September 23, 2002

Eight REALTORŪ Associations Win First Annual Web Site Contest Sponsored by REALTORŪ Association Executive Magazine. is Awarded Top Honors in Best Consumer Website Category


RealtorŪ associations are taking full advantage of the Internet to communicate with members, market products, rally grassroots support for political causes, and increase the public's awareness of RealtorsŪ. That's what the judges of the 2002 Outstanding RealtorŪ Association Web Site contest found after reviewing its 72 entrees.

The first competition, sponsored by RealtorŪ Association Executive magazine, recognizes associations that offer outstanding member service and helpful online information for homebuyers and sellers.

In March, twelve judges evaluated entries in three categories: member, consumer, and dual member/consumer sites.

Since association Web sites are as varied as the associations themselves, entries weren't judged against each other, but rather on how well each site communicates association and industry information and promotes its members. Judges surfed the sites just as members and consumers would. They rated each site by assigning points to key aspects: depth and timeliness of content, consistent and appealing design, logical navigation, and overall functionality.

To evaluate member sites, judges looked for offerings such as continuing education class schedules, legal advice, and policy guidance. In essence, outstanding member sites are virtual associations, delivering nearly every service and resource that members would find by visiting their association office.

Regarding consumer sites -- those designed to promote members to homebuyers and sellers -- judges agreed that the most important features are an easy property listing search, school and community data, and information on finding and using a RealtorŪ, including a searchable roster and links to member sites or e-mail addresses.

To assess dual member/consumer sites, judges considered whether the sites provide sufficient information for both audiences and are easily navigable. In addition, winning dual sites offer a home search tool (either a custom version or one linked to an aggregator), homebuying tips and community information, and a roster of members and links to their Web sites

Based on information the entrants provided, RAE found that most associations design their own Web sites or assume a large role in the process. Many have hired at least one technology staffer to manage site operations. Smaller associations say they have less time and fewer resources than large associations to dedicate to expanding their sites. Still, many small associations say that even a modest Web presence is important to member service. In fact, entrants say that providing basic information such as event dates, class schedules, and member rosters, along with useful links to other sources, such as, has decreased the number of phone calls to their offices.

Because their sites are proving successful, many associations big and small report grand plans for their online offices in the future, including adding virtual real-time classrooms, chat rooms, and message boards; an online dues payment function; a job listing section, where members can advertise salesperson and staff openings; and searchable databases of local real estate-related ordinances.

Associations say they're making a greater effort to conduct more business and offer more services over the Internet. And as these winning sites show, it's possible to serve members and inform the pubic effectively and thoroughly through a virtual association.

So without further adieu, our winners.





Outstanding Sites for Members/Consumers:

Bay East Association of RealtorsŪ
Pleasanton, Calif., 2,620 members
Judges said: site has a clear three-tier organization for members service, homebuyer education, and member promotion; home search function is logical; great depth of information for both members and consumers; current sales stats and government issues reports, easy to navigate and streamlined design.

Pennsylvania Association of RealtorsŪ
Harrisburg, Pa., 22,400 members
Judges said: easy navigation and no-fuss design; relevant and succinct information for homebuyers; a wealth of information for members; functional online e-commerce product mall.

Wisconsin RealtorsŪ Association
Madison, Wis., 11,475 members
Judges said: intuitive navigation, design, and organization; great "myWRA" allows members to personalize their web experience by creating a "favorites" page; accessing personal education history - what classes they've taken, what they still need, what for which they are currently registered; committee service history; and expansive "Find a RealtorŪ" page; thorough legal/legislative section.

Outstanding Sites for Members:

Triangle MLS Inc./Raleigh Regional Association of RealtorsŪ
Cary, N.C., 3,613 members
>> Judges said: great dual site that balances MLS and association information; convenient training calendar with links to class registration forms; easy downloadable forms; clear navigation that never leaves you lost.

Louisiana RealtorsŪ Association
Baton Rouge, La., 8,443 members
>> Judges said: site delivers association's goals and values prominently; creative illustrations and graphics that don't slowdown the pages; informative legislative section; comprehensive online Technology Learning Center with its own navigation.

South Metro Denver RealtorŪ Association
Littleton, Colo., 2,265 members
>> Judges said: great depth of information thorough coverage of members' information needs; creative and effective promotion of events and issues throughout the site; convenient and clear online education page; great "Political Voice" page with links to representatives and to other national and state issue sites.

Outstanding Sites for Consumers:

Sioux Falls Board of RealtorsŪ
Sioux Falls, S.D., 461 members
>> Judges said: top-notch professional site from a small association; fast search feature; very user friendly and cohesive design, great promotion vehicle for members.

Salt Lake Board of RealtorsŪ
Salt Lake City, 4,220 members
>> Judges said: Effectively promotes the benefits of using Realtors and how to choose one; convenient searchable list of affiliates by service; useful list of members who speak foreign languages.

Judges' Favorite Association Web Site Features:

Property search by MLS#
Searchable roster of members, affiliates
PDF roaster of members
Live chat function []
Education or convention registration with secure payment option
Committee sign-up form [ members only]
Legislative bill tracker []
Links to government representatives' Web sites []
Association and industry news and events
Language translator
Association staff photos
"Why use a RealtorŪ" section []
Open house schedule searchable by date
Commercial property search function
Member bulletin board
Mission and vision statement []
Housing statistics in PDF []
Events calendar
Downloadable forms
RPAC promotion []
Association address and phone contact info
Searchable lender database
Searchable appraiser database
Association newsletter in PDF []
Polling function []
Garage sale listings []
Business, sales tips []
Local area and school info
Listings search "save and view later" function []
Rental listings


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