Monday, January 30, 2006

Converting Online Leads

Inman News is doing a series on converting and tracking online leads. Today's article gave a brief overview of what some of the top companies are doing, but all I really got out of it was that the top companies are generating a ton of online leads, and now realize they need to track the conversion.

One point I found interesting was that about 6% of online leads convert (ie actually turn into a deal). Now we know that online leads take about 6-12 months to buy or sell, so the importance of staying in touch is even greater.

If your website generates 100 leads a month now, in about 6-12 months you should be pretty busy! Contact me if your site isn't performing the way you'd like.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Search Engine Ranking Tool

Ever wanted to know how your site ranks on the top search engines? I just found this cool tool.... click the link below, scroll part way down the page and enter your web address in the submission form, and the keyword you want to check. In about 30 second it will show you how you score on the major engines...

Search Engine Rankings - Instant, online reports of web site rankings in 7 top search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN, AOL, Teoma (Ask Jeeves), AltaVista, AllTheWeb, and the top 3 web directories; Yahoo! Directory, Open Directory (Dmoz), and LookSmart - FREE!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Real Estate Agents Lose Their Blackberries?


NTP is suing RIM for patent infringements. How on earth does that matter to real estate professionals? Well.... RIM is the company from Waterloo, Ontario, that makes Blackberries, which have become very popular among Realtors. NTP owns some patents, and claims that RIM has been using these patents in their technology. The case has been in the courts for quite a while - RIM denies the charges - and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear RIM's appeal. NTP can now seek an injunction forces RIM to stop using the technology, which would pretty much end service for Blackberry users. Of course, RIM could settle with NTP and avoid the situation, but it might be best to prepare just in case.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Real Estate Career quiz

I'm not sure how great these quizzes are but if you're interested this seems to be a neat quiz about a career in real estate.

http://www.ebby.com/careers/irefy.shtml?section=careers


you can follow this up with an online personality test. Note. You do have to create a profile and it can be bogus. I used 90210 as my zip code.

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Online Real Estate Bookstore

www.realestatebooks.org is a new online bookstore that sells only books related to real estate. Excerpts and reviews are available for the books which are broken into different categories such as sales strategies, marketing and technology. The bookstore's goald is to make it easier to find books relevant to real estate professionals, as most bookstores carry only real estate books that are relevant to the consumer. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More Reliance on Agents, More Internet Use - NAR

NAR does a survey of homebuyers and sellers every year that gives insights into how the industry is changing. Although NAR is out of the US, CREA does not do a similar survey (as far as I am aware) so we have to go with the American stats. When it comes to technology, Canada generally has a faster adoption rate than the US, so we can assume our stats are similar, if not slightly higher. I did read a survey from Ipsos Reid last year that showed exactly that.

This year's NAR survey shows an increase in internet usage when searching for a home from 2% in 1995, to 77% in 2005 (it was 74% in 2004). How a decade can change an industry! 24% of buyers said the first learned about the home they ended up purchasing on the internet, up from 15% last year.

“Buyers who use the Internet in searching for a home are more likely to use a real estate agent than non-Internet users, and consumers rely on professionals to provide context, negotiate the transaction and help with the paperwork,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc.

In fact, 81% of buyers who used the internet as part of their search, purchased their home through a real estate agent, as compared to 63% on non-internet searchers.

“We find that the level of for-sale-by-owners is on a sustained decline and is now at a record low. In addition, a growing share of FSBO properties are not placed on the open market – they’re private transactions,” Stevens said.

Only 13% of sellers sold on their own (of which 39% were between parties who knew each other in advance), down from a cyclical high in 1997 of 18%. The median price of homes sold with the help of an agent was 16% higher than those sold FSBO.

When it comes to choosing and agent, most people were referred by a friend or family member, and the most important factor in deciding on who to use was reputation. 85% of buyers and 82% of sellers said they were likely to use the same agent again.

The complete survey results are available here, and include other stats mostly to do with demographics of home buyers and sellers.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Master Your Real Estate Business

I previously did a post on sites that all real estate professionals should bookmark, well, I missed one. www.brokeragentnews.com is loaded with good articles on this business.

One article in particular, titled "In pursuit of real estate mastery" outlines the reasons why as a real estate professional you should choose to become a "master of real estate competencies" and how it can help you succeed in your business and life.

He talks about the three roads we all have to choose from in this business:

1. You can choose to become a master of the competencies and have your value speak for itself.
2. You can take the road of prospecting, lead generating, selling and closing, which requires you to become a master of persuasion.
3. Or concede your lack of value, become master of nothing and make working for less your value proposition.

I particularily identified with these paragraphs:

Many extremely ambitious people fail in real estate. Hard work isn't the answer. You can't prospect harder. You cannot hold an open house harder. The key is to make it easier, not harder.

To make it effortless, it has to be fun. If it doesn't provide you with satisfaction, you cannot succeed. Note that athletes and performers are among the best compensated people in our society. And, they are doing what they love to do. The love of an activity and a high level of proficiency go hand in hand. How can anyone achieve their full potential doing things they don't enjoy?

Consider the words of author James Michener:
"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he's always doing both."

The complete article is available here, I highly recommend giving it a read.

Real Estate Agents - the way of the Dodo?

It has been prophesized that the computer and online real estate companies would put real estate agents out of business once all the listing information was on the internet. Alas that is not the case. While parasitic online companies with no marketing morals have proliferated the internet like the winged carrion from an Edgar Allan Poe poem, real estate agents have increased in market share.

I believe the success of these companies is due in part to increased regulation facing the regulated real estate industry. They have been able to market hard without substantiating a good part of their claims about the real estate industry. I believe that if most people sit down with and research the sale of their most important investment and knew the questions to ask these unregulated marketing companies they may reconsider their choice and in fact trust a real estate professional to represent them.

The following is an article from "Science Blog" that looks a little further into this issue.

Computers and the Internet have been billed as enabling new ways of doing business, but in the residential real estate industry, people's expanded access to information hasn't rendered the real estate agent a relic, says a Penn State researcher. "The expectation was that real estate agents would go away once consumers could see all the home listing information, but the number of real estate agents has increased, not decreased, in the last 10 years," says Steve Sawyer, associate professor in the School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST).

So has the number of people involved in real-estate transactions--contrary to the assumption that information technologies would streamline and simplify the transaction process. Instead, the amount of relevant information about real estate has exploded, requiring more people and more specialized professionals to be involved in supporting, understanding and processing that information.

Those insights into the changes in the real estate industry due to the use of computing are discussed in a research article, "Redefining Access: Uses and Roles of Information and Communication Technologies in the U.S. Residential Real Estate Industry from 1995 to 2005," published recently in the Journal of Information Technology.

Sawyer, lead author, also discussed the findings at the American Antitrust Institute's Symposium on Competition in Residential Real Estate Brokerage Industry in November in Washington, D.C.

The other authors are Rolf T. Wigand, the Maulden-Entergy Chair and Distinguished Professor of Information Science and Management at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and Kevin Crowston, associate professor in the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University.

The researchers' intent was to determine whether computing could transform industries as claimed in the rhetoric surrounding the information revolution. They chose to examine the effects of information technologies on the residential real estate industry for two reasons: 1) because the rate of IT adoption by real estate agents was exponential between 1995 and 2005 with only 2 percent using computers in 1995 and 97 percent using IT in 2005; and 2) because the housing industry is both a fundamental part of and one of the fastest-growing sectors in the national economy.

Drawing on interviews, surveys, data from agencies including the federal government and the National Association of Realtors and academic work, the researchers analyzed what real estate agents do; how computing has changed what they do; and how legal, political and economic forces are influencing the new processes.

According to the researchers, the introduction and adoption of information and communication technologies (ICT) clearly has provided access to information--such as listings, mortgage rates, fees and neighborhood demographics--previously unavailable to consumers. That increase in the quantity of available information has led to better quality information which, in turn, has led to better-informed consumers. Armed with more information, consumers have demanded more specialized services as well as better service from real estate agents, Sawyer said.

But these are evolutionary -- not revolutionary-changes, he said.

"The transformative nature of technology is not from increases in efficiency or effectiveness," Sawyer said. "The transformations are embedded in second-level effects--that is, the unimagined and unintended innovations that give rise to changes in organizations, markets and social interactions."

In the real estate industry, these innovations include the use of virtual tours of homes and neighborhoods which may make obsolete actual visits to properties, and online bidding or online transactions between sellers and buyers. Neither of these was foreseen when real estate agents took up using computers and the Internet, but they are resulting in additional specializations for real estate professionals as well as creating new business models for transactions.

The availability of additional information on a nationwide rather than just a local basis also has resulted in savings for consumers. Not only has the transparency of information and data enabled consumers to find and take advantage of lower interest rates, but national competition has reduced real estate agent commissions, the researchers said.

While the researchers argue such second-level effects occur in any industry that adopts computing and Internet technology, they have no crystal ball to predict the changes.

"At this time, all we have are hints of the innovations," Sawyer said. "Agents and consumers are experimenting with new ways of engaging one another, consummating the transaction and sharing information."

From Penn State

Posted in business & economy



We welcome your thoughts on this matter....
visit us at www.edmonton-homes.ca
or our edmonton real estate blog http://edmonton-homes.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Zillow.com - Aiming to put Brokers out of the biz?

I found this article on the Business Week Online Blog called Hot Property. Zillow.com is the latest idea from Richard Barton, who founded Expedia.com and changed the way we travel. He spoke at the Inman News conference in New York City yesterday, and apparently let very little out about what Zillow.com would actually be. It is supposed to launch in the next 6 months, and Richard assures he is not out to "wipe out the jobs of real estate agents and brokers." There was very little information given about what Zillow.com would actually be, but he did say it is going to be an advertising vehicle for brokers and agents, and the users of the site will provide much of the information.

More details...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fingerprints - is that the next big thing?

In November, Colorado passed a law requiring all their agents to be finger printed. This story was posted on Inman news yesterday. Sounds out of this world - big Brother type of stuff.

Alberta has also proposed in its rule changes that agents and brokers be fingerprinted. Just for identification purposes they say. In case there is a problem they say. I'd like to know what in the world kind of problems we are having, when we are one of the most heavily regulated real estate environments anywhere, that require thousands of innocent people to be finger printed. I see a complaint to the privacy commission on this one. If you are from Alberta you have till February 28 to submit a postion on the proposed rule changes. What will be next? Will they need some DNA since that is far more accurate than fingerprinting? Real Estate has come along way and the regulators here and elsewhere have done an exceptional job until now. This is simply overreaching their authority and it is beyond any reasonable grounds for them to collect this information. And now the inman story.

In order to renew her real estate license last November, Nancy Brauer, a Colorado Realtor with 27 years' experience, had to pay $60 more than in past years and drive 45 minutes to be fingerprinted, thanks to a new state law.

Compared to some folks, Brauer was lucky. Thousands of Colorado real estate brokers missed the Dec. 31 deadline to comply with the new law mandating that brokers submit fingerprints and fees for background checks to state and federal law enforcement officials.

Technically, this means they can't do business at all – though an emergency measure enacted by the Colorado Real Estate Commission extended the processing deadline to Jan. 31, according to Commission Director Debbie Campagnola.

Though one-third of the state's approximately 46,000 agents were notified of the requirement, Campagnola said only about 8,000 submitted ink-rolled or digital fingerprints by deadline to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which does the checks and then forwards the information to the Commission.

"We are swamped," Campagnola said. "There are days I've been doing data entry. About 13,600 brokers have paid for renewal so far."

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has processed about 12,000 fingerprints since July 2005 when the law went into effect, according to Karl Wilmes, the bureau's division director.

Depending on when their licenses expire, the remaining two-thirds of Colorado's active brokers must submit fingerprints and fees in 2006 or 2007, depending on when their licenses expire.



"(The fingerprinting) was a fairly large pain in the neck for a lot of our members," said Michael Labout, 2006 president of the Colorado Association of Realtors.

"Some of the places the Real Estate Commission said would do the fingerprinting didn't do it. The electronic prints are more accurate than the ink prints, but outlets providing electronic prints weren't as available, and were often out of the way," he said.

Many of his association's members felt they had been singled out and treated like criminals, Labout added.

While real estate agents in Colorado are licensed and now must provide fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation under the new law, mortgage brokers are not licensed by the state and have no fingerprinting requirements.

"I think a lot of our members, a lot of licensees, felt like this law was enacted based on a couple of bad apples," said Labout. "The majority of Realtors are honest, ethical, law-abiding people doing a very important job and offering an important service."

The initial impetus for the law, according to Labout and Campagnola, was a television investigative report identifying some real estate licensees with active licenses who had been convicted of felonies.

"That was the reason they instituted the requirements for agents to get fingerprinting," Labout said. "It's a good idea, but the problem is (in) the mechanics."

Other industry professionals agreed with his assessment, including Gerry Fitzpatrick, broker/owner of RE/MAX Southeast in Colorado.

"I think it's a good thing they are doing this to check renewals and weed out the undesirables. But this has created a big bottleneck," Fitzpatrick said.

Because officials are dealing with the renewal backlog, "some of the newer agents we have hired out of license school will have to wait six to eight weeks to get their licenses, the Commission told us," Fitzpatrick said. Campagnola's most up-to-date estimate was 12 weeks.

"A year ago, it only took 10 days," Fitzpatrick said.

New Colorado agents have had to supply fingerprints for decades. This law marks the first time renewing agents have had to do so, and is unique in the country as far as Campagnola knows.

The Commission tried to avoid the problem by notifying agents in advance via letters, and the Colorado Association of Realtors gave educational sessions.

"A lot of agents delayed and delayed," said Larry Duncan, an owner of Denver's RE/MAX 3000. "I have 60 agents, and I notified my agents. Our people are independent contractors; it's tough to supervise them, but we remind them they can't do business unless they're fingerprinted."

He characterized agents' initial reactions as, "'Jeez, it's more government in our lives,'" adding, "most of us understand the need for it (the law)."



Leif Riley, a Realtor with RealEstateColorado.com, said, "I do think it's like we're being singled out. If we have to do it, (mortgage brokers) should too," referring to the fingerprinting.

Riley isn't alone in his belief that the mortgage industry could use some regulation. The Colorado Association of Mortgage Brokers has been lobbying for background checks and registration of the state's mortgage brokers for three years, said Bart Bartholomew, the association's past president.

Told that some real estate agents feel they have been singled out, Bartholomew said, "No argument from me. Colorado is one of the few states that has no type of regulation or registration on a state level for mortgage brokers." He is hopeful that the group's quest will be successful at the next legislative session.

Though the fingerprinting process has been a huge headache so far, Campagnola had some good news for the future.

"This law only exists for three years," she said. The law was instituted so the Commission could get existing agents' fingerprints into the database, and that goal will be accomplished by the end of 2007, she said.

Realtor Brauer, who had to drive for 45 minutes to get fingerprinted, said it was worth the time.

"Quite frankly, I think it's a good idea," Brauer said. "I've had a couple of instances in the last year where Realtors who were slightly suspicious have shown listings of mine. Nothing came of it, but it's just one of those things. There are certainly instances in business when it's prudent to check on people."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Real Estate Blogger Makes It Big


Inman News published a story today about a mortgage broker in Minneapolis who credits his blogging to bringing in $4 million in mortgage originations, a new job and a radio show. His blog, Behind The Mortgage, broke the story of a 2005 FBI investigation into local mortgage fraud gaining a lot of attention from the local media, and consequently consumers in his marketplace. Inman reports:
The blog has been a marketing boon to Alex Stenback, who created the site in October 2004 "out of my own frustration," Stenback said. "There was no good spot to find out what local people were talking about regarding local real estate and mortgages."

The local newspapers carried such news, as did other sources, "but to find all the content was hard, because you had to go to so many resources. I tried to aggregate the information and pick up things that were interesting and start conversations about them," Stenback said.

Stenback's approach to the fraud story is classical for blogs: He posted the letter with a comment that sources reported the FBI was investigating mortgage fraud in the Twin Cities, saying, "Though we've yet to corroborate these reports, and no specific companies were named, we thought we'd throw this out here (we check our facts in real-time here in blogland). Anyone heard anything?"

"The victims of this thing (mortgage fraud) are the public," Stenback said. "Why not let them know what's going on, rather than making it secret?"

"Blogs are a great way to get business directed to you," the broker said. He bases his estimate of business attracted by the blog on e-mails from people who tell him they heard of him through Behind The Mortgage.

"The advertising on my blog is very low-level," said Stenback. "I don't use the blog as a promotion of my business. People appreciate it as a resource, and they reach out to me.

"If you have a blog or a radio show, you don’t want to turn it into a commercial. Answer people's questions, give the information, and the business will come," Stenback said.

In Stenback's case, not only new business but a new job and a radio show grew out of his blog.

After learning about the broker through the blog, CTX Mortgage Corp. offered him a job as a senior loan officer/sales manager. Part of his duties involve contributing to a weekly radio show the company sponsors and hosts by providing content.

"We thought it (the blog) was a great warehouse of information we could use in order to provide content for the radio broadcast. It certainly helped that Alex is articulate and understands the market and we could play off that," Velasco said.

Carol Clark update

As a general rule I interview the people profiled in Network News before putting their story in the newletter.

(see archive here)

In Carol's case I knew she would be too shy to cooperate so I went with what I knew and ran with it. She found out about the story when she received a call from an agent in Ontario who let's just say is going through a tough time.

When I called Carol to see what she thought about the story she told me this story. Her only thought was hopefully I can help her or anyone else like her to not give up. So if there is one thing I would have like to put in the article, because honestly I left a lot of the adversity out, is how willing she is to help anyone, not just her family and her office.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another reminder to be careful out there!

We are all vulnerable to this type of violence. Male or female. This is something that I don't think people who sell on their own realize. This type of crime is about opportunity.

Real Estate Agent Raped While Showing Off House
Brandon Bradshaw Accused Of Assault
POSTED: 10:42 am MST January 9, 2006
UPDATED: 6:56 pm MST January 9, 2006

Click here for the full story.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Links Every Agent Should Have Bookmarked

Here's a list of sites I visit all the time...I highly recommend you check them out:

www.inman.com - ok, if you don't already get their daily updates on the industry, it's time

www.rismedia.com - has a good mix of press releases and advice articles, all to do with real estate

www.businessknowhow.com - tons of articles on running a business, stuff like advertising on a small budget, business planning etc.

www.agentsonline.net - an online discussion board for the real estate industry, agents and brokers post questions and offer advice to eachother. This site also drives a ton of traffic to your site if you post frequently.

http://overvalued.blogspot.com/ - interesting blog that is tracking the actual values of homes in major US cities compared to the trend over the last 30 or so years.

http://edmonton-homes.blogspot.com - shameless plug for our other blog...

www.edmonton-homes.ca - shameless plug for our web site.

Thats all for today, I'll add more soon :)

Real Estate Career in Edmonton Alberta - 1 opening only

If you are considerining a career in the Real Estate industry we have an opening for one candidate who must aspire to be successful in many facets. Solid support will be given to this candidate as a member of a top performing team.

Requirements are that the successful candidates must be computer literate, including the use of windows, email, powerpoint and other applied real estate technologies. Candidates don't require a real estate background as we will provide full training. See our website for our credentials.

This high energy office will kick start your career immediately even if you don't have a background in selling homes in the Edmonton area.

If you do have a real estate background you may find your learning curve for sales will be shorter. Preference however will be given to technically competent professionals who are reliable and able to learn new concepts.

All inquiries will be handled in confidence. Willingness and abliity to learn are also key factors.

Our goal is that you will succeed.

email myself at http://www.edmonton-homes.ca/Contact_Us/page_1120710.html

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Agents blog for success

When you think of blogging, you think of an online journal - people writing about vacations, posting family photos, politicians getting in trouble for inappropriate comments... But now blogs are starting to earn a purpose for business, and the real estate industry has jumped on board. Companies and individual agents are starting blogs left right and centre, something you should consider or risk missing the boat.

An article I read in the National Post recently reported that 70,000 new blogs are started everyday. The two blogs that our humble little company produce deliver enough traffic to our website to bring as many leads as our paid search campaign brought in. In fact, we put our paid search placements on hold over Christmas, hoping to cool the site down so we could take a break from the leads, but our Edmonton Real Estate blog more than picked up the pace and we spent much of our time of dealing with leads.

The real estate industry has embraced blogging. It is easy to do, requires very little technical skill (if you can send an e-mail you can start a blog), and it gives us professionals a place to demonstrate how much we really do know about selling real estate. If you're sitting there thinking, I barely know what a blog is, and I don't know any agents who've started one, this girl is crazy....think again. I just did a quick search on Google's blogsearch and found 2.5 million blog entries to do with real estate. (Oh, and in case you haven't read any of my previous articles, search engines LOVE blogs....)

A recent article from RISMEDIA talks about a company in the states that started a blog in late October (just after yours truly). Their blog is a place where they write about the houses they are selling, their city's quality of life, give advice on how to obtain a home loan and list the area's accolades, such as its ranking as a top place to retire. They got the idea for the blog after reading an article about real estate blogging in the Wall Street Journal. They once thought blogs were a fad until they discovered Really Simple Syndication, a program that feeds Web sites that consumers choose to them every day.

Their blog hasn't yet resulted directly in the sale of a home, but the agents believe the new tool is getting the word out about their company and them. "Anytime we can get our name out is a good thing." Some weeks there are daily entries while other weeks, submissions might pop up several times. The agents blog as much and as often as they want. Of the office's 70 agents, about 30 are blogging. Visit the Long & Foster Daleville office's blog at roanokerealestate.blogspot.com.

Real estate blogs alone don't necessarily drive buyers to purchase a certain house. They often are the first step to connect a person to a real estate company's Web site where they might find other home listings and information. Most firms link to their own home pages from their blog sites.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to Business

September is all about back to school. January is all about back to business. After a well deserved break with Sara passing her real estate licensing exam, a trip to Ontario followed by a trip to BC with some skiing at Panorama.

BTW stay tuned for a no holds barred issue of Network News. Loaded with new information to help us all learn and improve our businesses.