Thursday, November 30, 2006

Unique closing gift and REALTOR Marketing Tool

Have a little free time and want to create a unique closing gift? How about using ScrapBlog to create a scrapbook page of your client and their new home? I came across this tool while tooling around (redundant, but I am taking artistic license) this evening. Instead of a blog, it lets you upload pictures, orient them however you wish, and add borders, backgrounds, stickers, text bubbles, and any of the other doodads that you would normally find on a scrapbook page…okay, virtual scrapbook page.

So how would you use something like this to help your clients remember you? How about when they are in escrow, move, or after they close, take a number of relatively candid photos of them in and around their new home. Upload the photos to your ScrapBlog, add backgrounds, comments, text, and anything else that would be appropriate (don’t forget your contact info, picture and logo.) Finally, publish the scrap blog and send your clients the link. In addition, invite them to send their virtual scrap book to any and all of their friends so that they can see the new home.

Hopefully your scrap blog will be appreciated by your clients and well viewed by their entire circle of friends and family.

As a final step, ask your clients to personalize their online scrapbook with some kind words of thanks. How powerful would if be if you could show prospective clients multiple scrap books filled with appreciative and happy clients who have thanked you in their own words? A picture is worth a thousand words, but testimonials with pictures are worth more than gold.

Value-added area reports for young parents

With more and more pressure on parents to ensure that their children have the greatest opportunities in life, additional focus is being placed on making sure that children grow and develop in the best neighborhoods possible. This emphasis used to be geared toward finding the best area high-schools and colleges, but the competition is quickly moving up the food chain. In fact, in some areas (my paradigm is Orange County, California where my neighbors eleven year old is completely stressed about whether he will be able to get into the college of his choice) parents are focusing on moving to areas with the best pre-schools and elementary educations.

To serve this emerging market, I have located a new website which runs reports to help parents decide which pre-schools will best prepare their children for the future. Now my personal belief is that kids should be kids at least for a little while. However, if you serve a client base of young families and competitive newlyweds, the SavvySource area reports may be a value-add that can give you an edge over your competition.

Interesting value-added differentiator for out of town clients

An idea was presented to me this morning that I feel may be a great value-added service for real estate agents and possibly a great real estate marketing tool for those that are looking to serve out of town clients. For those REALTORS that serve the vacation communities, or those that serve the relocation market, why not offer video tapes of prospective listings as a value added service? This would be in addition to any virtual tours or virtual audio tours that you may currently have on your site.

As a value-added service to your VIP clients that cannot visit the area to search for a specific home, offer to create a specific video tour for one or two of the listings that they are interested in. Charge a small recording fee to cover your time and expenses, and word your agency contract so that if your client buys a home through you, you will waive the fees. You would probably want to limit the number of recordings to one or two per client and make sure that they are marketed as external and much more comprehensive than your virtual tour. This way your client can get a really good idea about the home that they are going to buy before trekking across the country to see it.

Back from vacation

Wow, if you ever have the chance to take a cruise down to Mexico over a long holiday, I would highly recommend it. It has been about eight days since I have even thought about the real estate industry… okay so maybe that is not exactly true. However, my venture out has given a little perspective… and maybe a view into some future investment opportunities.

On this trip I went to Acapulco, Ixtapa and Cabo San Lucas. The disparity between the two tourist towns and the smaller resort community of Ixtapa is amazing. Home prices and real estate in Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas are similar to what you would find in San Diego County. By contrast, Ixtapa home prices were nearly free….. with the exception of the multi-million dollar homes that a few celebrities and billionaires own.

With that in mind, I am looking for vacation and resort investment property in Ixapa. In about fifteen years I think it will be a world-class vacation spot, and now is a good time to jump in.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Attracting clients and buyers in a down market

It’s a buyer’s market; you just need to know where to look for the good values. If you are a real estate agent, you may be able to use this information to attract quite a few clients. In addition, if you can communicate this information effectively and organize a seminar to educate your prospects about the current opportunities, you may be able to garner a lot of attention within your community.

Now for the challenge; how do you educate your prospects on where to look for opportunities when they are few and far between, and how do you drive them to a seminar where you can share that data? We’ll start with the latter challenge because without people to listen to you, what’s the point in creating the lesson?

Driving people to your seminars takes a lot of local marketing. Many of the techniques will be described in later blogs or have been discussed previously, but for this type of seminar print and flyers tend to be most effective. An approach that I find very effective is papering local community centers with your flyers in addition to placing an add in the local PennySaver. Paper your flyers on community bulletin boards at Starbucks and local juice stands as well as at the grocery store and library.

In looking at the message in the flyer be as non-commercial as possible and have a clear call to action. In addition, remove some of the resistance initial resistance that people will have by communicating that this seminar is not necessarily a sale pitch. Use a call to action that creates interest and does not sound trite with sub-headers that describe why the seminar is important. A possible example would be:

Capitalize on the Changing Real Estate Market.
Free to Oceanside residents
that feel that they have missed the opportunity to make money in real estate.

For descriptors in the text of the advertisement, include topics that appeal to home buyers and investors. These may include how to choose a property that will maintain its value, the added value of mortgage interest deductions, or possibly the average buy and hold timeline that is expected to yield a positive return. In the text for investors include descriptors about how to find and value properties as well as how to value a property based upon its cash flows.

The text in the advertisement is up to you. Just be sure that your ad generates interest and covers points that you will deliver on. Do not over-promise and do not include information that you will not be addressing in your presentation. Finally, remove some of the objections by stating that due to seating limitations you would ask that No Real Estate Agents attend the seminar.

Moving on to capitalizing on the down market with your seminars… People are still looking for value in the market and if they become educated about how to locate and buy the right properties they can still enjoy a nice return on their investment. The days of double digit appreciation may be gone, but those that can buy investment property based upon cash flows an acceptable cap rates can still substantially increase their wealth over time. It is time to teach people to go back to investing basics and teach those that were never aware of the basics how they can capitalize.

My personal thoughts for the lessons in this type of seminar:

-Home Buyers: Choosing a home that will maintain its value over time; location,
features, upgrades, current pricing.
- Home Buyers: Tax advantages of home ownership; going through the numbers.
- Home Buyers: Negotiating a purchase in a buyer’s market.
- Investors: Buying on value and cash flow, calculating your rate of return.
- Investors: Fundamentals of pricing an investment property. Cap Rates 101
- Investors: Finding motivated sellers.
- Investors: Basics of buying a HUD home.

That’s all I have for today. I’m going on vacation so I will not be posting for a while. In the mean time my blatant promotional plug is as follows: Visit for a complete system to attract more clients and close more sales.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Host your own community online with these systems

You too can have your own online social network. For many of us this seems like an odd aspiration, but online social networks like ActiveRain and WannaNetwork are beginning to populate the virtual landscape. My personal interest is in participating in these groups and learning from my peers about how to best help them market themselves online. My goal being to incorporate some of these tools into the service offering.

However for those brave souls that want to create a virtual social network to attract others with similar hobbies, let me tell you about a few that can help you with that endeavor. The first is community is This simple society allows you to create your own online network to support any topic of your choosing. The photo upload feature is great, as is the profile home page. The only drawback is that access to the blogs is fully password protected.

If you are looking to get a professional community up and running fast, Community Server is the way to go. The have a hosted version that is currently in beta and a full API version that can be uploaded to your own servers for full customization. They appear to have a pretty robust system and although they are more pricey, they seem to have a lot to offer.

If you are looking for a premier API, i.e. really expensive, you can take a look at the Pluck SiteLife system. Pluck has a great product and serves an A list of clients and fortune 500 companies. However, their pricing may be well out the range of most individuals and small businesses.

That’s all I have for tonight. Everybody have a great holiday and I will be back late next week to continue this great exploration of real estate and online marketing materials for REALTORS.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Now for something you will really like…

Those are the words that Mr. Peabody’s trusted sidekick Sherman would utter when introducing a commercial break or another segment in the popular Saturday Morning Cartoon. Obviously this has nothing to do with real estate, but I found a very fun mashup this evening that I think you will get a kick out of. The tool can be found on and uses facial recognition software to compare your face to that of celebrities. Turns out that I look a little like John Cusack…. Okay so the program’s not perfect…. It did however provide an ego boost.

Your Brand, Your Success, Market Your Money

Arguably, the most effective logo or brand name ever created is that of the Harley Davidson eagle and logo. If you don't believe me, just name another corporate logo that is routinely tattooed on a willing participant's body. How many people across the planet have voluntarily become a walking billboard for the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Corporation? How was this brand recognition and dedication created? Effective brand marketing, proper positioning within a market, and selling to the markets most fundamental wants. What lessons can be learned from Harley Davidson's marketing strategy? The answer is all of them.

Your corporate brand and associated logo present the fundamental essence of your company. It is your name and logo that people recognize. Your logo is a symbol of your company, and it is the constant promotion of this symbol that creates recognition in your customer's mind. Therefore, always make sure your logo adequately represents your company, and always include your logo on your correspondence, and marketing material.

Branding you logo is an essential step in securing your market. Branding requires that you continually present your target market with your logo while associating the image with the services and products that you offer. The intention is to help your customer create a mental relationship with the image so that they know exactly what the logo represents whenever they see it. The mental relationship can be a product such as 4MySales REALTOR Tools or an image and lifestyle such as Nike and Harley Davidson. Regardless of the service or product, your brand and logo should create a strong mental relationship with your target market.

You should constantly promote your brand and logo, and should always avoid significantly modifying it. Creating brand recognition is a huge task, and every time you logo is modified, the process must be started over. Promote your logo on all of your products, on all of your correspondence, and most of all, on all of your marketing material. Make yourself know, and use all accessible means to brand yourself to your clients and prospects. The approach is expensive, but when you are branded, your company is the first one to enter a prospects mind when they think of your product.

Help others find this article: Digg It!, Reddit or Bookmark it

10% of REALTORS are Successful...Here's Why

We have all read that 10% of real estate agents make 90% of the money. This may be due to a variety of reasons, but more and more I believe that what differentiates the 10% of REALTORS who succeed beyond the rest is their approach to promoting themselves. Now this is not another blog on Prospecting Engines, but it is a compilation of observations that I believe support my conclusion. With that in mind, there are hundreds of thousands of real estate agents and REALTORS across the United States. The majority of these professionals approach their job as a hobby, or a distraction with no real plan or organized activity. These are the friends, co-workers, and relatives of yours that got their license, but kept their day job. Of those hard-working agents that do work to support themselves, many barely subsist and annually earn sums that are well below the poverty level.

In stark contrast to those real estate agents that work hard and barely subsist, there are a group of real estate agents that are wildly successful. These are the people that for some reason or another always have referrals walking through the door, a continual flow of hot exclusive listing and a seemingly unlimited supply of buyers and sellers that look to them for guidance. Once again this level of success begs the question, what do they do differently?

My simple answer is they use as many tools as possible to market and promote themselves and they have systems in place to automate the process. These agents take advantage of online and off-line marketing opportunities, and understand the tools that will generate clients. They leverage the internet as well as traditional media to generate a continual stream of interested prospects. These successful agents ask for referrals as a matter of common practice and use different tools to encourage a continual stream or repeat and referral traffic.

That’s my position, now for the data to back it up.
1) Most real estate agents have a single website that acts primarily as a static billboard. The sites generally give no reason to visitors to come back to the site and generally are very limited on the lead collection tools that are embedded in the site. By contrast, many successful agents use their website as a lead generation tool. They offer various calls to action and multiple tools to capture visitor data.

2) If you look at the various online communities that offer tools or links to help REALTORS promote their websites, the number of participants is typically very low. There are hundreds of thousands of real estate agents across the nation, but sites like ActiveRain, Real Estate Webmasters, Real Estate ABC, RELibrary have an extremely limited number of listings from agents. As of today ActiveRain has 9421 agents listed. They are a relatively new site, but in California alone I had read that we have over 70,000 licensed real estate agents.

3) Millions of agents and very few blogs. Blogging, podcasting and other social media tools are quickly becoming the best way for an agent to promote themselves online. Many agents are starting to adopt this form of online promotion, but once again these are the 10%, not the 90.

4) Most agents do not have a system to consistently communicate their message to the same prospect over and over. They take the shotgun approach and hit as many prospects as possible just once. Those that are successful understand that prospects must be exposed to the agent’s “brand” multiple times before they take action.

5) Response, service, and follow up. I read some time ago that up to 80% of the leads generated by real estate agents are not acted upon or receive follow up. I am not sure if this statistic is true, but my feeling is that most leads are in fact not acted upon within the first 24 hours. This may be due to a number of reasons, but there is an old adage in sales. If your client’s wallet is open, ask for the sale. This can be translated into if your prospect wants your service; don’t tell them to wait a couple of days. As I said above, I am not sure if this statistic is true, but if it is, it presents the most glaring argument for why those 10% are really successful.

I am sure there are a number of differentiators that make the top 10% stand out; however I think all of the differentiators point to the agent having a mastery of self promotion and of personal branding and marketing. If you don’t believe me, think about your favorite real estate guru; or more to the point, think about the super-star in your own office.

Top Ten Rules to Get Your Press Release Picked Up

If you have not been using PR to promote your real estate business, you are missing a great opportunity to enjoy increased awareness in your community and across the web. Press releases and periodic announcements help to increase exposure as well as help position you and your organization as a leader in your area. They serve to increase community awareness about your company, and if picked up by the media, can result in a significant local and national notoriety.

When choosing to create a press release, there are a number of specific rules that you should follow to get your announcement picked up. Your piece should have the release date, your contact information, a brief synopsis about you or your company, word count, dateline, etc. It should also be written in a professional non-promotional (read no hype) manner that would be appropriate if read in the newspaper. Finally, your press release should have a headline that garners interest, and contains terms that would appear under a topic-search.

Aside from those specific rules about how to format your press release, there are a number of ways to break specific rules of journalistic writing to increase the likelihood that your announcement gets picked up. Most of these points are from PublicityHound but I thought I would summarize them below:

1- Write your press release for the people who are going to read it. This may sound like it should be unwritten, but my point is to write your release using text that can be found in search engines as well as in a format that is easy for your target audience to understand.

2- If you have news, make a press release…. even if it isn’t all that newsworthy. You don’t need to be announcing the release of construction on a new billion dollar building in order to qualify for a press release. Make an announcement if you make a new hire, launch your website, close a large deal, support a charity, or any other activity that may be of interest in your community.

3- Use online PR services. I am partial to and However, there are a number of other free and pay for placement press announcement services.

4- Include search engine text in your title. Most press releases end up being submitted to large directories with very simple search algorithms. If there is a specific search phrase that you want your announcement to be associated with, include it in the title.

5- Include subheads or abstracts of the press release. A simple summary of the article posted directly under the title is extremely effective at increasing the adoption of the announcement as well as increasing the likelihood that it will appear when searched.

6- Include a call to action. If you have taken the time to make the announcement, make it clear to those who read it that they should contact your for more information. Always include a call to action in the body of your press release so that readers can call, click or email to get more information about your services.

7- Prompt the media and readers to contact you. Another way of saying this is tell enough of the story to intrigue the reader, but leave enough out that they will need to contact you or your brokerage to learn more. Big advertisers are doing this with television and radio to direct users to their website.

8- Offer your expertise as a local expert, available for comment or consultation on related topics. Journalists are often in search of somebody to corroborate or comment on their stories. Become one of their trusted advisers.

9- Use your headline to describe your announcement. Your headline should be catchy enough that it will create interest, but descriptive enough that the reader will understand by that one line the purpose of your announcement

In an attempt to be different, I am stopping at nine instead of going to ten. Sometimes you need to push back against social norms and expectations in order to create a different experience. As for my blatant call to action today: Click Here For A Simple System to Close More Sales

Help others find this article: Digg It!, Reddit or Bookmark it

Mashups for Real Estate Professionals

I came across a couple that I want to share with the ActiveRain community. The first is a mashup that was developed by IIProperty that compares your current rental rates with the median rate in your community. The mashup allows you to enter in the address of your current property and it returns a scale and a googlemap that shows where your property’s lease rates are prices as compared to the other properties for rent in the area. Take a look at the RentOMeter here.

The other mashup that I think will be a great resource to REALTORS that are looking to increase their lead generation activity on their websites is the ClickDensity Heatmap. This cool tool creates a small piece of Java that you place on your home page. The tool records the click traffic on your webpage and returns a heat map that shows you exactly were the bulk of the clicks on your site end up.

Finally, if you are looking to keep up on all of the new technologies that continually get introduced, EmilyChang does a great job of chronicling the up and coming technology.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top Five Ways to Increase Your Blog Exposure

1) Create a relationship with other bloggers in your blogspace. Comment on their blogs and invite them to comment on yours; without spamming. Your dialog with other opinion leaders will help increase your exposure on the web as well as create a mutually beneficial and educational relationship. Some of my favorite blogs are the Zillow Blog, Sellsius, BloodHound Realty,

2) Syndicate your blogs across as many syndicated feed directories as possible. A great tool to help you streamline this process is which rapid submits to a number of feed directories. Be sure to also manually submit to both Yahoos and and Google Ping.

3) Maintain multiple blogs on multiple sites. The goal is to get your voice out there to drive traffic to your website. Ardell DellaLoggia is a master at this that I try to emulate. She generally hosts the HouseValues conference calls…. Hopefully someday we can get her to mention in one of her blogs…. Someday.

4) Submit your site to Digg so that others can read and vote for your sites.

5) Open the search word funnel to drive a wider range of traffic to your blog and to your site. uses the long tail theory to help identify specific blog topics that may generate additional traffic and substantially increase the number of people that read your blog. The two Long Tail phrases that keep coming up for this blog are “For Sale By Owner” and “Marketing Letters for Realtors.”

Real Estate Bloggers Have a Substantial Advantage Over Their Competition

In my area of Orange County, Debbie Ferrari is sort of an online real estate celebrity. Why, simply because she embraced online real estate much sooner than the rest of the industry. As a result, she claims that the bulk of her business comes from leads generated online, and in looking at the volume of links to her on Google, I am inclined to agree with her statement.

In stark contrast, we look at new agents that have recently received their real estate license from the State of California. Many of them have some understanding of e-mail, possibly a single website that they purchased from Advanced Access or Point2Agent, and very little else in the way of online exposure. Unfortunately for many of these new agents, many of their prospective clients are searching online as their primary method of finding a REALTOR.

Unfortunately, we can no longer enjoy the first mover advantage that Debbie Ferrari had when she purchased multiple URL’s just after the dot com boom. However, we can take advantage of how prospective clients are searching for real estate services online by making an online presence known.

With that in mind, Blog Blog Blog!!!! If you are not are not already posting a blog and podcast on the web, you are missing the opportunity to drive a substantial number of clients to your website. Your blog serves a number of functions, not the least of which is increasing your reach by broadcasting your message across the net. There are so many websites now that 99% get buried in the search. However, those with an active blog on topics that pertain to local markets generally generate a much greater presence online and garner much more traffic.

Where your website generally serves as an online billboard that is quickly forgotten after a visitor leaves, your blog is a continual journal of interest that if written well can keep visitors coming back again and again. In addition, if the topics of your blog pertain to your local community, chances are many of your readers will be your prospective clients.

Now the title of this essay is that real estate agents with blogs have a much greater advantage over those that do not. I would like to clarify that statement by explaining that real estate agents that blog and have an active online presence in their community are much more likely to connect with prospective clients that search for real estate services online.

TV Advertising on a Budget

Television advertising is outside of the budget of most agents but if you plan to give it a try there are a few resources that may be able to streamline your budget. In fact, one of the resources, SpotRunner, allows you to overdub your own audio on professionally shot stock footage to create your own professional television advertisement. In addition, the organization has a media buying relationship with cable providers in most markets. There rates are extremely reasonable, and if you are on a tight budget their organization can get you a professionally designed television advertisement as well as placement for very low rates.

We had debated using their services for, but our target market is REALTORS and not the mass market. However, I thought I would pass along the tip.

Friday, November 17, 2006

CONTEST: Best Tool to Attract Clients

I posted this specifically through ActiveRain, but I thought I would open it up to the blogsphere as well. There are so many great suggestions on how to attract more listings that I thought it would be fun for us to see who has the best, most creative and most effective marketing tools or approaches to get new clients.

Blog your ideas and submit the links below, and comment if you see one that really stands out. The winner is going to be chosen by democratic vote. (i.e. comment on the one that you feel is the best.)

The winner gets a free copy of our IP Ware Real Estate Investment Analysis Software which we typically include as a value-add for our service

With that in mind, here is my number one all time favorite REALTOR approach to attract clients. It helps promote the listing and attract referrals:

After you have made your listing presentation to a prospective client, explain that many times, your client’s own network of friends and family can be the greatest promotional tool to help sell a home quickly. Also explain that one of the unique marketing approaches that you offer are tools to help make anyone in your client’s network aware that their home is available so those people may refer any of their contacts who may be in the market to buy your client’s home.

If your prospective client agrees to this approach (after they have signed the listing agreement) hand them a sheet with numbered lines on it where they can write down the names, addresses and email addresses of the people in their network that they want you to market to. Tell them to go home and fill the form out and you will pick is up at the next meeting. Make sure when you make your appointment confirmation for the next time that you meet that you remind the client to bring the sheet; most clients automatically forget.

The list that your client brings back should contain a number of cold referrals that you can use to help your client sell their property as well as grow your own business. Now you simply create a personalized communication to let these people know that your client’s home is listed, and request that they refer any of their friends or family to you that may be interested in touring the home.

In addition to sending out this first communication to this list of referrals, add them to your drip marketing system. When your client’s home sells, make sure that they receive a personalized just sold announcement with an additional request for referrals. Finally, add these prospects to your prospecting engine and work to turn them into clients.

That’s my favorite approach to help REALTORS attract clients. Let me know yours, and don’t forget to vote for your favorite.

Your Prospecting Engine at Work

This is a great graphical description of how a prospecting engine works. The model applies to all types of businesses, both large and small, and certainly applies to you if you are a real estate agent, broker, or mortgage professional.

As I have explained previously, the concept of a real estate marketing and prospecting system is that most of your prospective clients will not need your help right now. However, they will need your help in the future. Therefore, you put promotional tools, your REALTOR podcasts, newsletters, direct mail pieces, drip email messages, etc. into action so that they can nurture and educate your prospect about your value proposition. By using all of these tools in concert, you can orchestrate how you communicate with these prospects so that you become the one and only agent that they call when they need to buy or sell property.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Are we past the bubble or facing the great plains?

Carla Davis posted in RealtyTimes this week that the real estate market in Sacramento, California is experiencing continued slowing the average time on market now at 62 days. Once again, this is nothing that we were not already aware of. However, I do want to point out that the article states that price appreciation for this year will be only 1.5% (not negative!)

Now what I don’t have sufficient data to tell you is if this means that prices are now flat and that the price dip that we have all experienced is over. Personally, I hope that the worst is behind us, and stick to the observation that housing prices tend to cycle over a ten to twelve year period and that the Southern California economy is still growing which translates into more jobs and the need for more housing… We are out of land in Orange County by the way.

With this in mind, I am still bullish on real estate opportunities in Southern California. However, just to place a counterpoint on my hopes, I spent some time on the California Real Estate Bubble real estate blog and they are much less hopeful for the future of the real estate market.
So what do we do? If you are a real estate professional that is dedicated to your industry and prepared to weather this storm, renew your real estate license and keep on plugging away. I will do my best to provide you with tools to attract listings and close sales, and I still believe it is a buyer’s market. If you got into the industry to make a quick buck, it may be a while before there is gold back in them

Your sign is your most important marketing tool, Make it stand out

So I am walking my dog this morning and marveling over all of the homes in my area that have new for sale sign posts planted firmly in their grass. With change in the market, having these signs dot the local landscape is nothing new. However, as I walked past each of the signs it occurred to me…. ALL OF THESE SIGNS LOOK THE SAME. As a consumer looking at these sign posts, none of them are unique enough to compel me to call the REALTOR to list my own home, or compelling enough to make me want to learn more about the home being offered.

The sign that you post in front of your listing is the primary key to your REALTOR Marketing System. It is the one off-line marketing tool that your prospective clients that are looking for a specific neighborhood are likely to see. In addition, it is the one marketing tool that all of the neighbors, and random dog walkers, (I call them potential clients) will see. With that in mind, my advice is to find ways to differentiate your post and your for sale hangers from the competition. Instead of a standard white post, go yellow or red. Instead of a picture of you smiling next to the name of your company, try something different. Choose phrases that are memorable or offer something of value that will compel people who see the sign to act. An agent in the greater San Diego area used to offer a satisfaction guarantee in the form of a $2000 rebate for clients that choose to list with him. It’s a little used-car-ish, but how much more compelling would your sign be if in big letters across your hangers were the words “For Sales, 100% Satisfaction Guarantee!”

From my observations today, I say find a way to make your sign stand out, or it really gets lost in the crowd.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

White Paper Explains Web 2.0...

As a follow on to my search to learn everything about online social networks and their impact in how we transact real estate, I came across a great white paper by Tervor Cook and Lee Hopkins that goes over the nuts and bolts of these new technologies.

They explain Web 2.0 in the following quote: "Indeed, so fundamental has been
the shift from 'static', 'brochure-ware' websites to the new 'conversational'
internet that many pundits are calling the 'old' internet "Web1.0" and this new
web world "Web2.0", reflecting its dramatic improvement based in large part on
improvements in software coding and functionality.

If you are just learning about RSS, Blogs, Social Networks and how they can impact your life and the properties that you sell, it is well worth the read… Here’s the link

Best Letters for Real Estate Agents

Anything that you can do to streamline your communication with your clients is more than welcome. In that vein, I can’t tell you how many real estate agents ask me where to find a good source for pre-formatted letters. Strangely enough, there are a lot of books about great sales letters and a few courses that teach how to write one. However, there are actually very few online resources that provide pre-formatted versions. Here are a few that I have heard are okay….. I haven’t used them personally so I can’t comment more than that.

- MyRealEstateLetters
- 5 Minutest to a Great Real Estate Sales Letter – book

Online social networks, you too can create your own…

I have spent the last week learning about online social networks like ActiveRain, YouTube, MySpace, and have found that in addition to hundreds of different social sites that already exists, you do have the capability to create your own online social network to serve your own specific interests. There are a number of different sites that cater to those interested in developing their own expansive network, and many are completely turn-key. For many, the monthly costs are based on a sliding scale that comes back to how many users that your attract.

For those of you who are looking to develop their own online network, here is my analysis:

CommunityServer: They have a great and economical turn-key program. CommunityServer is my favorite and hosts a number of sites, including
The Snapp Network: More kid friendly so if you are looking to duplicate MySpace, this may be a good place to start.
Social Platform: They are a bit expensive, but will give you a blog and a
forum as part of their package
Sparta Social Networks: I wasn’t fond of their format, but it is similar to other.
YourMembership: Geared more toward alumni networks, expensive, but doable..if you’re a University.
PendoSoft: They will build you a custom network.
SmallWorldLabs: A decent turnkey system.
Anyway, there it is…. I ended up on a lot of other Social Media sites, but the above for some reason or another caught my attention. I am not sure what I am going to do with the information yet, but will probably just store it away and go back to talking about real estate and marketing. I started this project to learn about other avenues where I could spread the word about As it turns out, there are a lot of them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drip Email Marketing

It’s been a while since I posted about the effectiveness of REALTOR drip marketing systems. However, I do want to bring the topic back into focus as it is a critical component of your prospecting engine. I want to specifically focus on your drip email system and discuss ways to make it more effective.

With that in mind, there are two components to your drip email system. The first is your passive monthly email newsletter that is sent automatically to your contact list. This newsletter helps to maintain a presence in your prospect’s minds and provides them with news, market updates, personal information and any data that you feel they would find beneficial. There are a lot of systems out there that provide an automated drip email marketing feature; and even includes this type of feature in its service offering.

Regardless of who provides your monthly drip email, similar rules apply. Make sure that your message is pertinent to your target audience. Also, make sure to personalize and humanize your message. Data is great, but remember that your audience are people that are looking for guidance and support of a professional that understands their personal needs. As such, strive to create a relationship with these individuals, even if it is just online. Podmail and embedded audio in email helps with this. Finally, with each monthly drip email piece that is sent out, make sure that you have a very specific call to action as well as a request for referral. Your call to action should not simply be “call us, we can help.” Instead it should offer something of value in exchange for their response: “Call today for your free home assessment and home-staging consultation.”

As I indicated above, there are two components to your drip email marketing system. The first is the monthly drip newsletters, and the second is more active email updates. These are more personalize announcements that tell your prospects about opportunities, homes in their area that have sold, new homes that have come on the market, community events, and anything else that ties you to your prospect’s community. With these communications, they are much more urgent, or at least pertinent, and keep your prospect updated on what’s going on in their community as well as in your business. Once again, the call to action and referral rules apply. Always have a compelling call to action and a request for referral. Also, if you have a real estate or personal blog, include links to it as well as to your website. Keep in mind that the entire purpose of these announcements and your email marketing system it to have your prospective client respond. Include and offer of value in every communication that you send out and maximize your response.

With that advice in mind, here is my compelling call to action for today, and it is available to all readers:

Click Here Now and use discount code DISC to get 30% off of the already low monthly price of $19.99 for 4MySales. Enjoy a complete system to close more sales including:
- Full drip email marketing system- Listing feedback and client management tools

Monday, November 13, 2006

Social online networks are the wave of the marketing future...

I spent a lot of time on the Mashable Blog this afternoon, and although I am going grey, I feel like I’m 14 years old after spending so much time learning about social network. I may go home this evening and break out the Roller Blades. If it doesn’t work out, my next blog may be from the hospital bed.

Anyway, what I have learned today that applies to the real estate industry…..

- Blogging is everywhere as is file sharing and video and picture sharing. My thoughts are to start including humanizing your blog and site by including pictures of family, friends, hobbies, and items of interest.

- Widgets make your blogs and webpages work better, or at least add a little flair. Check out the My Favorite Blogs section of this blog, or the Technorati feed box.

- A new approach to online social networking is funded almost every day. This is where the venture capitalists are putting their money.

- There is a social network for every group and topic… my advice is to spread your message far and wide and fully leverage your hobbies and areas of interest.
There are a lot of technology solutions for REALTORS®.

- If you spend too much time online, your back starts to hurt, your eyes start to burn and… enough of this, I am grabbing my Roller Blades and headin’ for the hills.

Realtor Letters

Prospecting for leads is by far the most difficult part of being a Realtor or small business professional. In fact, lead development is by far the most expensive and time consuming aspect of your job. However, you level of success in lead development will determine if you succeed or fail as a real estate agent or small business professional.

So how do you develop leads? Well top selling professionals realize that they need to touch as many people as possible without spending a fortune or taking up a lot of their time. They also realize that they must make some form of contact with a prospect as many as eight times before that contact will even consider doing business with the professional. Many of these professionals use direct mail to recruit prospects, and direct mail tools to close their deals.

The fundamentals of direct mail are very simple. At is most basic level you are sending out letters with an invitation for a prospect to contact you. The key is targeting your specific audience, and making your message stand out against all of the other junk mail that you prospects receive. In addition, you must expose your prospects to the message enough times to make them consider taking action.

The first step in creating a REALTOR mailing program is to determine where you are going to focus your message. What type of client are you specifically looking for? How old are they, what are their interests, fears, income levels, etc. With this type of very specific demographic information you can customize your message to invoke them to call you. Next, determine how many people you are going to send your message to and what geography you are going to focus on. Keep in mind that a direct mail piece with more than a 1% response rate is considered exceptional, and that statistically, post cards get more attention than envelopes in peoples mail boxes. Essentially this means that if you mail 500 pieces and you get five phone calls, you are doing exceptionably well.

After you know what your customer looks like and the area in which they live, create your marketing message. It should invoke emotion and request a response. The most effective messages offer something for free such as a free home report, assessment, or giveaway such as a software program or product. Other useful messages show what has just been listed and invite prospects to "cash in" on their rising home values.

Now that you have your message designed contact a local or internet based direct mailing list seller and rent a list of prospects addresses. You will be mailing to this list more than once so make sure you get repeat mailing discounts. All of these list brokers have test addresses in the lists they sell to make sure you only mail the agreed number of times. Many of these list sellers will offer mailing services as well, and some will even provide design and printing services. Companies such as and are excellent resources to get both mailing lists and design services.

Use the design services as needed and remember that statistically, an enclosed letter with blue ink and a first class stamp will get the best response. Letters and postcards follow with lower responses. Regardless of the type of mail that you are sending, it is important to realize that you are hoping for at least a 1% response to your campaign.

Mail your message to the list and see what happens. Plan on mailing at least two more times to get your desired response, but feel free to modify the message and the medium. It is just important to provide your target customer with repetition so that they become used to your message and will consider doing business with you. It is through repetition and a message that stands out that you will get your client’s attention and earn a response to your marketing.
Direct marketing is a very effective tool for realtors to grow their businesses. It can create a significant number of leads and a significant addition to your cash flow, However, direct mailing of promotional letters must be done with proper planning and the right expectations for response. This is especially true for REALTORS who are typically on a tight budget. Never has a single one-time direct mailing been successful. Alternatively, real estate professionals who practice repetition in their direct mail and their marketing grow wealthy while they leave their competition behind.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Podcasting as a new medium

We launched our podmail and podcasting system last month and are having great success in helping real estate agents use the tools to promote their business. 4MySales originally created the podcast tool in response to REALTORS continual need to differentiate themselves from the competition. I felt that the time had come to give real estate agents a simple tool to create their own podcast, and subsequently their own voice on the net.

There are thousands of professionals that have taken to creating periodic podcasts as part of their marketing mix, and more and more professionals are using it every day. In fact a quick search on Technorati shows that there are over one million posts on podcasting in their search engine. The new medium is being adopted by professionals across the globe, and it is time to step up as a real estate agent and claim your own voice on the net. Click here to create a podmail now!

Approaching Expired Listing Leads

In the new market, expired listings are the resource of the day for immediate opportunities. In point of fact, if you have the skills to convince homeowners whose listings have expired to list with you, you can generate a great amount of business.

Bernice Ross at Inman posted a great article this week on how to approach expireds and how to turn these cold and defensive prospects into more receptive clients. Her advice is to expect these people to be quite angry with REALTORS in general and to expect to answer questions such as: “Where were you when I listed the house the first time?” “Why should I work with you instead of the thirty other agents that have called me today?”

Instead of apologizing for the lack of success with the previous listing, the article advises to use these questions to differentiate yourself from the competition. I recommend focusing on the marketing tools that you have available to you that your competition does not. This specifically applies to any online tools that you have to help promote the home for your clients.

Bernice’s advice is to explain that most homes don’t sell because of pricing and exposure, and that you are prepared to work with the client to optimize both. I will reference her scripts below, but my recommended approach is to explain that most buyer’s find homes online now and that you can maximize the home’s exposure on the net with tools such as virtual tours, podmail, Podcasts, Blogs, Showing Agent Feedback, and various other tools to help increase the number of ways that prospects can view the home online.

With those points in mind, here are a few of the scripts that Bernice recommended to use when prospecting expired listings:

“One of the reasons that listings expire is because they did not receive adequate exposure on the Web. If you were to place your property on the market again, would having it marketed on more than 20 different Web sites be a service you would want?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Seller, there is currently 10 months of inventory on the market. This means that if no new listings come on the market, it will take 10 months for the existing inventory to sell. In other words, in any given month, the probability that your listing will sell is 10 percent. The probability that your property will still be listed next month is 90 percent. Consequently, you have an important decision to make. Will you price your property in the top 10 percent of listings that will sell next month or will you price it in the 90 percent that will still be listed next month?”

Friday, November 10, 2006

Boom, Bust, or just new leadership at RedFin, Zillow and HouseValues?

Big changes are happening in our industry; especially online. The founding member of RedFin stepped down in August, and HouseValues stock price has taken a nose dive. Zillow, after a great fanfare is now facing lawsuits. Now I luckily I never invested in House, and am not surprised to hear that their lead-generation approach was not fully sustainable. However, what do these changes mean to our industry?

If you look at the behavior of industry and supporting technology in a boom/bust market (now I am not saying our industry has gone bust, this is merely a recap of historical performance) the industry grows first from rational support. After a time, rational, but risk adverse, investors invest in the industry. Finally the growth of the industry accelerates until irrational investors choose to jump into the market. This goes on until fundamentals cannot support the growth and a correction occurs. This is what happened with railroads, and more recently with tech-stocks.

The interesting observation however is that after each correction there exists a long steady growth period where the industry steadily grows to well beyond its initial size at growth rates that the fundamentals can support. Once again, a great example is the presence of the internet now versus seven years ago…. Don’t forget that Google just paid 1.6 billion for YouTube.

So what does this mean for the real estate industry and the competing online real estate services? I suspect that online companies will continue to find ways to streamline the transaction and will help real estate agents differentiate themselves from the competition. However, instead of rapid-growing web companies, I see a lot more REALTOR-centric technologies that help the real estate agent guide and advise the client through the transaction.

Help others find this article: Digg It!, Reddit or Bookmark it

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Investment Property, It's all about Income and Cap Rates

My dissertation on Cap Rates. I wrote this some time ago, but was too lazy to grab onto anything new. Maybe I'm just overwhelmed from the news of Ed Bradely and the election banter on talk radio. I'll look for more interesting topics at a later date, but for those of you that own income property, enjoy...

When looking to buy a piece of property, one must determine exactly what your expectations are for that bit of real estate. What mix of rent and real property appreciation do you expect with this investment.? More importantly, what is the right price to pay for this investment?
This last question is certainly the most important because it will determine the difference between a good investment and a waste of money. If you invest wisely and get a good price for a piece of property, you may expect revenues of 18% and with capital gains in the hundreds of thousands. Conversely, if you pay too much, you may end up paying into a losing investment for the rest of your days.

Probably the most common, and therefore effective, method to value an investment is through the use of a cap rate. Precisely defined, the cap rate is the net operating income of the property divided by its purchase price. It shows the expected percent annual return given a specific investment. The benefit to using a cap rate is that a buyer can determine his or her expected revenue from the investment, and define what a prospective investment is worth. This effectively eliminates the random pricing of real estate and reduces determination of the sales price to a simple investment calculation. Instead of questioning whether an investment in a piece of property is a good decision, a cap rate can be used to determine what the expected return is, and if the investment will be profitable.
Another benefit of using cap rates to value property is in the resale assumptions surrounding the investment. When you value a property as an investment, you must assume that the person that will eventually purchase that property from you will be looking for a similar return on their investment. If you are purchasing an investment property and plan to hold onto it for a fixed number of years, the cap rate can be used to determine the resale value of the property in addition to your expected annual return.
As will all periodic costs, rents increase with inflation and local demand. If you assume that the individual that will eventually purchase your property is expecting a return on investment that is similar to your own expectations, then the cap rate must be held constant. You expect a ten percent return on investment (10% cap rate) so it would be prudent to expect that the next buyer will also expect a ten percent return on investment. If the cap rate is held constant, but the rents and subsequent net income are increased, then the selling price of the property must also increase. By assuming a growth rate in rents for a given holding period, you can determine the resale value of your investment, and the magnitude of the capital gains that you will realize from the sale.

Cap Rates are used widely in real estate because they provide a simple method to determine a percent return on investment. From that, information, investors and realtors can determine the proper pricing for an investment given an expected return. They can determine the resale value of an investment and any associated capital gains. Finally, cap rates can be used to forecast to total expected returns on investment and confirm the proper purchase price for an investment property.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Take Steps to Rock the Vote

Election Day is upon us and once again we have the opportunity to express our opinions and choose the candidates that best represent the interests that we support. In casting my vote today I had the opportunity to use the new touch screen ballot system, and I must tell you that in spite of all of the negative press around security for these new devises, the submission of my vote was easier today than it has been in any election that I have voted in previously. I know that there are a lot of nay-sayers saying that this new technology maintains to high of an inherent risk for failure or tampering, but my experience today was just great.

Now I know that you don’t care how I voted. After all, who am I but some guy in Orange County that knows a lot about marketing and a bit about real estate? However, regardless of whether or not you care, I am going to share with you my observations. My observation is that these days the only difference between Democrats and Republicans are wedge issues. Opinions on how the government should be run are almost identical, regardless of which of the two parties are in power. The practices and activities of the two parties are now almost identical in most aspects of governance. The only differences are on those few issues that polarize opinions such as religion, abortion, gun control, etc., and it is on these wedge issues that the two parties differentiate their platforms. I think Governor Ventura (Minnesota) said it best during one of his initial interviews on Larrry King when he stated: “When they talk about the two-party system, that's only one more than Russia. You know, we get one more choice than Russia”

For me personally, I voted my conscience. I voted for some Republicans and for a few Democrats. I am also proud to say that there were a few Libertarians that I voted for as well. Like Ventura, I do support the idea of having more than just a two party system. Regardless of your opinion, please take remember the civic rights for which your ancestors gave their lives and cast your vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Thoughts On The Orange County Market

There is a lot of discussion about affordability, and I have even been lambasted for putting my name and link to this blog. But as a long-time resident of the city of Mission Viejo in Orange county, I would like to point out what effects rates have on our market to demonstrate that even if prices go down (professors at Chapman argue that prices are not expected to retrench much more than they have currently) the home buyers may be able to afford more now than they will next year if interest rates tick up.

With that in mind, lets look at a Mission Viejo home priced at $1,000,000 (wow homes are expensive in Orange County.) Okay, so if you bought a house for $1,000,000 with no down payment and a 30 year fixed mortgage with a fixed interest rate at 6.25% (today’s published rate on Wells Fargo.) Given this scenario your monthly mortgage payment will be $6,157.17.

So now what if prices do go down but interest rates go up? What if home prices dip by 5% and rates tick up from 6.25% to 7.0%? Well, that million dollar home is now priced at 950,000. However the monthly mortgage cost has increased to $6,320.37. As a home buyer, I would have been better to buy the million dollar home at the lower rate.

The great unknowns here are pricing and interest rates. Nobody is arguing that rates will increase. They are just discussing when they will tick up. Pricing as well is an unknown factor. In various areas of the country (Florida, and even San Diego) prices have dipped significantly. However, while inventory is as high now as it was in 2002, prices have only declined by about 3% across the county.

For the investors and flippers the time to pull out of the market has passed months ago, and if that is your strategy than there are other opportunities to make a quick buck. However, if you are looking to buy a home, the next nine months are in a sweet spot where you will have a lot of choices and rates that are still at historic lows. This can be translated into a buyers market.

With regard to fundamentals in Orange County, there are very few residential investors left in the county who need to get out, and employment rates are still at very low rates. Many people still commute two hours along the 91 freeway to go to work and dream of buying a home in Orange County. In addition, other than Ladera Ranch and Tellaga there are very few developments planned in the county to absorb the housing demand.

In my assessment of the area we are in a buyer’s market. Inventory will remain high for the next nine months as houses sit on the market and people who bought more than they can afford work through their challenges. During that time, the people that spend two hours a day on the freeway coming into work will take advantage of the market and absorb many of the available homes. Because there is very little new construction available and a lot of people that want to live here (my brother-in-law likens Mission Viejo and Irvine to living in park) After much of this inventory is absorbed, prices will begin their slow and steady increase once again.

Barrett Niehus

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Expanded Marketing Plan as Part of Your Listing Package

I think we are all in agreement that the listing presentation is a critical component of the sales process. Let’s face it, if your presentation doesn’t secure the listing, you have wasted your time as well as that of your clients. One of the presentation components that I have found to be successful for different agents is what I refer to as the Expanded Marketing Package. In addition to the rest of the materials that you present your prospect, comps, tax rolls, days on market data, advertisement examples, I recommend including one or two sheets that details your expanded approach to marketing the home. In this Expanded Marketing Package, include all of the various marketing activities that you plan to use to help the seller divest their home. If you use a blog, podcasts, agent caravans, newsletters, flyers, referrals, postcards, peer announcements, business cards with the listing data on it, advertisements, detail each item with a brief description so that your prospective client can understand the lengths that you will go to in order to effectively sell their home.

The Expanded Marketing Package serves a number of functions during listing presentations. First, it sets you apart from the competition that may not utilize the marketing resources that you do. Second, it presents unique value to the client so that they can understand why they need your services. Finally, by reviewing the investment that you will be making in marketing the property, you will be much better positioned to justify a full commission to the client.