Casting aside the data question, for a moment…

Like many others, I’ve been following the spirited discussion that has arisen over the last few months around real estate data.

It’s a big, chewy topic for sure. But I wonder if all this public mastication has caused us to choke on the big picture.

So I’m going to throw something out as bit of a thought experiment.

This morning I asked myself a question:

If I ran a brokerage website and couldn’t put any real estate listings on it…

What I would do Let’s assume for a minute that I have no data (zero, zilch, nada) and had to start from scratch.

It’s pretty straightforward. I’d build the biggest, juiciest resource of community-related information I could. We know that people aren’t always just looking for a home online, more often than not they are looking for a place to live.

So I’d start with the things that we know people are looking for on the web. Like big gorgeous photos.

Tuscon-based brokerage Long Realty has this idea nailed. It partnered with its local media outlets recently to run a “Why I love Arizona” photo contest. Visitors to the Long website were asked to submit their favorite photographs of the area for a chance to win a cash prize. As a result, they have a gorgeous gallery of imagery that they can now leverage across all of their online properties.

Next, I’d take a look at what StreetAdvisor is building. They have a new platform that allows brokerages to build out a neighborhood Q&A platform. Users can explore a town or city, right down to the street level, and ask questions and learn about what makes every block tick.

I’d push my agents to contribute their own perspective on the neighborhoods they work, so that their local market expertise starts to bubble up to the top.

The big media sites have this figured out. Frontdoor has done this perhaps better than any of them, building out rich city guides for most major metro areas. I’d do that for every neighborhood in my footprint.

And of course, a community isn’t just about places and streets. It’s also the people that live there. So I’d interview my customers to get to know them better, to understand why they chose to work with my company and my agents.

Then I’d feature their stories prominently on my website. Red Oak Realty in Oakland does this in a feature they call “Red Oak Stories.” It connects the user to the site, and to the company, in interesting ways.

A glass half full

Our reliance on variable and frequently frustrating rules around the display of listing data snuffs out innovative ideas and forces us into all kinds of contortions.

But it doesn’t have to hinder our creativity when it comes to the full experience we can create on a real estate website.

If you could do all of the above without having access to listing data, you’d be doing pretty well.

[Disclosure: 1000watt Consulting has performed work for Long Realty, Red Oak Realty, Frontdoor and StreetAdvisor in the past.]