Use your agent website to gain credibility

December 1, 2009

Rob McCance posted an article on Agent Genius blog last week, which discusses real estate websites and how they can impact your credibility as a real estate professional among an ever-increasing Internet audience.

“Whenever I see a really bad real estate website, what that says to me is that the person behind the site has a very low attention to detail. Also, they are apparently not overly concerned about their on-line credibility, as is being conveyed by their website.”

McCance goes on to describe 4 basic elements for an agent website to convey a high level of credibility:

Navigation – Is the content on your website easy to navigate?

Most visitors will be looking for one thing, and one thing only – listings!

One option is to make your property search functionality front and foremost on your website.

Don’t make your visitors have to think about where to find your listings or make them click too many times to get to what they really want.

Design – Real estate professionals are operating in an industry where first impressions are critical.

With so much competition out there, it is important to make sure that your website is clean, attractive, and has well-designed elements.

Visitors to your website will quickly pick up on design flaws, sometimes subconsciously, and formulate their opinion of you based on these flaws.

Error-free – This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people post content to their website without first running it through a spell-checker.

Other things like broken links, missing images / documents, and inaccurate or out-dated information on your website will have a negative impact on people’s perception of you as a real estate professional.

Brand – Most sales representatives and brokers are obligated to display their brokerage logo somewhere on their website.

However, you do have a certain amount of freedom to promote a personalized brand, either through a customized logo, caricature, tag line, and/or the overall look-and-feel of your website.

This personalized brand should be something that will leave a positive and lasting impression.


Internet turns Forty, but still a teenager

November 12, 2009

2158610The Internet quietly turned 40 years old last month, as Leonard Kleinrock and others at the University of California celebrated the first time they (or anyone) got computers to ‘speak’ to one another.

It was on October 29, 1969, that Kleinrock and his team are credited for giving birth to the Internet by getting a computer at UCLA to “talk” to another one at a research institute.

One small step indeed, considering where we are today, with the proliferation of online social networking and content sharing that is now commonplace in society.

But Kleinrock is quick to note that, although 40 years have past, the Internet is merely coming of age in terms of its impact on society.

 “It’s a teenager now. It’s learned some things but it has a long way to go. It’s behaving erratically, but it’s given enormous gratification to its parents and the community.”

Interestingly enough, this view is shared by Gary Vaynerchuk, who is currently leading the way for a new wave of individuals leveraging web 2.0 and the whole social networking movement via the Internet.

In a recent speech, Gary proclaims ‘the Internet hasn’t even had sex yet!’

Not sure how this applies to selling real estate?

Check out this video of Gary’s speech, where he describes his ability to successfully “scale up” his customer service and brand building by networking with people across the Internet using web 2.0.


Higher Levels of ‘Walkability’ Linked to Higher Home Values

August 25, 2009

walkscore-logo.gif

As reported on BuzzBuzzHome blog (weird name, great blog!), a new study shows that higher levels of ‘walkability’ are directly linked to higher home values.

The report, “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities,” looked at 94,000 real-estate transactions in 15 markets across the U.S.

The report was commissioned by a group called CEO’s for Cities and uses the Walkscore web service that we have integrated within all of our UniqueHomeSites.

WalkScore allows you to view the ‘walkability’ of any known location, drawing in community points of interest from Google‘s vast directory of local stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. to calculate a walking distance score.

You can even interact with Walkscore to improve the walkability of your listings.

To improve your listings’ Walk Score, you can easily add and delete amenities yourself.

1. From the local amenities link on your UniqueHomeSite click on the “bigger map” link in the top right corner of the Walkscore box.

2. On the right, above the list of amenities is a link titled “missing something“. Click on this and follow the instructions to add the missing amenity to Google maps.

For any point of interest, you only have to add it once. It will be available for all your future listings for that neighbourhood. 

Its a great way to provide potential homebuyers with valuable information and perhaps fetch a higher price for your listings!


Do You Have a Listing Syndication Strategy?

June 1, 2009

radiotowerAn interesting article appeared on the New York Times website the other day.

It discusses the trend among real estate professionals to ‘syndicate’ their listings for display on other websites, such as Zillow.com, as a strategy to increase their online presence.

Listing syndication is nothing new, but the trend towards more liberal distribution of listings is not without its critics.

In response to the article, real estate blogger Dave Phillips from Charlottesville, Virginia, explores the question of whether it makes sense for local MLS systems to send their listings data to listings aggregators.

Acting as somewhat of a devil’s advocate, Mr. Phillips presents arguments against syndication, stating concerns about Internet market dilution with so many sites doing the same thing.

In Canada, only Realtor.ca and some local Canadian real estate boards can claim that they are the sole source for ALL realtor listings within a particular market.

Meanwhile, listing aggregators such as Zoocasa.com go above and beyond for online consumers, offering a richer search experience including neighbourhood descriptions (from wikipedia), school information, home price comparisons, and even a commuter cost calculator.

At UniqueHomeSites.com, we want to know what Canadian real estate agents, brokers, and owners think about listing syndication.

Please feel free to comment below… we want to hear from you!

Also, check out this video from Greg Afarian from Zipvo Corporation.


5 To-Do’s for Real Estate Brokers to Improve their Marketing Reach

May 4, 2009

reachThe folks over at 1000 Watt Consulting placed an interesting post on their blog the other day, which we believe hits the mark for real estate brokerages operating in today’s Internet age.

The post discusses 5 things that brokers should do to improve their marketing.

Here is a summary:

  1. Start thinking like a media company

    Listings and Market Knowledge = Content… Start broadcasting them!

  2. Perform a vendor audit

    Costs for things like bandwidth and online storage have dropped significantly in recent years, and new web-based applications are increasingly available at a fraction of the cost.

    Have a look at new technologies and services and compare them to those offered by your existing vendors. 

  3. User Testing

    Conduct live user testing on your website to discover what they like and dislike.

    Also, use free analytics software to analyze and track the performance of the content and design of your website. 

  4. Perform a website makeover 

    Do some research and you will find that many of your competitors have poorly designed websites.

    Stay ahead of the curve – Consider a redesign or cosmetic upgrade to your brokerage website.

  5. Differentiate! 

    Stay abreast of new applications or tools (i.e. Twitter, Facebook) and give consumers something to talk about!

    Try to set yourself apart from the competition by offering something different.


Better Homes and Gardens enters Canadian Real Estate Marketplace

April 27, 2009

bhglogoBetter Homes and Gardens Real Estate officially announced recently that it will be expanding its real estate brand into Canada after reopening in the United States last summer.

BHG Real Estate is targeting the younger generation of buyers, who have been flooding the market in recent months, at least in Canada, thanks to historically low interest rates and falling prices.

Leading the BHG expansion into Canada, and adding a high degree of respect and familiarity, is former executive vice-president with Royal LePage CanadaSherry Chris.

According to an article by Garry Marr of the Financial Post, which discusses the BHG expansion, Ms. Chris’ company will go after some of the independent brokerages in those markets but has a hands-off policy when it comes to recruiting any brokers from Coldwell Banker or Century 21.

“If there was an independent company in a major city that wanted to grow and felt that they could grow better by partners and affiliating and utilizing technology Better Homes and Gardens has created, they would become a master franchise for a geographic area,” Chris said.

We’re not exactly sure why the hands-off policy with C21 and Coldwell Banker, but this could be an exciting opportunity for real estate brokers across Canada, particularly those who are familiar with, and heavily use, social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc) and other internet marketing technologies.  

We’ve discussed BHG on this blog in the past, pointing out the numerous resources available on their website for anyone buying or selling a home, including an article entitled – ‘14 Ways to Add Curb Appeal’


Canadian Realtors using Video – Re-visited

April 20, 2009

videoAbout a year and a half ago, we did a post on real estate agents in Canada who use video to market themselves and their property listings.

Given that video is rapidly becoming mainstream on the Internet, to the point where surfers/consumers are actually expecting it, we decided to re-visit the subject.

For this post, we searched YouTube for realtors in Canada and found a variety of video marketing techniques being used right now.

To see the complete results of our analysis, visit our recently created YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/uniquehs and have a look at our subscriptions.

Alternatively, have a look at some of the videos below that highlight some of the better uses of video that we found.

Matt Richling, of RE/MAX Affiliates Realty LTD, produced this video for one of his office listings:

Rich Zalaudek, of Homelife Benchmark Realty in White Rock, B.C., employs the professional video services of Video Openhouse for this listing presentation:

Team Cook of Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa, provides a more personal approach with voice-over descriptions of the property and neighbourhood.

Edmonton Realtor Sheldon Johnston, of Coldwell Banker Johnston Real Estate, discusses sales, listings, inventory, and first time home buyers in the Edmonton, Alberta, real estate market.

And, last but not least, Vancouver real estate agent Ian Watt of Sutton Group conducts a daily video blog, from his car of all places! This guy is often cited as one of the top video bloggers in North America.