Archive for July, 2008

Connect SF08 – The MLS Mess

There are 880 MLS’s (Multiple Listing Service) in the US – and the MLS is at the heart of the US industry. Every agent loads to their local MLS (which in some cases represents a whole state and in others handles a couple of towns the size of Levin). The agents pay for the MLS. The MLS provides a database of content of all listings – in theory a simple clearing house where any agent (and in a growing number of cases consumers) can find out what properties are on the market with comparable data.

However whenever you get so many industry owned groups providing a for-profit service you are likely to find politics and division as well as wasteful “re-invention of the wheel”.

A sample MLS reportThe panel session on this subject had all the hallmarks of a less than interesting topic for me, but I was keen to better understand the likelihood of a single MLS for the US as a drive to standardisation of data; and as it turned out the session was great.

The Californian Association of Realtors – a fairly progressive organisation were represented on the panel and talked of their project to create a state wide MLS – there must be over 50 in the state at the moment. Dissenters talked of the unique local aspects of the data structure for different parts of the country, but the message seemed hollow from technical database perspective where scale is not an issue.

Google’s presence on the panel certainly brought (as would be expected) a view that MLS’s were dinosaurs – there view is show the public what they want – a comprehensive view of the market to include all listing: licensed agent listing / private sale listing / new builds / fore-closure listings.

The heart of the problem of having multiple MLS’s was graphically demonstrated by a question or more an example from a realtor from Oregon where due to the boundary between separate MLS’s they could not show properties from an MLS they did not subscribe to and had no affiliation with despite the fact that these properties within the state were only a couple of miles away – this ridiculous example (yet so true) is so destructive to the professionalism of the industry.

In this regard we should be pleased in NZ to not have an MLS or in some ways for us to have just one MLS – realestate.co.nz – a single source of the most comprehensive database of licensed listings in the country.

July 28 2008 | News | No Comments »

Connect SF08 – Super Size Search

This excellent session provided what in some ways is the heart of online real estate but is not often covered as a single topic. To power the discussion debate representatives of the key websites joined the panel – Zillow, Trulia, Frontdoor, Move, Realtor.com, Cyberhomes and MyNewPlace.

Clearly technology has been a driving component over the past 5 years and the consumer recognises now the benefits of services such as RSS feeds and the power of Google search. Yet despite that and as a desperate cry to the realtors in the audience the unanimous message from the group was something that I have long been advocating:

The consumer wants rich content – they want to make informed choices – they will no longer accept an agent saying “call me and I will tell you more details” – they want rich images of the property and the address. So it appears the issues I face in endeavouring to get the site to be the optimal experience for the consumer are faced by my colleagues with the websites in the US!! – As ever I implore all real estate agents – provide as much information and images on all listings.

This session also provided what has gone on to be the quote of the conference:

“Photo not available is still a very popular architectural style.”

The statistics quoted backed up the premise that more content gets more viewings – 300% increase for viewings that have photos – numbers we have provided for NZ in the past. One panelist even went as far as to say that the lack of content and especially a lack of photos could be a breach of the service agreement and also the code of ethics of a real estate agent – surely the role of the agent is to use their best ability to market their clients listing – this nowadays means online!

(As an aside Kerry Kissane on her blog “Helping Hand” wrote an article on just this subject last week and has introduced a “Hall of Shame” weekly highlight of how the industry needs to lift its game! – have a read).

Zillow has over the past 12 months moved from being seen as a threat to being a partner, something that Trulia never had an issue with. Zillow when it launched with no listings – but the killer application of a Zestimate for every house in the US certainly scared many in the industry, fearful they would disinter mediate the market and facilitate private sales to the detriment of agents. This has not eventuated as even though they do provide the “Make me move” service, it turns out many of these sales are facilitated through an agent.

Naturally with such competing websites on the panel, a little chest beating ensued – collectively there is around 4.7 million listings at the moment in the US – Realtor.com has the most comprehensive selection as through the NAR affiliation it draws from all the MLS’s (880 of them across the country). Realtor.com is not industry owned but is operated by Move under a license agreement from NAR. The other sites have anywhere between 2 and 3 million listing – many of the MLS’s choosing not to or charging too much for providing a feed to a website.

It was refreshing on the one hand, but equally frustrating on the other that with the web now so well established in real estate in the minds of the consumer, the industry (and I generalise) is in some areas so slow to realise the value of comprenhesive content to drive serious buyer searches.

July 28 2008 | News | No Comments »

Connect SF08 – New real estate franchise launches at Connect

As a testament to the status of Connect and the positioning of the new franchise – Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate opened for business on the 23rd July.

This is a very interesting development and a mirror of one of the many components of Stefan Swanepoel’s Trends presentation (specifically the concept of licensing for real estate). BH&G Real Estate apparently has existed before, but exited the market over a decade ago.

The greatest benefit this new franchise will bring to the market is clearly the synergy with the off line magazine and the rich content integration that it offers. This will not be the first as Frontdoor.com launched last year – not as a franchise but as a web portal. Their ownership by Homes and Garden TV again provides this content integration whereby the real estate transaction process can fall seamlessly into long term association with the consumer that involves designing, building, remodelling, decorating and then naturally buying and selling.

We have been working to build a similar integration over the past few months with Trends Publishing – this is evolving into richer content within our Ideas section of the website.

To launch a whole new franchise right in the middle of the downturn is I think a statement of confidence by the parent company who have bought the license to use the name – Realogy who as the largest group franchisor also own Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. They clearly see the need to keep reinvesting in their business. They also see the value of collaboration between these competing franchises within their portfolio as they share listings on each others website. The logic being the consumer will be more interested in searching a Century 21 website if instead of 200,000 listings it has over 400,000 due to the inclusion of Coldwell Banker listings (actual number of listings is an estimate). This approach provides BH&G with a massive start with their new website having this amount of content when in reality they only have around 1,500 agents and less than 4,000 listings (estimate).

Certainly a franchise model to watch for the future.

July 28 2008 | News | No Comments »

Connect SF08 – The emergence of video

Wellcomemat videoThis break out session from a group titled Savy Agent Technology proved enormously popular with people packed tightly into the small room. The panellists comprised video service companies and hosted video companies, as well respected industry practitioners:

Fred Light a video producer – Nashua Video Tours

Mike Malkasian – President of FSBO.com

Morgan Brown – Director of Marketing of TurnHere

Phil Thoams Di Guilio – Co-Founder of WellcomeMat.com

The opening question brought out the value of video which unanimously was to the ability for it to be seen as a point of difference for an agent; whereby agents (who largely fund all marketing in the US) consistently win listing pitches by offering a video service as part of their marketing proposition. The other unanimous agreement was the fact that video is a complement a comprehensive portfolio of photographs, it could never replace photographs. In the process of buyer engagement with a property listing there was a linear path of reviewing listing facts, followed by scanning the photos before then watching the video, where the video watching was more likely to be done by serious rather than casual prospective buyers, who were also far more likely to watch the video multiple times.

With the advent of full motion video on the web there was a clear message that 360 degree virtual tours are finally dead! – they had been used for many years to provide a surrogate for video but now the buyers could guided through a house and neighbourhood in a continuous tour, there offering has lost the final vestiges of value.

A valuable insight was that video provided a greater sense of transparency whereby photos could avoid or hide aspects of the house whereas video (in a long duration format) exposed the whole house and thereby gave a more comprehensive and compelling picture of the property.

As to the costs and applicability most spoke of basic video productions from US$150 to US$400 with more comprehensive presentations from US$400 to over US$1,000. There was no real limit as to which properties best suited video although logically the higher end better justified the costs and reflected the larger more comprehensive presentation of a larger house. The duration of videos seemed to be between 90 seconds and 3 minutes.

A recommendation was made as to the value of capturing not just the property but also the neighbourhood which provides rich context to the presentations so people could see the street and the local schools and community, this incremental material could be stock images which could be part of the “sell” of the real estate company as part of the video. It also provides an opportunity much as with blogs for an agent to demonstrate their local knowledge and expertise.

Turning to the operational issue of making the video, it was felt of value to have a commentary to “guide” people through the house, as to whether this should be done by the agent as part of the sound track or by a voice over by a professional voice was to a certain extent a matter of choice – the important thing was to make a piece of marketing material that added value to the listing. A good piece of advice was not to repeat listing facts in the video like the number of bedrooms and section size – and never detail the price as naturally this may well change in the process of the listing life.

Moving from a voice over to a personal guide in the video, again it is a matter of personal choice as to whether agents should be in front of the camera – it could provide good brand exposure, but if you are nervous or not keen then it is better for the property to be the “hero” of the video. Some examples had been done very effectively where the current owners of the video contributed content to the video on the basis that they more than anyone best knew the best way to sell the property.

To the question of DIY or getting a professional in, naturally money played a part. The Flip camera at just around US$100 provides the simplest way to capture video and then download it quick and easily and therefore DIY could be enormously effective, equally there were many other video cameras which could produce excellent quality (especially as the web format does not require high definition). Common desktop software such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie for MAC’s provides the ability to do the complete DIY job from start to finish. In terms of hardware format, the only thing to steer clear of was cameras that record straight to DVD – these do not allow editing of content and therefore the shot would have to be taken in one take.

A sound piece of advice was for the agent to use their own camera to produce a “briefing” video for a video company where they video the parts of the house with comments and provide that for the cameraman to better and more efficiently produce the final video.

From production to hosting of videos. One key benefit of video is that on the web videos attract strong Google rankings and as the medium is still fairly new for real estate it was not unusual for well tagged video to appear in the top 5 results on very generic real estate terms – one that could not even attract such ranking from blogs for example. Getting video onto multiple sites now was becoming an issue as many video social media sites were instigating bans on real estate videos. The belief and fact is that these videos add nothing to these sites in terms of richness of “sticky” content as the appeal of such videos is so narrow and has no viral appeal.

A key point to remember is that once you upload videos to the web on sites like YouTube you are allowing such videos to be copied and linked and shared around the web – it is the nature of the web, so be aware in terms of what you want to show. Equally there is becoming a consideration as to whether YouTube with its “general” content is really the place for video of quality homes when there are a number of free hosting sites specifically providing services for real estate.

Overall there is no doubt that video is only going to grow in importance as a key part of marketing real estate, as to whether it will replace open homes, that is a good question, it certainly has the ability for the agent to be more efficient and effective at marketing and for the buyers to be better informed from the comfort of their armchair.

July 26 2008 | Video | 6 Comments »

Connect SF08 – The Bulls vs. Bears of the US Property market

This general session was bound to attract an eager audience of realtors keen to find out the latest predictions of the view of the market in the next 3-5 years.

The panellists comprised

  • Avram Goldman – President & CEO of Pacific Union GMAC Real Estate
  • Dottie Herman – President & CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman
  • John Williams – Economist, Shadowstats.com
  • Noah Rosenblatt – Founder of Urbandigs.com
  • Yves Smith – Author of NakedCapitalism.com

Starting from the bear side of the picture, the outlook could not look worse with a ballooning current account deficit now amounting to a level where the debt to GDP ratio of 350% (the position during the great depression was 260%). This was however very much a function of the oil price which compounded with the low dollar had sent current account deficit to the level which if oil price come back (as people here are saying) below US$120 then the ratio would fall below 300%.

As to property prices, the level of falls is a long way off reaching a new bottom with 19% being the current level of fall nationally, however as is so often reported the local picture is vastly different – the hyper hot spots of 2004/5 being Las Vegas, Miami for example are down in some cases by 40+%, but take the Bay Area and San Francisco and you would say “what housing crash” here as in NY – people are seeing property sales activity year on year hardly change and prices barely fluctuate.

One indicator that the panel agreed upon was that the supply side of the market was now fully adjusted in respect of new homes being built – this flow has dried up, yet what is left is an inventory which on national scale is close to 12 months supply and at the extreme many (greater than 7 in some cases!) years supply.

The bulls view of the picture was less bullish and that I think pervades the view of the market over here. The sense is that the root of the problem still lies in the credit market and this is only getting worse whereas a year ago credit process has tightened up on approvals, now credit itself – the availability of the cash to fund property is now almost non existent, and the panic over the Freedie and Fannie securities over the past weeks sent shudders through an already nervous market. It should be noted that the Senate passed legislation last night to further support this underpinning of the mortgage market which as the news broke was well received by the delegates.

Some rays of light were shone by the bulls who reflected that with the state of credit there was an emerging trend that the true money in the country – the wealth of people which has not been destroyed as it has been in the past in stock market crashes is seeking out safe havens and is being seen going into real estate – it is a rock solid investment in the long term for patient investors and with prices down to somewhat more realistic levels people were snapping up bargains.

One key point in the US market is the fact that prices have fallen, but volumes have not fallen as much as in the NZ, this speaks I think to the fundamental issues – the US is a major problem driven by its own lapse processes of credit with real fundamental issues of taking the hit on way overvalued debt. In NZ the problem is not the overvalued debt but an issue of confident spooked by the scale of the US problem.

In looking for the timetable for the “bottom” of the cycle and the recovery the consensus was late 2009 for the bottom and from 2010 to 2012 for a recovery – there is a long way to go, but sales this year in the US will be around 4.1 million which is the same level as 2002/4 – the peak was 7 million in 2006.

July 25 2008 | Market stats | No Comments »

Connect SF08 – Bloggers Connect

Inman Connect SF08Bloggers Connect forms the first day of the Inman Conference as one of the threads of activity available to participants, the others being Foreclosure Programme and Internet Marketing.

As a starting comment there were 2 really powerful messages today from the sessions which I want to share at the outset.

1. I get Twitter! – I first heard about Twitter last year and thought that is a bit geeky and kind of ignored it. Well 12 months later, I can see a value that is beyond the banal voyeuristic world of “following others”. I sat today next to a lady who was twittering throughout the sessions – she would almost verbatim capture the content just like a stenographer in a court room – the only difference being that the messages are limited to 140 characters and perfect English is not obligatory!
Twittering at the Connect conference The point being was with her and others the Twitter world was being exposed to the “ramblings” of the Inman Conference which means in NZ you could be following the twitter conversations live – such was the “noise” of twittering at the conference that the conference tagged twitterings (called tweets) reached a ranking of #4 in the world for some of the day!

2. Blogging and online is now firmly a part of the toolkit of a smart realtor – it is not the whole toolkit, as a slight shift from a year or 6 months ago when you would have thought that blogging was everything there seems to be a return to a balance of online and offline connections and networks which each supporting each other to build an agents business.

Anyway back to the sessions.

Here is a note form digest of comments and thoughts shared in the sessions:

  • The best source of articles for blogs comes from your audience – listen to what they talk about and then provide them with this content or information. Spend time listening.
  • When it comes to blogging as a local agent – don’t regurgitate the market stats which are available from other sources give buyers and sellers reasons to buy and sell, help them better understand the market through interpretation rather than share data.
  • Blogs will fail if they become too ego driven, in some ways they are not about you but more about your community and your audience.
  • Try and spell check – whilst there is a tolerance for occasion grammatical errors, be conscious that too many errors or bad grammar can lead people to get frustrated in reading articles.
  • Be patient – it may be many months of starting to blog before you ever get a call that has come from your blog, equally once you have a well established history of blogging this counts hugely for you for the future in terms of leads.
  • It is very unusual that the leads that you secure from a blog come from people who comment, it almost is never these people, however people who comment are important they are the value referencers who add credibility to what you say and who you are.
  • You will attract an audience related to what you write about, if you write about foreclosure sales (mortgagee sales) then you will likely attract an audience of people looking to buy these type of properties or distressed sellers, you will not get people looking for lifestyle properties – this is the facts of life of search engines.
  • If you want to drive traffic to your blog you need to go out into the online community – to sites / blogs that are read by your audience (non real estate blogs) and post comments on those blogs – that way you extend your circle of influence and people will link back to you.
  • The old adage of the web that “Content is king” still rules, however without links content is lost in hyperspace – so create links to your content on your blog on other peoples blogs.
  • Use your blog actively as a marketing reference tool for your own website and social networking sites – your profile pages. Add links to your “best” or most popular posts so others can see what your expertise or opinions are.
  • Engage with your community; for example your school – your blog is a media and the principle of the school may well appreciate for you to interview them to tease out local issues where you can leverage your blog to engage a wider audience – kind of a social service. In addition the likelihood is that when published your article will be circulated within the school community opening up your blog and therefore by inference you to a wider audience, in effect you become a local newspaper.

All of these great thoughts and ideas follow a similar path and neatly fit within a new 3 letter acronym! – wouldn’t you know it – YEO, it replaces or complements SEO (search engine optimisation) and stands for You Engaging Others.

This concept and phrase was coined by one of the speakers today Jeff Turner, however I would recommend you reading the wisdom of another of today’s great speakers Nicole Nicolay who has written a great post – The secret to blog sucess: YEO, You Engaging Others

July 24 2008 | Blogs and Social Networking | 4 Comments »

Usage of material on Unconditional blog

I was asked the question today regarding permission to use material published on the Unconditional blog, so I thought I would share this information with others who also may want to use some of the material.

There is a simple principle here – it is attribution – I am very happy to allow people in the industry to use and share the information on the Unconditional blog (and this blog if appropriate). There are 2 ways of doing it:

1. If you want to use an article in an offline newsletter which is printed them please copy and paste the whole article. The article should be referenced and attributed to “The Unconditional blog (www.unconditional.co.nz/blog)”.

2. If you want to use an article in any form of online – be it an email newsletter or another blog, then please respect the principle of online links. Feel free to quote and reference the article (rather than take the article in full) and provide a link in your message to the article. You can take any images and graphs as long as you link them back to the blog post. All images used on the Unconditional blog have been purchased royalty paid for their use on Unconditional in that article, please do not copy and use them in other articles.

If you have any other questions please never hesitate to call me 021 610 510

July 24 2008 | Blogs and Photos | No Comments »

Connect SF08 – Social Networking: the top sites

One of the best sessions of today’s RE Barcamp was held on the top social networking groups to leverage to build profile.

The key point here is profile in the context of SEO (search engine optimisation) – whilst everyone wants to seek a return on investment of time or cost vs. income the plain fact is that if your rankings on Google searches are high and are getting higher this is how you will be found and therefore secure a ROI on the investment you make in online marketing. Your ranking wants to naturally be on your own name, but more importantly the key words people will use in Google searches when looking to search property or an agent – those words that define subject matter expertise that you hold and what to be recognised for.

So the debate was to come up with a top 5 list of the social networking sites where people should focus their resources, especially now as there are new sites opening up every day and you could very well subscribe to 20 in the next 30 minutes if you were so inclined.

The collective wisdom of the group in someways was predictable and in someway surprising – in fact we only came up with 4 – better to focus on fewer, so here they are:

1. Facebook – universally recognised as the place to be, to establish a profile and demonstrate your community of contacts. It is so popular, far surpassing MySpace as the place to meet network and connect. It is not a teenagers site – it is an everybody’s site. To prove it – here’s me! – I am not an avid user, but I find it useful to keep in touch with people overseas and also for people to find me – that is a great value.

2. LinkedIn – this is the professional social networking site, whereas Facebook has a relaxed, light hearted perspective this is about credability and profile. Here you can establish the business connections that can demonstrate to your prospective clients that you have the experience, credibility and standing to be a professional. People browsing your profile can investigate the referrals you have and the career you have pursued. Again proving that I practice what I preach – my profile on LinkedIn.

3. Twitter – now this I must say, I have not quite got into. Twitter is a social network through which you can keep in touch with a group of people you define and the context is around immediacy and short SMS format – you can twitter from your mobile device or PC. The consensus is that it is a constantly moving view of what people are doing, unlike the other 2 Twitter is not about profiles and referrals as a fairly static view, Twitter is about you today and how you might share connections today. I can see the appeal, but am not a convert.

4. Flickr – now this one surprised me. I always thought of Flickr as a photo storage and showcase sight, but I was wrong, it is a community and for real estate I can now see why – why simply because without images real estate marketing is nothing.

The experience of realtors here is the fact that being a very powerful social networking site Flickr has excellent SEO capability so uploading photos of current listings as well as photos of your neighbourhood is a powerful way to influence that all important page ranking on Google. The key is to tag all photos you upload with the right keywords so you will be found (your photos will be found). The fact is more and more Google searches are done on image search after all we all know our brain interprets images far faster than words.

So the way to play this is to ensure you set up a Facebook profile as ever don’t set it up as a listings’ advertising page, but a page about you – share the photos you love and the ones you have which reflect the neighbourhood you work in and through that add listing photos and then link them to the listings on your site.

July 24 2008 | Social Networking | 1 Comment »

Blogging from Connect

I am now in San Francisco, here to attend the Real Estate Connect conference later this week. The format of the week is pre-conference unofficial blogger day session tomorrow organised organically by a group of 30 bloggers mainly from the US at something that has been called RE barcamp. Barcamps are a tech event held by geeks usually as an organic meeting exchange – so we had to have RE Barcamp!!

On Wednesday the conference starts with a Bloggers Connect session through till 3pm when the conference starts. That runs through the remainder of Wed, all of Thursday and half of Friday – as ever a jammed schedule of which you have to make trade-offs as to what to attend.

I have chosen this year to blog from the conference on 2 formats – rather than just one ! – this blog which is very much an internal blog within the industry I will use to share observations and insight into the US market and developments online – it will be a bit “bitty” but hopefully interesting and insightful.

I will use the Unconditional blog to post a couple of observations which will summarise the conference from the public’s perspective sharing what I think the trends observed at the conference and the new technology ideas.

Check out the schedule of the conference and let me know if there is anything here which may be of interest or question you have always wanted to know about the US market or online.

July 22 2008 | Blogs and News | 6 Comments »

Real Estate Trends Report 2008

Real Estate Trends report 2008This annual report by Stefan Swanepoel is a US based report but aside from one of the key trends regarding the MLS (Multiple Listings Service), the content and implications of these 10 Trends are as relevant to NZ as they are to the US, UK or Australia. The commonality is the fact we all operate in a commission based market place and are all entering a cyclical downturn. I have summarised the key trends from the report and added my take on the implications of these to the NZ market.

#10 Shattered Glass – Women, the Youth and Minorities Step Up to leadership Roles

This trend speaks to the opportunities opening up to segment customer groups through representation of minority groups in the population – we are a rich and ethnically diverse country and will continue to be so. In the US this speaks to their growing Hispanic influence. Equally the appeal to the new generation X&Y as well as women’s role in property buying need to be thought about in target marketing of real estate.

Turning to the internal structures in the industry – the influence of Generation Y. The strength of women in positions of seniority in the real estate industry. The considerable age skew of current agents in the industry; all of these are really challenging issue – but equally rewarding opportunities for anyone looking to build a career in real estate.

The take-out here is the need for the industry to change – embrace change and exploit change. Key questions for NZ real estate would be around targeting the varied ethnically diverse population as well as capturing and retaining a younger base of future agents to better serve the next generations.

#9 Thought Reform – the DNA of a new breed of Real Estate Professionals

This trend is so timely. With this changing market the skill set of a competent and professional individual is so key. What degree of additional education will be needed to better understand the needs of the consumers of the future? – “Agents are no longer order takers and are looking to acquire skills to build their business” – Bill Shue, President, RealtyU.

This trend is so clearly facing all of those in this industry as I wrote recently on the Unconditional blog “A tough year ahead for real estate agents“.

Clearly this issue of continuing education and the application of CPD as part of the proposal in new Act is high on the attention of policy makers, the education providers and REINZ such that to be looking ahead to a long and successful career in real estate requires a clear strategy for continual training and learning.

#8 Clash of the Titans – Power brokers flex their muscles

It will come as no surprise that what is being seen in the US in terms of polarisation of the market to the major groups and franchises has been witnessed and continues to be witnessed here in NZ. The report examines 10 of the identified Power brokers who are not purely based on scale; but on metrics such as growth, innovation, internet strategies, industry profile and consumer awareness. Reviewing these key players in the US market highlights some of the indicators of who in NZ may be the Power brokers of the future locally.

#7 The tug of war has started…again – The evolving and changing real estate business model

This trend has such relevance to NZ as we have witnessed this year a number of challenges to the traditional real estate business model the majority of which have been focussed to the costs of service. We witnessed the rise and fall of The Joneses, in areas of the country 1% players have established a foothold and other models will continue to appear. The US equally has had these players in one form or another as well as more challenging models involving lead generation operators feeding off the MLS system and pure play internet operators. One thing is certain this industry will continue to see challenges to the established business model and smart operators will be looking for the clues as to how to adapt and grow.

#6 Gone in 60 seconds – Identity theft and data security runs rampant

This trend is global and needs to be thought about by every operator in this industry whether it is email lists or online transactions and office PC’s – security is everybody’s concern and needs vigilant application.

#5 In search of productivity – Growing market share on a slippery slope

As is a key theme for this year’s Trends report the outlook for the real estate market in 2008 is bleak, and from research carried out at the end of 2007 the top 5 issues facing agents in the US are:

  • Too few buyers
  • Unreasonable price expectations by sellers
  • More informed consumers
  • Too many agents
  • Subprime loan fallout

Substitute “credit squeeze and high interest rates” for subprime in this list and I bet you that would be the top 5 in NZ today. In searching for productivity gains for agents the focus on the opportunity of maximising technology and the use of the internet should result in some of the following strategies advocated in the report.

  • Google should be a part of every real estate professional’s online strategies and placing high on organic search results has become a fulltime job rather than a part time dance.
  • As the majority of consumers are shopping online, prime, expensive retails locations are no longer critical. The dollars saved can be better spent in enabling the consumer to find you online.

How can I disagree with these recommendations – how can you?

#4 Four weddings and a funeral – The changing borders and boundaries of MLS

Now this one is not of true relevance to NZ, having said that whilst we do not operate an MLS in NZ the underlying issue of data management and the provision of comprehensive information is important. The market of consumers searching for real estate is seeing an ever more informed consumer, and as an industry this insatiable appetite for information pertaining to property and neighbourhoods needs to be addressed so the agent can remain truly relevant in the future.

#3 The new digital currency – Livestock, Land, Gold Oil and now Information

For real estate, information is key and online is the arena in which real estate operates – the past couple of years have seen enormous changes in the online real estate space – to quote the report “web traffic has replaced walk in traffic”.

Print media spend by US real estate companies are dropping and online investment growing.

This will be seen in NZ in the next year – it will happen. It is hard to swallow as the industry of real estate and newspapers have coalesced so closely for so many years that separation will be so hard – this brings me to my favourite quote of the report.

“I can’t find a single large real estate brokerage firm in 2007 that says print advertising really works….but I can easily name dozens who still spend the majority of their ad budgets on newspapers. It’s like a chain smoker battling lung cancer, while still smoking two packs a day.” – Sami Inkinen – founder and COO of www.trulia.com

#2 Pop goes the weasel – The housing bubble tightens its grip

It is called the subprime crisis and the flow on to the US economy and the world economy is so well reported that this trend does not need to be detailed. Suffice to say that as the US has lead this trend it has yet to show any indications of bottoming out. The ripples spreading across to NZ have been felt in the past 4 months and will rock our boat for the rest of this year, as to 2009 I am not going to stick my neck out any further – you know your local market best and you will see the trends earlier than I will.

#1 Two worlds; one industry – The evolution of online communities and networks

The web as we have seen in this report and in our daily lives in real estate has begun to transform this industry, what is key is understanding the evolution of the web from browsing to searching to sharing. The concept of web 2.0 is something I have been discussing, presenting and advocating for the best part of 9 months with the implementation of social media, this is the future of real estate marketing.

The trend is towards blogs as the platform for real estate agents to profile themselves – to demonstrate their “subject matter expertise” and to create meaningful dialogues with past present and future clients. We have provided the Voices blog platform to enable any agent to create a blog – to enable them free of charge to embrace this trend and demonstrate to a global audience and to their clients down the road their skills, knowledge, expertise and passion for their chosen career.

Social Media traffic on realestate.co.nz

The value of the Unconditional blog to the realestate.co.nz website is already well established. As part of a comprehensive approach to social media on realestate.co.nz incorporating the Forum and the Voices blog platform traffic to this area of the site continues to grow exponentially hitting 9,000 unique visitors in June.

This is just the start of the evolution of online communities and networks. I saw a great quote from an Australian real estate presentation last month from a speaker from Deloitte:

“Traditional agents will not be replaced by technology…they will be replaced by agents with technology.”

July 14 2008 | Blogs and News | 8 Comments »

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