Friday, March 31, 2006

Now is your time!

If you haven't read it yet, Business Week just posted a comprehensive cover package on the changing real estate market. Some good insights into how the market is shifting, and how various players - including and especially real estate professionals are responding.

I've become a big fan of Business Week's "Hot Property" blog - it has fascinating insights into what other companies are doing in real estate, trends on home buying & selling, and recently what real estate professionals are doing in the face of a dynamically changing market.

This morning, Todd Gutner wrote about the possibility that "media hype" is adding to fluctuations in the market. What I found most interesting about her post, however, was her final comment about how real estate agents react to a market that was red-hot this year, and suddenly more complicated this year. She writes:

"Some of these Realtors I spoke to were looking to blame the inevitable cyclical nature of real estate on something. Many of them are coming off their best year ever in the residential real estate business, but they seem to have forgotten that like stocks, real estate goes up and down. When business gets tough, that’s when it is time to start thinking out of the box and get creative."

As an Agent CEO, you know that factors within and outside your control are constantly tugging at your business. You have to take full control, and full responsibility, for how your business grows - in good times and in bad. Smart agents nationwide are taking advantage of changing markets and more educated consumers to grow their business, even in tough times.

Use this market to your advantage! Step ahead of your competition and "wow" your customers. Deliver unprecedented customer experience, be the neighborhood expert, and watch your business continue to grow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Power Strategies to Turn Prospects into Profits

There are thousands of Agent CEOs across the country, but one of the most accomplished has to be Sherry Daminski. I've written about her here before, and consider her not only a great role model for real estate agents nationwide, but also a good friend.

Sherry recently participated in one of the most widely listened-to Mastermind Calls produced by HouseValues, and it's more than worth the time to read through a brief summary of her call below. She just pops with great marketing ideas!

Featured Speaker: Sherry Daminski, Washington D.C.
Moderator: Raymond Gravelle, Distance Learning Specialist

Raymond: Sherry, you have built a pipeline of 15,000 prospects in about three years. How much business is your pipeline producing?
Sherry: I started in January 2003. At the end of the year I had 2,500 prospects in Market Leader, and had closed 37 transactions. In 2005 I had over 15,000 prospects, and closed 112 transactions, with over $575,000 in commissions.

Raymond: Do you have a team?
Sherry: My team includes my husband, who handles our referral business. I do listings and marketing and we have two buyer agents as well.

Raymond: What is your philosophy of prospecting?
Sherry: Agents can spend their day prospecting or following up. I enjoy prospecting so that’s what I choose to do. By prospecting, I create a large pipeline that allows me to let them get in contact with me when they’re ready. I used to make personal contact by hand delivering CMAs, but I stopped when my pipeline grew to over 10,000 prospects. I can now work four days a week.

Raymond: How do you get so many prospects?
Sherry: My postcard mailings get the best response. I mail 10,000 each month and get a nine percent response rate. They are very simple: “What is your home worth? Find out free at" I’ll post a sample on the MasterMind Forum. I mail “Just Listed” and “Just Sold” postcards to seven neighborhoods consistently. I start by sending one every two weeks for a couple of months, then monthly. I have Web Capture on my sites so each request is directed to my Market Leader. I have 250 Web sites, including neighborhood sites, one for waterfront homes, and several for homeowner associations. Go to for ideas.

Raymond: How do you manage so many prospects?
Sherry: For CMA requests I just put in a price range on the CMA email and comment that I will send comparable information shortly. Then I email the comparables with photos from eMLS. I also take a screenshot of the CMA and copy onto two postcards which I send on the third and seventh day after emailing the CMA. The postcards ask if they received the CMA. I mail a 15-page spiral-bound pre-listing packet within two weeks. I also email updated CMAs every six months. Buyers get listings automatically from eMLS. I assign everyone to an email campaign. I still try to keep up with the follow-up phone call activities as well.

Raymond: Do you have any other marketing tips?
Sherry: I use yard signs and riders to drive people to my Web sites. My Web site addresses are on all of my marketing materials. I just started putting Hershey Miniatures chocolate candy in bowls in some shops, wrapped with property information and “Looking for your new home? Find it online free at" I had 30 Web Capture requests in one day, and I know they’re from the candy.

Raymond: Are you using HomePages to “turn prospects into profits”?
Sherry: I use HomePages in my listing presentation and sellers love it. I use the HomePages yard signs with the listing ID number, and I also put the HomePages stickers on my marketing brochures.

Raymond: Thank you for sharing with us today.

Question & Answer

Question: How do you keep the store employees from eating the candy?
Sherry: I provide a bag of candy for them and tell them I’ll bring another each time I refill the bowl.

Question: How do you make the candy wrappers?
Sherry: supplies software to create the wrappers. I’ll post a picture of the candy bowl with candy on the MasterMind Forum.

Question: What did you do when you knocked on doors?
Sherry: I still knock on doors when I have time. I deliver a marketing update, what’s happened in their neighborhood in the last six months.

Question: How much do you spend on marketing?
Sherry: I spend 20 percent of my income.

Question: What percentage of your deals do you attribute to HouseValues?
Sherry: I don’t have a percentage. Even the closings I get from past clients and referral business I give HouseValues at least part of the credit because Market Leader kept in touch with them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

House on a Stick

What a great story from an Agent CEO in Minnesota. Think you could pull this off in your town?

To generate leads from over 2 million visitors to the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Jon Hoffmeister of Coldwell Banker in Prior Lake created the House-On-A-Stick campaign. The even bigger story, however, is how he used sponsors to pay for the promotional materials and created a second Web site to generate the leads.

“Everything at the fair is sold on a stick,” begins Jon, a HouseValues and JustListed Certified Professional. “There’s sausage-on-a-stick, candy-on-a-stick, and more. Handing out my House-On-A-Stick is a great ice breaker. It builds instant rapport with people. They let their defenses down because they don’t think you’re trying to sell them something.”

Jon’s 10,000 sticks promote his Web site, and a drawing for a free dinner at Outback Steakhouse drives traffic to the site. Best of all, Jon didn’t pay a cent to cover the costs of the sticks or the dinner.

“It’s all about finding a sponsor,” begins HouseValues coach Mark Strother. “Sherwin Williams gladly donated the sticks. Our strategy for the Outback was to ask for $500 worth of free dinners, knowing we would walk away with one $100 Gift Certificate.”

The first two days of the state fair Jon handed out 1200 sticks. In addition, he strategically parked his truck at the main exit gate to generate leads via metallic signs (attached to his doors) promoting his site and the free drawing.

Jon’s three goals for the site are to: 1) capture email addresses for building his pipeline through Market Leader 2) offer a free market evaluation, and 3) direct viewers to his main site. To date, Jon has two transactions (a listing for $239,000 and a sale for $340,000) from the program, plus he expects to convert three more of the over 20 leads.

In 2006, Jon is using the House-On-A-Stick campaign at two local county fairs, targeting prospects closer to his market. “I really enjoy this program because it’s fun to meet so many people and have the chance to help each one get their dream home,” shares Jon.

Jon shows the even bigger reason behind his success: daily practice of the meaning behind the phrase “real estate is a numbers game, but it’s a people business”.

A multi-faceted Internet strategy that works

Michael Blower, an Agent CEO with Century 21 M&M and Associates in Stockton, California, was looking for a way to reach Internet-based leads. “I knew this was becoming an increasing source of business in the real estate industry.”

During his online search, he discovered JustListed. “I learned that this system does the advertising – both Internet and television -- for its subscribers! This type of exposure was sure to generate more leads as a result.”

He decided to give JustListed a try. “This system has enhanced my business. I’ve already sold $2 million in homes from four JustListed leads. I’ve also started to develop repeat business. One client purchased a home through me and recently came back to buy another.”

In addition to the leads he receives, Michael finds value in instant email notifications through his cell phone. “I’m informed of leads as they come in, which allows me to respond right away. With Internet leads, the key to success is getting back to people as quickly as possible!”

To attract both home buyers and sellers, he is now marketing his business on his own HomePages Web site:

“HomePages is a great way to appeal to both buyers and sellers. For sellers, their home will be featured as a major listing on one of the top Internet search engines. For buyers, this serves as a great tool to show them geographically where homes are in comparison to neighborhood attractions. The advanced technology on this site allows me to differentiate myself from other agents.”

Read more of Michael's story here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cold calling no more!

Nadine Berger, an Agent CEO with RE/MAX North-San Antonio, was looking for a new approach to generating leads other than cold calling. She decided to search online for Internet-based leads and discovered HouseValues and JustListed.

“Through this system, I have listed 18 homes, sold 16 homes and assisted buyers in purchasing 13 homes,” she said.

The marketing tools the system provides, helps her develop long-term relationships with customers. “The email campaigns and newsletters allow me to stay in touch with my contacts on a regular basis.”

She recently added her own HomePages Web site to her marketing efforts, which includes aerial mapping-- a feature that is becoming very popular today, according to Nadine. She adds, “HomePages has enhanced my business even further!”

Read more of Nadine's story here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No computer? No problem!

Wow, this is a story I just couldn't want to tell.

Joe Russell, an Agent CEO with Coldwell Banker Hartwig Realty in Lancaster, California, wasn't a very tech-savvy agent two years ago. He first learned about online marketing opportunities to reach home buyers and sellers, and HouseValues in particular, from an out of the area agent who sold one of his listings.

“At age 60, I did not even have a computer, but I thought why not check out the possibilities? I did some research online and discovered that to succeed in this business, Internet marketing would be a vital tool. Now I’m receiving and sending over 100 emails per month to customers through the HouseValues system!”

According to Joe, his business grew exponentially after joining HouseValues. “I started receiving leads in March 2004 and within seven months had my first listing -- followed by two more! All three homes closed before the end of that same year. I earned $18,000 in commissions from these closings!”

Joe adds, “In 2005, the results were even better. I had six transactions, earning $36,000 in commissions from HouseValues!”

He receives 12 HouseValues leads each month, which he feels have generated a good return on his investment. “My total sales volume from HouseValues last year reached $2 million!”

Read more about Joe here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Getting the complete picture

“I was looking for a unique way to start my business and get it up and running," said Kara Moll, a new Agent CEO at RE/MAX All Properties in Frankfort, Illinois. What she found was a system that provided a full range of business solutions - from exclusive leads to CRM tools, training and much more.

"I knew that this was just what I was looking for, not only for the fact that it provides me leads, but it also serves as an all encompassing database management and marketing system," she said.

Within two years as a subscriber with HouseValues, she has generated $2.52 million in homes sold and purchased through HouseValues and JustListed. “I’m now a member of the HouseValues Director’s Club because of my success with the system!”

“With the market constantly changing, this system works well because it changes with the times, offering the most up-to-date way to market your business. The email campaigns and newsletters are always current and are automatically sent out for me. I wouldn’t have time to market my business at this level without this system in place.”

To increase her exposure, she is now showcasing her featured homes on her own HomePages Web site. “I’ve been marketing my business on for just a few months and I’m already three for three on my listings!”A

ccording to this successful agent, “HomePages is one of the most innovative products out there geared towards providing valuable information about listed homes and the surrounding neighborhood to those looking to buy or sell a home.”

read more about Kara here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Would you trade candy for listings?

There's no other way to put this: many of you Agent CEOs are just brilliant.

Case in point:

Sherry Daminski, a long-time Agent CEO in Virginia, has with her husband Ed come up with a fantastic way to promote their listings, drive traffic to their Web site, and generate more leads - all at the same time.

It's all in the chocolate.

As you can see from the picture, Sherry has created a custom wrapper for candy bars - complete with a picture and short description of a home for sale, as well as her personal Web site address (in red at the bottom) and special ID # that takes consumers directly to that Featured Listing on Here's a short word from Sherry on this strategy:

"I have been making property specific candy bars for business cards. I put them in the house for sale with the flyers to give the buyer a special treat to eat as they progress about the day and of course my listing is on the tasty treat.

I also have been putting them around town...FREE candy.. instead of just putting business cards around town. Leave your waitress a piece of candy for break!

I have gotten 1 listing and a lot of leads so far because of the CANDY BARS... "

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Using Online Ads to Market Your Home

These days it’s essential to market a listing online, but because it’s still a new kind of advertising, many agents aren’t sure how to do it. Several agents have gained online marketing know-how and are sharing it with other agents to increase success.

Every agent has heard the statistic: 79% of buyers used the Internet to search for homes, according to the 2005 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. It’s essential to reach them both off- and on-line.

Mark Norman of Ridgefield, Conn., works in his day-to-day activities to drive potential buyers he meets to his Web site for more information. “I’m now showcasing literature about HomePages at my open houses. I even had my own Web site redesigned to promote HomePages.” Mark is featuring 25 listings on his HomePages Web site.

As a result of differentiating himself and his business through HomePages, people have visited Mark’s Web site and have seen his Featured Home listings. “Within five weeks, I received nine leads that include six buyers and three sellers. These are just from individuals seeing my HomePages Web site and Featured Homes.”

The key to winning more listings with your online marketing is proving to the sellers the value that it offers. As Donna Richey-Harris of Richardson, Tex., puts it: “HomePages is there so your featured listings can have a big, fat *STAR* on the map so you can show your sellers and win more listings!”

Don Allard of Fridley, Minn., finds that online features coupled with the ads help him stand out from other agents. “I just returned from a listing presentation. HomePages was my close,” Don said. “[The sellers] loved the thought of folks being able to view the amenities of neighborhood with the aerial maps and also how I could highlight their listing with a Featured Home ad.”

What’s the best way to show off your online marketing in a listing presentation? Debbie Noama of Riverside, Calif., advises showing a seller exactly how their home would look in an online ad. “I took my first listing based on what my HomePages will look like. I entered their data as a Featured Home and used a picture of a home similar to theirs and showed them how their home will look featured on the site.”

Online marketing isn’t complicated—it’s just new. With some practice and tools, you’ll quickly become an online marketing pro!

In His Own Words

I'm in Baltimore today, meeting with several successful Agent CEOs and talking about the Internet consumer - who they are, how they behave, and what it takes to earn their business.

Working with Internet customers does require a shift in thinking for most agents, but it's clear that Agent CEOs nationwide are making that shift successfully - and profitably.

John Lasater, an Agent CEO with Beck & Bech Realty Company inNashville, Tennessee, shares below in his own words what an Internet marketing strategy has meant to him:

"As a new agent in mid-2004, I knew that I needed something to jump-start my career. While sending out postcards to various circles of friends and acquaintances to announce my embarking on a new career was well received, I didn't get many warm prospects to work with immediately. Also, I felt that I needed a way to keep track of my contacts and their potential.

In researching possible solutions to my needs, I discovered HouseValues online and did some investigation into the services offered. The idea of getting leads, keeping track of and maintaining professional exposure with them, and getting some much-needed training on the how-to's of real estate seemed perfect for my situation.

I decided to join and so far have closed three referrals from JustListed plus a seller from the group who allowed me to sell her home in the process. These closings total $1,221,030 and have resulted in gross commissions of $28,405. Additionally, I have signed contracts on three HouseValues referrals totaling $387,900 that will generate $7,845 in gross commissions plus another $3,240. Year to date, I have closed one JustListed transaction for a $786,130 home that generated $18,867 in commission.

HouseValues and JustListed leads give me opportunities to pursue. The contact management system allows me to begin building ‘Internet relationships’ with these and other prospects that have proven to be extremely valuable."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Congratulations Ray Singhal!

One of my favorite Sundays each year is around this time of year, when Parade Magazine produces its annual "What People Earn" issue. I think it's fascinating to see what different people doing different things across the country earn.

So you can imagine my pride yesterday when I saw Ray Singhal, an Agent CEO from suburban Minneapolis, right on the cover (cut-out at right). Ray, with his teammate and wife Nimi, has been following the Agent CEO philosophy for more than four years now, and in 2005 used that strategy to earn more than $600,000 in commissions.

Congratulations Ray on your fantastic achievements, and for being recognized in front of more than 75 million Sunday readers!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Inspiring stories

As most of you know, I spend much of my time traveling the country and teaching seminars to thousands of agents with HouseValues. The stories these agents tell us about how technology and smart Internet strategies are changing their business is truly inspiring.

Worth checking out a recent post on the @HouseValues blog as an example of what agents are saying. Every Agent CEO has an opportunity to achieve results like this!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More transactions by e-farming

Want some fresh, proven ideas for how to drive more transactions by building an email pipeline of prospects? Looking for best practices on building a team to grow your business?

Want to manage 4,000 prospective customers at once?

Keep reading...notes from the latest HouseValues Mastermind Conference Call are below...

Featured Speaker: Mary Stetson, Long Island, NY
Moderator: Raymond Gravelle, Distance Learning Specialist

Raymond: Mary, please tell us about your market and how you are adapting.
Mary: Market conditions are changing with a shift to a buyer’s market. The market shut down the end of 2005. Thanks to our pipeline we were able to keep going while others were not doing a thing. Now 2006 is starting to pick up. We have already listed $10 million in properties. We adapt by listing more properties, knowing they will be on the market longer, as well as adjusting the prices and my budget because I know it will take more money to market each listing.

Raymond: How has your pipeline kept your business going?
Mary: Our entire pipeline, almost 4,000 prospects, is in Market Leader. That makes it easy to market to them all using the automatic emails and phone call activities. We can spend our time working with our clients and not worrying where our prospects are going to come from and how we can stay in touch so we don’t lose them.

Raymond: How else do you generate leads?
Mary: HouseValues and JustListed are our main sources. I have seven additional sources:
1. A marketing relationship with a lender. We share leads with each other.
2. Yard signs
3. Walk-ins. We’re in a great location and our listings are in the front window
4. Internet and print advertising
5. Expired listings
6. Personal referrals from past clients
7. Web Capture at

Raymond: How do you manage your leads?
Mary: It’s all about delegating. I have a team of assistants that does the marketing and paperwork. I keep the sales people selling. My lead coordinator distributes the leads to the agents. She also puts the packages together that I hand deliver. We all use the Market Leader system to send out the requested information immediately, put all on a drip campaign, and schedule the phone call activities. Some leads I work personally, $2 million or above and personal referrals. I approve the marketing and budget. I focus on the pricing for all the CMAs and deals, and I hand deliver all the pre-listing packages.

Raymond:You just recently added a HomePages subscription. Why did you decide to subscribe?
Mary: I believe HomePages will be better than HomePages gives better and more complete information of homes and neighborhoods. I can use it for recruiting, and as a listing tool. I’ve already gotten a couple of leads.

Raymond: What is most important to being successful with the HouseValues programs?
Mary: Trust the system. It works if you are fully dedicated to working the system. Hand deliver.

Question & Answer

Question: Why do you feel hand delivering is important?
Mary: It’s important to meet people face to face. I deliver to everyone. I got a listing just recently as a direct result of hand delivery.

Question: How do you get phone numbers for your Internet and email-only leads?
Mary: Send an email that compels them to respond such as “Please give me your phone number so I get a hold of you quickly if a house comes on the market.” Ask them to call you to answer a question about what they’re looking for.

Question: What do you include in your pre-listing packet?
Mary: I keep it simple. An introduction letter, one sheet of information on me, their tax records, and a hard copy of the mini CMA.

Question: Are your assistants licensed?
Mary: I have both licensed and non-licensed. The non-licensed do the marketing, delegating, etc. The licensed assistants can also do phone follow-up.

Question: How did you start building a team?
Mary: First, document your business process. Then read “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” for ideas on team building. Start with one person. When the time comes, have them hire and train the next person onward.

Read more of Mary's story here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Wow your customers with bird's eye views

Don't miss a great write-up on aerial Web sites in the February Realtor Magazine. The short article summarizes some of the great aerial photography available online today, and how smart real estate agents can take advantage of these tools to showcase their listings and wow their customers.

The entire article is worth reading, but this passage I found particularly important:

"To remain competitive in the market, real estate agents must satisfy consumers' growing need to locate the most comprehensive information available. The implementation of aerial real estate mapping services in conjunction with online listings enables the real estate agent to not only show a property, but to show a complete visual picture of surrounding areas and attractions to consumers -- all in the comfort of their own homes. Mapping sites can be another marketing tool for real estate professionals. and similar services offer options for real estate agents and brokers to showcase their own services."

Check out the full article here.