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Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent . . .

[Russell Shaw taught a symposium today in Phoenix on Geographic Farming. Cathy and I were there, and Russell was sweet enough to give a plug to BloodhoundBlog Unchained. At the break, I was swarmed by people wanting more information on Social Media Marketing, especially weblogging — most regretting that they hadn’t gotten started sooner. Teri Lussier is a scorching read on those same kind of ideas today. Both events put me in mind of this post, which I wrote on July 23, 2006 — a Sunday — I can remember the day. This is flagship content for BloodhoundBlog, one of the posts that established who we are, our steady position in this discussion. But it’s amazing to me how timeless this advice has turned out to be — how much we are all still “situated at various points from painfully awful to Insanely Great on the continua for each one of these skill sets.” This one is worth studying — and worth pursuing the links. –GSS, 03/05/08]

 
People leaving comments at BloodhoundBlog keep confusing Cathleen Collins for me, so I decided to steal an idea from Rain City Guide and put our photos beside each of our posts. That entailed revising BloodhoundBlog’s weblog template, of course, which also meant adapting its Cascading Style Sheet. A significant number of people reading this already don’t know what I’m talking about, so I’ll endeavor to lose most of the rest: I had to rewrite a few little bits of PHP to make everything work.

Like this:

That puts the pictures, which I had prepared in Photoshop, in place. This code:

is the actual name of the photo. That dumb little bit of PHP says, “Get the ID number of the current author and replace everything from the < to the > with that number. The photos are named 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc., so the PHP substitution makes the right photo show up for the right author.

PHP is an amazingly robust and incredibly loose language, but the amount and kind of PHP you use to manage a WordPress weblog is minor and very simple — baby-steps PHP.

But this occurred to me while I was working: What a daunting quantity of knowledge you have to have to be a Realtor in the 21st century!

Last week, I said, “Realtor 2.0 is either going to be adept at internet marketing — or unemployed.” Our own answer is that there is always room at the top, but that room at the top will be won by effective internet marketing. What disintermediation means to traditional Realtors is a reduction in the marginal cost of pursuing alternatives to traditional real estate business models. For-sale-by-owner might be a losing strategy, but how about a FSBO with an RSS feed? Even at the level of competition among individual full-service Realtors, the internet will prove to be a progressively more decisive factor. Die-hard dinosaurs counting on repeats and referrals from their sphere of influence will find their prospects drifting away one by one, some for lower prices, some for better service.

Better service means better service at every step of the process — and Apple’s Steve Jobs gave us the ideal metric for measuring quality of any sort: “Insanely great!” Insanely great real estate will necessarily be personal-service real estate, but capturing the attention of prospective clients, earning their trust and loyalty, delivering the product, delivering the documents — delivering practically everything except the keys — much of that will also move from the world of atoms to the world of electrons.

At their many, many conclaves and conventions, the suits in the NAR and other Realtor organizations ponderously intone, “The Realtor of the future is an internet-savvy Realtor!”

Ya think? That understatement is a real mouthful!

In the wired world, at least, I am preaching to the converted, I should hope. But out in the real world, things are not so advanced. More than a year ago, Cathy and I were at a real estate seminar where the speaker proudly announced that you could even customize the product with your own email address! Even that!

Not so impressive. But sit still and learn nothing at all? Not me. I asked, “Can you make it a hot link?”

“Huh?”

“Can I put anchor text around the email address so that my prospect can just click on it, rather than copying and pasting it into his email client.”

“I… uh… We’ll have to check with our programmers on that question.”

Meanwhile the other Realtors were rustling and grumbling. I’ve seen that “natives are restless” mood all my life, so of course I stirred them up: “This is not hard. You should know how to do this. You shouldn’t be waiting three weeks and paying some vendor $300 to write simple HTML for you.”

This won me no friends, of course, but — guess what? — Realtors are not my friends. Their former clients are. I’m not competing to be Good Buddy Realtor of the Year. I am in this business to bring the best possible benefits I can to the greatest attainable number of clients to whom I can deliver Insanely Great service while enriching myself and my family beyond my wildest dreams. (Holy smokes! I just wrote a Mission Statement! Those GRI classes finally paid off!) What happens to other Realtors is their own lookout.

But unlike the ponderous convention intonators and all those mesmerizing seminar mechanics, I can actually tell you the specific skills you will need to master, if you wish to prosper in an environment where successful full-service Realtors will deliver Insanely Great service, down to the last man or woman, and where all other Realtors will be — or will be on the path to being — former Realtors.

Tim O’Reilly wrote about Web 2.0 and Joel Burslem at The Future of Real Estate Marketing is blogging about what he calls Real Estate 2.0. In that spirit I bring you the seven essential skills of Realtor 2.0, by experience and expertise empowered to compete against any real estate business model:

  • Web authoring. By this, I mean HTML, but that’s just the first step in your education. If you’re already blogging, so much the better. You’ll learn a lot of basic coding from repeated use. But the HTML that is taught in the “HTML for the Helpless” kind of books is HTML 3. You need to learn HTML 4, too, which means Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), XHTML, XML, etc. You don’t need to be able to qualify for a job hand-coding web sites, but you need to know web coding well enough to hold your own hand when you have a problem.
  • Graphic design. Realtors — not all, but very many — are horrible designers. The ones who took the plunge and learned HTML 3 brought with them every bad habit they had learned in years of putting together circus-poster real estate ads. The people you will be competing against know how to design marketing material that will appeal to their target audience. If you don’t learn how to do this, too, you will be left in the dust.
  • Search-engine optimization. Practically speaking, this should come first, but if you don’t have a significant web presence, you won’t be findable by your prospects, and if your web presence is visually revolting, your prospects will lose you as soon as they find you. SEO is half science, half art, but it’s mostly a religion — paradise tomorrow if we can just make it through today’s fresh hell. You might end up farming this out, but you need to understand it well enough to know what you’re buying, and well enough not to get swindled — or worse, to get your web site banned by the major search engines. Here is the best SEO strategy of all: Build your site so well that when prospects find you, they stay. Every time you end up in someone’s Favorites menu or RSS feed, that’s one less chance you have of getting lost in the swirling vortex of search-engine algorithms.
  • Client- and server-side programming. You might farm this out, also. But you have to know what you want, and you have to know whether or not you got what you paid for. I think everyone should learn to write software — the most empowering, fulfilling and esthetically pleasing thing a human mind can do. I’m not holding my breath, however, waiting for Realtor-geek to become chic. Even so, I think that you as a Realtor 2.0 real estate practitioner must, at a minimum, have a relationship with a web programmer who can get you the results you need on your timetable. The vendors you’re competing against (including us) have internet programmers on staff. They can implement good ideas virtually on the spot.
  • Web 2.0. Building on that idea, you should always be thinking about how to make your web offerings more Web 2.0-like. Some of the ideas O’Reilly covers are ephemeral and stupid, but others — such as, like Amazon.com, using the prospect’s known preferences and other, similar client’s known preferences to suggest likely alternatives — are Insanely Great services that you cannot afford to omit. If you are to succeed as a Realtor 2.0 real estate agent, a certain amount of your time, money and attention will always be devoted to observing new trends in the marketplace, implementing what works and jettisoning the rest.
  • Photography and videography. If many Realtors are lousy graphic designers, it could be because so many of them are such rotten photographers. This must change. Photographs — and virtual tours and professional-quality video — sell houses. If you don’t know how to take a good real estate picture, learn. You might use vendors for the video or the print photography, but you should be able to do your web photos yourself — in vast abundance — along with your virtual tours, either directly or by direct supervision. You will lose time, but the gain in image quality will be more than worth it.

    And now, for the absolute most important skill to be mastered by Realtor 2.0:

  • Writing. Realtors for some reason seem to congregate over at the left edge of the literacy bell curve. We have clients who never tire of sending us ridiculous locutions they have clipped out of listings. Our current favorite: “Curve appeal,” seemingly a relevant factor in Realtor 1.0 marketing. We are entering an epoch where all of the dubious weapons of traditional real estate marketing are losing their potency. No one cares that you were a high school tennis star or the immediate past president of the Junior League. You probably can’t be physically repulsive, but your prospects won’t know that you are beauty-queen gorgeous until long after they’ve decided to work with you — or with someone else instead. That vast warm network you’ve cultivated, all those people to whom you delivered pumpkins and fly-swatters over the years, even your own extended family — none of what you think of as valued relationships will mean anything to a prospective buyer or seller carefully reading my weblog at 2 am. Merely writing well may not swing the balance my way. But if you write poorly or not at all, I have a huge advantage. Moreover, all of my writing on the web is a permanent investment in client recruiting and retention that also permanently improves my SEO performance. Writing frequently, prolifically, interestingly, sagely, on-topic and with style — which most certainly includes spelling and grammar — is the ultimate triple-threat Realtor 2.0 competitive tactic.

Note that we haven’t even talked about the hi-tech marketing you’re already doing — or should be! If you don’t have a great mobile phone — with email, a web browser and SMS messaging — you’re toast. If your office email is not forwarding to that phone, you’re history in the making. If you don’t respond to clients — and especially prospective clients — immediately, your clients will soon be someone else’s clients. That much is all a given.

What we’re talking about is developing the intellectual resources you will need to compete — delivering a premium product at a premium price — in a marketplace that will soon be overwhelmed by vendors offering next-to-no service at next-to-no cost. Please understand that we are not perfect at this, yet, either. We’re situated at various points from painfully awful to Insanely Great on the continua for each one of these skill sets. But this is an up-or-out proposition. The people working in personal-service residential real estate in ten years will be Realtor 2.0 realtors, Insanely Great at each one of these skills and others we’ve yet to think of, and the rest of the current membership of the NAR will be doing something else.

Don’t believe me? So much the better for me…
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Getting in touch with your inner geek:

Want more? Real Estate Weblogging 101 will speak to your inner geek. And if you want even more than that, be sure to join us for BloodhoundBlog Unchained.

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46 comments

46 Comments so far

  1. dustin July 23rd, 2006 9:51 pm

    Brilliance!

    Your blog has quickly become one of the new must-reads in real estate!

  2. Greg Swann July 23rd, 2006 11:36 pm

    Bless you. Thank you.

    This is actually our third swing at a real estate weblog. It was the example of Rain City Guide that showed me how I wanted to approach this.

    Never doubt it: I’m in your debt.

  3. […] Greg Swan of the BloodhoundBlog: This is actually our third swing at a real estate weblog. It was the example of Rain City Guide that showed me how I wanted to approach this. […]

  4. […] What then to make of my remark to Dustin Luther, which he quotes back on Rain City Guide: This is actually our third swing at a real estate weblog. It was the example of Rain City Guide that showed me how I wanted to approach this. […]

  5. Seeds of Growth July 25th, 2006 11:14 am

    Carnival of Business – #14

    Welcome to the July 24, 2006 edition of carnival of business. Come on in! This edition has got something for everybody! Before we jump into the submissions, we’re going to drop by the games booth and announce the winner of 12 free months of Promote…

  6. Joel J. Ohman July 25th, 2006 3:27 pm

    I am not a realtor but I am in the financial services business. That was an astoundingly magnificent article. Very very well written! – Joel

  7. Greg Swann July 25th, 2006 10:23 pm

    Hi, Joel. Thanks for your kind words!

  8. […] One from me: How to make fast, flexible web pages. This is Realtor 2.0 stuff: Full-service Realtors who plan to compete need to learn how to punch out lots and lots of new web pages with dispatch. For one thing, this is where all those photos I keep talking about are going to go. We do most of our pages with software and I’m not going to tell you how we do that — because I plan to send my kid to college with that software. But here is a road map to kicking out new pages with minimal effort. There’s a bonus to doing things this way, too, which I’ll get to at the end. […]

  9. Jim Cronin August 5th, 2006 7:00 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this article.. but I’m glad you linked back to it. I just made comments in a recent post on the Tomato that it is the best I have read all week – right up my alley… and if you don’t mind… I will probably be referring to it as a guideline for months to come.

  10. Greg Swann August 5th, 2006 7:45 pm

    You know how to break a guy’s heart, Jim.

  11. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent by Greg Swann http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/?p=124 […]

  12. FiveMZNYC August 14th, 2006 8:38 am

    Fantastic take on the skillset that Real Estate Community needs to have in the future. This is the nuts and bolts of what it takes and no one else is saying this. Thanks for the permission to send this to New York City Brokers as well, I hope they will find it as valuable as I have. Being a Mortgage Broker, I’m taking your advice to heart as well. Our presence needs to be updated constantly, and I also need to know how.

  13. […] Apprehending REaltor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent by Greg […]

  14. MamaDuck August 17th, 2006 8:55 am

    This goes for just about anyone in any business these days, you really need to know basic html and internet things these days regardless of your field. Our list is up if you’d like to look… have a great day!

  15. […] That’s probably pre-mature. I hit ‘em with Realtor 2.0 to see who might salute. In the mean time, the conversation put me in mind of this essay, which I wrote in November of 1995. Sadly enough, it actually holds up after all this time… Is that AOL there is…? […]

  16. Lists Group Writing Project - Categorized August 26th, 2006 1:26 am

    […] 56. 5 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Should Workout by Eric 57. Top 10 Crowdsourcing Companies by Daniel 58. Lists for Math Teachers and Other Educators by Damon 59. Jumpstart your Real Estate blog (or any other blog for that matter) by phd 60. How Not to Lose Your Ass – Customer Satisfaction by Charlie 61. How to Ruin Your Corporate Blog: 100 Tips by 10 Bloggers by Easton 62. 7 Things to do at the office under the Radar by Tom 63. Business Needs Passion by Anna 64. Top 10 Women Real Estate Bloggers by Rudolph 65. 10 Questions to Ask Before You Work At a Startup by Nate 66. The architects Pen by Calvin 67. Become a Consultant – Big List of Reasons by Andrea 68. Setting Up a Home Office – 5 Things You Need and 5 Things You Want by Home Office Blues 69. Starting Your Own Business? Keep these things in Mind! by Jennifer 70. 5 Clues that Your Home Office Has Too Much Clutter by Culleann 71. Ten Ways to Build Moats to Hold Back the Competition by George 72. 3 Problems Business Bloggers Face by Ahmed 73. Best of Small Biz Survival by Becky 74. Best Current Deals, Promotions, and Sign Up Bonuses by Jason 75. 5 Ways to Improve your Affiliate Sales by Chris 76. 10 Ways to Have a Horrible Seminar by Sue 77. 10 Things You Find in Every Office by Tao 78. How to Screw Up Hiring a Newbie by Pawel 79. My Top 4 Mistakes as an Entrepreneur by Ben 80. Cumbaya Management Essentials by Peter 81. NO!SPEC Campaign: Rundown and Roundup by Cat 82. 10 minus 3 steps on how to become an Oracle ERP Consultant? by Nilesh 83. Apprehending REaltor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent by Greg 84. Graphical Visualization – Making Sense Out of Data by Jim 85. 5 games industry job interview tips by Rick 86. Layoff – The Need by Scot […]

  17. Michael Anuzis » Sharing Advice August 26th, 2006 8:32 am

    […] 56. 5 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Should Workout by Eric 57. Top 10 Crowdsourcing Companies by Daniel 58. Lists for Math Teachers and Other Educators by Damon 59. Jumpstart your Real Estate blog (or any other blog for that matter) by phd 60. How Not to Lose Your Ass – Customer Satisfaction by Charlie 61. How to Ruin Your Corporate Blog: 100 Tips by 10 Bloggers by Easton 62. 7 Things to do at the office under the Radar by Tom 63. Business Needs Passion by Anna 64. Top 10 Women Real Estate Bloggers by Rudolph 65. 10 Questions to Ask Before You Work At a Startup by Nate 66. The architects Pen by Calvin 67. Become a Consultant – Big List of Reasons by Andrea 68. Setting Up a Home Office – 5 Things You Need and 5 Things You Want by Home Office Blues 69. Starting Your Own Business? Keep these things in Mind! by Jennifer 70. 5 Clues that Your Home Office Has Too Much Clutter by Culleann 71. Ten Ways to Build Moats to Hold Back the Competition by George 72. 3 Problems Business Bloggers Face by Ahmed 73. Best of Small Biz Survival by Becky 74. Best Current Deals, Promotions, and Sign Up Bonuses by Jason 75. 5 Ways to Improve your Affiliate Sales by Chris 76. 10 Ways to Have a Horrible Seminar by Sue 77. 10 Things You Find in Every Office by Tao 78. How to Screw Up Hiring a Newbie by Pawel 79. My Top 4 Mistakes as an Entrepreneur by Ben 80. Cumbaya Management Essentials by Peter 81. NO!SPEC Campaign: Rundown and Roundup by Cat 82. 10 minus 3 steps on how to become an Oracle ERP Consultant? by Nilesh 83. Apprehending REaltor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent by Greg 84. Graphical Visualization – Making Sense Out of Data by Jim 85. 5 games industry job interview tips by Rick 86. Layoff – The Need by Scot […]

  18. Melissa September 12th, 2006 12:08 pm

    We had a really professional real estate web design company http://www.real-estate-designers.com design our website. They even optimized the site for search engines for no charge. But it takes time to be on the first page of the search engines. We are thinking about using google adwords. any advice would be helpful.

    Thanks, Melissa

  19. […] The Real Estate Bloggers address The new real estate paradigm — for real estate agents, citing the Mike’s Corner post I mentioned the other day. On the point, if you haven’t read it, take a look at my own entry on this topic, Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent. […]

  20. […] “Hey, Doris, shush now. We’re in Paris,” Rita told her. “Lizzie doesn’t watch TV. Do ya’, baby?” Look at them lists in her backpack. She wants to know about things like the Top 10 Most Expensive States to Close a Home Purchase in, Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent, and how to Jumpstart your Real Estate blog (or any other blog for that matter), and the Top 10 Women Real Estate Bloggers. […]

  21. […] This is where we’ve been since we’ve been here: If there is any room left in the real estate marketplace for personal-service representation, it will have to be insanely great personal-service representation. One of the things we’re always looking for, as a business strategy, is the way to attack on two flanks: We bring much better service and benefits at a much lower cost. Whichever argument you want to make against us, you’re already beat. […]

  22. […] I do have a friend in the realestate business. Times are slow here in the state of Michigan. Consider yourself lucky if you can sell you house! I might share with my RealEstate friends Greg Swann’s advice on Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  23. […] I’ve talked about all of this a lot, but I don’t know that I’ve done enough to paint the big picture. On the one hand, this is more of the Realtor 2.0 idea. The listers who last are going to deliver either top-quality service or bottom-dollar pricing. There is no middle. And then there are the unseen parties at the listing appointment. Who might they be? […]

  24. grant December 5th, 2006 12:35 pm

    this blog is way to much cant read anything without skipping to somthing else hate this site I will never be back

  25. Greg Swann December 5th, 2006 12:38 pm

    > this blog is way to much cant read anything without skipping to somthing else hate this site I will never be back

    So I guess there’s no point in saying goodbye…

  26. Arlingtgon Virginia Condos -- Jay February 26th, 2007 7:39 am

    Oh my gosh! Just as I think I’m ahead of the curve I see I’m already falling behind!#!#@! Do you recommend good html book to teach myself. Obviously I’ve learned a lot of basics but all your HTML 2,3,4 references scared me to death.

  27. […] Last year Greg crafted a great post on ‘Apprehending Realtor 2.0‘ in which he lists the essential skills for the coming generation of real estate professionals – […]

  28. CA Health Agent May 10th, 2007 5:42 pm

    I like that you are willing to dive in head first to learning about PHP, HTML and all of that good stuff. I think that you are way ahead of the curve. Realtors (and insurance agents) will both do very well to follow your sound advice. Thanks for the good post (and encouragement as I try to “master” some basic coding skills!).

  29. […] The Russell Shaw Sales Success FAQ Files There’s always something to howl about « Wow! You Saved 4&162; A Gallon? What’re You Doing With The 60&162;? The Carnival of Real Estate . . . » […]

  30. Fishers Real Estate August 2nd, 2007 3:57 pm

    “Realtors for some reason seem to congregate over at the left edge of the literacy bell curve” – This is fantastic…I laughed out loud and almost wet myself when I read this blog. I love your sarcasm, I share the same disdain for most other Realtors.

  31. online shopping September 10th, 2007 1:41 pm

    This actually goes to show that many industries don’t have a clue about the web and what the web can do. Like the guy didn’t even know what a hot link was – and when you explained it to him, he wasn’t sure, and wanted to ask their ‘programmer?’ What gives? He must still live under a rock.
    The fact is that many industries just don’t know. My father runs a safari out of an African country, which he has just taken over. The phone bill was ridiculous – why? Because (a) they phone outside the country for everything, instead of just using email (b) they were still on a dial up connection when broadband is available and a lot cheaper (c ) no one had ever heard of VoIP.
    Pretty sad.

  32. California Health September 12th, 2007 12:29 am

    I am not a Realtor but still found this article to be very well written and invaluable .

    Thank you

  33. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  34. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  35. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  36. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  37. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  38. […] Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… […]

  39. […] practically speaking, you should learn to hold your own hand in HTML. But just a little bit of knowledge, properly applied, can take you a long, long […]

  40. Teri Lussier March 6th, 2008 5:34 am

    The BHB archives! It’s astounding to me- I could get lost for hours…

  41. Greg Cremia March 6th, 2008 7:51 am

    I used to feel guilty for letting the geek in me see the light of day. I tried to keep him hidden from the public and only let him out when no one was looking.

    Now the new face of real estate looks a lot like him. He has made me a lot of money for me so far and the prospects look better than I ever dreamed.

    I think it is time to show him off.

  42. Ben DeBell March 6th, 2008 9:05 pm

    How refreshing. I thought I was the only agent out there to think that writing is priority #1. Everyone else I talk to seems to think it’s talking (maybe in the age of telephones, but I think we have passed that stage – the Internet is text). It can’t help that schools stress the importance of science over writing. Thank you for being a voice of reason in the wilderness.

  43. photo oil painting March 12th, 2008 1:28 am

    Surely, the traditional real estate agents aren’t that familiar with this. For example, I’ve been looking at real estate properties last weekend and have talked to various agents. When I asked them if they have a web site where I can browse their collection of properties without me walking under the scorching heat of the sun, some gave me a flashful site while the others didn’t even have any and even others gave me an incomplete site that’s so annoying. My question is, how are we going to educate present day agents to learn the benefits of Internet in their job and in winning clients?

  44. Greg Swann March 12th, 2008 7:55 am

    > My question is, how are we going to educate present day agents to learn the benefits of Internet in their job and in winning clients?

    Competitive pressure — slow but sure. You know what you want now. Shop for those qualities. You’ll feed a Realtor who is getting things right and starve all the others. As Sy Sims used to say: “An educated consumer is our best customer.”

  45. Nick Deal March 20th, 2008 7:56 pm

    Why educate the present day real estate agents, their loss is our gain. The more real estate website in a area, the more competition for top keywords in the search engines.

  46. Sue July 24th, 2008 7:06 pm

    What a great informative post. Thanks Greg. It’ll keep me reading for a while. Don’t ever underestimate “curve appeal” 🙂