Nearly 18 months after forming workgroups to tackle the assignment of designing a new Internet page for the organization, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors last month officially launched its new Web page. And with that launch, officials said, MAR is hoping to boost its image while reaching out to member Realtors and the general homebuying public alike.

The new Web page,, replaces the association’s old Massachusetts Living Network site with what the organization touts as a much more comprehensive site, which includes features such as property search capabilities, community profiles and an online real estate store.

“Improving the MAR Web site was one of the association’s highest priorities,” said Fred Meyer, 2000 president of the association. The Web site improvement was one of five major focus areas that make up the Waltham-based group’s overall business plan, Meyer explained.

For the consumer, the new is set up to make the process of searching for a home and finding a Realtor easier, according to Carolyn Chodat, who co-chaired the association’s Internet Development Workgroup along with Richard Macahdo. To achieve that, the site provides a host of information on the state of Massachusetts in general, including tax structures, general laws and information about transportation and education.

More specifically, the site also provides information about all 351 of Massachusetts’ communities, a feature of the site Chodat said the organization worked the hardest to compile. “We wanted to add lots of information to the site,” said Chodat, broker/owner of Classic Properties in Medway and Milford. “We wanted to include tax rates and assessments, and developing those community profiles took a long time.” Rather than just being specific to a city or town, Chodat said there are profiles available for neighborhoods within many of the cities and towns.

“When you think of Boston, for example, there are so many aspects of that,” she said. “It’s not just Boston, but it’s places like Brighton or Brookline, and even within those areas there are smaller neighborhoods. We wanted someone who was local to be able to look up a particular neighborhood like that.”

Visitors to the site can search for either residential or commercial properties, and can use such criteria as community, minimum and maximum price, number of bedrooms and lot size to narrow down the selection.

Once homebuyers look at the community profiles, and search for homes for sale within that area, MAR is hoping the site will help them take the next step and select a Realtor. And prominently featured on the page is a link to information about MAR and information outlining why the homebuyer should work with a member Realtor.

“We wanted the consumer to become more familiar with the Realtors in MAR, and know that there’s an association which they belong to,” Chodat said.

In addition to being able to search for a Realtor by community, MAR officials said the site also allows for searching using a Realtor’s designations or certifications as criteria as well, such as a Certified Residential Specialist or Certified Buyer Representative.

“Now there is one central place to go to be able to choose a Realtor and gain information,” Chodat said. “They could look in a newspaper and see an ad for an office or an agent and they may like them … but consumers are more savvy today, and this gives them an opportunity to screen the professionals.”

Some Realtors had concerns that search results were listed alphabetically and users tended to click on agent names that appeared higher up on the list. To address that, MAR developed a program that would make Realtor names appear in different random orders every time a search was performed to give members equal opportunity to appear near the top of the search results list.

“It wasn’t fair for the Realtors, so now we have a rotating list,” Meyer said. “Someone ought to be able to see who’s a CRS in Newton and find out more about them, and there ought to be a central source for that. This Web site is it.”

‘Baby Steps’
Just as the workgroup focused on providing several services for the consumer, Chodat said of equal importance was the idea that the Web site should be just as useful for the Realtor.

There is a members-only portion of the site where Realtors can receive updates on legislative issues and lobbying efforts. “For example, Realtors can learn updated information on topics like Title 5 and smart growth issues,” Chodat said. Information is also provided about certain legal issues that will help members continue to follow the law correctly as they do their jobs, she said.

“When legal questions arise, there’s information so they can answer those questions correctly,” she said. “If someone says they refuse to live in a neighborhood with green people, what do you do? The information on the site helps them deal with those situations in a professional manner.”

Online versions of the MAR publications Bay State Realtor and Realtor Digest are also available at the site. “Anything that helps Realtors have less paper on their desk is a good thing,” Chodat quipped.

The Web site’s online store allows users to purchase, among other items, the much-talked-about MassForms real estate forms product line. Those forms were initially marketed earlier this year, then efforts were pulled back as concerns were raised by local associations about possibly lost revenue from the sale of those forms if they weren’t purchased on the local level. With those questions resolved, the forms have now become available online. Information on online forms sales activity was not available.

Because the site has only been officially active for a few weeks, Meyer and Chodat said there has not been overwhelming public feedback, be it positive or negative, about the page. “It took a lot of time to get it together,” Chodat said, “and the Realtors have kept asking about it. It’s finally ready, and it’s sort of anticlimactic.”

That should change next year, as MAR plans on launching its 2001 image campaign with an emphasis on the new Web site. “Our work group has been working with the Image Work Group, and we’ll be including the MAR Web site address in a lot of material, and you’ll be seeing it much more next year,” Chodat said.

“In today’s age, there’s no point in having a campaign without a Web site. You can’t look at an ad in a magazine without seeing that company’s Web site. We’ve got to get out there and show ourselves.”

The 2001 campaign will most likely mirror the 2000 campaign, with radio advertisements and billboards statewide.

A test version of has been working since early September, Meyer said, but the official launch was not until Dec. 1.

According to information provided by Austin, Texas-based Internet Media Works – which hosts the site for MAR – as of last week had registered more than 36,000 page views since Dec. 1, with the most popular section of the site being the property search area.

There has also been heavy activity in the members-only section of the site, with Realtors finding the fax-on-demand service, educational clearinghouse and the online version of Bay State Realtor to be the most popular pages, according to MAR spokesman John Dulczewski.

“Everything the Realtor needs to know, he or she can get by computer,” Chodat said. “We aim to bring Realtors into the 21st century by taking baby steps. They need to get into the computer age, and we can help them economize their time.

“We need to become familiar with new technology the same way the consumers are,” she added. “In some ways, the consumers are already way ahead of us.”

Realtor Association’s Web Site Unites Consumers and Agents

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 5 min