Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We buy print ads...but we don't like it!

Very interesting survey released today by Realty Times and Classified Intelligence, exploring where agents are spending their marketing dollars.

The key point? Most of us are still spending money on print advertising – but would prefer not to!

Read the survey summary from Blanche Evans at Realty Times here.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Virtual vindication for real estate agents

Pretty good story this weekend in CBS MarketWatch, detailing how much real estate professionals are helping with the home buying and selling process, even though consumers have access to far more information online.

I strongly believe that real estate will always be a professionally-assisted transaction. Information might be more readily abundant online, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a big, complicated, stressful event in every consumers' lives.

Read the story here, and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Where do you get your real estate news?

Great post today by Joel Burslem at the Future of Real Estate Marketing blog on the top of real estate news sources.

Some really cutting-edge stuff here, but things that exist today and things that likely aren't too far off.

Definitely a good idea to leverage some of these services to continually update your own knowledge of real estate news, trends, new services available to agents and consumers, etc. Makes you look even smarter to your customers and prospects!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Is the housing market stronger than we think?

Inman News drew attention today to a very interesting study by a couple economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, essentially making the case that low interest rates and speculation have had a far lower impact on the real estate rush of recent years.

The economists say that increasing wealth, changing demographics and new mortgage products focused on renters have had a bigger impact.

That's a very interesting conclusion, and has big implications for answering the question of whether or not we're seeing a real estate bubble burst right now. If, in fact, more fundamental economic factors have led to the growth of the real estate market, one could argue that those specific factors haven't abated recently, and that the market will continue to be reasonably healthy (even if it is "settling down" from an unusually high amount of activity).

Sign up for your Daily Motivator podcast

HouseValues has just launched a "Daily Motivator" podcast.

Every business day, real estate professionals can pick up a quick audio tip to start their day. Best practices, marketing tips, motivational messages and more.

Most Daily Motivators are just 2-3 minutes long, but are a great way to start your day. A couple recent podcasts include:

* Turn $1.50 into $12,000
* Building a Pipeline
* Working with Buyers

Daily Motivators are available for FREE, by clicking on the XML link below. Or, just visit the iTunes Store and search for "Daily Motivator." iTunes allows you to "subscribe" to the feed, so that new Motivators are sent to your iPod automatically.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Give prospective clients interview questions

Interesting article today in CBS MarketWatch advising consumers how to choose real estate agents. I particularly liked reading the set of questions they advise prospective home buyers and sellers to use in interviewing agents.

NAR research tells us that the majority of consumers use the first agent they contact, and also typically contact just one agent before they transact. But that doesn't stop us from going into competitive listing presentations all the time, where multiple agents are going after the same consumer - and same commission.

How can you use this to your advantage? When you're in a listing presentation yourself, tell the consumer what questions he/she should be asking of every prospective agent. Put that list in your listing presentation materials.

Encourage them to ask smart questions, but make sure that YOUR answer to those questions is delivered clearly in your presentation.

You might think that this strategy only encourages those consumers to interview other agents, but my experience has shown that it actually reinforces for consumers that YOU are the right agent for them.

Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes!

Markets back to normal, Agent CEOs shrug

We've been reading for the past few months about a slowdown in the real estate market across the country, and like me you've probably noticed the same thing in your market. Listings staying on the MLS longer, buyers harder to find - especially at the prices we expected just 6-8 months ago.

Today NAR released new data indicating a further slowdown in home sales, which will likely spark a fresh (and larger) round of stories about the real estate bubble bursting,

As I meet agents across the country over the past few weeks, I notice two reactions to this trend. Newer agents are quite worried about this market movement, as they've only operated in a real estate market at its peak. Veteran real estate agents are less nervous, realizing that this simply represents a red-hot market returning to normal.

But then there's a third reaction, shared by agents of all types that think of what they do as a business, and have been preparing for this moment for months, if not years.

Those are the Agent CEOs, the real estate professionals who know they need to cultivate a long-term pipeline of prospective customers that, no matter what the market looks like, will eventually buy or sell a home. Agent CEOs read headlines like this and shrug, knowing that their business practices keep them largely insulated from the day-to-day worry of market trends.

While many agents now scramble for their next commission check, Agent CEOs are staying busy with a flock of current customers, and have a pipeline of hundreds if not thousands of prospective customers waiting for them in the weeks, months and even years to come.

If you aren't yet an Agent CEO, it's not too late to become one. If you're new to this blog, read this post for a primer on what it means to be an Agent CEO, and spend some time reading through the stories of Agent CEOs on this blog for examples and best practices that you can implement in your business, starting TODAY, that will help you also look at headlines like this, and simply shrug.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Residential Genealogy

I stumbled across this great service yesterday, and had to share with the Agent CEOs out there. This new project allows you to track the history of a particular property - who lived there, how many people have lived there, etc.

What a great way to demonstrate even more market knowledge to prospective buyers and sellers. And who knows, you might find a famous name as a previous occupant, something that could increase the home's value on the market.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Finding gold in FSBOs

Last week, Dan Volker was the featured speaker on the HouseValues Mastermind Call. This is a twice-monthly call conducted for HouseValues subscribers, in which a successful agent shares their strategies for success. When I hear calls I think have broad value to all real estate agents and Agent CEOs reading this blog, I try to summarize them here.

I had the pleasure of moderating Dan's call, and it was one of the best I've heard all year. Dan has been involved in real estate for more than 18 years and closed over $90 million in his real estate career.

Even as the market continues to shift in many areas of the country, including his, Dan has still closed over $4 million in transactions for 2006. Having earned over $690,000 in gross commissions from his HouseValues leads, Dan explained how mastering the HouseValues system helped him develop his FSBO strategies, earning him an additional $220,000 in gross commissions.

After almost 5 years with HouseValues, Dan has closed $31.5 million in HouseValues transactions, has listed 125 leads and 105 have closed, and currently has 10 active HouseValues-generated listings.

His secret of success? Treat every lead the same. Treat every lead like a $2 million dollar transaction. Even if the lead has a fake name, or isn’t the person listed on the tax records, you just never know if it'll still turn into a transaction (or many down the road).

Some other tips from Dan, relevant to all real estate agents:

* He takes a picture of every prospect property and any FSBOs he finds along the way; creates a flier for the home and includes in the pre-listing packet.
* Every prospect, whether from HouseValues or a FSBO, gets the same high quality pre-listing packet.
* Every buyer is set up to receive listings automatically via email.
* Buyers from open houses are asked to tour the house prior to asking them to sign in; this puts the buyers more at ease, and gives them a better idea of what they are looking for.
* Buyers from open houses are asked if they would like to receive listings via email; if so, Dan gathers criteria and price range, and does not ask for phone numbers at this time.
* Dan trains buyers to drive to properties they like that they see online before actually showing the properties so they can eliminate a lot of needless showings.

Dan's description of his FSBO strategy was particularly fascinating.

FSBO signs are really help wanted signs, he says. He finds FSBOs from classified ads, driving around looking for directional signs, and has even had other FSBOs pass along his package. Web sites for finding FSBOS include:,,, and

When doing hand deliveries to FSBOs, try to go during an open house; they are expecting people and there will be less pressure When calling FSBOs, call on Monday after they have likely had an unproductive open house over the weekend; if you call on Friday, they are confident that they will be selling the property at their upcoming open house. The pre-listing package includes a customized CMA from his company, a cover letter with a list of all the homes he's sold in their area, his resume, and a copy of his marketing plan including Web sites and virtual tour company, color flyer of their home, and a magnet and business card.

The pre-listing package can be found here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Growing role of single women on housing market

You've probably heard the adage that women pretty much make nearly every buying decision in a household. Men, the adage goes, make decisions about beer, batteries and tires. Women make decisions on everything else.

Not surprising to see this latest study from Harvard discuss the growing impact of women on the housing market, and in particular single women.

The overwhelming buying segment is still made up of married couples (at 63 percent of transactions), but unmarried women are now the second-highest buying group at 20 percent in the past three years. Unmarried men make up 17 percent of the buying pool.

That may be news to many Agent CEOs. What are you doing in your marketing plan to attract single women buyers to your real estate practice?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How to turn $1.50 into a $12,000 commission

We taught a seminar for a number of agents in Vancouver, BC yesterday. One of the attendees was Jane McDonald, a HouseValues subscriber who happened to be in Vancouver on vacation (she lives and works in the Toronto area) but decided to spend the day with us. It was a vacation day, but she really wanted to learn.

At one point during the class, we asked for "great ideas." She shared somethingthat has been working really well for her.

There are many drive-through coffee shops in Toronto. Whenever she goes, she hands the attendant her card which says, “Have a great day, Jane!” and pays for the coffee for the person in line behind her. She asks the server to hand them her card with the coffee.

The first time she did it she received a call form the man in the car behind her, asking if she knew him. She said no, I just wanted to brighten your day. He told her no one had ever done anything like that for him before. By the way he was going to sell his house would she come over and list it.

She not only listed it but she sold it as well. She told us it was a $12,000 commission (both sides) for a $1.50 cup of coffee!

She has consistently done that. Over ½ of the people she does that for call her and thank her. At that time she asks for their email address and asks if she can put them on a campaign to stay in touch.

WOW. Smart, simple, and highly effective. Great work Jane!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Put this book at the top of your list...

For the past few years, I've been singing the praises of long-time real estate industry writer Frank Cook's book, "21 Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me."

Now, even the National Association of Realtors and Realtor Magazine are jumping on this bandwagon, naming it number one on their list of "Top 10 Classics to Revisit".

If you haven't already done so -- especially if you've been in the business three years or less -- do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the book. As NAR points out, it's a classic. And if you check out the reviews on so far, his readers agree.

Are pre-fab houses popular (again)?

This month's issue of Popular Mechanics seems to think that pre-fabricated homes could mean the end to cookie-cutter design. Seems contradictory, but take a read and see if you agree with them.

I've also read recently that more and more consumers are choosing manufactured homes to install on pre-bought or pre-owned property. This strategy definitely has its advantages - 1) you save money 2) it's often hard to find a good contractor to fix the home you're already in, and 3) you can pretty much not have to worry about construction schedules not being met since the homes are manufactured in a warehouse.

What do you think? Are pre-fabricated homes cool again? Are they the wave of the future? Are consumers in your market more interested in manufactured homes than before.

What's good for New Zealand real estate...

I had fun this afternoon reviewing the top real estate Web sites in New Zealand.

It appears that New Zealanders searching for real estate are just as smitten with the Internet, with a full 86% of those surveyed finding the Internet to be the best tool for real estate research. And, just like in the states, more women (59%) are researching on real estate sites there than men.

Some very interesting sites down there, worth a look. Some very interesting brand names as well. Who would have thought that a site called "TradeMe" would be the top New Zealand real estate site...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Copywriting Best Practices

The smart folks at Sellsius offer today a great set of writing tips, aimed at helping real estate get better results and higher response from their writing.

Think about how important this is to your business. Your Web site, your flyers, your MLS descriptions - so many of your marketing and branding vehicles rely on well-written copy to get your message across and drive your prospective customers to action.

Happy Monday!

Are you using PR?

I came across a well-written press release this morning from Roger Flowers, a real estate agent in Yucapia, California. He recently upgraded his Web site with aerial mapping and lots of embedded, local information, and wanted to get the word out.

Have you ever considered doing PR for your own real estate business? Have you tried issuing press releases or building relationships with the local business and real estate newspaper editors? It doesn't have to take a lot of time, and it doesn't have to be hard either. Just think about what you uniquely have to offer consumers in your market, and tell people about it.

The fact that Roger has a Web site isn't necessarily news. The fact that he's offering his customers, for free, access to viewing listings and local business information on aerial photography - now that's interesting!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Make your Open House stand out

It's Friday, which means many of you will spend part of your late-summer weekend hosting open houses across the country.

Open houses are seen by many agents as a necessary evil, something that sellers expect but in many cases turn out to be a waste of time for the agent. But if you think more broadly about what an open house can do for you and your business, your next open house can be far more productive than ever before.

Below are a few ideas you can use THIS WEEKEND to get more value and long-term prospective business from your open house.

Offer a free gift
When you market your open house (in the newspaper, online, in the MLS, etc.) make it clear that visitors get a free gift just for showing up. This can be something as simple as a "top ten reasons to sell now" report with your name on it, or it can be a 2007 calendar. Whatever it is, give people an extra reason to come to YOUR open house this weekend.

Make the open house FUN
Most open houses I've been to are no more than an open door, an agent sitting sitting on a stool, and some brochures & business cards on the kitchen table. What can you do to make your open house a little more fun, and a lot more memorable? What can you do to make sure those open house visitors not only remember that house, but remember YOU? Fresh-baked cookies? A drawing for ballgame tickets? A game of chance (roll the dice to win one of several prizes)? Do something that matches your personality and interests, so that it comes across naturally. so very few agents do things like this, that it'll immediately help you stand out - benefiting your business and the sale of your open house.

Before people leave your open house, get their contact information. Offer something valuable in return, like a free subscription to your e-newsletter or regular updates of home listings that meet their criteria. Give them a reason to want to stay in touch with you.

Do you have a great open house idea that's helping you make your open house memorable? If so, post it here so that other agents can learn from your success!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sellsius Real Estate

I've been watching these guys for the past couple months, and particularly reading their fantastic blog. It's a great source of information about the real estate industry - a real variety of content.

There are so many good real estate blogs out there worth reading. I'll post more of my favorites soon.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Is Bad Weather Good for an Open House?

Very interesting anecdote in today's New York Times real estate blog about doing open houses in bad weather. Sure, quantity of shoppers might be low, but the quality and seriousness of buyers likely goes up.

Do you have any good stories about showing homes in bad weather? Open houses during a violent storm? Driving buyers through hail? Please share!

There's a better way to prospect...

Dirk Zeller offers his Four Pillars to Prospecting in his Realty Times column this morning. It's a good read, and I think Dirk is a fantastic real estate trainer and coach, one of the best out there.

That said, most Agent CEOs I know wouldn't follow Dirk's advice. Why? Because based on my ongoing research, agents HATE to prospect. It's a marketing job that every small business needs to do, but few want to do. The smart Agent CEO, therefore, delegates prospecting work to a far more efficient resource - usually combination of other people, a trusted third-party, and good prospect management software systems.

My guess is that many agents today are reading Dirk's column, knowing that they need to have an ongoing prospecting strategy to constantly bring in new business. BUT, they're also grinding their teeth because they don't want to do that work the hard way themselves.

As the CEO of your real estate business, do two things today. One, know that Dirk is right - you MUST constantly prospect for new business to be successful long-term. Two, find a better way to do that prospecting. Work with a trusted third-party to prospect for you, and then use a proven prospect management system to seamlessly keep in touch with your prospects, all with your brand front and center.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pending Home Sales Index Rises Again

NAR reported earlier this week that pending home sales have gone up for the second straight month. I didn't see anyone at NAR cite this as the start of a market turnaround, but it could be that we have "leveled-off" after seeing some cooling in the market.

Is anyone seeing that across the country? Despite cooling off in most markets at the beginning of this year, has buying and activity been relatively steady the past few months?

Or, do you think the market will still get cooler?

Smart Agent CEOs know that it doesn't really matter. You have the tools and marketing strategies in place to keep the flow of customers coming into your business week after week, month after month - no matter what the market looks like.

Advice for first-time home buyers

This real estate Q&A is from a somewhat obscure online technology magazine, but offered some interesting home buying and selling advice to consumers. It's worth a read to see 1) if you agree, and 2) if there are pieces of advice you can incorporate into your own business and counsel to customers.

In particular, I thought this advice for first-time buyers was interested. Do you agree with his advice?

"So, when are you really ready to buy? Well, you're really ready to buy a home when you can purchase that house with a fifteen-year, fixed-rate mortgage where your payment is no more than a fourth of your take-home pay...and you are completely out of debt, you have an emergency-fund of three to six months of expenses, and you have a good down payment. Then you're ready to buy.

If not, that might mean you'll have to spend another year renting and getting out of debt, and you might need to sell your Tahoe to get ready to buy a house. You've got to be ready and willing to make some sacrifices to do this the right way because, otherwise, the house ends up owning you and it becomes a curse rather than a blessing."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Gates becoming more commonplace

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, more and more consumers are installing gates on their properties. They're doing it for both security and privacy reasons.

Are you noticing this in your communities? Are your customers seeking homes with gates pre-installed, or are you noticing more gates going up?

And what do you think the impact of this trend will be on neighborhoods? Gates can surely give the individual homeowner a deeper sense of security, but does it discourage trust between neighbors?