Archive for August, 2009

Upgrade to Voices blogging platform

I am very conscious that we have had many questions as to when we are going to upgrade the Voices blogging platform.

The current version does not support some of the add ins and enhancements that we know that you want, like the ability to embed videos and presentations.

We have been somewhat limited over the past few months with spare capacity of developers as we have transitioned our development team from NetConcepts to Sparks Interactive.

Now this transition is complete I am more confident that we will be able to upgrade the Voices WordPress application from the current version right up to V 2.8 within the next few weeks. When I have a confirmed date I will make sure we communicate it.

For those of you who are not sure what this is all about – worry not. We will ensure that any changes we make do not effect your blog. However the upgrade will change the look and feel of the look  and feel of the admin side of the site so we will help with training.

August 28 2009 | New feature and Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The critical importance of your online profile

The age of the internet is typified by a whole new vocabulary – Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, podcasts, YouTube. How many of these words are now in everyday use, whereas barely a couple of years ago they were unknown?

The online world is transforming our lives and in the context of real estate has already transformed the lives of buyers / investors – remember that those starting out on the property ladder today can’t really understand the need for a fax machine. They also had an email address and mobile number long before they were allowed out at night on their own!

Into this new brave world every real estate professional needs to tread – carefully, methodically and with due caution, but also with a sense of Carpe Diem!

Let me strip down some of the components and look specifically at this fairly new phenomenon of social media – the world of blogs, profiles and social networking.

The important thing to keep in mind in terms of social media is that it is just a form of conversation. Conversations are an everyday part of the real estate process and that is why social media is so natural for this industry to embrace.

Every person in the real estate business relies upon and sets out to build a network – a group of people through whom they can seek new business opportunities to secure the chance to act on behalf of a client to sell a property. The judgement people make of your ability will be based on your experience, your expertise and your personality – matched naturally to the professional reputation of your company. All of these 3 facets are something that you build and develop over time. The big challenge is how to share with potential clients your experience, your expertise and your personality as sadly in today’s world, attention spans and free time is a scarce resource. How can you, as people become more and more cynical of traditional advertising communicate with the right audience to make an impression and convey your message with sincerity and honesty?

The first rule is going to come as a shock to some – don’t get “in their face”! Today, people trust people who they find and who they are referred to. They tend to trust less those people who try and get “in their face”. This is not to say that face-to-face contact is not relevant – far from it, in this industry it is critical, but only when you have been “invited” to meet.

So how can the web and the power of social media help you to establish trust and get referred?

First of all the greatest power of the web is that everyone and every business on the web is effectively treated equally – that is because your single web page can be read as easily as any single web page from IBM or Britney Spears! The only thing that actually differentiates you from IBM and Britney is how easy is it to find your page and whether you have something worth reading?

I believe every person in real estate has something worth reading about – local knowledge of the property market, local knowledge of the community, local insight into who is doing what and where. Local information about developments and improvements to your community – schools, parks, shops, transport; as well as valuable facts about what is selling, who is buying. This is the kind of information that you will in past have shared – maybe in a weekly printed newsletter sent to your database, a piece in the local community paper or a regular email newsletter. The weakness of this form of communication; or thinking about it another way, the missed opportunity, is that these communications only reach a limited number of people and end up disappearing within a week as a deleted emails or that newspaper in the bin. How much better it would be to have those words, that insight stored, accessible, read and reviewed by people everyday anywhere in the world.

Imagine for a minute how more credible you would be seen by a prospective client if they could read and review a series of articles on the local community, rather than just this week’s one. They would certainly form a stronger appreciation of your experience, knowledge and credibility and most importantly of all a sense of your true personality.

So given you have this local knowledge and insight what should you do to establish through it trust and credibility? – the ultimate way is to write a blog. Now some people run a mile when a blog is mentioned – fears about what to write, fears of technology, fears of being attacked (verbally)! The fact is that when writing a blog on the web, whilst potentially it could be read by hundreds of millions of people – it won’t be, after all how many people want to read about your local community? Not many; but every one of them could be future client that is the key thing.

Just for clarification a blog is a webpage. It is just a type of webpage that allows you easily (with no great computer skills) to add articles and stories and allow anyone to write a reply or comment to you about what you wrote which can be read by anyone as part of a conversation. To help real estate professionals realestate.co.nz offers a free blog service. It is called “Voices” – real estate voices, you will find the logo for it on the home page of the website – click on it and start to read how to set up a blog – it is free and you can join over 130 other agents from around the country who sense an opportunity to build their profile and generate new business.

There are some key pieces of advice in relation to blogging – be regular and be open. It is best to write something on your blog each week, it does not need to be an essay, more it can be a point of interest or more commonly an answer to a question posed to you over the past few days. The answer you gave at the time was valuable and therefore will be of value to others. Being open speaks to answering comments and also open to commenting on other people’s blogs – these comments are great for getting people back to your blog to read more about you.

Now blogging may not be for everyone – if you feel that you have neither the written skills or your don’t have the time then there is one thing every person in this industry must have. They must have a web page that can very simply provide a “picture” of what they do and who they are. That page needs to be “indexed” or put another way need to be seen on a Google search page. So imagine the situation – someone this week will search your name – they will search on Google looking to find out about you; because they will be meeting you this week for that appraisal meeting. You need to have a page that they find that provides them with a clear, open and professional view of who you, what skills you have and why they should be considering you in helping them sell their house.

That page could be your blog, it could be a page on your company website, it could be on Facebook. The only issue with your Facebook page is that it probably is more likely to be about your family and friends – what this person wants to find out about if the real estate professional. Again in an effort to help this industry build online profiles we have built on the realestate.co.nz website a place where you can have your own profile page – a place where you can write about who you are, what you do and what your expertise is. Because this new profile page is on the realestate.co.nz website it is then clear that this profile is about you and your role in real estate – it is also right next to your listings as well.

To build this page – just sign in to the Agent Pro page – you will find a link at the foot of every page on the website. All of course for free to help you build your profile.

The key message is to think of the web as a vital means for you to be advertising your skills 24 hours a day to as wide an audience as possible with a clear message that you are the most experienced, authoritative local expert – good luck and get online now to build your profile.

August 16 2009 | Blogs and Online marketing and Social Networking | No Comments »

Providing greater insight into the NZ property market

I have just returned from the annual Inman Connect conference in San Francisco. This conference is an intense 3 days of technology and real estate fused into a demanding schedule attended by over 1,500 agents together with around 200 technology and web company participants – all very much focused on the future of real estate online.

A key theme of the conference (a broader outline is detailed later in this email) was the transparency and critical importance of good information on the property market. This is something that at realestate.co.nz we see as a key principle which we uphold to assist the industry better manage their relationship with clients by providing timely, relevant and unique information.

Since April we have been publishing each month the NZ Property Report a unique insight into the property market from the perspective of inventory movements – new listings and asking price expectations. This data is being seen very positively by economists and commentators as it provides a lead indicator of the trends in the market.

In addition to the latest NZ Property Report citing the rise in listings, we are tracking a very strong level of web traffic on realestate.co.nz as with other real estate websites over the past month. These statistics are detailed in this short report which can be downloaded here which provides some helpful charts and statistics on the market and the website which you can print off and use in client presentations.

Some key points to note in the presentation:

• Overall search traffic on real estate website in general climbs back over 1,000,000 sessions per week
• Strong seasonal early spring pick up in searching for property
• The top 2 websites dominate the market with a clear split of audience between them
• Realestate.co.nz continues to drive more international traffic – it is clearly the #1 site with 50% more traffic than any other website

August 14 2009 | Market stats and Web facts | No Comments »

Real Estate Connect Conference – San Francisco Aug 2009

This conference which is held twice a year gathers together real estate agents, technology companies and service providers wrapped up in a demanding and comprehensive agenda designed to provide a vital insight into the trends in real estate with both a true international perspective and a full-on focus to the online world. It is not however a geeky technology conference, the participants come from all over the US and all types of real estate operations – sales people, business owners and service providers.

Over the 3 years that I have been attending the conference I have witnessed it becoming far more international. It is as ever a very practical conference with strong participation and discussion in all sessions. The challenge is as always to find the time to fit in as many of the sessions which span the 3 main days of the conference as possible; there is always a parting sense of “I wished I could have gone to that session as well..”

This year for the first time there was an additional leg to the conference organised on a separate day. This was a specialised mini-conference focussed exclusively on the operation of real estate portals internationally. This session with over 50 attendees brought together owners and managers of real estate websites from the UK, US, Holland, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Germany as well as some regional operators in Europe, and of course New Zealand.

The discussions and debates at these sessions were wide ranging and in-depth covering pricing models, agent services, and the role of Google, search engine marketing, social media, and media ownership vs. Independent, display advertising, consumer research and a host of other topics.

What stood out for me was the similarity of issues and challenges despite our diverse geographical spread. That was matched to a non biased judgment that we (along with Australia) are among the leading innovators in real estate online marketing. This is strengthened today by a very changed relationship with the REA Group in Australia. When the Group was operating the website of allrealestate.co.nz in NZ we were stern competitors, however since their withdrawal from the NZ market we have established a strong professional relationship to share insights and developments.

The main Inman Connect sessions really highlighted for me a couple of key themes:

Transparency

This theme is judged to be becoming pervasive across the US industry as a consequence of the enormous fall out of the property market – the worst of their market is still with them. Prices are still down close to 30% from peak and the flow through of foreclosure property (mortgagee sales) has a long time to go with the lasting consequence on prices. The industry has had a wholesale clean out of agents. The confidence of the consumer has been significantly damaged, this is what is driving this desire to open up as an industry and share complete information about how the industry works.

This trend is driving agents to focus more and more on building online profiles around their unique skill set, largely through the use of social media. A trend that was first witnessed at the first Inman Connect conference I attended back in 2007. The key evolution over these years is the fact that to have such a profile is no longer relevant, today the challenge is to be found online as part of the conversations going-on on the web.

Mobile

There is a sense of a coming of age of mobile applications. This can be attributable to the Apple iPhone. This application as a “poster child” for smart phones has provided what up until now has not been possible – a handheld mobile computing device that by chance is a phone. Up until the launch of the iPhone all mobile applications were endeavouring to operate on phones – a situation that was doomed to failure.

In the context of real estate mobile applications are likely to make the greatest impression when they incorporate the GPS and compass feature – this is when the rich data can be focused to the hyper-local environment where the answer to the questions ” what is for sale round here?, what did that house sell for? And what does that property for sale look like from the inside?” becomes really appealing and relevant.

Be assured that within the line up of activity in the coming months realestate.co.nz has a programme of developments in this area.

Facebook

Far from being a teenage phenomenon Facebook is fast becoming the web’s universal directory and meeting place. The figures are staggering – over 100 million new users added in the past 9 months!

In the US real estate market Facebook is being seen as a great platform for engagement and discussion about real estate by vendors, buyers and agents. Savvy agents are using “business profile pages” to network and be part of conversations regarding real estate where content can be easily shared and taken anywhere you want with whomever you want. Watch out for Facebook, the median age of users is 29 years – that would be pretty close to the median age of property buyers. Additionally the most active users of Facebook are women aged 35 – 55 years.

Market Statistics

The media in the US as with NZ is awash with data on the property market. Agents are up skilling themselves to be better able to assist buyers and sellers to better interpret the data to make sense of local markets. Companies are offering personalised reports that utilise local data to present the trends on the market and add to the profile of professional agents that fully understand the market dynamics.

Agent Evaluation

It was evident at the conference that there are emerging examples of websites and services that endeavoured to assist the public better evaluate agents. These are on the whole more than just simple “rate an agent” feedback sites. Many are taking sales data and analysing the capabilities and record of property sales by agent measured as number of listings, number of sales, conversion rate – sale price to listing price performance.

This is certainly an interesting development as an emerging trend; one that I will be keen keep a watching eye on to see how it develops. I would like to hear any feedback on this matter. It was interesting to see at one of the sessions on this subject a “show of hands” vote saw very roughly 3 to 1 in favour of this type of open and transparent evaluation of agents!!


August 14 2009 | Events | 2 Comments »

New member of realestate team

I am delighted to welcome as the latest member of the realestate team – Jodi Cottle.

Jodi started last week in her new role as Sales Manager of Realestate.co.nz. She comes to us with a wealth of experience in the real estate industry through her role as a mortgage advisor as well as an individual property investor and author on property investing – all of this in someone who is still in their first decade of their career!

Jodi is really motivated to help us in building strong relations with all of our customers to ensure the value of the website is recognised and utilised. We still have some non-subscribers and this is an important area for Jodi to focus on for the benefit of everyone in this industry.

Jodi comes from a family with strong links in real estate – her mother is an accomplished and very successful salesperson and inspired Jodi in her early steps in property investing which eventually lead to her writing her book “Young & Singles Guide to Property Investing” which has been sold through high street book sellers now for over a year.

I am delighted to have someone of the calibre of Jodi to add depth and expertise to our organisation and would encourage you to share your ideas and comments in relation to the use and development of the site as Jodi endeavours to meet all of our customers, a process that may take a bit of time.

You can contact Jodi by email jodi@realestate.co.nz

August 14 2009 | News | 1 Comment »

Featured listings – Special offer for Christmas

Great news there is only 133 days to Christmas! With that in mind we thought we would beat everybody by offering you an early Christmas present!

We want you to get on board and offer your clients the most cost effective vendor paid marketing on the market today – Featured listings

For just $250 (inc GST) you can be one of only 3 exclusive listings featured on each suburb, additionally these feature properties are showcased on the home page. As we have reported in the past these featured listings generate over a 10 fold increase in viewings. So if you normally get 9 views a day – be ready to see over 90 people per day viewing your property. As the examples show in this sales leaflet performance can be of the order of 17 times the traffic – over 4,000 viewings over a 2 week period.

So to help you and encourage you we are offering a “free” Apple iPod shuffle to any agent that purchases and pays for 5 featured listings between now and Christmas. In addition a further draw will be made for a special prize from amongst those that receive their iPod. So I suggest that you get busy and get those featured listings booked up now. To order just call our support team on 0800 732 536.

August 14 2009 | Online marketing and Special offers | No Comments »

10 great tech tools for real estate

I am attending the Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco this week. As usual with this conference it is a packed agenda providing a great insight into the technology developments as well as the application of such to the real estate industry both in the US and globally.

One of the opening sessions was a fast paced 10 new technology applications that were judged “cool” by Brian Boero of 1000 Watt  Consulting.

Rather than me having to scribble down all the links and then post them all I am indebted to Simon Baker of Property Portal Watch for this list.

My recommendation – take 20 minutes and cruise through the 10 tools and technologies you need to know about

August 06 2009 | News | No Comments »