Steamboat Springs Their relative affluence suggests that a significant share of people searching for real estate in Steamboat Springs are sophisticated in terms of education and business savvy. So it follows that they use real estate websites to educate themselves before they ever consult a Realtor. And increasingly, prospective buyers rely on their mobile devices to get things done.
Steamboat Realtor Jon Wade gets it and recently earned recognition for his ongoing efforts to match his customers’ level of sophistication with his website, www.thesteamboatgroup.com.
Wade and his team at Colorado Group Realty in Steamboat were recognized this month at the Luxury Real Estate convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., with an award for the 2012 Best Website for Innovation.
“My Web page is designed so people can quickly find the things they are looking for and discover if I’m someone they want to do business with,” Wade said.
The site delivers prospective clients a personalized experience while capturing the essence of the Steamboat lifestyle. Wade credits local economic expert Scott Ford with recognizing that Steamboat is transitioning from a resort economy to a lifestyle economy.
"We will always have the resort component, but a majority of the people I talk to are more focused on how owning here will allow them to improve their lifestyle either right away or over time,” Wade said.
Wade, who left a career with Hewlett-Packard 7 1/2 years ago to pursue a new lifestyle in Steamboat, has made his online presence an emphasis from the beginning and employs a full-time staffer, Erik Ramstad, to help manage his site. But far from turning it over to Ramstad, he is very much hands on with its design and evolution.
“I work on it every week,” he said.
Wade has branded his business within Colorado Group as The Steamboat Group. Colorado Group, an independent brokerage, is associated with Luxury Real Estate, a collection of independent brokerages with a global outreach.
A significant number of Realtors at Colorado Group maintain their own online presence in addition to Colorado Group’s www.mybrokers.com.
Luxury Real Estate’s board of governors found that Wade’s website stood out for the level of detail it provided clients in search results and a system that allows them to create and save their own list of preferred properties, complete with a personal ranking system and the ability to record notes about each property.
People who visit Wade’s site and initiate a property search promptly are asked to register. He’s aware that some people might be deterred by that requirement, but it’s the key to the site’s ability to personalize a user's experience.
The personal property rating system in Wade’s site allows users to rate with stars properties they are interested in as a measure of how much it appeals to them. It’s intentionally based on a similar system familiarized by Amazon. The difference is that unlike the retail giant’s Web page, the ratings aren’t an accumulation of the public’s ratings; they are unique to the client. In addition, clients can add notes about what they did and didn’t like about each property and save those results. When clients return to www.thesteamboatgroup.com, the site recognizes them, and their saved searches are waiting as if it were their personal page. If they click on the link that allows them to search new listings, it will recognize their search criteria. And if they rate and comment on a new listing, it will be added to their saved list of properties.
Another essential aspect of the site is its friendliness to mobile devices.
Wade has learned from experience that an increasing number of clients are doing business from tablets and smartphones while traveling on business, and that includes communicating with real estate brokers.
When a client indicates on the site that they are interested in learning more about a specific property, Wade quickly is alerted by email. He said the iPhone 5, with its larger screen, already has made it easier for him to tap the link in his email, refresh his memory of the property and promptly respond to the client.
“It allows me to be more responsive” to clients, Wade said. “People want you to be responsive. They have expectations.”
When a client relationship evolves to the point that a transaction is in the works, the ability of the website to sync with mobile devices becomes valuable in a new way. While Wade never would recommend that a client sign a contract to purchase without reviewing a hard copy in detail, when the need arises to counter an offer or extend the term of a contract, getting that done on a smartphone has become routine.
Every nuance in the way the site is friendly to mobile devices helps Wade and his staff of four with the challenge of time management, he said.
“Thirty seconds can make a difference in my day,” he said.
Keep an eye out for the powder skiing video coming soon to the site.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com