Real Estate Industry Predictions for 2012

By Todd Carpenter, Director of Digital Engagement, National Association of REALTORS®

With nearly half of all REALTORS® using social media in 2011, it’s safe to say that it’s no fad. But will further adoption of social media be a driving force of change for the real estate industry in 2012, or will other trends prove more disruptive? I asked several social-media-savvy real estate professionals, “What new tools or trends will have the biggest impact on the real estate industry in 2012?” Here’s what they had to say.

Social Becomes Normal

“In 2002, we stopped calling it ‘e-business.’ In 2012, ‘social marketing’ meets a similar fate. Going forward, this is just ‘business,'” says Dan Green, loan officer with Waterstone Mortgage in Cincinnati and author of The Mortgage Reports. In some ways, social media’s mass adoption now makes it less disruptive. But as this form of marketing hits critical mass with the agent population, the companies they work for will try to leverage it. Green predicts that, “brands/brokers will begin actively amplifying their individual agents’ marketing messages. Expect top-down ‘messaging’ within a brokerage for agent Web sites, blogs, and social network presence.” Derek Overbey, senior social media manager at VerticalResponse, has a similar view, “In 2012, we will see deeper social integration into every aspect of business, including e-mail, promotions, advertising, and public relations.”

Ines Hegedus-Garcia, a Miami REALTOR® with Majestic Properties, thinks competence in technology will need to become the norm for real estate professionals: “2012 will not be about the best and newest shiny objects, but instead about how we, in the industry, are able to stay atop technology and able to integrate it into our daily business in a way that is useful. The consumer has learned to ask the right questions, and agents will have to show proof of successful business practices which incorporate technology.

Search Becomes More Socialized

I think social search could have a significant impact on how consumers connect with agents. I will even moderate a panel about this it Inman Connect next month. Adding a social layer to the way consumers search for an agent is a reality from general search sites like Google to Industry specific portals like Zillow and Trulia. “We’ll continue to see advancements in social search.” says Ginger Wilcox, head of industry training at Trulia. “In 2012, more consumers will want social proof that their agent is an expert and trusted in their field. Having strong online profiles with customer recommendations will be essential to gain the trust of connected consumers.”

The Rise of Mobile

Real estate has always been about location, location, location. Mobile will make that mantra apply to the Web as well.

In 2011, smartphones made up the majority of all US cell phone purchases. “We saw unprecedented growth in mobile in 2011 and will continue to see mobile explode in 2012, especially with smartphones being the norm and inexpensive tablet options expanding and becoming mainstream.” Wilcox says. “Mobile solutions for real estate pros will be essential to help agents connect with mobile consumers.”

Bill Lublin, managing member for the Social Media Marketing Institute, thinks the rise of mobile will change how consumers use real estate Web sites and social media, “The increased use of mobile by consumers will drive agents and companies to create mobile Web sites (as opposed to mobile compliant), participate in local review sites (to demonstrate their connection to the local community), and provide consumer tips on location-based services like Foursquare, Foodspotting, Yelp, etc.”

The ‘Great Data Debate’ Heats Up

“In 2012, listing data and how it is shared across multiple platforms — from IDX to syndication to social media platforms — will be a hot topic. It could fundamentally change how real estate agents do business,” says Jay Thompson, broker/co-owner Thompson’s Realty and a member of NAR’s MLS Committee. Jay lobbied for the creation of a special subcommittee to help sort through these issues.

In 2011, Edina Realty made a decision to withhold their  syndication feeds to third-party sites like, Trulia, and Zillow. Lublin believes the rest of the industry is watching. “Large and small companies alike will be watching Edina to see what happens as they leave aggregators’ sites in an attempt to drive consumers directly to their company site. If REALTORS® decide to disintermediate third-party sites, the impact on the industry could be immense.” Nobu Hata, 2012 YPN chair and Minneapolis REALTOR® with Edina Realty,  hopes all agents understand the stakes. “I can tell you first-hand that brokers waking up to listing syndication issues will be heavily impacting us in 2012.  It’s a numbers game, and a lead-gen and empowerment issue that all brokers — big, small, indie, franchise — will be gunning for.  Here’s hoping that their agents realize this, and advise when necessary.”

A New Focus on Conversion

“Tools and trends will (finally) focus more on client conversion rather than lead generation …  social and otherwise,” argues Jeff Corbett, chief thinking officer for XVentures. I agree. Agents are beginning to understand that social networking is not a numbers game. It’s more about who is in your sphere of influence than how many. The focus must be on networking and prospecting practices that can convert into real business. As Dan Green predicts, “In 2012, the agents with the best lead-generation tools plus lead-management tools win. It’s not just *how* you earn a lead, but what you do with it once the lead’s in your CRM.”

Now it’s your turn. What new tools or trends will have the biggest impact on the real estate industry in 2012?

Todd Carpenter

Todd Carpenter, Managing Director of the Data Analytics Group at NAR I'm a twenty year veteran of the real estate and mortgage industry, focusing on technology that fosters relationships between professionals and consumers. I am a subject matter expert in data analytics, online consumer trends, enterprise social media strategy, listing data, agent ratings, and public facing MLS portals.

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  1. Great article Todd. I am extremely interested in how the great data debate proceeds. I applaud Edina Realty for pioneering the “revolt” against turning over our listing data to third parties, including, only to have it sold back to us at exorbitant costs. it is time to draw a line in the sand as to who owns this listing information. It is not NAR’s or any MLS’s. I work hard for my listings and it is not right that I am not somehow compensated for the use of my intellectual property when an third party is generating billions of dollars as a result of the use of this property.

  2. I agree that mobile real estate searches are going to be a huge player in 2012. As an agent, I am always using apps to get additional information in a pinch. Many of my clients are using them as well. It’s exciting to see how much easier it is to get information on properties.

  3. lisa

    Im beginning to see how blogging is getting big attention so I really would like to take my real estate advertising firm to new levels by educating myself regarding social media / blogging

  4. Great article Todd. I am looking forward to see how mobile will benefit those with the best organic search results. As mobile search grows, there will be less screen spaces for PPC campaigns. I’m also interested to see what can be done with Android and Apple apps in 2012. Here’s to a great New Year for all of us!

  5. Listing Syndication

    I have approximately 80 listings at the moment all being syndicated to third party sites. It is a little frustrating that on sites like I have to pay them if I want my logo on my own listings. NAR should have established a policy that would force non-licensed, third party publishing companies to display our logos, company names and contact information in a way that makes it clear who owns the listing information and photos on a property.

    Smart Phones

    In 2012 and beyond, smart phone apps that display properties for sale in close proximity to the phone will be used a lot. I’m deploying an app to all my websites now and hope to have them all operational by the 2nd week of January, 2012.

  6. As it’s been said over and over again, it’s not how many people you know but how well you know them. It’s about relationships.

  7. 2012 is going to be the year of the more stream-lined short sale as servicers are slowly(very slowly) getting it together. The many agents that in the past were reluctant to come anywhere near short sales are now realizing it is a sizeable chunk of the transactions taking place and are finally educating themselves and gearing up to take them on. If you master the shortsale, you master your business in 2012.

  8. There is no doubt that if you are a Realtor and are not incorporating social media and other tech into your business you will go by the way of the dinosaur!

  9. Todd,
    Great article.
    Real estate companies struggle with social media.
    Agents struggle with social media.
    Real estate companies do not really provide their agents with tools to help them succeed.

  10. Great article! I too am interested in seeing where the data syndication conversation heads. I’m also curious how “mobile” we’ll become this year- with the introduction of google wallet and the rumored apple version later this year I think what we consider mobile will change drastically in the next few years.

  11. Todd,

    Would we be able to republish your article on 2012 Predictions in our monthly magazine, the Orange County REALTOR®? We think it’s a great piece and that our members would really enjoy it. Please advise.

    Kevin Holland
    Director, Publications and Marketing
    Orange County Association of REALTORS®
    (949) 268-0423

  12. The market data for the city of Chicago in the 01/2011 – 01/2012 time period. 21% of the listings sold, and 79% of the listings expired. Simple math for every 100 listing there were 21 sales and 79 expired listing.
    No matter what tools and and trends are use to focus on the client if the listing RE agent fails to price the listing with a supported value number there will be no traffic to view the listing, therfore no sale.
    Please Review the article “Price is Right- Loss Dollars” on Jack Schlenk’s Blog.

  13. Kelley Skar

    Some great points Todd. I think the consumer is(has) not looking for the number 1 Realtor anymore. More and more they are doing their homework before they pick up the phone or send that email or opt in online, not by asking friends and family,alone, but by looking at the Agents digital footprint. They want us to humanize our online marketing and businesses so they have a good understanding of who we are before they pick up the phone. Content is great, but context is greater.

    As for mobile, I agree it should and likely will be playing a large part in our business in 2012, however the idea of the mobile real estate website when taking all that I said above into consideration, may not be all what the consumer is looking for. The whole idea of QR codes IMO is ridiculous…I feel like we need to make it easier for the consumer to reach out to us, so sites like Yobongo in 2012 could make a big impact on our industry with respect to direct marketing and giving the consumer direct access to the information. My two cents.

  14. Our broker is doing a good job of working with us to incorporate social media into our marketing. I have a ways to go, but agree if you don’t, you will be lost in the shuffle. It will be interesting to see how Edina Realty comes out of it’s experiment. Good luck!

  15. At some point in the not-to-distant future, someone will step up to the plate to provide a seamless nation-wide MLS/listing aggregation site. Mobile technologies will continue to make our processes easier and faster. And look for more advancements in visual tech tools to enhance listing photo galleries/virtual tours….

  16. I have been talking to agents about allowing the syndication for the last year. I agree to withholding leads from Zillow , Tulia and all others. These companies are only costing us more money. We have to pay to get leads from our own listings. Let’s get smart and cut them off!

  17. Carol Lynn


    I would like to hear some tips on streamlining blogging and multi-media posting. If we did these separately every day, posting to all the various multi-media sites, it would require a huge time investment. I am currently doing this but I have to believe there is a way to stream line the time invested on these tasks.

  18. I agree with everyone here that this is a great article, thanks for sharing…the internet and mobile technology as it applies to our industry is of great concern to all of us.

  19. It makes sense to start dropping the “Social” tag to our on-line activities. It is still one world-wide-web, and those of us with any presence on it are trying to thoughtfully leave sticky bits of useful information in relevant “places” on the larger web (websites, blogs, videos, …) that will lead consumers to us and our smaller web.

  20. Olivia

    With the evolution of all of these platforms, wondering what the best source (resource), training for realtors might be. I am in need of some good information/guidance to make this work for me. Currently floundering in social media and not figuring out its best use. Any suggestions?

  21. I still don’t think mobile will overtake the web this year. Once everyone has a tablet, perhaps. But we’re years away from that.

  22. Social media can be a great tool but it is a bit hard to tame as it can turn off a whole section of your friends and non-re-business relationships when you keep pitching your business via FB. Most agents will get much more out of their efforts like focusing on photography and getting more listings.

    Those two things are the core of real estate marketing and facilitating transactions, you can waste SO much time on FB that doesn’t lead to anything concrete. Many agents don’t even return phone calls or emails (if that part of the business is broken) there is no fix…

  23. Social interaction both online and in person are wonderful ways for real estate agents to connect with their clients and potential clients. While the social interaction is helpful and agents can learn a lot more about properties and communities, they still need to utilize voice mail and have “in person” talks with their clients. I also agree with Bryan, just above.

  24. Gone are the days when old-time real estate professionals could dismiss the “upstarts” who utilized technology. Today, having a web presence is a MUST if you want long-term success in our industry.

  25. I agree with the people that believe that FB is not a place to advertise. When people are on Facebook they are trying to get away from their normal life and see what’s happening around the town and with their friends. Most of the time I don’t even like to see other ads about real estate myself. This is why I have two FB pages. One for the business and one for the Personal and Family life, I do think it’s ok to friend your clients on FB as long as it for your business. Because you get to post positive things about their home and for sure post a picture of them either in front of their home or at the closing table where they are not taking pictures. This is a way to Put your name out there is a way of just saying Congratulation to the happy family that now has a NEW HOME.

  26. Great article Todd. Looking back on 2010-2011, I think there is lots of examples of agents going ‘all in’ on social media, and downright abandoning their traditional lead generation concepts like face to face interactions with prospects. That’s fine if your targets are totally geared to SM, but I think the big winners in 2012 will be those that use the mix that works best with their demographic targets. In the apst, whenever a new idea comes along, there is a ramping up to get onbaord and be comforable with it. With SM, it’s an explosion and overload for many, so those that get a command of it and develop a thought out strategy versus trying everything without a plan, will win big in 2012.

    Can’t wait for your next article!

  27. Some very good discussion on this on the NAR Linkedin page with Deric Rangell, Rob Harnish on his R.O.B. blog, and just last week on the FSB blog site.

    To me, the conversation is just re-visiting the “we want to control our data” debate that is a long lost battle for Realtors and brokers. A steady theme in all Todd points out is that the direction is being driven by consumers, and the tools are all about making it easier for consumers to get data faster, in more places and with greater ease.
    If we are smart, we will start looking at more strategic action instead of knee jerk reaction in creating policy.
    I am continually annoyed by the citing of Edina Realty as an example of a large broker turning away from syndication to 3rd party sites like Zillow and Trulia. The first press release was soon followed by acknowledgement that the majority of their individual brokers had insisted on having the choice be theirs, and the vast majority of their inventory is still being syndicated, hardly a real line in the sand being drawn.
    As it has been pointed out by others, a better example is Shorewest in Wisconsin, a major player who has made this company policy. Whether it is the beginning of a a trend of an anomaly is yet to be seen.