Single Property Websites with a Click of the Mouse

September 29, 2007

index_sharing.jpgWith so many internet marketing services available in today’s market, brokers and real estate agents are sometimes overwhelmed by the number of choices. The issue – duplicate data entry. 

Because of this, internet products that are otherwise potentially very valuable to an agent’s success, go un-used because they require re-entry of listing data. 

Let’s face it, real estate agents barely have the time to enter their listing data into their mls, let alone their own agent site or broker site.

Ken Jenny discusses this issue in detail in a recent article, and describes a new partnership between Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions, AdWriter, and Sharper Agent to provide a fully-integrated and automated advertising content system for the web.    

“The process was designed to cause the least amount of added steps for the user, the need for repetitive data entry and to enhance the ease of use for brokers and agents.

All that is required is for the property listing data to be entered into the MLS system and the rest of the integration is completed automatically. Once a listing has been added to the MLS database by a user, both the integrated marketing and the adwriting systems are instantly auto-populated with that specific user’s listing inventory.”

UniqueHomeSites.com now has a similar service in Canada, where participating real estate boards provide third-party access to broker listings (at the broker’s request, of course).

Under such an arrangement, agents operating under the broker can create single property websites within seconds using property data (and photos) from their mls system.     

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New Website Brings Real Estate Community Together in Vancouver

September 29, 2007

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There is a new Canadian real estate community web site called MyRealPlace.com where Realtors and other industry professionals (i.e. Mortage Specialists, Home Inspectors, etc)  can blog about their local market conditions while consumers can search from over 20,000 properties.

According to Jonathon Lyon, co-founder of the website:

“My Real Place was developed to provide a single one stop resource for home buyers and sellers to find properties, ask questions and otherwise engage with every realty related professional during the process of selling, buying and owning a home.

We now have over 3,000 registered users who actively use the site. We have have attracted this audience based on our advertising and marketing efforts and continue to grow this base.”

For consumers, the MyRealPlace search engine can be used to find a house or any other type of real estate. Alternatively, it is an excellent forum to ask questions of the professionals, search out realty professionals, and also check out live MyRealPlace stats, including current average prices are for different types of real estate in specific areas.

Although no direct advertising opportunities exist for real estate professionals to promote their services, agents can list their properties for free. Also, for a paid subscription ($10 per month or $100 for a year), you get access to your own blog page, where regular postings will get you featured on the home page and help establish a greater internet presence.


New Real Estate Research Report discusses ‘Information Explosion’

September 24, 2007

A 24-page research report, authored by well known industry leaders, Stefan SwanepoelStu Siegel, and Allen Wright, was recently made available for FREE on the Internet the other day. The report discusses how real estate agents can manage the data overload and more knowledgeable consumer characteristic of today’s real estate market.

The position of the whitepaper is clear: The role of an agent may be limited to an administrative order-taker or it could be expanded to that of a true professional, specializing in an area with the skill set necessary to provide and interpret the relevant information pertaining to that area. The time has come for real estate agents to make the conscious decision to become more professional or leave the industry.

True real estate professionals will ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively serve the new home buyer and seller. To achieve this they will need to conduct proper and comprehensive research by utilizing the best data aggregators and service providers in the field in order to provide their customers with a meaningful and relevant interpretation of the data. And last, but by no means least, professionals must continuously enhance their professional skills and abilities by studying and remaining current with changes in the industry through the latest education opportunities.

Although, not mentioned in the whitepaper, UniqueHomeSites.com are an effective and affordable way to integrate property and neighbourhood data from a variety of sources into a single property website template.

UniqueHomeSite users can choose from a growing library of professionally-designed templates, and bring together YouTube content, Google maps, unlimited property still and panoramic photos, property descriptions, and neighbourhood information to create an impressive and informative online viewing experience for prospective homebuyers.


13 Questions Real Estate Agents Should be Prepared to Answer

September 20, 2007

handshake.jpgWith so many agents in Canada’s real estate marketplace, many trying to win the same listing, it is important for realtors to take measures to stand apart from their competition. 

As posted on RISMedia.com the other day, the Seller Agency Council went out and asked some home sellers what questions they would ask a prospective agent to help them determine who they would pick to represent them in selling their home. Here are their responses:

  1. How many homes have you sold in the last ___ days, not your company or your office, but you personally? How long did they stay on the market?
  2. How long have you been an active, working agent? not just licensed or in the real estate business, but how long have you actually been selling in our market?
  3. How well do you know our neighborhood?
  4. Are you willing to offer a guarantee that allows me to cancel at any time, for any reason with no advance notice and with no explanation necessary?
  5. Do you have a 24 hour line that provides information to buyers at any time, 24 hours a day? Do you pay for it yourself or is it provided by a lender or your company?
  6. Do you know the difference between passive selling and aggressive marketing?
  7. Do you use home staging as part of your marketing program?
  8. Do you have an aggressive market plan into which you invest your personal dollars?
  9. How does your marketing benefit your sellers directly?
  10. What sort of guarantee do you offer?
  11. Do you test your marketing techniques for results and change plans if required?
  12. What Internet marketing is done for my home, by you as an agent and by your company?
  13. Do you have a team or an assistant to help you market our home?

“The Internet Is Not Changing Real Estate”

September 17, 2007

compguy.jpgIn conversation with Ed Hand of Rogers Citydesk, he told me he did not feel that the internet was changing the real estate industry. *Cough, Choke, Cough! What?* – I had called him to pitch a story for his show, which follows a  round table discussion on a topic of national and regional interest for which I figured my proposal was perfect.

My proposal was to discuss the issue of how the internet was changing the real estate industry and who was set to gain and lose from its influence. As guests, I proposed, the owner of the top brokerage in Ottawa and past president of the Ottawa Real Estate board, Kent Brown; the owners and creators of the hugely successful website Grapevine.ca that has cornered Ottawa’s market for private home sales; and finally myself, a top real estate agent in the area and co developer of the UniqueHomeSites.com web tool.

Ed, a recent homebuyer himself, was disheartened by his experience in the industry and felt that internet was not changing the industry. Furthermore, he thought that the story was not news worthy. I was baffled and dumbfounded and assured him that I would put together a package of outside media that shows some of the many changes affecting the industry and how it is both news worthy and relevant to his viewers who like him, all have strong feelings about the real estate industry and how it operates.

Without putting words into his mouth, I think what Mr. Hand meant was that the internet is not influencing realtors’ hold on the market and their commission rates, which is one of the central issues to be discussed in such a story. It is also such a touchy issue that it has been dissected by both the realtor, the homeowner, and major newsgroups such as CBS.

CBS’ 60 Minutes produced “Chipping Away at Realtors Six Percent” a controversial commentary (investigative report) that had the National Association of Realtor up in arms and resulted in 153 pages of viewer comments within the first 72 hours of the story being posted.The National Association of Realtors took exception to many of the comments that were stated. They even wrote a formal letter of objection resulting in an editor’s note being posted as a foreword to the story on the CBS website. According to the CBS story and many homeowner’s opinion (including Mr. Hand’s?), the realtor is becoming less important to the transaction as the internet is providing more and more information to the homebuyer and seller.

Amy Brown-Bowers of the Toronto Star opens her article with the line “The internet has radically changed the resale home sales process”. Her article is broken into sections that focus on topics such as MLS, “Power to the People”, “Implications of Marketing”, and “Is Agency Necessary?”. The gist of this story is that there are so many new tools available to agents and the general public that many buyers do most of their shopping on their own and rely on these tools, primarily provided by the listing agents, to choose their home. Mike Parker of RIS Media wrote an article that illustrated many of these changes statistically.

In his article, Traditional  buyers and Internet Buyers, he summarizes a study performed by the California Association of Realtors (CAR®).  According to Mr. Parker and this 2006 study, Internet buyers have already been researching for 3 weeks longer then traditional buyers and they look at homes with an agent for 2.2 weeks vs. the traditional 7.1 weeks. Finally, they visit and look at less then half the number of homes of traditional buyers. The number of these internet buyers has grown from 28% in 2000 to 70% in 2006. (NAR recently updated this statistic in 2007 to be 80%)

The internet buyer can take this to the extreme as illustrated in Noelle Knox’s article in USA today about a family who moved from Scottsdale Arizona to Tulsa with out ever visiting the home, or even the area. The purchase and research was all done completely online. A similar article was also written by Iris Winston for Can West News about her daughters experience in Calgary.

There is truly an enormous amount of articles about the affect the internet is having on the real estate industry. There are new products, new marketing tools, empowered buyers and empowered Sellers. But Ed is right, to date there is very little change in commissions charged by real estate agents, interesting! Perhaps we need to have a bunch of experts sit around a table so that we can all discuss this and see if we can understand why! What do you say Ed, interested?!

This article was written by Andrew Ouellette sale representative for Royal LePage Realty and VP of New Product Development for Base 10 Web Solutions creators of UniqueHomeSites.com


Are Real Estate Agents Facing Extinction?

September 13, 2007

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 Bill Miles, Executive VP of Connecting Neighbors, writes a very insightful article on RISMedia.com this week.

It discusses new challenges facing real estate agents with increased consumer access to neighbourhood and property information on the Internet.

He writes:

As a buyer, you needed to see what homes were for sale and then access those homes to view the interior.

As a seller, you had to list your home on the MLS in order to market it effectively. Real estate professionals were the gate keepers.

Consumers now however, with the help of technology, are storming those gates and are just about inside the castle. Active listing data is widely available on the web.

Consumers can list and market their homes on the MLS with the help of discount brokers or on non-MLS associated real estate portals, such as ZillowTM, Trulia® or GoogleTM.

In another few years, consumers and agents will stand on equal footing with respect to access to and marketing of homes for sale. In addition, the real estate process is no longer a mystery.

Much of the documentation is available online or from low cost providers. If a consumer is willing, there are few barriers to complete a transaction without a real estate agent.

Miles, however, has an answer for real estate agents – develop a unique area of expertise and translate that into consumer value.

To prove his theory, he points to other industry groups that have been impacted by the proliferation of industry data on the Internet – Travel Agents and Stock Brokers.

Ten years ago, when consumers gained access to booking their own flights, cars and hotels, many predicted travel agents were doomed.

While many travel agents did change careers, still many others developed specialties and niches of expertise. This came through education and the development of an enhanced service.

For example, when you look for travel agents today, you might find specialists offering company sales trips, “all inclusive” family trips or African safaris. However, you find very few that will make a business flight for an executive to Chicago. That market is gone.

Those that have developed an expertise are being paid well and will have long careers. They deliver value beyond the traditional areas of service: scheduling the trip and making reservations.

A second example is the stock broker. Over the past 10 years, the Internet has enabled consumers to buy and sell almost any financial product offered in the market. Yet stock brokers have not disappeared. They have focused on financial planning or developed an expertise in certain financial products or industries.

In addition, similar to real estate, buying and selling financial products is a complex activity. Consumers will always need experienced, educated advice in this area. As such, stock brokers still exist, but with new value to offer.

With the increased public availability of web services (Google Maps, YouTube) and listing websites (Craiglist, Google Base), home sellers can get their property on the web in front of millions of prospective homebuyers on the internet – all without the help of an agent.

Real estate agents really need to embrace these new technologies to give their selling clients that the assurance that they will market their property using all the latest methods.

In Canada, some agents use UniqueHomeSites.com to create a website dedicated to an individual property. This technique demonstrates to the selling client that their agent has an up-to-date marketing plan and that their property is a priority.


Technolgy Expert offers Camera Advice to Real Estate Agents

September 10, 2007

009_009.jpgIn a recent article from the online edition of Realtor Magazine, real estate technology writer Mike Antoniak discusses photography options for real estate agents

No matter what angle you try, or how far you step back, fitting the image of a whole home or room into a single camera shot can be a challenge. Yet great photos of your listings in full form are becoming more and more essential to your virtual tours and marketing. What can you do?One solution is to use “stitching software” that comes bundled many digital cameras; the software combines two or more images into one seamless panorama for a broader perspective. Another approach is to add wide-angle capability to a standard lens.Or, you can simply go shopping for a new digital camera — a good option if you’re in the market for an upgrade. There’s a growing selection of wide-angle lens digital cameras that will allow you to capture the whole interior or exterior in just one click, without stepping so far back that the details get lost in the picture.

For an idea of what’s on the market, Mr. Antoniak provides a sampling of the latest wide-angle solutions being offered by some popular camera makers.