There’s always something to howl about

Archive for April, 2008

Who’s the greatest real estate agent in the world? That’s a title I’m willing to compete for. But the winner of the “Greatest Real Estate Agent in the World” SEO contest is BloodhoundBlog’s Eric Blackwell

And BloodhoundBlog’s Eric Bramlett breaks the news:

Drumroll please……

Team Eric!

Eric Blackwell and his merry band of SEO’s/bloggers truly proved the spirit of SEO – it’s all about the relationships.  Jennifer Karlan, Greg Swann, Ken Smith, Wayne Long, Judy Orr, Cal Carter, Mike Damman, Charles & Jacqueline Richey, and Matt Scoggins all need to take a collective bow.  Through the use of teamwork and some very strategic use of assets they individually & collectively own, they were able to control #1 from the second month of the contest to the finish line.

There was a LOT of stiff competition here.  Ardell DellaLoggia ran it tight all the way to the finish line.  Greg Boser was in it, and then disappeared off the map w/ a few weeks to go — everyone was anxiously waiting for the SEO Dark Lord to pop his head back in at 11:59 on April 30th.  The guys at finished #5, w/ Mike Damman’s site, Ryan Ward, Justin from hismove (ranking well, though he dropped out early,) and then Jay Thompson rounding out the top 10.  Wouldn’t you know it?  My post ended up at the top of page 2 – the story of my life.

I’d like to thank everyone for participating, and especially thank Morgan Carey of Real Estate Webmasters for sponsoring the event.  Team Eric has decided to auction off the prize & donate the money to the Eco Preservation Society of Costa Rica (a favorite of Mike Damman’s.)

Eric Blackwell told you he was going to win. I told you Eric was going to win. But the truth is, Eric won because he assembled a great team of very smart people who were shooting Google juice his way until the very last minute.

Take a moment, if you would, to leave a comment to Eric’s winning post. This is a remarkable achievement, and we all got to be a part of it.

Bravo, Eric! And remember: Nice guys link back! 😉

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It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine!

Case Shiller Reort | Real Estate Radio USA

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and
snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn – world
serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs.
Feed it off an aux speak, grunt, no, strength, Ladder
start to clatter with fear fight down height.
Wire in a fire, representing seven games, a government
for hire and a combat site.
Left of west and coming in
a hurry with the furies breathing down your neck.

Team by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered cropped.
Look at that low playing! Fine, then.
Uh oh,
overflow, population, common food, but it’ll do.
Save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs,
listen to your heart bleed dummy with the rapture and
the revered and the right, right.

You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

In 1987, Micheal Stipe and REM released a song that many have interpreted in many ways. When REM played the song live they were actually very surprised. In playing a song about the end of the world, the audience actually reacted with great enthusiasm. So much so that the fun vibe threw off the band. They thought the apocalyptic lyrics would create a more subdued response.

What does this have to do with real estate? Well yesterday the newest housing numbers came out and it’s sounding the end of the real estate world…yet I feel fine.

The S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index, which tracks 20 of the largest housing markets, showed prices plummeting by 12.7% in the 12 months ending February. That’s the biggest fall since the index began tracking prices in 2000.

Of those same 20 markets, 17 of them posted their largest declines ever recorded and 50% of the metro areas posted double-digit declines.

“There is no sign of a bottom in the numbers,” S&P spokesman David M. Blitzer, said in a prepared statement. “Prices of single family homes continue to drop across the nation.”

“This is huge,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Back a couple of years ago, people were saying, Housing prices are not like stocks; they change slowly,'” he said.

If this news wasn’t bad enough, the declines posted could be even more Revelational as you look further. It seems the decline is actually accelerating and economists are saying that an additional $6 trillion dollars (that’s trillion with a “T”) could be erased from home valuation across the USA.

While the message is not all doom and gloom, the good news is like being still alive after the comet hits. Charlotte, North Carolina actually saw their numbers increase.

Up in the Northwest, the decline was quite modest as Portland and Seattle only experienced drops of 2% and 2.7% respectively. Maybe Glenn Kelman was onto something by launching Redfin up there.

The “Big Apple” stays afloat as well with only a 6.6% decline. However, there seems to be a veritable race to for the title of “Ground Zero” of the housing debacle. Las Vegas (-22.8%), Miami (-21.7%), Phoenix (-20.8%),Los Angeles (-19.4%) and San Diego (-19.2%) seem to be the contenders vying for the ominous declaration of being the worst housing market in the Country.

Think you’re out of the woods if you are not in these markets? Think again. As these major markets continue to decline, they shape the consumer’s mindset and throw off an effect that could doom the rest of the markets.

Peter Schiff, the president of the investment firm Euro Pacific Capital said, “As housing price losses extend, the fall-off in demand for homes will deepen. Schiff expects to see a national price decline of 30% – and by as much as 50% in the worst hit markets.

“People wanted houses as vehicles to make money,” said Schiff. “Now that they can’t make money, they don’t want the houses anymore.”

From the “It Can’t Get Any Worse Department”, new data was also released today regarding foreclosures. Over the same period as the Case-Shiller report, foreclosures exploded 112% in the first quarter of 2008.

Anyone working in the real estate business realizes that the continuing flood of foreclosed homes onto the market is continuing to negatively affect home prices.

If you take into account just the vacant properties on the market, the numbers are staggering. Presently there are over 2.28 million vacant homes on the market. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that’s the highest level in over 50 years! (report)

The number of vacant houses on the market is especially troubling, according to Pat Newport, a housing economist with Global Insight, a consulting firm. “I’m not surprised [by the record price declines], given the inventory numbers that came out yesterday,” he said. He called the vacancy statistic “the best measure of excess supply.” (source CNN Money)
(Yeah..I’d want to be a Listing agent in this market…good luck with that)

Many of these properties are owned by very motivated sellers, builders, banks and speculators who want to sell as quickly as possible in order to avoid having to pay to maintain them.

That’s going to make these owners willing to take substantial losses just to get the homes sold. “It means prices will have to drop a lot more,” Newport said. (source CNN Money)

So with all of this doom and gloom in the market and the apparent end of the real estate world upon us, why am I not lamenting and reciting a Novena?

Why? Because the other side of this information tells me and others like me that this is the time to buy and all of this information is fantastic data to use in obtaining the best deal I possibly can.

These are the types of numbers that become “chum in the water” for those bargain hunters looking to make a deal. Is available? If you are a real estate agent and you are not looking aggressively for buyers in this market you have to wonder why you are in business.

This isn’t the market for the faint of heart or the easily insulted. The dread felt by most Realtors regarding the perceived “low-ball offer”, better be dealt with in a hurry!

Not only should you expect offers below list price. You may want to get used to seeing offers 25% – 35% or more below list price. banks dump current REO properties to be ready for the onslaught of the next round of foreclosures, the prices will continue to fall and the inventory will continue to rise.

We’ve had the supply and demand argument here before but suffice it to say, it’s time for Realtors to become realistic and earn the moniker of professionalism that many have sought to impose for so long. I believe that there are 5 steps that Realtors need to take right now to help stabilize the market:

1. Answer the phone! If you are not going to commit to the business, please get out of it. There are buyers out there ready to pull the trigger on deals and they can’t even get a hold of the agents listing the property. We hear this time and time again. We even hear it from other agents.

2. Terminate Unrealistic Listings! If the property you have on the market has no chance of selling and your seller is “seeing what they get”, then drop the listing. There is already enough inventory on the market. I know this is a tough one but why waste your time on a property like this when you know it’s not going to sell.

3. Wrap your arms around the data! Become a projection and data junkie. If you are a professional then you need to know the symptomatic ideology that is driving the market. It is your job to understand that which is driving prices and act accordingly. The Mary Kay style agent is done!

4. Immerse Yourself in regression analysis data! It’s nice and somewhat easy to pull a flowery, rose-colored CMA, but it is more professional to understand the maxims of regression analysis. Repeat after me..I’ve done the numbers and I understand there is no such thing as a low-ball offer! By even blogging about it, whining about it or lamenting publicly about it, you are negatively influencing your seller. It’s not a low-ball offer, it’s your ONLY offer.

5. Fan the flames! Shout it from the rooftops, blog about it constantly, tell everyone who will listen, take out full page ads..let everyone in your market know that you are hosting a full blown fire sale! No reasonable offer refused..everything must go! Create a frenzy!

Right now there is a force to be reckoned with if only the force would come together. 1 Million Realtor voices would be really strong and really loud if it weren’t such a fractured voice.

I truly believe that collectively, we could turn this around. A lot of people ask me why I am so hard on Realtors. One of the reasons is because they don’t stand up for themselves. You’re an easy target, you can’t and for the most part won’t respond.

In another 30 days there will be another Case-Shiller report. I bet we can all pretty much predict what it will say. The media will pick it up and then there will be a slew of Realtors complaining about all the news being doom and gloom.

What’s the media’s alternative? Are you giving the media cause to seek other data? Has there been a turnaround, has there been an upward tick in sales nationally?

Create the news. Implement new sales techniques. Fight for your business, your profession. Begin aggressively searching and marketing for buyers. The buyers are out there, they’re just not responding to what you have to offer. Don’t list high and then step it down over time. Informed buyers see right through that lame attempt at getting a higher price.

In this information age, buyers are also reading about the techniques Realtors use to operate. You have to be smarter than that in this market.

Suffice it to say that you need to be relentless right now. I’m absolutely pumped. This kind of data means there is substantial profit to be made. Properties are nearing cash flow basis in many markets. The Internet has made the concept of virtual investing a reality. The Fed is lowering interest rates again. It’s a great time to be in real estate.

Call it what you want. Bottom feeding, vulture capitalism, bargain hunting, profiteering, opportunity seeking, call it whatever you want.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine!

12 comments adds a weblogging platform for its clients

I’ve spent quite a few brain cycles tweaking HomeGain General Manager Louis Cammarosano. The head of what is very obviously a Web 1.0 chokepoint-style company, Cammarosano has himself very obviously been on an agitprop mission in the Web 2.0 world.

His goals:

  1. To minimize the Web 2.0 difference in the marketplace
  2. To claim that HomeGain has been a Web 2.0 company all along
  3. All the while, to figure out how to transform to something like a Web 2.0 business model

That much was funny to me, because Cammarosano is a hale-fellow-well-met, rather more the opposite of a spy.

In any case, his efforts are bearing fruit now: A few months ago Cammarosano started a group weblog to figure out if HomeGain should have a weblog. Starting later tonight, HomeGain’s customers will be abel to start their own client-seeking weblogs on the lead-generating site.

Both Brian Brady and Mike Farmer write on the HomeGain blog, so I hope they’ll keep us informed about how the new blogging platform is working out. Free blogging platforms are not always a slam-dunk success, but I think HomeGain’s offering makes more sense than does ActiveRain, for instance. I have felt that free weblogs would be a better solution than discussion fora on Weblogging creates a middle-management structure, providing a cadre of volunteers to keep bad behavior from oscillating out of control.

In any case, since I’ve been so churlish to Cammarosano, I want to congratulate him for taking a step in the right direction. Anything that induces consumers to shop harder for better values is a net win in my ledger.

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Truliamazing tricks of the trade: don’t link to your trusted partners

Greg is impressed how Trulia so dominates the search results for “714 West Culver Street”. Heck – they got the listing from somewhere, right? Why does Trulia show up above the original sources of data? In this case, two reasons: the original source doesn’t even display the address on the page (dude – MLS rules are stupid, but they usually let you display your own property’s address at least – you gotta fix that!). But the much more common reason is that Trulia blocks Google from following their links.

How do I know? Go to any listing on Trulia. See that “See more photos and details” button? Hover over it and look at the bar at the bottom of your screen. See how it says something like ? That gobbledygook links internally to a page on Trulia that instantly passes you on to the listing broker. However it tells Google that it is a temporary redirect (a 302 redirect), which Google has explicitly stated does not pass any PageRank. That means while you move on to the listing broker, Google goes no further than that internal page.

Why would Trulia withold PageRank from their trusted partners? They might argue that they need to track the number of people they are referring to brokers. However, Trulia appears to be very technically savvy and there are a number of other search-engine friendly ways to accomplish that including javascript onunloads or 301 redirects (which do pass PageRank). Why else would anyone withhold a link from the original source? Because in doing so, Trulia becomes the original source for properties in the eyes of Google. If Trulia were to link back to trusted broker partners, particularly if they were to use relevant text like the address (instead of an image link), they risk telling Google that they are borrowing that information from somewhere else – an original source – and Google might rank the original source higher in the search results.

Why would brokers who share their listings allow this? My best guess is they aren’t tech savvy enough to identify that this could be a problem. In the online world, the devil is often in the technical details. Surely they wouldn’t intentionally share their valuable listings on the promise that they’ll receive more traffic, only to find that they were giving up their valuable search engine position for those listings (and the traffic associated with it).


Have You Seen Some Of The Answers On Trulia Voices?

Trulia Voices | Real Estate Radio USA

As I am constantly in search of constant promotion and link love, I recently ventured over to Trulia Voices.

I love the format. Consumers post questions about real estate and anyone who subscribes to a certain criteria that you choose, will receive the questions via email and then you have the opportunity to post your answer to the consumer…to the consumer!!

Great idea, great concept, and in its simplicity, a great way to interact with the consumer in a honest and open fashion. You are allowed to suggest an answer according to how you would handle a certain situation or dilemma that the consumer may have or be facing in the near future.

Of course, it is to be expected, that with a gazillion Realtors on the planet, that one answer may differ from another’s answer. We all have different life and vocational experiences that we can look to for our answers.

That’s what makes blogging so special. I may have one belief, you may have another and we can truly voice (no pun intended) our opinion as to what we feel is a suitable response to the consumer’s inquiry.

How wrong I was. Why did I ever go over to Trulia Voices? Yes, I probably received some of my sought after link love (no I didn’t check the “no-follow” tag), but I was not prepared for my other bonus.

Vilification as if one was an interloper! I began answering the questions that were being asked directly. I was giving the answers that I felt best solved the consumers problem or inquiry. I did not know that isn’t the way to respond.

Excuse me for speaking my mind and responding openly and honestly to an inquiry from the public. I didn’t see the response guidelines that said there was a specific manner in which to communicate with the consumer according to the amended Code of Realtor Mandated Responses on Trulia Voices. I now realize what I was supposed to do. Now I need a shower.

Most of those who choose to answer over at TV seem to be following some golden oldie real estate agent playbook. Most of the answers seem to be straight from the NAR manual for Standard Operating Procedures. There indeed must be such a book.

If I could find that book I am sure it would read as follows:

1. Never answer a question directly. Always make the consumer think you know more than you do by actually avoiding the question by telling the consumer to seek out a local professional.

2. Always, and I do mean always, tell the consumer that they need to seek out a local real estate professional for any question. (did I say this already…now you are getting the point of Trula Voices)

3. Never, ever, tell a consumer that any Realtor will EVER take a reduced commission.

4. Never say another Realtor was wrong (but secretly submarine him by clicking the thumbs down button)

5. Always tell the consumer that they received a lack of responses because they just don’t understand how the business works

6. Always be sure to tell the consumer how much a Realtor does to make sure the transaction goes smoothly and to reinforce the need to have a “local Realtor involved.” (regardless of the question the “local Professional will always have the the Ace Hardware man.)

7. At all costs, try not to DIRECTLY answer the question. That would be way too easy!

8. An issue previously discussed by Jay Thompson and Jonathan Dalton, Always answer as many questions as possible, even if you have no idea as to the answer or don’t live or work in the area. It does not matter. gotta get those points and improve those “rankings”. Seems I have hear about people commenting for the sake of points elsewhere…hmmm.

Actual Question courtesy of TV: “Looking for a Realtor willing to take a 2% commission on a new construction and give 1% back after closing.”
Written by an actual Buyer
looking to do a deal and not one response was an affirmative “I’ll do it!”.

An Actual Answer:The lack of responses to your question should tell you a great deal, but I’ll try to bring it down to laymen’s terms. Imagine your boss coming to you and asking you to work a full 40 hour week, plus another 10 hour’s overtime. But after he pays you and you receive your check, he wants you to give the overtime payment back to him.

If you did agree to that, might you be inclined not to work as hard or diligent? If you do find such a hungry and desperate
agent, look at the bigger picture – not just the monetary aspect.”

Wow..Thanks, Sparky..I bet the consumer who asked that question feels fulfilled. You certainly told him, albeit “in laymen’s terms“. If you were unwilling to do as asked..why did you bother answering? Oh yeah, must be that darn playbook!

Another Answer:An agent who is willing to take a 2% commission; share it with a selling agent; and give back 1% would actually lose money. You would need to find a real dumb agent to accept such a deal and I would not want him or her representing me.”

You would actually lose money?? I’m sorry…did he ask you to come out of pocket with any cash? Did he ask or state that this was the entire commission? C’mon, do these people even believe the words they are typing? I am not a mathematical genius but 1% of something is a lot more than 100% of nothing.

Rudy and the guys at Trulia came up with an amazing concept. A way for the consumer to interact with the consumer directly. An open line of communication wherein an agent could simply anwser a question and like writing a blog post, become an authority figure.

By answering a question with a clear and concise answer the agent could build credibility not just with the person asking the question but with other consumers reading the answers.

Instead, on TV we see question after question answered in party line talking points telling the consumer to “call me”, or ” work with a local Realtor” or “let me send you some information”.

This is a Web 2.0 world people! You can’t force old school marketing down the throat of today’s consumer. Everyone knows the stat, 84% of prospective homebuyers begin their search on the Internet. While we know that to be true, we can not be sure where that search actually begins.

It can be on your blog, on, on or one of a million websites. It could even start on TV.

If it is starting on TV you are wasting a valuable resource and not working with a clear understanding of today’s instant information age.

Not to digress , but I love Twitter. I have just 140 characters to convey a message. That’s it, no more. Better make it clear and concise or the message is lost.

Today’s consumer doesn’t want to hear the mumbo jumbo that most Realtors are serving up on TV. If they wanted to consult a “local professional” they already would have!

They want an answer to a question. Answer it! Don’t use the space to advertise yourself or defend your profession or talk down another answer. Answer the question asked. Period!

Expose the others as professionally inept. Go ahead, this isn’t Romper Room…take the opportunity that the consumer is giving you to shine and DIFFRENTIATE yourself from the rest.

This is your moment on stage. You have direct communication from a consumer who is casting a line in the water looking for the most credible, authoritative person he or she can find. Don’t blow the opportunity with a talking point crafted response.

It might sound good to the other Realtors but it’s going to make you look just like what the consumer thinks you look like. We’ve all seen the studies, it’s obvious that now is the time to break from the pack and howl like the big dogs!

Trulia has given you the opportunity to be a purple cowand most agents just aren’t seizing the opportunity. You don’t get a second chance to impress. You have that one moment to answer the question and after you’ve’s over. You had better make it work.

I assume, even though I should not, that the reason people answer questions on TV is to make money. The eventuality of the Q&A is to lead to a consummated transaction. That being true, the opportunity is forever wasted if you do not give the customer that what they are looking for.

Trulia Voices is like a great restaurant, with great food and a wonderful ambiance. Unfortunately the wait staff doesn’t understand the menu and won’t serve up what the customer is looking for.

Like all restaurants in that predicament, the customer moves on un-satiated and quite unfulfilled. In doing so the wait staff goes home with sparse tips.

It’s not the restaurant (TV) that seems to be the problem here, it’s the quality of the service. In the end the customer relates the two as one.

While there are undoubtedly a number of agents who are using TV to their advantage (Ines from Miamism for one), there are far too many agents ruining the dining experience, if I may continue my metaphor.

I urge those Realtors who are willing to provide clear and concise answers and who have learned through their blogs what being an authority figure can mean to your business, to venture on over to Trulia Voices.

The consumer needs you.


A disturbing Reality – desperate builders doing immoral things

I was having a chat with Mike Taylor, a real estate broker and friend from Indianapolis the other day. He was unusually incensed about a builder allegedly doing something I find unconscionable. Selling homes as free and clear that are actually in the process of or about to get hit with Mechanic’s liens. Nice. “Aren’t you glad we bought this new home, honey?”–followed quickly by– “Hey what’s this mechanic’s lien on our new house?”.

How? Well, most of the details are here on Mike’s blog. He is a sensible guy and not prone to overstatement and from what he has documented with courthouse records, he certainly has a reason to be miffed about this kind of treatment of people.


I am not talking about the “He who has the gold, makes the rules” one. I am referring to the original one of do unto others. These morons KNOW that these bills are going to come due and they KNOW that they cannot pay them and they KNOW that the buyer is going to wake up with in some cases, up to $10,000 of encumbrance on their home and a royal pain in the rear to clear.

Would they want this on a home THEY bought? Would they want to have to explain this to THEIR wife?

Yes, this market has been tough and YES it will grind some people out of the business. However, tough times only reveal the true character of the person below and if what Mike alleges is true (and I have ZERO reason to doubt it), the true character of these folks is morally bankrupt.

And financially broke you can recover from FAR more easily (in my opinion) than being morally bankrupt.

Kudos to Mike for having the courage to stand up and say a) this is immoral and b) I am not going to sit quietly by and watch it happen. (NOTE: He didn’t just post it on his blog. He is taking it to the local press as well.)


The new Google Toolbar Page Rank for BloodhoundBlog…

…is PR6. And as personal good news for Cathy and me, the Page Rank for went to PR5.

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Save a House, Ride a REALTOR®

(If you are not a country music fan, you may have a serious character flaw, but that is the subject of another post on another Blog.  For now, here is a video that will help you “get” the title of this post.)

Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy

Across the nation, in most markets, we not only have too many listings, we also have too many overpriced listings.  It is true in Charlottesville; it’s true in Atlanta, Austin, and Atlantic City.  I know it is true even without looking at the local statistics for all these markets because “too many listings” and “too many overpriced listings” goes hand in hand.  The basic law of economics – supply and demand – dictates that prices will adjust downward when supply is too high. 

Following that logic, what we need is a good old fashion INVENTORY REDUCTION SALE!  Can you picture this ad as part of the NAR public awareness campaign?

reduction“Hi, I’m Charles McMillan, President-elect of the National Association of REALTORS® and I’m here to announce an across the board 30% reduction in home prices.  That’s right, this is the REALTOR® Spring Spectacular event of a lifetime.  Buy before July 1st and save BIG on any home in any market.”

Okay, that’s not going to happen, nor could it.  The real estate market is not like the market for toilet paper at Wal-Mart.  In real estate, we have something like five million owners (sellers) of the “company” that would have to approve an across the board price reduction.  That’s a lot of decision makers even by Wal-Marts standards.

Some sellers have figured out the economics of the current market and agreed to price their home correctly.  Guess what?  Those are the homes that are selling.  In the CAAR MLS, homes that sold in March sold after and average of 130 days on the market (DOM).  That’s not a particularly good number, but it beats the 149 days (and counting) that the current active inventory is averaging for DOM.  In addition, a closer look at the numbers will show that many of the homes that sold in March, sold quickly; likewise, many homes that are currently on the market have been there a very long time.

My Way or the Highway

So, why are there so many overpriced homes on the market?  Is it unrealistic sellers, or REALTORS® that are willing to take overpriced listings?  Yes, to both I suspect.  Sellers, if you really want to save your house from being stuck on the market, ride the advice of your REALTOR® and agree to a proper price.  A proper price is one that reflects the current market and not one that is based on what you want/need.

REALTORS® also need to accept their role in adding to the overpriced inventory.  Most experienced REALTORS® will tell you the best thing (and the hardest thing) to do when a seller insists on pricing a property too high is to walk away.  Maybe if a seller has a few REALTORS® show them tough love, then they will start to understand that the market sets the price at which a home will sell, not the seller.  In addition, allowing a seller to overprice their home is a disservice because it generally results in a seller netting less than could have been gained with a quick sale.

In this market, more than ever, REALTORS® are in position to help the bottom line of both buyers and sellers.  Buyers need to be careful not to buy overpriced listings and sellers need to understand this rapidly changing market.  Save a house, ride a REALTOR®.


Inside the Liar’s Loan – How the Mortgage Industry Nutured Deceit

Well-written piece by Mark Gimein in Slate this morning asks an interesting and important question:

In ordinary circumstances, the people and institutions you deal with reinforce social norms. They say it’s not OK to lie. But what happens when the structures and institutions break down and start telling you the opposite?

The answers it portends are unsettling.


The Real Definition of Insanity In This Market

Remember when Enron was still everyone’s darling?  Remember when they were a high flying company that could do no wrong?

Remember when AOL was high flying and had the audacity to buy Time Warner?

Or even Bear Stearns?  Kmart, Qwest, MCI/Worldcom,  Lucent Technology, Arthur Andersen, all were at one time ‘highly regarded’ companies that lost a huge percent of their value.   That’s a ‘top of head,’ list without considering the Airlines.

There are countless more examples of big companies getting wiped out in a day.  People’s pensions are inevitably the big story.  Middle class families get wiped out because they had all of their ducks in one basket.   Employees sue the company because senior executives didn’t tell them that there were risks inherent in the stock.   The media has their normal pity party.  But the real shame?  Nobody stops to think for a second: no matter how good the company, is it sane to put all of your money in one place?

When I get on someone about blogging (un artfully), the real message was meant to be this: if you only have one widget for getting money, you’re nuts, and you’ll be destroyed someday.   Maybe not soon, but someday.  It might, temporarily, be a most efficient to do what works, and chase a single source of leads.  How was business done 15 years ago?   We didn’t predict the nature of today’s changes.  Blogging is great, and it might last a long time.  But you cant operate with the assumption that it’s going to be here.  That leads to complacency and obsolescence.

To have a healthy business, you have to have many sources of income and leads, so if one of ’em dries up, you’re not on the streets.  Because…no matter how good the widget, no matter how efficient the model, you MUST have several great sources for your business.  It’s a baseline survival requirement for this new market. 

What would happen to you if the top 2 sources of leads dried up in a short time.  Even if ROI from one source was going to be great, have more. Think about the top source of business–your network, for most people.  What if you had a few too many, pulled a Michael Richards, and suddenly were a pariah?  Maybe something like that is unlikely, but could you survive?   Are you doing 5 or 6 things that work so you can assure yourself some survival?    There are a million ways to skin a cat.

To get business, I have done all sorts of things…

  • Cold Calling
  • Door Knocking
  • Networking 
  • Sending mailers.
  • Chased Expireds (I was a Realtor for 3  fun years)
  • Print Advertising  (worst ROI)
  • Social Media (since 2002)
  • Hunted Down Vendors
  • Shpere of Influence
  • Flyering in apartment complexes
  • Flyering in neighborhoods.
  • 911 Deals

Most of my business has always come from my sphere of influence. 56% of it.  And quite frankly, I’d have a hard time without it.   But, that doesn’t mean I should be complacent at that level, right?  We want to make sure we are relevant and growing, and if our business is growing both organically, and because of the force of our will, it’s more likely to survive. 

Where do your ‘deals’ (deals, citizens, clients, people) come from?   Have you looked lately? 

What would happen to you if you lost your top 3 sources of leads?  Would you still survive?

What are you going to do about it?

And for the rest of you, what’s the most unusual, sustainable lead source that you have?

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The challenge for Realtors and lenders in the future: How do you sell to consumers who don’t want to be sold?

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link). The lender in the story? Brian Brady, America’s #1 Mortgage Broker.

The challenge for Realtors and lenders in the future: How do you sell to consumers who don’t want to be sold?

We represented a cute couple in the purchase of their first home late last year. That much is not news: First time home-buyers are the bread and butter of the real estate business. What was interesting to me was how internet-focused they were.

The husband, Michael, is an internet adept, but his wife, Danielle, is a true wizard. Her primary interface to the commercial world is the world wide web.

They found me on the internet, of course, and I referred them to a lender that I know through the nets.

Consider this: There are 30,000 Realtors in Phoenix, and at least that many lenders. All of them are advertising at a furious pace — newspapers, real estate magazines, supermarket shopping carts, bus benches, billboards, radio, TV — plus balloons, free pens and scratch pads and coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, flower seeds, recipe cards and Halloween pumpkins.

Real estate professionals spent millions of dollars trying to get Michael and Danielle’s attention, and all of that money was wasted. They are not paying attention to advertising.

To the contrary, if Danielle cannot completely research a product or service on-line, she won’t have anything to do with it. They never once went into the home they were buying without a digital camera. I watched Danielle crane around in impossible contortions so she could read and write down the model and serial numbers from the washer and dryer so she could research them on-line.

Looking forward, nothing changes as fast as we expect it to. But looking backward, the world seems always to be changing like dreams. Danielle is immune to advertising. She recycles her junk mail unread. She doesn’t want to be pitched, she doesn’t want to be sold, she doesn’t want to be wheedled or needled or cajoled. She doesn’t want to be closed on.

All those old school gimmicks still work — on some people — and they will continue to work — for a while. But Danielle is the future of real estate marketing. Realtors and lenders are going to have to learn to sell to consumers like her.

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Update On New Data Standards for Listing Displays

On April 12th, I posted some “news” from NAR regarding the unanimous approval by RESO (Real Estate Standards Organization) of the draft data standards for listing display.

On Friday, April 11th, NAR announced that the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) had unanimously approved a “draft standardized data format for distributing real estate listing information.”  

A few of you wanted more information, so I contacted NAR’s Technology Center and got the full scoop.

First, the draft is NOT available on-line, at least in a format that non-techies can read.  Here is a link to some really technical stuff for those of you who know what an “enum” is all about (I do not have a clue).

Second, I found out that these standards are a subset of the RETS data.  The RETS Syndication Standards (the official name) includes less than 2 dozen fields (I’ve heard 14) from RETS.  That sounds like a lot of field at first, but once you count up the obvious ones (e.g., agent name, contact, beds, baths, etc.) that is not very many.  Not that I’m second guessing the wizards who came up with this stuff.

Finally, the near riff I reported in the original post was reasonably accurate.  The big aggregators were tired of the slowness and bureaucracy of the process, but after they threatened to create their own standards, the process moved very quickly.  Essentially, they are beta testing now and will make the final decision in August.

So, what does this mean to REALTORS®?  Here’s what Chris McKeever from NAR said in an e-mail:

With the RESO and NAR backing of this Syndication Specification, this could very easily be adopted into MLS systems to allow them to be the clearinghouse for data transfer between all points.  In other words, your single point of listing data entry into the MLS could then also dynamically be sent to every site that you choose, very similiar to how is fed now.  This, coupled with the growing number of consumer facing MLS search portals(link) could throw a complete paradigm shift into how listings are marketed on the web.


The smarter agent emerging: standards out of experimentation

Choice is becoming more critical as options increasingly expand. I have read about this potential problem for years and now we seem to be well along the road to increasing abundance of options. As real esate agents, we’re inundated with options regarding web sites, social networking avenues, blogs to read, models to consider, marketing techniques to employ and advertising venues to use. It’s the flip side of the blessing, the curse of too many options and the problem of choice.

One of the benefits of sites like Bloodhound is that people are giving consideration to these problems and openly writing about what has been found to be the best practices. Awhile back I talked about an article written years ago predicting how the internet would intially be chaos, then experimentation and selection and winnowing, then a standardization period. I want to give credit to the writer, but I can’t find the source. Perhaps someone will remember.

It seems we are still in the experimentation stage, but as we quickly change and learn, choices will hopefully become easier. There is still a dearth of statistics showing the effectiveness of blogging, social networking and online marketing through website providers, RE sites and social sites but anectdotal evidence and personal experience based on analysis are beginning to give us an indication that these new forms of doing business have much potential for those who are adopting the right methods and utilizing them in a committed way.

I do have evidence in my own company that online business has increased by at least 20-30% each year for the last three years, I just haven’t pinpointed which methods produce what part of that business — perhaps it’s a holistic effect of it all.

Making choices is based on knowledge gained through experimentation, our results and the results of others, developing certain guidelines I can use to measure new offerings. In other words, I’m getting to a point where I don’t have to experiment with every new online offering, wasting money on useless gimmicks — it’s easier to tell now which ones have merit and which ones are just a snazzy remake of something I’ve tried that didn’t work.

I suspect many real estate agents who have been connected for awhile and have been committed are finding the same thing, that choosing among all the options is easier. Hopefully this will have the positive effect of encouraging innovation. As we all become more sophisticated online we don’t jump at anything shiny and buzzed — it must have merit and it must be useful. Perhaps we are going into a standardization period. We can quickly assess a certain new offering and apply certain principles we’ve learned about what works and what’s useless. Companies who want our business will have to create value.

If not completely gone, soon will be gone the days that new online players can create fear of being left out in order to sell any old usless method to get the growing online business. I’ve talked about value and service for awhile and it appears the shaking out of online sites will be along the lines of service and value. The survivors of the real estate industry, agents and mortgage brokers and investors, will have a stronger hand in demanding value and service from those who want our money — they will see the ones who used fear and gimmicks and leverage-of-the-new-and-mysterious fall broke by the wayside.

Some may think that RE service providers are being beaten down by the new, changing world of web 2.0, but real estate will still be based around the immediate service that’s provided by agents to buyers and sellers, and we who survive will rise stronger, more leveraged, smarter, more sophisticated and in a better position to have our services recognized as valuable.

Yes, service providers who fail to change and grow will gradually fade away, but those who have gotten smarter will be there cutting through the worthless buzz, better able to provide service and utilize only those marketing methods and tech tools that acutally work and provide value. At that point we can demand what we choose to pay for and let the rest who predicted our death dance in a frenzied circle trying to make rain.

Fear will be gone and the best practices will emerge as industry standards — then only true innovation and value will catch our eyes or make us reach for our wallets. All the marketing gurus and SEO experts and shiny new sites will actually have to know what they’re talking about and produce results.


Gen X, Gen Y, And the End Of The Traditional Real Estate Business Model

 Real Estate Radio USA | Gen Y Homebuyers

With the median age of real estate agents being 52 years of age (source NAR), new Realtors hoping to make their mark in the real estate business are casting aside conventional wisdom.

New Real Estate Agents Seeking Gen X And Gen Y Buyers Break From The Mold

New real estate agents, cognizant of the fact that 84% of homebuyers start their home buying journey on the Internet and that the median age of first time home buyers is 32, now realize that what may have worked for the elder-statesmen of the industry is not what their clientele are looking for.

In a demographic wherein 50% of which use social networking websites,the axioms of traditional real estate sales is not viewed as being prudent.

Young agents are now finding that chaperoning prospective buyers from house to house and acting as the veritable liaison between the Buyer and Seller is not generating sales among the Gen X and Gen Y hip and technologically advanced home buyer.

“People, especially my peers, aren’t looking for a ride to the property or a go-between; they want to IM me to find out how big the basement is,” said Lisa Johnson, 33, who works for Coldwell Banker in Haverhill. “They often have more information on the properties than most realtors. They don’t want a new friend; they want answers fast and will make decisions quickly when you provide them. I know this because I’m the same way.” (As reported recently in the Boston Globe.)

It is becoming more and more apparent that a fresh, younger, breed of real estate agent is in great demand in an aging industry struggling to keep pace with a market populated with an emerging younger homebuyer. The dilemma? The real estate industry continues to get older while the industry’s consumer base begins to skew younger.

This widening gap poses a great conundrum for traditional real estate agents.Younger prospective home buyers seek to do their own research, on their own time, and in their own manner. They expect a real estate agent to “chill-out” and just be there when they are ready. They definitely do not want to be involved in any form of hard sell ethos.

The recent run-up in agents entering the business in the boom times of the last few years had little effect on closing the age gap between younger agent and older agent.

“The rapid rise in the number of agents in the early years of this century has done little to affect this median age, as the bulk of new entrants are late career transfers taking either early retirement or those made redundant by recession and technological change.” (Stefan Swanepoel from RE Trends)

The gap between the traditional real estate agent and the Gen X, Gen Y homebuyer is much larger than simply an age problem. It is an impediment of even greater proportions.

“Clearly these are two different generations with their own concepts of value, preferred channels of communications and preconceived views of how the world works. Often the sales methods most comfortable to the agent, which have worked for that agent for years, fall flat with younger buyers and sellers, who see the market and the sales process differently. ” (Stefan Swanepoel from RE Trends)

In an October 2007 study, Deloitte Research urged the real estate industry to attract new talent from the Gen Y demo (those born between 1982 and 1993), or the industry would not only not be in a position to service this market, but that the industry would begin to see a marked decrease in real estate professionals in the very near future. The Deloitte study states that nearly 60% of those in the real estate profession will be 65 years or older by 2010.

Swanepol says this might not be as bad as one may think. “Technological change has increased agent productivity so the number of agents necessary to service the market will be less. But demographic change is going to leave a large hole in the industry labor force.”

The Deloitte study mentions three salient admonitions to those running real estate businesses:

1. Generation Y is coming into the market with a set of values that differs from their predecessors’. This “value set,” which includes flexibility and work/life balance, are key career motivators for this generation.

2. To successfully recruit members of Generation Y, real estate companies must develop and communicate their vision and differentiate themselves from their competition. Based on Gen Y’s interests, companies should promote their sound values, technologically advanced workplaces and global scope.

3. Real estate companies need to adjust their talent management strategies to better suit the needs of the incoming workers, developing practices that add the most value to their employees — the “customers” of this process.

The National Association of Realtors, the industry’s trade organization must have missed all of this information. Just recently the NAR in an attempt to bring the traditional real estate office into the technological era, completely fell flat on their face with the introduction of Realtor Confidential.

This is clearly not going to help the traditional real estate company reach the Gen X or Gen Y buyer, nor the type of person who wants to be an agent who happens to be in that same demo.

How many brokers who will read this are actively recruiting young real estate agents who are well versed in IM, text-mesaging, social networking, Twitter, My Space, Facebook and similar new technologies?

Need proof of how this younger generation rolls out there? After working in the business for over three months utilizing traditional, somewhat obsolete methodology, Johnson decided to kick in what she and her associates regularly utilize to communicate.

“Instead of face-to-face or phone calls, I now stay connected to my customers the way they prefer, which tends to be through chat and text messages,” she said. “I even started working with some buyers and sellers through online news groups.”

It certainly worked. From toiling with no sales for months, Johnson has risen to Rockstar status. She has had so much success selling homes that she was named her office’s “Rookie of the Year”.

One of the reasons that younger agents like Johnson are needed is that they bring a fresh perspective and innate knowledge of the Gen X and Gen Y buyer or seller because they are well…in that demo.

While older, traditional agents have to rely on second hand information to understand what young single women are looking for, or possibly what the needs of a buppie may be, or possibly what appeals to a gay buyer or seller, the younger Gen Y agent already knows and more than likely has friends and many associates in those demos.

Accordingly, the Gen Y market also wants agents who are honest and open with them. The question they really want to know? Why are they paying so much commission?

I’ll leave that question for another time, but suffice it to say, this generation is viable. They know what they want and they want agents that can serve them in the manner they expect to be served.

Lisa Johnson and many like her understand this and they are breaking from the mold of conventional wisdom and are not looking back.

She recently sold another house on a street where many others remain on the market, sitting idle waiting for someone to market them. Her secret?

“The buyers saw a posting on my blog and came to our open house that weekend and then wrote their offer,” she said. “No blog post, no buyer. Technology sold this one.”

Amazing, is the wisdom out of the mouths of babes!


A Picture Is Worth A Million Words

Taken While Up In The Frozen North

Kinda sums it up, don’t it?


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