to essentially turn any listing into an MLS-compliant blog post. This could be a nice way for agents to draw attention to some of their more notable properties. Should the property sell, the blog post is automatically updated. This is just one of many things that iHomefinder automates so that agents and brokers have one less thing to worry about.
We didn't include it in our review, but we think it's important to mention that iHomefinder's Optima IDX product also comes bundled with a mobile IDX site. Rather than requiring consumers to download an app, mobile visitors can be automatically redirected to the agent or broker's mobile site. iHomefinder explains that the mobile site works out of the box, with no setup or integration required by the agent, although there is the option to make the mobile IDX pages part of a larger custom mobile site.
iHomefinder offers versions of Optima IDX for both individual agents as well as brokerages with any number of agents and offices. The brokerage version includes separate pages for each office and agent, with photos, contact information and featured listings for an office or agent.
One of the primary benefits touted by iHomefinder for their Optima IDX are the SEO features. We saw this on the property details page specifically, where we noticed a SEO-friendly URL with the street address and MLS listing number. We also noted effective use of keywords in page titles and headings, and the ability to share listings on social networking sites with links back to the site.
Users also have the option to create a variety of "hot sheets." These hot sheets are essentially saved searches (for example "Sacramento horse properties"). Strategically-placed links to these hot sheets make it easy for search engines to index listings of interest. Many iHomefinder clients feature dozens of hot sheets on their sites.
One of the most impressive things we discovered during our demo of iSearch Optima IDX was the resource-rich backoffice Control Panel that allows agents to manage their IDX website and their sales leads. Agents and brokers can:
- Manage their blog (using a familiar WordPress interface).
- Manage their leads – see what visitors have looked at, view when visitors signed up for more information and email alerts, see each visitor's click-throughs (we loved this – it's a great way to gauge the interest level of visitors), modify a visitor's saved listings in the property organizer to recommend additional properties, manage the routing of leads, etc.
- Manage their listings – enhance their own listings with extra photos, a virtual tour, open house directions, maps, and additional links. As you know, some MLSs have photo limits, description limits, and other field limits. With this feature, agents can augment their listings to create a richer listing detail page.
- View reports and statistics – these are robust collections of relevant data on site use as well as – we loved this – area statistics (i.e. market conditions).
At the end of the day, the unfortunate reality of some technology products is that, despite their many benefits, they simply create more work for agents and brokers who are already overwhelmed. What we found during this initial review is that iHomefinder's Optima IDX just might allow REALTORS® to perform high-level (and more basic) tasks without creating additional stress.
Although Optima IDX is a wonderful solution, there is one reason it might not be for everyone – appropriate implementation generally requires the assistance of a web designer. If hiring a web designer isn't in your budget right now, there are other options from iHomefinder that might be a great fit for you. For instance, you may want to learn more about iHomefinder iSites – an all-in-one, easier-to-setup IDX website solution – or their upcoming WordPress plugin (we'll have reviews of these products in a future article). iHomefinder also has an extensive directory of web developers who support agents using their platform.