Professional respect in regard to marketing material

If I get 3 calls on the same subject in a week – I judge that this is something worth highlighting.

The issue I have experienced this week is in relation to photos of properties for sale. When a property for sale switches between one agent / salesperson and another agent / salesperson should the photos be able to be used by the new agent?

We received a call and a couple of emails from salespeople who wanted to know if we could in some way block others copying photos from our site without their permission. They were incensed that another salesperson would “steal” their photos to use on a new listing for that property.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this issue – technical, legal and professional.

Technically

The web is an open platform – in almost all scenarios you can “right click” on an photo and save it. You can then use it wherever you like – that is from a technical standpoint.

Legally

Images in the form of photos are intellectual property (I should point out I am not a lawyer – this piece should not be taken as legal advice, just observations!). Someone paid someone to take photos of a property for sale – or the selling agent took the photos. Those photos are the legal property of someone. Unless that person informs people in general that those photos are freely available then it should be assumed that they are not freely available to download and copy.

As an instance the content of this blog as with all photos on this blog is accessible under what is becoming a very common structure for the web called Creative Commons – simply put – I am happy for the content of this blog including all facts, words and images to be freely used and copied as long as (a) statements are not presented out of context, and (b) appropriate attribution is given – just tell people where you got the content by referencing the source – through a web link.

Despite this many people believe that as content on the web is accessed for free that somehow that makes it free of any copyright, and they can do what they like with it – that is not the case.

Professionally

Whilst it may be very easy to copy photos from one listing to another and in so doing save time and money, the key question that should be asked is “what message does that send to the vendor” irrespective of who owns the photos – even if the rights to the photos have been granted by the property owner.

When a listing transfers from one listing agent to another – it should signal the establishment of a new marketing approach for that property on the market. This process should seek to review all components of marketing for that property – price, description, photos and marketing material. To do anything less would be dereliction of duty of the part of the new listing agent.

To “just” take the the listing and not try and add personality and a new marketing focus would seem to speak to a lack of professionalism on the part of the new agent, and would in my mind awaken the question in the mind of the vendor as to what value this new agent really brings to the process if they are prepared to “re-cycle” somebody else’s marketing campaign.

July 19 2009 | Online marketing and Photos | 1 Comment »

Photographs are the most important component of a listing

The subject of photography is a constant theme of real estate marketing – and rightly so!

At every presentation I undertake I roll out the chart which shows the most important components of a real estate listing as judged by buyers – right at the top with 96% of people considering it important or very important is large images / high quality images and a large portfolio.

What is also often quoted is the fact that the human eye can read a photographic image around 20 times faster than reading text. These reasons mean that any property listing must start with the photos – get these right and you are half way there.

As an aside I am delighted at the embracing of rich, comprehensive photos by this industry – when we started the website in 2006 we had an average of just 3.6 photos per listing, last year when we checked this had rocketed up to 11.2 and this year it is up again to 13.7 – proof indeed of the value of photography!

When it comes to choosing a photographic service, the one thing I want to make sure is understood is that realestate.co.nz does not promote any one company over another – we value the role of being impartial. We promote all professional photographers who with agents enhance the output of great photographs that assist in marketing listings.

We do have a technical integration with Open2view, however this is a non-commercial arrangement which is designed to allow our site to showcase their portfolio of photos – both sides benefit.

With this in mind I was delighted to learn of an Auckland based business I was only to happy to profile for those agents in the region. Skyworks Aerial Photography specialises in lower altitude aerial photography using helium filled plimps or telescopic platforms allowing images to be taken up to 70 feet above the ground.

Aerial photographs are such a natural complement to the standard portfolio of indoor and outdoor photos and of course complement the higher altitude images presented on Zoodle. They also complement Google Streetview – all aiding the easier comprehension by buyers as to the layout and attributes of their chosen house, all from the comfort of their armchair via the web.

June 23 2009 | Photos | 5 Comments »

Make the best presentation of your listing on the web

It is no longer adequate to simply upload a handful of photos and craft a couple of sentences to make a listing on the web. You need to design and craft a listing with far more care and consideration than a magazine advert. For whilst it may not costs anything like the expenditure of a full page advert – a web listing will deliver far more enquiries and leads. Here are a couple of key pointers:

  1. Photos are the most important part of a listing – the more you have and the better their quality, the better your listing will look to prospective buyers and the more time they will spend looking at your listing – remember there is no restriction on our site – upload as many photos as you like, we commonly now have listings with between 30 and 40 photos
  2. Write a detailed description of the property – don’t abbreviate. The more information you provide the better the level of enquiry and the more you will be respected for providing rich valuable information
  3. Provide the address of the property – people expect it; and if you don’t provide it they will find it out. An address help buyer better understand the property, and with the benefits of Google maps on the site they gain an instant presentation of where the property is
  4. Be clear in the price expectation – we have made a major change to our site to allow you to be more accurate by adding text and prices to all listings. Have a read of this summary of this change in listing price presentation
  5. Promote your listing with a special featured listing – generate over 10 times the traffic of a standard listing – we have a new year special for you – check out a great way to start the new year – just $250 for 14 days of powerful promotion guaranteed to give you stand-out and over 10 times the views of an ordinary listing!

November 27 2008 | Online marketing and Photos and Special offers | 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 – 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 »