Friday, May 31, 2013

#RealEstateNews - Pending home sales hit three-year high

A real estate sales sign sits outside of a house for sale in Phoenix, Arizona June 2, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Lott 

(Reuters) - Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes rose to their highest level in three years in April, but a shortage of properties for sale could slow down the momentum.

The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, rose 0.3 percent to 106.0, the highest reading since April 2010.
The increase, however, was less than economists' expectations for a 1.1 percent advance, suggesting tight supplies of properties could slow sales. Contracts, which become sales after a month or two, had increased 1.5 percent in March.

The housing market's fortunes have decisively shifted for the better and it is regaining its dominance in the economy, acting as a buffer against belt-tightening in Washington.

The recovery, marked by a soaring home prices and dwindling supplies, is being driven by the Federal Reserve's very easy monetary policy stance, which has kept mortgage rates low.
Although mortgage rates spiked last week to their highest level in a year amid heightened speculation the Fed will soon start to scale back monetary stimulus, economists do not believe higher borrowing costs would derail the housing recovery.

About a third of home resales are cash transactions.

Contracts were up 10.3 percent compared to April last year.

Last month, home resale contracts rose in the Northeast and Midwest. Contracts fell in the South and West.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani)

Article courtesy of Reuters

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

#RealEstateNews - Home Prices Rise, Putting Country in Buying Mood

Americans are in a buying mood, thanks largely to the housing recovery. 


The latest sign emerged Tuesday as the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index posted the biggest gains in seven years. Housing prices rose in every one of the 20 cities tracked, continuing a trend that began three months ago. Similar strength has appeared in new and existing home sales and in building permits, as rising home prices are encouraging construction firms to accelerate building and hiring. 

The broad-based housing improvements appear to be buoying consumer confidence and spending, countering fears earlier this year that many consumers would pull back in response to government austerity measures. 

In January, the two-year-old payroll tax holiday ended, stripping about $700 from the average household’s annual income, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Federal government spending cuts that started in March are also serving as a drag on economic growth, economists say. And some recent data on other parts of the economy, like manufacturing and exports, have also disappointed. 

Yet consumer confidence reached a five-year high in May, according to a Conference Board report also released on Tuesday, with big improvements in Americans’ views about both the current economy and future economic conditions. Consumer spending has also been strikingly resilient so far this year, given the tax hikes. 

“Five years after the start of the financial crisis in earnest, and four years and a week’s time from the beginning of the economic recovery, we’re finally starting to get more of a pickup,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “It’s been a very drawn-out process, but you have to remember what we’ve been digging our way out of.” 

The recent decline in gas prices is probably helping, as are increases in the stock market even though only about half of Americans own any equities. Perhaps most important, economists say, the growth in the value of the existing housing stock means that homeowners around the country are finally feeling richer, and that so-called wealth effect is probably making consumers loosen their purse strings a bit. 

The positive impact of rising home values and the appreciating stock market is expected to offset at least a third of the fiscal tightening, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomic Advisors. 

The Case-Shiller 20-city composite index rose 10.9 percent over the last year, the biggest increase since April 2006. Several cities — Charlotte, N.C.; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Tampa, Fla. — had their largest month-over-month gains in more than seven years.
Stock markets rose on the news, with the S.& P. 500-stock index up 10.46, or 0.63 percent, at 1,660.06 and the Dow up 106.29, or 0.69 percent, at 15,409.39 at the close on Tuesday. The Nasdaq was up 29.74, or 0.86 percent, at 3,488.89. The 10-year Treasury yield surged to 2.17 percent, its highest level in over a year. 

The double-digit housing price increase is being driven by a confluence of factors.
For one, employers have added jobs for 31 straight months, so families are willing to start buying again. At the same time, the inventory of homes available on the market remains unusually low, thanks to little new building in the last few years and the large number of homeowners who are still underwater on their mortgages, making them reluctant to sell at a cash loss. 

Now there are signs that higher prices are beginning to encourage some would-be sellers to come off the sidelines and place their homes on the market. That could be healthy for the market, countering concerns that housing might become overvalued again. 

“You’ve had this dynamic that has been favorable for price increases now, but it’s also favorable for supply to come back on market, so that will mean some moderation in the pace of price increases,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, who said that he expected home prices to continue growing but not necessarily at the double-digit rate seen in May.
Construction has been picking up, too, in response to the rise in home prices, but builders cannot bring homes to the market as quickly as buyers want them. 

“You really need new construction to get rid of the shortages, but it takes seven months between the time when they take out a permit and when the builder actually completes the home,” said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight.  

Also pushing up home price measures are the declines in distressed sales — that is, foreclosures and short sales. Homes in foreclosure typically sell at bargain-basement prices, which depresses the overall price levels reported. 

Now the composition of homes sold includes fewer sales at the depressed prices that bring down the overall numbers, said Michael Gapen, senior United States economist at Barclays Capital. The decline in distressed sales and so-called shadow inventory (homes that are behind on mortgage payments or in foreclosure, but not yet on the market) had been pushing up prices, Mr. Gapen said, but that upward pressure will fade over time. 

Finally, home prices in many areas experienced severe, unsustainable plunges during the recession. The recent increases are coming off a very low base, so the growth looks strong even if the level of prices is still well below the peaks of the housing boom in the middle of the decade. 

“Some of the areas with the largest declines in house prices during the crisis have shown the strongest increases in prices more recently,” Mr. Silver said. In Phoenix, for example, home values have risen 22.5 percent from a year earlier; Las Vegas posted a 20.6 percent gain.
Economists generally expect home prices to continue rising, particularly as the economy improves and more young people move out of their parents’ homes and into homes of their own. And many dismiss concerns of a potential bubble, not only because household formation is growing but also because housing prices remain well below their highs. Even after 10 straight months of year-over-year gains, the 20-city Case-Shiller composite price index is 28 percent below its previous peak in July 2006, which is probably a good thing. 

“Talk of a house price bubble seems premature,” said Ed Stansfield, an economist at Capital Economics. “In relation to incomes, rents or their own past, U.S. home prices still look low.”
What’s more, credit is still hard to come by. The Federal Reserve has pushed interest rates down about as far as they can go, but many people who want to buy are still finding it difficult to get a home loan. 

“We usually think of bubbles as being driven by extremely easy credit, with people borrowing more than the outstanding value of the house and making little to no down payment,” said Mr. Gapen. “That’s not the case with credit standards today.” 

Article courtesy of the New York Times

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maximizing Your Online Reputation: Get Your Name Out There

online_real_estate_hand_keysOnce you’ve decided to invest in your online reputation, the first thing you need to do is to get your name out there by being listed in as many online business directories as possible. It’s not rocket science; the more places your business is listed, the more exposure you get, and the better your chances are of building a strong online reputation.

So, where do you start? Here is a list of online listing sites you should check out.

• Bing Local – A top search engine, Bing is a free service that offers tools for businesses to manage their online presence through Bing Business Portal. This service provides maps, ratings, and reviews, and Bing’s ties with Yahoo! yield for a huge market share. Bing Local also has a bulk upload program available to businesses with at least 25 listings.

• Yahoo! Local – Another large online search engine, Yahoo! gives opportunities for businesses to provide details about their services. It offers a free basic listing service, which provides company information and placement in up to five relevant categories, and also a paid enhanced listing service that allows higher placement.

• Google+ Local – This free, online search engine service integrates the social media platform Google+. Google+ Local offers unique, interactive engagement using photo sharing and links, as well as ratings and reviews. If you have at least 10 listings, you can use a bulk upload program. Be aware that you need to have a Gmail account to use this service.

• Citysearch – This online city guide provides info, as well as “At a Glance” overviews about businesses. Consumers can also leave reviews. While there is a fee to use Citysearch, it comes with a mobile service as well.

• Judy’s Book – This site attracts one million unique visitors a month, which is why it’s no surprise that there is a fee to join. Here, you can interact with those who review your website. You can claim your listing by searching for your company’s name and clicking “Claim Your Business” on the left side of the page.

• Yelp – Yelp, an online urban city guide, allows consumers to leave reviews of all kinds of businesses. Businesses can communicate both privately and publicly, track the number of visitors, provide details, offer deals, and recommend other businesses. While Yelp is a free service, there is a fee if you’d like to enhance your business’s placement.

       • MerchantCircle – offers ratings, reviews, social networking                features, and deals.

Keep in mind that each site has a different way to go about listing. For example, Google+ Local requires a PIN to complete the authentication process.

It’s important to get listed on as many sites as possible to enhance your online visibility. This list is not comprehensive. There are many other online sites on which you can list your business. For an extended list of more sites on which you can get listed, as well as detailed instructions on how to get started, click here to download our free online reputation eBook [2].

Erica Campbell Byrum is the Director of Social Networking for

Article courtesy of RISMedia

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Social, Why Now?

Why is social marketing important to your business and agents? Imagine if every client you ever had was in a room – a room with not only you, but all of their friends. The truth is, this room exists, yet in the digital sense. When you connect with a current or past customer in a social media setting, you open the doors to one-degree of separation. This means, the great experiences you provide can now be shared with your client’s friends, and their friends, and their friends. This is word-of-mouth on steroids.

The inescapable truth in today’s marketplace is that social marketing generates leads for your business. While everyone knows the internet has changed the way real estate brokerages and agents communicate with consumers and transact business, most still use the internet as a one-way communications tool, pushing one-size-fits-all information out to their audience.
However, our audience has changed how they live online, and they expect us to keep up! Consumers are no longer content with our outdated online marketing strategies. With the emergence of social networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, consumers are looking to build relationships. They expect phenomenal customer care and information tailored to them. Social marketing is the strategy that allows you to deliver the information and connections consumers are looking for.

For years we’ve focused on building user friendly, appealing websites that help consumers find their home. Then we started getting smart about putting community information on our sites, realizing that most consumers are looking for that information before they are ready to buy a house.

When that wasn’t enough, we started buying leads from the aggregators (and complaining about the cost.) Then social networking started getting big and we randomly began posting things on social sites, wondering all the while if it really works or if it’s worth the effort.

But it’s not just about your website, buying leads or randomly posting content to see what sticks. It’s about your brand and how you create an emotional connection with consumers. Using social marketing creates relationships with consumers, so they consider your company first and foremost when they are ready to make a commitment to buy or sell property.

In most cases, real estate brands are diluted because the brokerage is doing one thing and their agents are doing something else. Furthermore, there is rarely:

1. A consistent look, feel or branding message between whatever meager social efforts are being made, the connection to the broker and agents website.

2. The way the leads are responded to.

3. The way offices look.

4. The way real estate transactions take place.

Without alignment in all these areas it is difficult for a brokerage to create the emotional connection that could set it apart from its competition the way companies such as Apple, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Zappos do with their customers. Consumers are emotionally connected with those brands, and they stick with them.

So why social marketing and why now?
Because by engaging consumers in conversations before, during and after their home purchase or sale you are weaving consistency, branding and an emotional connection that could make that consumer truly believe you are THEIR trusted advisor in everything having to do their real estate purchase.

It’s not the only thing brokerages should be doing to create this connection, but it’s certainly an effective way to get your message out to thousands of potential consumers who are increasingly relying on social media for their information and buying decisions.

If you agree with this assessment, you will also recognize that if you are truly to benefit from a greater effort and financial investment in social media, you must do the following:

• You must have a specific social marketing strategy to start conversations and engage consumers. Posting content without a purpose does not create engagement or emotional connection and today’s savvy social consumer sees right through it.

• You must create consistency between your social marketing efforts and everything else you do. This includes your website, your training, your public relations and your office design. Think about how Apple looks and feels the same whether you are in their stores, on their website or using their products.

• You must guide your agents to speak in the same voice so that you don’t dilute your efforts by running with different messaging. Imagine going to one Starbucks and being offered a grande latte and a later going to another and being offered a medium latte.

Your social marketing effort needs a specific strategy, execution plan and accountability metrics. In today’s environment, anything less will have you at a disadvantage to someone else your market that is willing to make the investment and the commitment.

Social marketing allows you and your agents to seamlessly provide relevant information, make emotional connections and build relationships. By prioritizing how they reach consumers, brokerages that embrace social marketing are positioned to dominate in their local markets. Social marketing puts you out in front of your competitors, making your business the first call when someone is ready to purchase or list their home.

Why social, why now? Because it’s that important!

Article Courtesy of RISMedia

Leveraging Social Media for Online Lead Generation

Targeting, converting and nurturing online leads are challenges many real estate professionals face. From the expense to the tools and management, knowing how and where to spend time and money can feel like an immense undertaking.
With this in mind, I sat down with Scott Lehman, owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Sonoran Desert Lifestyles to discuss the success they have seen as a franchise turning online fans, followers and visitors into life-long clients.

Leveraging_Social_Media_BH&G_190x158Explain your online lead capture strategy and follow-up system. Can you give us a peek inside how you handle lead conversion and what a homebuyer interacting with Sonoran Desert Lifestyles online could expect?

Through our affiliation with Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, we have an awesome lead capture system with LeadRouter. LeadRouter is a system that allows us to organize and consistently engage a possible buyer or seller. However, LeadRouter is just one third of the equation. Along with LeadRouter, we have one of the most detailed listing syndication programs available. This system populates our agent listings into hundreds of online real estate websites, giving international exposure to each property. It’s all about exposure and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate offers the best exposure program in the industry.
The third and final piece of our lead capture system is our very own website. Our website is designed to engage people who are searching for property in the Valley of the Sun.

All three parts of the equation work together to drive leads into our LeadRouter system which is monitored in real-time to ensure any lead that is generated is contacted within one hour. From there, each lead is added (with their permission) to a drip email campaign that also includes various phone call touchpoints.

Good online conversion rates start with quality content and a great value proposition. How did you find your online “voice” that includes the right content which speaks to and resonates with your target market?

I just love this question. I believe we have found topics that resonate with our friends around the world, but a consistent voice seems to be a moving target. As we grow our presence, it seems that our “voice” is developing and growing right along with our friends and fans.

As we define what the tone and voice of our company is, it’s been important that we not just use the voice that makes us most comfortable. That means we had to stop being a real estate professional 24/7 and start being human beings that connect in a real way with consumers.

We believe an “online conversation” should be just that, a conversation. Conversations take on different tones, topics and subjects; our willingness to meet people on a more human level is what helps us to convert buyers and sellers. We have had the privilege of supporting both buyers and sellers who have found us from our social media outlets and believe that they connected with us because they found us to be trustworthy and human. Our Social Media content is meant to express that.

That is a perfect segue into my next question. How does your website, blog and social media channels allow you to increase trust and build online relationships?

Our goal is to engage people, even if it isn’t real estate related. As real estate professionals we tend to post things that engage us, information about our industry which is not necessarily what engages other people, including other professionals. We on the other hand tend to share stories, events and general information about living in Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. Often times we will post things that are loosely related to the industry, whether it is something cute, funny or serious. The goal is to open up communication, entertain and keep people coming back for more.

There is so much information out there that can be used to post to social media, but you only have a limited amount of time to create a first impression and grab someone’s attention. While we want to position ourselves as thought leaders and industry experts, we have learned through analytics that posting about mortgage rates, foreclosure rates, and local inventory levels is a huge snoozefest. So we use this information sparingly and instead intertwine that with fun posts, photographs, videos, agent interviews, recipes, holiday decorating tips and so on.
We believe that this well-rounded, lifestyle approach creates a bond between us and our fans and followers that leads to trust and respect. Our online properties are a conduit between company and consumer that humanizes who we are and the business of buying and selling real estate.

Q: Let’s transition into the granular details. Tell us about your daily strategy. How much content are you producing and how often are you posting to your blog and social media sites?

Our daily strategy is simple, but does include several moving pieces designed to meet the needs of our unique audience.

• Early on we posted materials every hour to our Facebook page, but realized that was simply too much. We heard from people that we may be going overboard and have since cut that back. Social Media sites, whether it be Google+, Pinterest or Facebook are deeply personal to people. There is a fine line between engaging and annoying. Finding the balance is important.
• We like to begin our day with a photo of our beautiful Arizona, and as it turns out those are the most consistently engaged posts to our social media sites. I think so often businesses are too focused on pushing their product, forgetting that you’re dealing with human beings. We don’t want to be sold to, so we try not to sell. What we sell is the Arizona lifestyle.
• We use material from our Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate family, whether it’s from the Clean Slate Blog or We try to keep a balanced approach to our daily material, a post or two that is designed to engage real estate professionals, buyers/sellers and those who dream of living in the Sonoran Desert.
• We have created a series called “Have We Met.” This is essentially creating a one page biography of agents as an electronic calling card. We post these to our social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest as well as our own website. This series has been very well received!

We always keep in mind that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is a lifestyle brand. This requires that we continually adapt our message and our method to embrace the brand’s position. Although Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate may be fairly new in Arizona, Better Homes and Gardens as a brand is not. Our goal is to connect the dots between lifestyle and real estate, giving buyers and sellers the better option when it comes time to make the largest financial decision they will ever make.

Article courtesy of RISMedia

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5 E-mail Habits That May Send the Wrong Message

Could your e-mails be sending the wrong message to your clients or your peers? Forbes recently highlighted e-mail habits that can send the wrong message. Here are five on its list: 

1. Misuse of the subject line: Including the terms “Urgent,” “Action Item,” or “Read Me” in the subject line “presumes her message is more important than any other correspondence you might have received. This perception is that she is over-confident and thinks very little of your time.” The same can be held true for over-using the priority flag on your e-mails to others.

2. EVERYTHING IN CAPS: Typing in caps means you’re trying to stress your message but it’s also the equivalent of screaming at a person but it can come across as “forceful” and “arrogant,” the Forbes article notes. The same holds true for excessive use of punctuation, e.g., using multiple exclamation points. 

3. Following up too quickly: You want to make sure the person received and read your e-mail, so you call or send another e-mail right away to find out. But you’ll send the message as impatient and self-righteous. If you expect that instant of a response, “the more efficient route is to pick up the phone” in the first place. 

4. Auto responses: An auto response to every e-mail you receive may be giving you more time but it also has the potential to send the wrong message. You reassure the receiver that you care about their e-mail but you’ll respond to it at a convenient time to you, which could be viewed as condescending, the Forbes article notes. 

5. Resurrecting an old e-mail chain: The intention may be to help keep the correspondence all in one place and easier for the recipient but you may send the message that you’re “lazy, disorganized, or [have] poor e-mail sorting habits,” the Forbes article notes. Begin a new e-mail chain with a correct subject line for every new issue discussed.

Article courtesy of Realtor Mag

Monday, May 20, 2013

The 8-Step LinkedIn Marketing Plan

Branding is something that we as professionals need to take very seriously on an individual level. It’s essential to develop a unique and personal “professional brand” that communicates the value you have to offer to prospective clients. This is where LinkedIn excels. It allows you to take control of the major elements of your professional brand: the people you connect with, the groups you join, the recommendations you give and receive and how you express your skills and experience in the real estate industry. This 8-step marketing plan is designed to help you grow your personal brand and generate leads through LinkedIn.

1. Complete It!
LinkedIn is your online resume. You don’t want clients and other business contacts to see a sliver of your experience or read through a hastily thrown-together description of what you do for a living. Take the time to sit down and put some effort into filling out your experience and summary. If you ever need to see what parts of your profile you’re missing, just go to Edit Profile. The right side of the page will show what sections of your profile are blank or partially completed. Be sure to include past companies, education, affiliations, and activities. Adding these will allow you to find and connect with people who went to the same school, worked at the same company and were involved in the same activities as you were.

2. Make your profile public
This is a great way to influence what people see when they search for your name.

Making your profile public allows your information to be indexed by Google and other search engines. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high PageRank, they are typically the top search result for your name. Learn how to make your profile public. [1]

3. Set up a vanity URL
A LinkedIn vanity URL looks like this: It takes out the random string of numbers and will help boost your search results. I recommend using your business name; if your name is Robert Smith, but you go by Bob use Bob Smith for your URL. You may have noticed that I left the company absent in the URL. That is on purpose. Your URL should be set up for you as an individual so it can follow you if you move between companies. Where you work should be listed under your profile. View a quick tutorial for setting up a vanity URL [1].

4. Add a link to your email signature and website
There is no use putting the effort into completing your profile if people can’t find it. Putting a link and a call to action on?) your most basic tools for communication will make it easier for people to find and connect with you. It sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how few people follow through with this step.

5. Take it offline
Everything you do offline should have a call to action online. Add your LinkedIn vanity URL to your business cards and printed materials to drive people to learn more about your experience and connect with you.

6. Connect
Reach out to your clients and connect. Increasing your number of connections will help increase your visibility and search results. Studies have proven that people would much rather work with an individual whom their friends know and trust. When sending a request, make sure to include how you know them instead of using the default invitation language.

7. Endorse
After you’ve made a connection with someone go ahead and endorse them. Trading endorsements on LinkedIn is a common practice and shows people that you respect what they do for a living. Think of it as digital karma; the more you give, the more you get.

8. Join and be ACTIVE in local community groups
This is the most important and commonly overlooked step. As a general guideline for groups, you should: Join as many relevant groups as you can.

There is an upper limit of 50 but it is unlikely you’ll have that many related to your specific community and interests. Joining groups is the easiest way to expand your sphere of influence on LinkedIn. You’re allowed to send connection requests to anyone who is in the same group as you.

Be active in a few. Strive to keep up with your five most active and relevant groups.

Lead one. Create and manage your own group for your local community. Community groups are the largest untapped resource on LinkedIn. They provide you with valuable opportunities to connect and be seen.

Start by blocking off 20 minutes twice a week on your calendar to participate in your groups by replying to comments and questions. In the groups that you lead, you’ll need to initiate the conversations and activity in the beginning.

Now it’s time to sit back and let the leads roll in. WRONG! Stay active, keep at it and don’t quit. You’ll need to nurture these connections and build a presence before you start getting a steady stream of leads. This is where a majority of people lose focus and move on but with a real commitment you can turn your LinkedIn profile into effective business tool.

Article courtesy of RISMedia

Friday, May 17, 2013

4 Steps to Relaunching Your Online Brand

Is your brand connecting with consumers online? Here are four ways you can develop a fresh presence on the Web.
You are probably already “online” as a brand. I’d like to argue today that you probably need a makeover, and soon.

Over the last five years, countless real estate agents and brokers have invested in WordPress Web sites, mobile applications, IDX for home searches, robust CRM systems, search-engine optimization, pay-per-click through Google AdWords, and social media marketing on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. How’s that all going for you? Have your investments paid off? Was the return on the investment of time and dollars everything you thought it would be and more?

Didn’t think so.

In the start-up world, making a big change with your business model is called a “pivot.” Basically, it means it’s time to make a purposeful decision to change your company’s path. It’s scary, certainly. You may have spent a decade or more building your brand—only to find out that online, no one seems to care.

Let’s discuss some specific actions you can take, starting right now, to relaunch your brand online in the most meaningful way possible.

1. Get a New Bio

If you wrote your own bio, it was probably a painful experience. It’s an unnatural thing to do, writing about yourself in the third person. But bios have become more important than ever for real estate professionals. Just think about how many places you have one: your Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn, personal Web site, company Web site, Zillow, Yelp … the list goes on.

I would argue a good bio matters, when it matters the most! Google has a free e-book titled the Zero Moment of Truth. It’s about the moment online consumers go from being interested to making a purchase or reaching out to a business. This decision is often driven by your bio. They like your Web site. They like your listings. Do they like you?

Consider hiring a copy writer to compose a new bio for you. A service called eLance can connect you with U.S.-based professional copywriters who have been reviewed openly by their past employers. They specialize in on-demand, one-off work, so it’s a perfect fit for getting a bio done quickly and professionally. Expect to pay about $150.

A great way to collect what should be in the new bio is to survey your existing network using something like Survey Monkey or even building a simple Google Doc form. Ask your past clients, friends, and family what words they think best describe you. Ask your current buyers and sellers exactly why they hired you. The answers and data you collect will help you craft a meaningful new bio that’s relevant and accurate.

Once it is done, don’t forget to update all of your existing online profiles with the new copy. 

2. Get a New Logo

Having your business card blown up to the size of a Web site is not a logo. A logo should and can be so much more. The logo your company provides may be great, but it isn’t truly yours either. Understanding that a logo is used in nearly every marketing initiative you will do and on every piece of communication you will send to clients, it’s a great place to start when relaunching. Logos that pop become iconic. Think the Rolling Stones, Nike, and FedEx. Figure out which colors elicit certain emotions and take that into account as you brainstorm. Grab a pen and paper and doodle. Find some of your favorite logos across industries and write out why you love them and what you would like to see comparable in your new logo design. 

I’ve had tremendous success with crowdsourced logo design sites like 99Designs and CrowdSpring. As opposed to hiring one designer, you launch an open contest that many can enter and submit logos for. By having hundreds of options instead of a few, you almost always end up with something you like. You can also engage your social networks during the contest for their feedback before selecting (more on the importance of the “pre campaign” in a minute). When using the crowdsourced sites, I highly recommend choosing the most expensive option, which runs around $799 on 99Designs and $1,349 on CrowdSpring. This higher-end bid greatly improves the quality of the entries and designers you will attract to your project.

Hiring a local custom designer is also a great option. It gives you the ability to sit down with them face to face, which is still important for many people. Hiring a custom designer is typically billed out hourly, from about $100 to $250 per hour for good talent, so multiple redesigns and iterations can become expensive quickly.

3. Build a Mobile-Responsive Site and Home Search

If I pull up your Web site on my iPhone and it doesn’t look great and load quickly, I’m out. This is an industrywide challenge for good reason. Any Web site built before 2012 was not truly “built for mobile.” Take advantage of this for your big relaunch. Market the heck out of the fact that you have an iPhone- and Android-optimized Web site with a home search for your town. Most of your competitors do not have these tools in place yet—they will eventually, so get going!

Keep in mind that simply paying for a Web site and IDX is just the beginning. To truly see a return on investment, you will want to have some strategies focused on generating traffic from around the Web consisting of interested buyers and potential sellers. With a new site, you will need to leverage your existing network. Start with sending some mass e-mails to your database of contacts and leads letting them know about it. Be sure to link to one or two very specific features, ideally the best the site offers. Another reliable source of instant traffic is Craigslist. Post simple ads with only one picture, a call to action, and a link to see all of the additional details on your Web site. Many have tried and failed at Craigslist. More often than not, that’s due to putting too much information in the ads. Short, concise ads with a link back to your site works better and also avoids some of the spam that happens by placing your phone number or property address in the ads directly.

4. Build Pre-Launch Buzz

It’s amazing what people will do to be a part of a beta test. Launching is great, but the gold is in the pre-launch. Think about the buzz and anticipation that Apple builds when a new device is coming out. It doesn’t start the day you can buy the device; it starts much earlier. With your relaunch, you will want to follow the same model.

Most real estate Web sites are somewhere between adequate and terrible, but yours will rock. Any buyer or seller who has tried to search a local agent or broker’s site in the last few years has likely been somewhat underwhelmed by the experience. I wish it took more to stand out in our industry in 2013 than a well-designed Web site that worked well on a smartphone and that only focused on getting people to the areas of the site they want quickly, but that’s where we find ourselves. Less is more right now and simplicity that is laser-focused on the end user wins.

Your new logo, bio, and mobile Web presence should be leveraged with your “inner circle” before you relaunch. I used to share my screen during private one-on-one demos. Call your best past clients and those who refer the most business to you and show them all of these new things before the public can see any of it. I can’t tell you how special this makes people feel. When I launched my start-up Curaytor recently, I did about 150 one-on-one demos of the Web site, before the public even had access. By focusing on my inner circle and making them feel like a part of the journey, they more than returned the favor once the site was live. People will always support what they feel like they helped create. Never forget that.

I also highly recommend using LaunchRock for building early buzz, social and viral growth, and new e-mail opt-ins. LaunchRock provides a very simple “coming soon” landing page that is free to use; anyone can build one. You provide a short teaser and a photo about what you are doing, then offer an incentive to sign up early and socially share the link on Facebook and Twitter. For Curaytor, we simply offered 24-hour early access to the site and people loved it. We generated 2,000 e-mail addresses before we even turned on the site! This fresh and interested e-mail “list” got us 70 percent open rates and 40 percent click-through rates when we sent them the access we promised. Those are nearly unheard-of results in the e-mail marketing world. 

One of the biggest mistakes companies make online is investing in expensive new tools and technologies for their clients, but then spending little to no time on any “coming soon” marketing. The best chance to build buzz in 2013 may just be before your launch.

So you have a brilliant new logo, a bio fitting of your accomplishments, the sexiest Web site in town, and a fresh new e-mail list.

The rest, as they say, is up to you.

Article curated from

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are Facebook’s Promoted Posts Worth the Dough?

Facebook offers businesses many marketing tools, but is its latest initiative, “promoted posts,” worth your marketing dollars?


Marketing in real estate is all about utilizing different channels in unique ways, and it’s no mystery that Facebook is among the most tempting platforms for real estate marketing. After all, Facebook is, undoubtedly, among the most widely used advertising platforms today, with perhaps only Google generating more interest from businesses. In a recent survey by Advertising Age, 85 percent of marketers and media execs stated they use Facebook in their marketing.

However, Facebook, as of late, has been shaking up its marketing offerings behind its typical ads, and no approach has received quite the same attention as that of “promoted posts,” which involves Facebook prominently featuring your posts on the site. Are promoted posts a valid use of your marketing dollars? Here’s what we learned:

Promoted Post & Real Estate – A Match Made in Heaven?

The way promoted posts work is actually quite simple: you pay Facebook a fee, and the website agrees to display your posted content near the top of Facebook user’s news feeds; the more you pay, the longer your content will be featured.

One on Facebook’s strongest advantages as an advertising platform is its ability to subtly and organically inform users about concepts and information, and it is in that regard that promoted posts could be very beneficial to real estate agents. From new listings, to open houses, to special drawings and real estate-related events, you’d be able to promote your most important announcements to your Facebook community.

And promoted posts, as some news sites have pointed out, have already collected some noteworthy cheerleaders. The public relations firm for, for instance, reported that via promoted posts, Reverb quickly acquired 30,000 ‘likes’ on its Facebook page with only, as it put it, a “very modest investment.” Similarly, Adweek recently reported that Las Vegas-based MGM has generated 2.5 times more revenue from Facebook this year compared to the same time in 2012, and promoted posts were a key part of its 2013 social media strategy.

The Ambiguity of Promoted Posts

However, as big and impressive as those numbers may seem, tech journalist Erik Sherman pointed out a most important distinction regarding promoted posts – even if the promoted posts generate interest among Facebook users (particularly in the form of new ‘likes’ for your business page), that won’t necessarily translate into fresh business.

“In short,” Sherman wrote for Inc., “it is impossible to know in advance if Facebook sponsored stories will work for your business or not.”

The catch, therefore, regarding promoted posts and your real estate business, will be two-fold: first, you’ll have to track just how much interest your promoted posts generate for your brand; and two, you’ll have to evaluate how much of that interest translates to new leads for your business.

Article courtesy of Chicago Agent Magazine

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The 3 Essential Truths of YouTube

Marketing on YouTube can be a valuable venture for real estate agents, but there are three essentials truths about the platform that all agents must know.


YouTube is one massive Internet platform. With 800 million unique users a month and three billion views a day, YouTube’s viewers in 2012 were eight times what Hulu enjoyed; and if that weren’t enough, 48 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube’s servers every minute.
Such widespread use, however, poses definite problems when using YouTube for business purposes; how on earth do you know what works and what doesn’t? Thankfully, Dane Atkinson and his firm SumAll have your interests in mind. An analytics company, SumAll studied data from 30,000 businesses, and collected their findings into a number of clear guidelines for using YouTube for business purposes.

Here are the most notable to keep in mind:

Forget about High Costs and Viral Attention – The average self-created video, Atkinson and co. found, costs around $300, so it’s not worth renting a studio and throwing huge gobs of money into your YouTube videos; on the other hand, still devote time and effort to your videos so they’re at least polished and presentable. So for instance, if you’re shooting video of a listing, make sure the camera is steady and your voice clear while pointing out the home’s features.
Even with those efforts, though, do not think that your videos have any chance of going viral. Sure, it’s easy to think of some of the more notable viral videos on YouTube (Charlie bit me…, Bed Intruder, Sweet Brown) and assume that your well-made, professional videos have a similar chance at finding an audience and being featured on “The Today Show” and, but think of this from a statistical perspective – those videos we just referenced add up to around five minutes of video time, and users upload 48 hours of video every minute! It really is a needle in a haystack when it comes to videos getting viral attention, so don’t invest in YouTube with those kinds of goals in mind.

Encourage Sharing and Re-Posts – Comments are always great to read on YouTube (in fact, they’re occasionally more entertaining than the videos themselves!), but sadly, they serve little purpose for businesses. Rather, Atkinson suggests businesses should ask customers to re-post videos to increase their exposure. So for real estate purposes, why not have your clients post your video of their listing on their Facebook/Pinterest accounts?  Why not have colleagues share your videos of tips and tutorials for agents on their social media channels?

Don’t Be Traditional – There are still avenues where traditional marketing approaches work (think direct mail and e-blasts), but YouTube users have little of that patience; therefore, Atkinson recommends keeping things short and sweet.

“The worst is going into a 20-minute diatribe about how your product is the best thing out there,” Atkinson says. “YouTube patience is very short. You’ll get this false data where it looks like you had a lot of page views but it turns out people are ending the video within six seconds.”

Article courtesy of Chicago Agent Magazine

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Get More Business From the Web

So you’re getting visitors to your sites and making connections online. Now what? 

You’re making connections on social networks, generating traffic to your blog, and drawing consumers to your site via search results. All of that doesn’t mean much if you aren’t getting those connections to supply their contact info, request more information about your services or listings, or ask for an appointment.

Your online efforts should all point toward a single aim: generating leads. Here are four ways to get more business from your Web presence, recommended by user-experience experts at the Real Estate Connect conference hosted by ­Inman News in San Francisco in August.

1. Keep it simple.

Too often, real estate companies pile everything they have onto their Web site’s home page. “Brokers want everything on the page—title, escrow, mortgage,” says John Hensley, chief product and technology officer at Real Estate Digital, a provider of integrated technology solutions. “But consumers don’t come to broker sites for that.”

Featuring too many options on your site tends to affect visitors with a kind of mental paralysis that may lead them to close their Web browser in frustration, agrees Galen Ward, cofounder and CEO of listings site Estately. “Every time you add a new button or choice [on your site], you reduce the number of people who will make any choice. For me, it’s about removing clicks and being transparent. It’s about bringing features to your users,” he says.

2. Give the people what they want.

What are real estate consumers looking for online? “People want photos. They want to do an analysis of the house from their computer. Real estate search is doing a lot of what we’re already doing for our clients—price and location filtering. But it’s also about making it more responsive,” says Ward.
Knowing that, make sure your site is presenting the information people are searching for in the simplest, most intuitive way possible, says Andrew Machado, CEO and founder of Open Home Pro, which provides a virtual form to collect visitor info at open houses. “It’s all about delighting people,” he explains.

For example, Rogers Healy, a broker-owner in Dallas, prominently features a property-search function and includes an extensive collection of client testimonials on his business site ( “That’s what people are looking for—a demonstration of market knowledge and experience and a track record of success,” he says.

3. Test and measure interactions.

One way to figure out what consumers want is to assess how visitors engage with your content and design. This involves user testing to determine if your current setup is getting results. User testing doesn’t have to involve focus-group testing, which Ward says is “unnatural” because of how often it involves contrived scenarios and leading questions.

Ideally, you can track how people use your site by gathering behavioral metrics through measurement tools, such as recordings of visitors’ scrolling patterns and heat maps that register the most-clicked items. “You can’t lead them on,” Hensley says. “Let them play; let them get lost on your site.” Once you’ve got data that shows how users interact with your site, examine it to determine whether they’re doing what you want them to. If they aren’t, use that information to figure out what content you should have—and where it should go.

4. Make sure the site represents you.

Even as you change the design, structure, and content of your site to simplify it and align it to consumer expectations, you have to protect your branding.

Ultimately, the site should reflect your personality, business niche, and services. “Some of it is your gut, and some of it is what your customers say,” Machado says. “Just make sure it’s not a hodgepodge of what people say they want. Then the product isn’t yours anymore.”

Article courtesy of Realtor Mag

Monday, May 13, 2013

4 Easy Ways to Establish Your Online Brand

Your online brand should be an extension of your real estate business, but it must adapt to the confines and nuances of the Internet.


In real estate, your brand is everything. If clients do not trust your brand, and the professionalism and work ethic it attempts to communicate, you’ll have a tough time making it in real estate, an industry where perception and competence are both paramount for success.

But how do you extend that brand to the Internet? How do you show yourself to be trustworthy, hardworking and charismatic when you do not have a handshake, lively anecdotes or other personal touches to rely upon? It’s not an easy thing to do, but by following these three tips, you’ll be off to a great start:

1. Write a Compelling, Succinct Biography – There’s a reason that every personal website since the dawn of time features an “About Me” page. If someone is visiting your website, chances are they want to have a better idea about who you are and what you stand for, and the About Me page, complete with a compelling, succinct biography, will be the best way to communicate to prospective clients what you are all about. Notice, though, that we use the word “succinct”! Though surely you could go on and on and on about how wonderful you are, Web users have notoriously short attention spans, so you’ll want to cover the gist of what makes you so awesome in 300 words or less.

2. Design an Attractive Logo – We’ll admit from the outset, the brokerage you work for will have a huge influence on your success with this strategy. We won’t name any names, but there are definitely some brokerages out there that do not take kindly to agents designing their own logos, especially if those logos are more prominent than the corporate brokerage logo. That being said, should you have the capabilities, your own personal logo can be a fabulous touch to your website and online brand. A colorful, dynamic logo not only complements your brand – it completes it, and offers a compelling visual component to who you are as a real estate professional. We should mention, though, that your logo should be original to your brand, and not stolen; as the most unfortunate case of Tracy Glesby demonstrates, there will always be watchdogs out there searching for logo piracy, and the penalties for such transgressions can be fierce.

3. Make Your Site Mobile Ready – Within the next year (if not sooner), we anticipate this point being as important as having your own website. As we’ve covered before, 89 percent of consumers shopping for new residences utilized mobile devices at some point in their home search, and 40 percent went mobile throughout their entire home shopping process! Mobile searches are gradually becoming the norm for how consumers shop for real estate, and you’ll need to ensure that your website is mobile-ready – or risk being left behind.

4. Adapt Your Message – And finally, you’ll want to adapt your brand and its central message across various mediums, especially Zillow, Trulia and, sites that comprise nearly a quarter of all real estate-related Web traffic. The more people who see your brand, the more your brand develops, and of course, if your brand is featured in a number of different avenues, your versatility and reach will both become integral parts of your brand.

 Article courtesy of Chicago Agent Magazine

Friday, May 10, 2013

Where Should Your Real Estate Marketing dollars go?

It’s always a tricky task, cleverly allocating where your ad dollars should go, but a new study on advertising trends offers some stern guidance.


Advertising is normally one of the largest expenses that real estate agents accrue in their businesses, but it’s often an exercise in stress; after all, between newspapers, magazines, websites (both desktop and mobile), and physical ad spaces such as benches and billboards, where is an agent to advertise, given the overwhelming array of choices?

Thankfully, BIA/Kelsey, an advertising consultation firm, has just released a very interesting study of advertising mediums, and has made some bold predictions on what forms will receive the most attention in the coming years.

New Age Advertising – It’s a Web Thing

Here were the major findings in BIA/Kelsey’s research, which projects the advertising landscape from 2012 to 2017:
  • Local media advertising revenues are expected to climb from $132.5 billion to $148.8 billion by 2017, a 12.3 percent increase.
  • Interestingly, though, national brands will primarily drive that growth, with their share of local media ads rising from $42.5 billion to $51 billion; that’s a 20 percent uptick, compared to an expected 9 percent hike in local brand spending.
  • Digital media will also increase its share of local media revenues, boosting from 17.4 percent in 2012 to 27.6 percent in 2017, or, $41.1 billion in advertising.
  • Also, spending on mobile advertising is expected to rise six-fold to $6.4 billion by 2017; though online ads will increase by 46.5 percent, total spending will only be $6.3 percent.
  • And sadly, while all this digital exploration is taking place, traditional advertising – think newspapers, magazines, the yellow pages – will see flat or slightly negative revenues, and will settle in 2017 at $107.6 billion.

Keep Your Eye on the Mobile Prize

The message of BIA/Kelsey’s findings, though, go far beyond the “print is dead” meme; rather, as Mark Fratrik, the chief economist at BIA/Kelsey, explained to Inc.’s Samuel Wagreich, mobile technology, and its hyper-specific nature, represents the future of advertising.

“Mobile’s the explosion – just in the way it affords advertisers the ability to target people in specific locations at specific times,” Fatrik said. “If you want to advertise something like a lunch special, most working people can’t be reached by local TV or radio, and they’re not necessarily reading the newspaper. But they have a mobile device that can display an ad at 11:15 for french fries at the McDonalds that’s three blocks away. And boy, that’s the great aspect of it.”
Or, thinking in terms of real estate, an open house at noon? or a brokers’ open at 3 p.m.? Or a new listing that just hit the market, and that you’re now taking calls for?

If BIA/Kelsey’s research shows us anything, it’s that mobile advertising is not going anywhere – and that we ignore its rise at our own peril!

Article courtesy of Chicago Agent Magazine