Category Archives: General Real Estate

Using SEO to Strengthen Your Brand

real-estate-websites-seo

Seth Godin writes another incredible post explaining how utilizing SEO can be much more than trying to own mainstream keywords and delves into the territory that I live in, the territory that I have used to grow BlueRoof.com for three years now. Utilizing SEO as a way to strengthen your brand and help people find you when they are trying to.

When someone is looking for a good real estate buying experience in our area, many of them have heard of BlueRoof.com and the BlueRoof experience from their friends or family members. And when they Google us I want them to find us- and that is the only way I care about SEO for my particular website. I don’t pack keywords and links into my site because people don’t want to use websites that are pack with keywords and links- they want a great experience that is all about THEM, not about getting people to ME…

So, I have to pay for my Google ranking with Pay Per Click. And that’s okay because most of the traffic that comes to our site now is referred traffic- traffic that we have very worked hard to earn by offering the best experience we can to our clients. Helping them find the right home and negotiating and educating and working for the client above all else.

I want to own the keyword BlueRoof and the keyword BlueRoof.com and even Blue Roof (with a space), but not because I want to get any traffic, because I want to help those who are already looking for us to be able to find us easily. That is the best traffic because they already want to work with us  and we want to help them.

Utilizing SEO to get new business can obviously be a good thing, but landing on the front page of Google for any good keywords can be very difficult. It’s important to build your own brand and putting some focus into that might be the best strategy you can take- it’s worked well for us.

BlueRoof360 Launches Mobile Search and Much More…

blueroof360-mobile-search-hub1

In February we launched our new mobile search feature which work on any mobile device with internet. Every BlueRoof360 website has mobile search now by simply adding the suffix of /mobile or/m after the URL (prusantafe.com/m)

Every listed home on the MLS is in the search and each listing includes all the photos directly pulled from the MLS.

Also on the home page of the mobile search there is Quick House Number Lookup which allows someone sitting in front of a house to simply type in the house number and easily find that property. If there are more than one result for that particular house number, our clients listings sort to the top (since those will be the properties with sign riders telling people to type in the house number.)

So, by going to prudentialfloridarealty.com/m on my mobile phone and typing  [a listed house number] into the Quick House Number Lookup it takes me directly to that Prudential Florida Realty listing.

Properties can be saved to your account, just as if you were on the website, and it’s easy to schedule a showing or contact the agent.

But our mobile system is much more than search- agents can access their contacts, see the showings and feedback on their listings, access documents associated with each client, and send documents, all form their mobile account.

And, even better, the agents clients can access all of their listing and escrow information, checklists of items that have been accomplished and deadlines that have been met, or are still pending, they can see all their showings and feedback from their showings, and the clients can also access all of their documents and send them from their mobile device.

BlueRoof360 gives our clients, and their clients, a true mobile “hub” where all the contract, listing, and escrow information is accessed and shared from a central place on the agent’s website.

Inman, showing signs of slipping in their reporting of new technologies first, wrote a too-late article April 10th about a new innovation that we launched along with our mobile hub over a month ago, allowing people to find homes quickly by typing in a house number while they are in front of the house or wherever. Just another innovation we came up with before they even noticed.

Watch for new features we will be launching soon that continue to innovate and lead the industry…

Most Active Online Home Shoppers

People Searching Online

The real estate industry has reluctantly been pulled online during the last three years and today most agents and brokers know that people are searching for homes online.

Hopefully this will be the year that brokerages start building great websites- and hopefully they will hire a great website design company like BlueRoof360 to do it.

But which areas are people most actively looking online for homes? Using Google Trends we can see which states and cities are the most active searching for different terms. Let’s look and see where people are really looking online…

Real Estate For Sale

For the term “homes for sale” Salt lake City ranks at the top, followed by Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver.

sell-my-home

For the term “Sell my home” the top states are Arizona, Florida and Utah, followed by Missouri, SC, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, NC, Texas.

The term “Search for Homes” ranked like this;

1. South Carolina, United States
2. Arizona, United States
3. Nevada, United States
4. North Carolina, United States
5. Georgia, United States
6. Florida, United States
7. Oklahoma, United States
8. Tennessee, United States
9. Maryland, United States
10. Colorado, United States

Since I’ve posted about  this before, let’s look at where people are most actively searching for other popular terms;

Term                                        Area most searching for that term

Family Activities                          Salt Lake (and Utah) by a landslide

God                                             Tennessee

Jesus                                          Alabama (and Tennessee is #2)

Hell                                              Kansas

Porn                                            Kentucky

Foreclosure                               Miami, Vegas, Tampa

I am afraid                                Philly, Boston, Orlando

Self improvement                      Salt Lake (and Utah) by a landslide

Teen problems                           Iowa

Politics                                       D.C. (surprise), followed by Maryland, NY, Connecticut

Singles                                        Salt Lake (and Utah). followed by Denver, Phoenix, Tampa

Go to Google Trends and try for yourself- you might be surprised at what people are searching for in your area…

New BlueRoof Website Includes Phoenix and Denver Markets

BlueRoof expands to Denver and Phoenix markets

Since BlueRoof first launched three years ago we have accomplished a lot- we’ve been voted “Best Real Estate Website” three years in a row, we’ve won the W3 Award (Silver in 2007, Gold in 2008 ) for Best Homepage, Visual Appeal and Navigation, we’ve sold hundreds of homes/year with only a few people, and we’ve built a strong brand in the Utah market with very devoted clients.

And although I have been offered (over two dozen times) to expand into new markets, I haven’t. Don’t get me wrong, the plan has always been to grow, but so far I have not had the chance for a few reasons- first of all Prudential bought the BlueRoof brokerage (but not the website or technology)  just 5 months after I started it, back in 2006, and I had to sign a contract stipulating a few things that prevented me from doing anything else. Then we started BlueRoof360 (in April of 2008 ) and in the last 8 months have built over 1200 websites for agents and brokers around the country, which has obviously taken my focus.

BlueRoof Agents

But the most important reason I did not expand BlueRoof sooner was that I needed to decide what was the best way for me to grow the brand while ensuring the client experience would not suffer. I’ve watched as other brands have grown to other areas but I didn’t want to grow in the same ways.

Roost partners with a company in each area, meaning the leads are going to any of the company agents, some of whom will do a good job for the clients and some will not (every company has good and bad agents) so they are basically selling leads. Redfin hires their own agents in each market, but that would require me raising capitol and they hire agents who are relatively inexperienced (top agents don’t want to be a desk jockey for another company). Estately refers leads out to other agents and although I like that they have say in the quality of service these agents provide, these agents don’t have an investment in the brand so they aren’t going to promote the brand or be dedicated to it.

I did not want to franchise the name because that would risk the brand being diluted by bad agents/brokers or not being marketed properly and I would have no control over it. I did not want to open my own brokerages in other markets because I would have to bring in investors to raise the necessary capitol and then have other people who do not know the brand, or the real estate business, telling me how to run it. And I didn’t want the website to simply be a lead generator. .  I wanted BlueRoof to be represented by people in each market that were invested in the promotion and growth of the brand and the overall experience the client receives working with the BlueRoof team.

I needed to find good, strong, established Realtor teams to work with. Teams who have a lot of experience and can handle the new business that will come, would be dedicated to growing the brand, and also offer excellent service to their clients. People who shared the same vision I have that technology should not only be used to get new business, but to improve the home buying/selling experience of our clients.

Today, I am excited to announce that I have found these teams to partner with in the Denver and Phoenix markets. Teams that I am proud to have represent the BlueRoof brand. And today we are all together  launching a new version of the website with some  cool new features and upgrades, but have maintained the overall look and feel of the original, award-winning, design.

Bob Maiocco

Our Denver, Colorado team is led by Bob Maiocco with Keller Williams. Bob got into the business in 1992 and he and his team have a lot of experience working with online web visitors, in fact has been a speaker at Keller Williams technology events discussing best practices in utilizing technology. Bob’s team averages $12-$15 Million/year in sales.

Nate Green

In the Phoenix market our team is led by Nate Green, also with Keller Williams. Nate was named the agent recruit of the year in 2004, Rookie of the Year in 2005, was ranked #10 in the nation for volume at Keller Williams November 2005,  in 2006 he was named “Cultural Icon” , in 2008 his team were spotlighted in Residential Executive magazine, and the last two years they have been the top agent and team in their office of 120+ agents and have consistently closed $12-$15 Million in sales.

BlueRoof Client Area

Our new backend system gives our clients tools that are unlike anything else in the industry, including the ability to follow their entire transaction as it happens and see showings and feedback on their listings immediately as it is left. Our new search is, in my opinion, the best in the industry- with the most visual and fun home searching experience online.

I believe that design is the most important element in a website. And by design I don’t just mean looks. At BlueRoof360 our philosophy can be summed up by a quote by Steve Jobs,

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works.”

We still have a lot of cool social and mobile features we’ll be adding soon, but we wanted to get the new site launched so we can begin promoting it for the spring season and using the cool new back end system for our clients. By the way, I realize that having a landing page that is a map is so… Web1.0, but I wanted the actual site to be able to represent each area separately, but also allow the web visitor to select which area they are interested in.

If you have a few minutes to spare, stop by and look around. I’m always interested to hear what people think.

Here’s to the economy stabilizing, a new presidential administration that actually cares about people who don’t give them money, the Utah Utes crashing the BCS party again, and to a fun and prosperous 2009!

Greg

Business Card Design Makes an Impact (or not)

Good Business Card Design

Many real estate people will be traveling to conventions this year- big ones, small ones, technology, real estate, blogging, design, etc. I really enjoy these conferences because they give me a chance to get away, meet some interesting people with interesting ideas, and enjoy a tax-deductible vacation. Sweet!

When I return home I will surely have piles of business cards from all sorts of people from different companies and positions. Some I will want to keep in contact with, and some I will want to remember the conversations we had. And while I am perusing the assortment of cards I will, no doubt, be impressed by some of them and disappointed by others.

I offer my suggestions…

Use a high quality paper- flimsy cards just suck. Spend the extra ten dollars and get good paper.

Use the standard size- when you use a card that is larger or smaller (especially) than normal, people cannot stack or organize it with the others. Smaller cards get lost and become a pain in the ass. Be different by using good imagery or design, not by having an odd shape or size.

No standard clip art- Using images that come from standard clip art makes your card look generic, but even worse, it makes it look like you were trying to not be generic and failed.

Have a credible email address- If your business email is lizzydizzy@hotmail.com or disneylover@gmail.com or even jennifersmith3245@yahoo.com you really need to get with a company that will provide you with a company account.

Watch for typos- If you can’t spell your name right you need to go back to school. Pre-school.

businesscard51

Use Color- A bit of color makes the card much more pleasant. Tie-die or rainbows aren’t necessary, but some color can really give your card some punch, or at the very least it won’t be as boring as monochrome.

Have a blank back- When people receive your card they’ll want to write notes on the back about you or your company or your conversation. Or maybe you can write the address to a great local bar so if that person ever makes it to your city they’ll know where to go.

Have a URL- In today’s business world you should have a website to send people to. Whether your business is plumbing or software, have your URL on your card. If you are embarrassed about your current website, or you aren’t totally excited about it, go here.

Business Card Design- Tear Off

No fold-overs or tear-offs- Cards that fold over get caught on things and take up extra space in my pants pocket. And if you do some clever thing like a pop-up or tear off tab, once that cute feature has been done, the card now has a flap hanging off of it and it doesn’t fit anywhere. Remember the first rule in marketing, which is my next thought…

Keep it simple- We don’t need to name call here, but keep your message simple and clear. Have a clean design that is easy to understand and makes a statement.

Readable Fonts- Lettering should be easy to read and, with the possible exception of the heading or logo, consistent throughout the card.

Have an actual designer create your card- Don’t jump on to Publisher and draw up a design. You want it to be polished and look good.

Funny Business Card Titles

Silly Business Card Titles

No stupid titles- We’ve all seen the start-ups where every employee has some “cool”  title like “VP of Fun” or “Director of Computer Stuff”. Having something clever to say is good, lame titles are just lame. And besides, I’m not going to remember every person so if you are the head of technology but your card says “Emperor of Digital Awareness” I won’t know your function and will most likely toss the card.

Simple Business Card Design

Think it through. Many of us have heard of Matt (creator of WordPress) Mullenweg’s business cards that simply say: “1. Go to Google. 2. Type ‘Matt.’ 3. Click ‘I feel lucky.’ ” That’s pretty cool until your google ranking crashes, like Matt’s did and now it goes to another Matt.

Good, Simple Business Card Design

Have a card that shows your image and has some fun. Good design makes an impact. Well, so does bad design, but good design makes the impact you’ll want.

It is good to get creative with images and show your personality, just remember after the novelty wears off your business card needs to serve its purpose so it is prudent to put good design and imagery over novelty.

Now let’s go have a great year!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

very-merry-christmas

“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C.  This wasn’t for any religious reasons.  They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.”

Jay Leno

Top Ten Suburbs to Sell A Home

best-markets-to-sell-a-home

MSN today posted an article about a Forbes.com article that lists the Top Ten Suburbs to Sell a Home right now. To make the determination of which cities were the top, they took data from Altos Research. They took suburbs in the country’s 75 largest Census-defined metro areas based on the last 90 days of sales activity, then narrowed it to those cities with an inventory of at least 75 homes on the market.

They then eliminated suburbs where it currently takes more than 125 days to sell the average home and eliminated any suburb where year-over-year price declines were steeper than 10% or where more than 50% of sellers had reduced their asking price to sell their home.

Cities that make the cut include;

10. Montclair, N.J.

Location: 13 miles west of New York City

9. Waltham, Mass.

Location: 26 miles west of Boston

8. Encinitas, Calif.

Location: 28 miles north of San Diego

7. Matthews, N.C.

Location: 12 miles southeast of Charlotte

6. Midvale, Utah

Location: 13 miles south of Salt Lake City

5. Sugar Land, Texas

Location: 20 miles southwest of Houston

4. Kennesaw, Ga.

Location: 28 miles northwest of Atlanta

3. Venice, Calif.

Location: 16 miles west of Los Angeles

2. Bedford, Texas

Location: 22 miles west of Dallas

1. Berkeley, Calif.

Location: 14 miles northeast of San Francisco

The article says what was left wasn’t a set of awe-inspiring hidden gems where sellers are awash in bidding wars. Nationwide, low-interest rates and low prices caused existing home sales to rise 5.5% in September, but in many areas of the country, sellers are finding relatively few buyers. But, “If you have to sell a house, sell in these places,” says Michael Simonsen, chief executive of Altos Research.

Our Changing World

(h/t Bloodhound)

How the Real Estate Industry Could Destroy the World

real-estate-industry-destroying-the-world

I’ve done some thinking research into what happened to the dinosaurs. How did such a powerful and broad range of species become extinct? Was it a crater slamming into the Earth? Or a volcano eruption that blacked out the skies?

No, it was neither- but something far worse and much, much more dramatic…

And today we are facing the beginning of a similar fate and it is being brought on by the real estate industry!

I attended a couple of closings this week at title companies different from the one I am used to using and I noticed, well, actually remembered, how thick every file is when we are done closing a transaction. The title company has a file of paper about an inch and a half thick, the client gets a copy of all of that so theirs is the same, the agent has a file that might be a half inch thick and the broker has a file that is the same. Then the mortgage company has their file, and the inspection company prints a freaking book report for the buyer, and the appraiser does their report.

Now factor in the “Just Listed” cards and “Just Sold” cards, the home warranty postcards and all the print marketing that it took to get and sell the listing.

Now, figure the gas it took to drive buyers around, the oil and other lubricants, liquids and air conditioning “goo” from every car.

There are millions of homes sold every year- Think of the carbon footprint we, as an industry, are leaving because of our work.

real-estate-recycle

We all need to do our part to pressure title companies to give copies of the transaction via email, lenders to allow digital signatures on everything, and encourage buyers to do as much home searching online as possible.

If we continue, we will kill all of our trees and all of the atmosphere resulting in extreme weather and lack of oxygen which will kill us all dead. Completely, all the way dead. And not a quick, painless death, but our skin will melt away slowly and we will become ill with disease and vomit and bleed from our eyes and it will be horribly painful.

Sure, someone could make a documentary about it all and probably make a lot of money but they would be dead too so they won’t be able to enjoy it.

And now you know- that is how the dinosaurs died. The plant-eaters ate all the trees and had no more to eat so they died and then the carnivores had to eat each other and their cars were putting out exhaust and burning the gas and it killed the atmosphere and they all died.

I know because I was there…

but-seriously-now

Let’s all do our part to print a little less, give copies of documents in emails, and drive less by providing good virtual tours and just encourage each other to think about our carbon footprint as an industry.

Blogging…

Blogging

From despair.com

Leaders, Visionaries, and Great People in Real Estate- A Top Ten List

Leaders in the Real Estate Industry

There are many great people in, and around, the real estate industry. Some lead by example, some inspire with their words, and others lead with their ideas. There are great companies and people all around the industry right now and as a whole (partly because of these people and these companies) the industry has grown more in the last three years than in the previous twenty.

Here are ten of the great thinkers, leaders and of the industry right now;

4realz Dustin Luther

Dustin Luther has not only pulled blogging into the mainstream for real estate agents and pioneered the first great collaborative real estate blog, but he has done something even more incredible- he has given people an enthusiasm for blogging by his constant thinking, creating and now by his training.

RealEstateTomato- Jim Cronin

Jim Cronin creates beautiful blog sites and teaches agents how to use them effectively. Neither of these feats are small. Great design is only easy for those who have a talent for it, and Jim obviously has in it spades.

Sellsius Real Estate- Joe

Joe Ferrara at Sellsius gives us a fun, interesting blog for sure, but there are many of those. Sellsius was a great blog before Rudy left for Trulia, but instead of pack up and move on, Joe decided to re-invigorate the blog with a fresh new life. And who else could give us “Real Estate Porn” and at the same time, the “Top Ten Women Bloggers”?

Dougan Jones

Dougan Jones has been the owner, president, and/or broker for many large real estate companies. And in each company he has brought something that cannot be bought or taught… he has brought culture. I believe the way you can tell a great leader is by how many leaders they develop and by this account, Dougan is among the very best. There are dozens of real estate managers and leaders, including myself who trained under Dougan in Utah, Colorado and Michigan. He is also one of the most charismatic and incredible people I have ever had the privledge to meet. Dougan completely energizes people around him and people are naturally drawn to him because of his magnanimous charm and wisdom.

activerain

Active Rain has given real estate agents a platform to leap beyond themselves in a sense. Most Realtors who blog on Active Rain would not be doing so without Matt and Jonathon starting the joint. I don’t know if it’s profitable, but they are keeping it relevant by hosting parties at conventions and continuing to grow their brand organically.

1000 Watt Consulting- Marc Davison

Marc Davison is leading by another means. Marc leads by showing. Showing other leaders how to think differently, how to be creative, and why that matters right now. Marc and I don’t always share the same opinions or ideas, but we always share the same motives.

bloodhoundblog

Greg Swann is a brilliant, brash, and blazing writer who, love him or hate him, gets people to stand up for (or against) things. And that is not easy or unimportant. He has built one of the most formidable blogs in the industry by inspiring people to write their guts out and not hold back. If you’re in the mood for some opinions, occasional music videos and lots and lots of words, he’s got you covered.

InManConnect

Inman Connect has brought technology and real estate together during the past few years unlike anything else. And although it is becoming too political, it still attracts a lineup of great speakers and innovators and if it can pull back the reins on the money-grabbing it just might be able to use it’s clout and momentum to lead the industry in more ways than its conventions.

Rudy Bachraty- Social Planner

Rudy Bachraty is now the mascot voice social director or “guru” for Trulia and has become a sort of bridge for many agents to find and meet other agents. Sure he has his day job and he is one of the best at utilizing social media and gaining an audience, but what sets Rudy apart is what he does at the conventions and shows. He acts as a social director for the whole industry. Want to know where the parties are? Call Rudy. Want to know who is speaking about what? Call Rudy. Want to get a drink with a really great guy? Call Rudy.

Realtors with Technology

Great Agents with Technology are the most powerful force in the business today. Being a great agent means having a deep knowledge of your market, extensive experience with contracts and the escrow process, and a true desire to help your clients and put them first. When these agents really utilize technology they can offer better service and a better experience for their clients. Powerful custom websites that get their message across and back-end systems that give greater transparency to the transaction for their clients will propel these agents while others fail in the coming years.

I’m proud to call many of these people friends. But more than friendship, I, along with many others, enjoy learning from them and watching as they continue to grow and help shape our industry.

Cheers!

Realtors Getting Screwed and Listening to Idiots- A Top Ten List

Almost daily I am again reminded at how ridiculous the business of selling crap (services and ideas) to Realtors has become. The real estate industry has enough problems right now- we don’t need people trying to screw us over and so many idiots preaching about stuff they don’t know anything about.

Here I name ten of the worst offenders. From people preaching to agents about the business to companies that are screwing you over, I’m going to spell it out.

10. Inman News and Rismedia charging hundreds of dollars/year to become a “member” so you can read their articles or watch videos or read the “breaking news”. It’s not enough to slap as many ads as possible in every possible place on their site, with some, like the first big-ass ad on Inman as you go to the site, are the most annoying ads EVER. No, they also need to charge just to read stuff. Reminds of me the old (failed) business model newspapers used when they first went on-line.

9. Bloggers that think if you whine and bitch about how bad things are than it proves you are trustworthy. Many bloggers, and “bubble” bloggers especially, think that because they constantly preach about how prices are crumbling and everyone will lose all their money that somehow that makes them trustworthy, like, “See I’m telling you bad news so you can trust me.”

8. Realtor.com- One of the biggest, lamest business models ever. To be a Realtor, one must subscribe (and pay $100′s/year) to their local, state and national Realtor Associations. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) collects millions every year from memberships from agents who go out and actually do the work of selling property. Realtor.com is the “official” website of NAR and, because it is the official website has access to all the listing data that its members provide. But instead of using that data for the benefit of it’s members, it sells listing placement, promotions and ads to its members, effectively selling leads back to it’s members by using the data that those members have provided it. And the members don’t have a choice- either pay your membership dues (and give your listing data to Realtor.com) or you cannot be a Realtor.

7. MLS’s- I could go on for hours about how much MLS’s screw over agents. Not only as a Realtor, broker and owner of real estate companies, but having websites and now owning a company that develops custom websites for agents and brokers, I have seen a lot of ugliness in the MLS systems. They regulate and fine and give out ridiculous fees to their members, then if you want to use that data for your own website you have to pay the MLS’s for that right. Some MLS’s are so pompous and self righteous (Denver’s Metrolist and Bostons MLS) it could make you sick. And some charge so much money (Utah’s Wasatch Front MLS and Phoenix’s charges $12,000/year!!) to use their data for your website that it should be criminal.

6. Template website providers- most of these templates are so ridiculous that I’m surprised anyone buys them. Many don’t include MLS searches, many have very little customization, and most are completely worthless as a source of getting new business (their primary objective) or in improving service for clients. Some of these, like Number #1 Expert charge thousands of dollars to sign up , plus hundreds of dollars/month and sell you on being part of their “network” of suckers agents.

5. Advanced Access- I think I’ve covered why they suck…

4. Point2 Agent- These guys give you a website for nothing. And that’s what it’s worth! They will give you a crappy template site and then charge you for any upgrade they can and refer you to their business partners “preferred partners” for anything else. Instead of an MLS search, they give you an “Agent Handshake” listing feed. So you can display listings from agents who are members of their service and who have agreed to allow you to display their listings. That’s right- why show web visitors all the homes for sale when you can show a very small percentage?

3. Diverse Solutions- Because they copied BlueRoof’s sliders (except made them much worse and slapped them on a bad map-search) a long time ago when I wouldn’t partner with them and now actually tell people they had something do with the design of BlueRoof . Yeah- right!

2. Craig Proctor- This is an agent who sells websites that are the most painful things to look at ever. Try reading one of these things, they are basically just thousands of keywords and hundreds of forms to fill out, which are ways to try and get people’s information so you can then spam email them until they die or just give up and throw their hands in the air with surrender and buy something just so you’ll leave them alone. Ironically, they will get even more emails because Proctor’s system now identifies them as a complete sucker. It’s not just the system I don’t like- it’s those painful, ridiculous websites!

1. SEO Companies that guarantee placement. If an SEO company tells you that they can guarantee your website will be on the first page in Google search results, you should invite that person to meet you in person, and then when you meet them, SLAP them! It is a hoax, a fraud, a sham! Nobody can guarantee placement on Google- not even Google.

There are a lot of good leaders, speakers, consultants, and people in the industry. People like Ed Kraftchow, Marc Davison, Dustin Luther, Dougan Jones, and Gretchen Pearson. There are good agents doing good work and there are many good products, brands, and services. I’ll write about them later- right now I’m heading off to the NAR convention to meet up with some of these good people. Hope to see you there…

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Tired of a template website that doesn’t bring you business?

If you are looking for a custom real estate website with lead management (CRM) system and more, contact BlueRoof360 (http://blueroof360.com) at 888-850-4867 Ext#1 or sales@blueroof360.com.

The Best and Worst Cities for Jobs Right Now

MSN published a report today naming the best and worst states in the nation based on unemployemnt rates. Some of the areas may surprise you. Just as real estate markets are local, so are economies. Some areas have better run governments, different zoning and business licensing laws, better access to resources, or events that happen (military base closing, new company moving in, major employer cutting back or hiring, etc) which cause job demand to fluxuate.

Eight of the worst cities are in California, while three of the top cities are in Utah.

According to the article, here are the top 15 cities for jobs based on unemployment rates;

1. Bismarck, N.D.- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.5

2. Casper, Wyo.- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.5

3. Logan, Utah- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.5

4. Sioux Falls, S.D. - September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.5

5. Morgantown, W. Va.- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.6

6. Ames, Iowa- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.7

7. Fargo, N.D.- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.8

8. Iowa City, Iowa- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.8

9. Rapid City, S.D.- September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  2.9

10. Lincoln, Neb.September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  3.0

11. Provo-Orem, UtahSeptember 2008 Unemployment Rate:  3.0

12. Billings, Mont.September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  3.1

13. Charleston, W. Va.September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  3.2

14. Midland, TexasSeptember 2008 Unemployment Rate:  3.2

15. Salt Lake City, Utah - September 2008 Unemployment Rate:  3.2

And the 15 Worst Cities are;

1. El Centro, Calif. - September 2008 Unemployment Number:   24.5

2. Yuma, Ariz.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   20.5

3. Yuba City, Calif.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   11.2

4. Merced, Calif.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.9

5. Flint, Mich.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.8

6. Visalia-Porterville, Calif. -September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.6

7. Modesto, Calif.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.5

8. Palm Coast, Fla.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.3

9. Stockton, Calif.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.2

10. Sebastian-Vero Beach, Fla.- September 2008 Unemployment Number:   10.1

11. Fresno, Calif.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   9.6

12. Rocky Mount, N.C.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   9.6

13. Monroe, Mich.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   9.5

14. Punta Gorda, Fla.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   9.5

15. Redding, Calif.September 2008 Unemployment Number:   9.5

For a more complete list and more information visit MSN.

The Most Important Stat to Track on my Website

There are a lot of statistics for me to follow with my website, BlueRoof.com. Some things are interesting to watch (what states people are visiting my site from, what web browsers they use, etc.) and every stat has some value (where to spend marketing, which browsers to optimize my site for, etc) but some stats are more significant for me to watch than others.

There are some stats I watch more than others. Here are the things I check daily:

Overall Traffic (and compare to the following Day, Week, Month)

Unique Visitors (and compare to averages and following Day, Week, Month)

Average Time on Site

Traffic Sources

Now this last one, traffic sources, tells me something very important. In fact it is one of the most important things for me. It tells me how many people are coming directly to my website by typing in the URL, meaning they knew where they were going.

You can see about 70% of my traffic comes from people going directly to my website. This figure continues to grow. Two years ago none of my traffic was direct because I was a new company and website. last year I was reaching for 50% of my traffic to come directly, and now I’m about 70%. And I’m spending about 25% of the marketing I did last year, getting the same amount of traffic and the same amount of leads.

I also check the top ten keywords people searched for to find my website because that also shows me how many people searched for my website. You can see that most of the people who find my website by search engine already knew they were looking for BlueRoof.com.

This is important for me to know because I want to see how many people are being referred to come to my site. Most of the traffic I get to my site now is direct traffic (about 70%) or people who are searching for my site. BlueRoof.com is not a name you would necessarily know to type in to search for homes unless you knew what the website was.

If my marketing budget stays the same and the my traffic rises, or if my marketing budget goes down but my traffic and leads increases then I am getting referral traffic, and that is what I really want because it tells me people like my website enough to refer it to people they know.

My website is very visual so there is not a lot of content (text) for search engines to grab onto and determin rank. I haven’t packed it full of links and text so it is not optimized for search engines at all. And because of that I’ve had to pay for my traffic by using pay per click (PPC). But once people get to my site they enjoy being there and I get business. And I can see that people like it enough that they are referring people to the site.

This tells me that my strategy is paying off. My strategy is not the same as everyone else when it comes to how to design my site and what to put on it. My strategy is to make the experience the best I can for the consumer and they will choose to work with us because we offer them value.

Watch for a new release of BlueRoof.com to launch in a few weeks. We’re making some upgrades in usability, function and information. The most important thing to me is the user experience (design) so I’m excited to add new features to BlueRoof.com while maintaining great design.

Warren Buffet’s Advice- Buy While Others are Feaful

Warren Buffet wrote an article for the New York Times yesterday where he explains where he is putting his money right now and his philosophy on when to be greedy. In short, Buffett says;

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

It makes sense. The best time to buy is when the prices are low and the best time to sell is when prices are high. Or as Buffett says,

“…if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.

A little history here: During the Depression, the Dow hit its low, 41, on July 8, 1932. Economic conditions, though, kept deteriorating until Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in March 1933. By that time, the market had already advanced 30 percent. Or think back to the early days of World War II, when things were going badly for the United States in Europe and the Pacific. The market hit bottom in April 1942, well before Allied fortunes turned. Again, in the early 1980s, the time to buy stocks was when inflation raged and the economy was in the tank. In short, bad news is an investor’s best friend. It lets you buy a slice of America’s future at a marked-down price.

Over the long term, the stock market news will be good. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.

You might think it would have been impossible for an investor to lose money during a century marked by such an extraordinary gain. But some investors did. The hapless ones bought stocks only when they felt comfort in doing so and then proceeded to sell when the headlines made them queasy.”

This is true in financial and in real estate markets. The best time to buy is when prices are low. Let me say that again- The best time to buy is when prices are low. Currently, prices are low….

BlueRoof360- Industry Best Realtor Websites, Lead and Client Management

blueroof360.png

Custom Websites for the price of a template…

In 2007 we closed 114 homes because of our website. Last year, in 2008, we closed just under 100 without me selling (my buyer team agents did the selling).

While the majority of real estate agents were seeing their businesses slow down significantly and the overall market lose energy, our business has stayed, and is still staying, very consistent.

You may not even want to be a top-producing agent, but I’m sure you wouldn’t mind an extra sale or two each month.  Technology does not take the place of personality and personal contact but, when utilized correctly, it can help us connect with our clients and also bring us new business.

Understand, I am not a technology guy getting into real estate. I am a Realtor (over 14 years) who uses technology very well.

As a real estate agent, if you want to get business from the internet and offer real value to your clients what are your current choices? You can use Point2, Advanced Access, Homes.com or myriad other template websites, you can (even worse) just have a page on your broker’s website, or you can spend a lot of money building a custom website and hope the people building it know anything about real estate and design. This has been the challenge for Realtors and brokers.. until now.

Now, finally, there will be another choice that brings the power and design of a custom website, the newest, innovative technology, a simple and intuitive back-end system, and client services technology, for a price that is lower than many of the templates.

advanced-access-and-point2-can-not-compete.png

Enter BlueRoof360

BlueRoof360 costs only $100/month and is a complete online solution for real estate agents and brokers. Attract new business, offer better service for your clients, give more value to the consumer, and grow your team and your bottom line.

I have been the managing broker for several large (100+ agent) real estate offices. I have become a student, learning what consumers like and want when searching for homes. By meeting buyers from my website and working with them I have been able to learn a lot about how to use the internet for real estate over the last five years. And because I am a real estate agent and I have managed, recruited, trained and hired hundreds of Realtors, I understand what real estate agents need and what they like and want.

Paying for a template website because it’s cheap is not always the best approach.

As Greg says, “If 10,000 people exhibit a casual interest in your product, you will have earned nothing, whereas if one person actually buys, you will have earned a huge pay-check.”

Consumers want a better overall experience including value, service, interaction and information. They want to feel as though they are being taken care of but that they have good information and still run the show.

Agents want simple tools that enable them to focus on the relationship and they want business that comes to them without referral fees.

To offer real value to the consumer and get real business from the internet I believe you need to have a few very important pieces that all work together. It all begins with a destination website. Not a form-filled, SEO-crazy, template website, but a website that is designed well, has cutting-edge technology, is fun and easy to use, and has great information for the consumer.

Next you need to know how to drive traffic to your website. How to make it seen and how to make it a place that people will want to come back to again and again, and tell other people about.

real-estate-agent-websites.png
When someone asks for help or requests a showing on a property you need to respond very quickly- 15 minutes or less (under one minute is ideal). You need to have a near-immediate connection. People do not want to wait and they won’t wait. They’ll usually work with the first agent to get back to them.

You need to be able to stay in touch with your leads, clients, past-clients, family, associates and friends. You need to give the consumer (your current and potential clients) excellent service. You need to WOW them.

You need to continue to grow and learn from others who are doing it. 

And it has to be easy. It has to be simple to do. Real estate agents do not like complicated, difficult programs and hours of learning how to use stuff. We like fun, easy and simple.

custom-realtor-websites.png

BlueRoof360 will give you a custom website. Not a template website, but a custom website. A template gives you pre-defined spaces that you can change text and images in. We give you a custom website and if you ever want to modify or add new pages (you have unlimited pages) you can add them anytime, and it’s simple.

You can have instant chat, videos, podcasting, widgets or whatever you want.

real-estate-lead-management.png

You’ll also have a complete, but very simple to use, lead and client management system and a notification system. When someone requests to see a property you’ll be notified immediately by text message and email and that person’s information is automatically entered into your lead management system for you. Assign an email keep-in-touch campaign with a click. You can make new campaigns or edit the campaigns and make them your own anytime you want.

We have tried “Top Producer” client management system twice, but both times our team would not even use it because it was so complicated. We paid over $90/month and it just sat there. We’ve designed ours to be simple and easy to use.

You can allow your clients to log in to their own account and see their file. A listing client can see everything you have done on their file and when. They can see when the magazine ad went out and when the sign was ordered and every showing. They can see all the feedback from their showings and your own personal notes. This doesn’t take the place of your personal communication, but it helps you to stay in touch with them even when you are busy and it helps them stay connected to the transaction in a new and interactive way.

Keep doing what you are doing now and just use this to add some extra deals every month. Or go full-out and close hundreds of deals this year from your website. Either way, a long-term online presence will grow your business and give you tools to give better service and value to your clients.

As Jeff, TheXBroker, says…

“So where is the middle ground of killer technology and rePro listing penetration? I think BlueRoof is headed down the right path. Technology (Solvent) + rePro (Solute) = A Solution…one that both consumers and professionals can benefit from.”

The internet is a simple, powerful way to connect with people and grow your business and now BlueRoof360 will give you a simple and powerful way to do it.

To get a quick demo contact us at sales@blueroof360.com or 801-699-6619.

BlueRoof360- Custom Websites at a Template Price…

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Tired of a template website that doesn’t bring you business?

If you are looking for a custom real estate website with lead management (CRM) system and more, contact BlueRoof360 (http://blueroof360.com) at 888-850-4867 Ext#1 or sales@blueroof360.com.

Top States for Unemployment Rates

MSN released a list  of the top states (and the worst) in the country for unemployment rates. With the economy and housing markets around the country feeling the pressure, it’s always nice to know how the local economies are doing. One thing we have all been realizing lately is just how much Real Estate markets and housing affect the economy. There are a lot of issues that go along with a real estate market, for instance, when someone buys a home they put a lot of people to work- their Realtor, the title insurance person, the mortgage lender, perhaps a home warranty person and an inspector, and all of these people work at companies that pay people depending on these services being performed. And then figure in the gas (and the people employed at the gas station) it took to drive the buyers around, the office supplies to write the contracts and fax them, contractor who may have fixed the plumbing to complete the sale and so forth.

Real estate markets have an incredible affect on local economies and it is important for us all to keep the cycles going. Unemployment is obviously a major factor in local economies…

The top five states are;

1. South Dakota
Unemployment rate: 3 percent*
Population: 796,214**
Mean annual wage: $30,460
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (19.9 percent)***
2. Idaho
Unemployment rate: 3 percent
Population: 1,499,402
Mean annual wage: $34,810
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (20.2 percent)
3. Wyoming
Unemployment rate: 3.1 percent
Population: 522,830
Mean annual wage: $34,290
Top industry: Government (23 percent)
4. Nebraska
Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent
Population: 1,774,571
Mean annual wage: $34,300
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (21.1 percent)
5. Utah
Unemployment rate: 3.2 percent
Population: 2,645,330
Mean annual wage: $35,540
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (19.7 percent)

World’s First Master-Planned Metropolis Being Built

At a total estimated cost of $35Billion, and slated to be completed by 2014, Songdo International Business District, the world’s largest commercial development ever built will house more than 65,000 residents in Incheon, South Korea.

The development is being built on over 1500 acres and will include an amazing 50 million square feet of office space, 30 million square feet of residential accommodations, 10 million square feet of retail, five million square feet of hotel accommodations and 10 million square feet of green space. The mix of offerings will include an international school, hospital, ecotarium and museum.

And here’s the kicker- it’s being built all at once!

GALE International, based in New York City, is the developer and the master plan was designed by  Kohn Pedersen Fox.

See the fly-over video…

 

Chad Shares the Secret to His Pineapple Martinis

My friend Chad has decided to do a social experiment on Facebook and throw some parties (which are always a blast) and give away some tips on his famous drinks and food (always awesome)…

This is the first video from Chad. Listen along as he shares his process for building the best pineapple martinis!

 

Chad really is the ultimate bachelor. But he is finally ready (he claims) to find the right girl to settle down with, which some people think is crazy because he is very successful at being single and is very well off so he can afford to stay single successfully.

Anyway, Chad hates loves when I tell people this- he was named in Cosmo magazine as America’s 8th most eligible bachelor a few years ago- the local news came out and interviewed him and and made a big deal out of it, which, of course, I think is funny and cool. So if you visit his Facebook page or attend one of the parties, make sure you tease him about it congratulate him.

Cheers!

66 Cities to Buy a Home In Now

According to MSN, there are 66 cities where it makes sense to buy a home in right now, and 34 cities where it might be better to rent. Of course, it’s all speculation, especially in the local markets I am familiar with, and they don’t take into account some important aspects of home ownership, like the tax breaks and simple pride of ownership.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to rent again, unless I was transient or uncertain of my ability to pay my mortgage.

Four of the top five cities (McAllen, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas) are in Texas.

Texas has (relatively) low home prices and something elase that people need to consider heavily- great sports franchises- these are two of the most important factors when considering where to buy. If you pay less for a great home and have great sports team to watch live- things will work out.

Plus, great sports teams usually means great sports bars, and really, isn’t that the most important factor in making a great city?

Maybe, or maybe not, but I think we can all agree on at least one thing- the Colts will win the Superbowl this year- go Colts!

Real Estate Web 2.0 Companies

From 1000Watt Consulting, a diagram showing the different RE 2.0 companies in their respective categories.

More Accusations Against Trulia- Now Cloaking?

Trulia has been caught in some allegations recently that question the integrity of the company, and imply that Trulia is involved in some shady practices that help it’s own site at the expensive of the agent/brokers/partners who work with it. Most of the accusactions have to do no-follow links (temporary 302 redirects) that give Trulia links, but prevent links going back to the “partners” it works with, so it can cause it’s own site ranking to go up and hurt the ranking of the partner sites.

Now, accusations of cloaking, or displaying different content to web visitors and search engines to gain one-way inbound links to it’s own site, while looking like it is giving content to partner sites. Obviously, if true, this would further erode the confidence agents and brokers have in the website.

Trulia’s PR machine will most likely be in high gear again, so look for explanations to come from their side soon.

I like Trulia, mostly because they are doing new things and bringing new things into the industry. But I also believe agents/brokers need to build their own online identity and brand themselves, not a third-party listing aggregation website (Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, etc).

Utah Government Workers Move to a Four Day Workweek

 

Utah Moves to a Four Day Work Week

Utah Moves to a Four Day Work Week

Beginning in August, Utah state employees will begin workweeks of Monday-Thursday 7am-6pm, instead of 8am-5pm, and have Fridays off. The radical new move will result in some frustration for some finding new daycare arangements and such, but will save millions of dollars in energy costs and will reduce traffic congestion.

The order issued by Gov. Jon Huntsman will affect about 17,000 out of 24,000 executive-branch employees. It will not cover state police officers, prison guards or employees of the courts or Utah’s public universities. Also, state-run liquor stores will stay open on Fridays.

Lisa Roskelley, the Governor’s spokesperson, says turning off the lights, heat and air conditioning on Fridays in 1,000 of 3,000 government buildings will save about $3 million a year from a state budget of $11 Million.

That is huge.

The Department of Environmental Quality estimated employees in six buildings alone will save themselves more than $300,000 spent on gas to commute to work.

There are benefits for the environment as well. “We feel like we can reduce the CO2 or the ozone by around over 3,000 metric tons, as well as have an impact on our air pollution,” said Kim Hood, executive director of the Department of Administrative Services.

 

Salt Lake City Traffic

Salt Lake City Traffic

In addition, having 17,000-24,000 people each day changing their commute times and not commuting on Friday’s will reduce traffic congestion (although Salt lake City is already the second-best commute and has the lowest rate of alcohol-related fatalities in the nation), and, by extension, traffic accidents during commute times.

This is a bold move that shows true leadership from the Governor who already enjoys approval ratings of 88 percent.

See Governor interview transcript from Fox News.

Florida Home For Sale, Includes Wife

Deven Trabosh Deven Trabosh

For the guy who is not afraid of commitment, look no further than Devon Traboscia, a single mother of two, who lives in Florida and is offering herself for $288,800, oh, and you get the house, too.

On Craigslist she says;

Marry a Princess Lost in America
Create the Magic with this Fairy Tale Princess

Traveling Lady in immediate need of her Prince Charming, someone who wants to share & create magical moments, imaginations & fantasies for LIFE!!!

If you want to live the never ending dream and experience the real love, life and the romance you have always felt was a fairytale then this is the vibrant outstanding woman of your dreams!

To sweep this European Loving Lady off her feet send in your application right now

Read more about it in the Columbian, or see her ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo is Google’s Bitch Now….

From Doug at Rentvine (h/t Dustin)

Building a Killer Real Estate Website

 

Since I’ll be speaking on this topic at Inman Connect in July, I figure I’ll throw out some of my thoughts on the topic now to sort of get the ball rolling. What makes a website a “Killer Website”?

Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works.”

This is an important idea to me. The concept that great design incorporates function along with aesthetics and visual appeal. A great website is visually appealing, but it also works well, is intuitive and easy to use, and, of course, has good information for the person visiting it.  

What a great design does not have is every possible thing crammed into every page or wild colors and attention grabbers all over the place. And it certainly is not an SEO keyword love-fest that trades well written copy for unreadable paragraphs repeating the same twenty keywords ad nauseam.

Don’t suffer design simply for organic ranking- it does no good to rank high on Google and get a lot of traffic if all your visitors just click away and you get no business. In fact, it’s worse than no good because you take up valuable Google real estate that could go to a better site, which would help the consumer, and ultimately, our industry.

Here are a few things I believe are critical in the design of “Killer Website”:

Simple Layout- The basic layout of a page is among the most important aspects of its usability and visual appeal. Having information organized well and placing the most important information in places that easy to see and access will go a long way for the consumer.

Less is More- Trying to cram everything you can into a page makes it difficult for people to find what they are looking for and it also greatly dimishes the overall experience of the visitor. Decide what information is most important and prioritize that information on the pages. If it’s getting difficult to find room for something new, maybe you don’t need it.

Branding- Many websites fail to establish the brand of the company or people offering the site. Of course, some sites go too far trying to brand themselves, but in most cases the brand is not established well enough. Have a great logo and display it prominently so when people visit your website they remember where they are.

Reasons to Return- Create a website where people will have reasons to come back again and again. One of the easiest ways to do this is by incorporating a community resource blog into your website. This is a blog that gives insight into the community and creates a loyal readership of people who live in that area. Another great way reason for people to return to your site would be to get information about their transaction or the real estate market they live in. Having printable coupons or drawings from local businesses might attract return visits.

Pleasing color combinations- Color plays a large part in the feel of a design. Colors set the mood, and can turn people off when the wrong colors are used. Some companies, such as Weichert and Exit Realty, would do well to change their brand colors completely, while other brands, such as Prudential, Alain Pinel, and Keller Williams, have done well in selecting colors that enhance their brand.

Easy Navigation- Make it incredibly easy for people to find what they want. Large buttons and icons placed where they are easy to see will ensure people can find what they need. Being clever with your navigation can result in confusion by the visitor. It’s okay to be different, as long as it is very easy for visitors to find what they are looking for, and to return to the homepage. Make it easy to get back to the start.

Very visible contact info- Your contact information should be very visible, on many pages, including a phone number. Websites that only have a support email address are insulting to the visitor. It is lame to only offer support through email. Here’s an example; I have been trying to place an ad on ActiveRain for about a month now but their system is completely screwed up and nothing works correctly. And I can deal with the technical problems, but the only way to contact them is through a ticketed email system. It takes no less than three days to get a response- every single time. I like the ActiveRain platform, but they need some serious help when it comes to service. My ad is still not running.

Have some fun- Nobody likes looking at a spreadsheet. And most don’t enjoy looking at plain, ordinary, boring content. A great website offers a great experience for the visitor, and that includes keeping them interested and entertained. Add fun elements to your site with images, colors, and icons. Use fonts and font sizes that make it easy to read your content, and break up long areas of text with some images and fun elements. Put some personality into your website through a blog and text, but also with your design.

Websites are becoming more and more important as real estate professionals are beginning to leverage the internet to grow their business and their brand. Consumers have a lot of choice when choosing where to spend their time online, so it’s imperative to have a website that they’ll want to come back to again and again.

BlueRoof360 offers custom websites and lead management systems for real estate professionals.

 

Ready to Connect?

 

Meet Me at Connect SF 2008

Inman News will be holding it’s 12th annual Inman Connect convention  July 23rd-25th in San Francisco at the Palace hotel. For the last few years, Connect has been the best place to meet industry leaders and visionaries, see the newest in technology and real estate-related products, and share a drink with like-minded individuals. There is a heavy emphasis on social media and new trends.

The conference is all about the joining of technology and real estate and the conversation around how the industry is evolving. The most innovative companies and the most entrepreneurial people are all at Connect. There are great speakers, interesting discussions and panels, and always a fun social element that makes this the best real estate convention out there…

I’ll be speaking Thursday (July 25th) in the broker breakout session titled, “Building a Killer Brokerage Website“. And then later that night I’ll be out drinking and may end up speaking in tongues, which could be interesting.

Haggard, old-timers and boring coffee-machine dwellers should not attend. You will be miserable with all the talk of “electric computer thingies” and “internet jigga-ma-whats-its”… but if you’re a ton of fun and enjoy cutting-edge technology and real estate, I hope to see you there.

You can either register for the event with Inman or you can just send me your money and I’ll buy drinks with it while I’m there.

Trulia’s Integrity Called Into Question

Galen from Estately writeson Bloodhound about Trulia’s practice of running listing links through a temporary (302) redirect, which essentially stops Google from following the link and making Trulia the original source of the content (in Google’s eyes), which boosts Trulia’s search engine ranking for the addresses instead of the actual content provider (the listing partner who gave them the listing information to begin with).

Sneaky… but is it really so surprising that Trulia is bullying brokers out of top search positions? Trulia’s model is built around using broker information to position itself above brokers, hence becoming valuable enough that brokers want to use the site instead of relying on their own websites to get business. If a broker or agent is getting enough business branding themselves they will not need to pay these companies for their leads or advertise on them or give them their listings.

So Trulia (and other listing aggregation websites) need to make themselves better then the brokers and agents so those people will need them.

Hmmm, a company taking broker information and using it for it’s own gain, even when it hurts the broker AND even charging those same brokers who want to use that information to get business… but putting the brokers into a position where they are now so reliant on the company that they feel like they have no choice but to continue the relationship…?

Sounds a little familiar…. almost like… an MLS!

Real estate brokers and agents are hurting themselves by using third-party listing aggregation websites (like Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, Homegain, Craigslist, Frontdoor, and on and on and freakin’ on) but cannot stop because some are getting leads from them.

I’m not saying that nobody should use these services, but it’s important for agents and brokers to brand themselvesonline and not simply use these companies as their online business strategy. Brokers and agents are the ones with the data, the information, and most importantly, the knowledge, that is fueling these other companies. Make sure you fuel your own success, too.

 

 

RE Bar Camp at Inman Connect

Anyone planning to attend the Inman Connect convention in San Francisco this July should also plan on coming a day early and attending the Re Bar Camp. What is the Bar Camp? No, it’s not a meet-up to discuss your favorite alcoholic drinks (Damn!), but rather;

“RE Bar Camp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees.”

These Inman Connect events, for those who haven’t been, are not only a fantastic way to learn about new technology in real estate and what’s coming up, but they are a fantastic place to meet and socialize with leaders of organizations, innovative companies, and fun people in the real estate industry.

 

 

 

 

Redfin Becoming What They Hate… Traditional

Redfin becoming traditional real estate brokerage

Redfin today announced that they are taking yet another step toward becoming that one thing that they so desperately are trying to position themselves as NOT being… a traditional brokerage.

They began as an online-only brokerage, touting themselves as the first online brokerage and making a lot of noise about their unique value proposition. Buyers found the home they wanted to buy, made the offer on redfin’s website, and got a cut of the commission check.

Then…

Redfin began offering property tours for a fee.

Then…

They began offering more tours.

Now…

They’re offering tours through homes the way traditional agents do, with no set amount of homes or fees (other than they’ll only take you twice per week) and you get less of a cut of the commission.

Redfin becoming traditional

They already ditched their industry-best map and search capability and replaced it with Microsoft’s api, replaced their logo with a worse one, and have given the metaphorical finger to traditional agents every chance they get, shouting how “different” they are, being an online broker. 

Making bad decisions, playing catch-up to others in the industry, spin-selling… sounds like they are more traditional than they think.

Next…

They will probably offer traditional agent services in a menu-driven model, where buyers can choose which level of service they want (full service, some service, no service). Just like everyone else, Redfin is adjusting to the industry, not the other way around. They are learning something I learned quite a while ago (I’m a faster learner), having a kick-ass website only gets you the introduction- you still gotta earn the business. And when people invest $700,000 on anything, they want an expert who knows their stuff and who can give the very best advice and share their knowledge, not just someone to fax your documents and schedule your inspection for you.

There is a difference between information and knowledge. Redfin is learning this, albeit very slowly…

 

The Carnival of Real Estate

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Welcome to the 81st Edition of the Carnival of Real Estate! Step right up and get ready for a wonderland of writing styles and topics. Reading through the entries I was reminded of the last time I hosted the Carnival back in September 2006, and how much blogging has grown, especially in the real estate industry, since then. Five years ago when I started blogging nobody read my blog and I didn’t read anybody else’s. Today blogging has become a legitimate, and important, means of communicating between large spectrums of people.

The Winner’s Circle for this Carnival includes four well-written posts that I think were both informative and interesting. Here are the four posts I am placing in the Winner’s Circle…

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*Kevin and Monica Ray’s Real Estate Blog discusses radon and the risks associated with it. I think it’s great how they included information about fixing the problem and safe levels.

* Joe Manausa of Tallahassee Real Estate Blog gives us a comprehansive comparison of “Rent Versus Ownership” and details the investment potential of owning versus investing money in the stock market. Even without including the tax benefits, he makes a compelling case.

*Nigel Swaby of Salt Lake Real Estate Blog gives a report on “Ruthless Walk-Away’s” and some very good insight and opinion around the practice.

*Marcus McCray from Hook Me Up! explains “Why Professional Referrals Are Overrated!” There’s some great logic in this post and it’s written well.

Here are the rest of the posts, enjoy!

Christopher Smith at Real Estate Investing in the Real World writes the beginning of an article about investing in real estate long-term. I really enjoyed the article until it suddenly ended. It should have been a completed article. The beginning paragraphs were intriguing and well written. Too bad it was cut short.

DaltonsBriefs presents a post that references a Zillow post about activists doing damage to property to bring notice to their cause.

MyNewPlace discusses the Casulo, a bedroom set in a box. It’s not available yet, but might be a great idea for students or people traveling abroad.

Nathan Blair of Salt Lake City Utah Real Estate Blog thinks aloud about what is “classic” in architecture.

International Listings presents an incomplete, and questionable (they forgot to mention the best real estate website) list of real estate websites that are 2.0.

Purva Brown, the Sacremento Real Estate Gal, brings up three mistakes first-time home buyers fall victim to.

Silveral of Celebrity News and Gossip talks about celebrity homes and the characteristics many of them share.

John Lockwood of Sacramento Real Estate Blog lists the “Seven Deadly Misktakes Buyers Make in This Market.”

Dee Copeland of Texas Realty Blog writes about the trend of “Boomerang Buyers” moving back to the Austin area.

Charles Woodall of Dotham Home Search suggests that “Days on Market are Irrelevant” and makes some good points. I have posted on this topic myself and think it’s a good topic of discussion with buyers, especially in areas that are in buyers market’s.

Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade suggests that “The Mortgage Loan Market Controls the Real Estate Market.” His thinking is that as loan products go away, so do buyers who need those products to buy, and when rates go up, the buyer pool of a price range gets smaller.

Lenore Wilkas of Hillsburough, Burlingame Luxury Home Sales says “Be Sure to Ask Your Agent How Long the House Has Been For Sale.” The post discusses the practice of re-listing property to manipulate the days-on-market for the listing.

Raymond at Money BlueBook gives his reviews of the house-flipping shows currently on television.

Joe also gives us a look at some of the Tallahassee market’s pricing and sales trends.

Silicon Valley Blogger at The Digerati Life asks “Who’s To Blame For The Subprime Mortgage Mess?” With responsibility distributed between many people involved in the real estate transaction, he wraps up with some good advice to the buyers who, I believe, are ultimately responsible for signing contracts on homes they can’t afford.

Steve Leung gives us the “Consumer’s Rights When Purchasing New Homes”. He talks about warranties, having your own representation and protecting yourself.

Steve Faber at DebtBlog wonders, “Property Foreclosures- Is It Really as Bad as They Say?” Steve goes over some of the statistics showing some states, including Nevada, Florida and California have high foreclosure rates, but also had some of the highest run-up’s in prices over the last few years.

Cynthis Holt from Real Life Real Estate shares her frustrations with buying a short sale property in “War Zone”.

Kathy Koops from The Cincy Blog explains how the “3 Key Words in Real Estate” may not be as important as price.

Geordie Romer of  Leavenworth Washington Real Estate Blog presents  his “Top 5 Ways to Shoot Your Leavenworth Condo Project in the Foot.” He actually goes the extra mile and gives six, including “Don’t dismiss the internet as a fad.” Good advice.

Brian Block of Virginia Real Estate News says, “I’ve Officially Run Out of Room on My Business Card” and shares his experience breezing through the broker’s exam and the designations he holds.

Craig Schiller at HOME STAGING, Rants & Ravings presents “OOPS Goes the Staging!” The post is written well. There a lot of bold words, but the post shows how video can help make your point. It would have been great to have some more specific tips and even some examples on good staging. Hopefully that will be in the next post.

Rebecca Levinson of Connect2Agent presentsDo consumers want rock stars or real estate agents to sell their home?” She tells the story of another agent’s attitude and the impression it left on her.

Cliff Jacobson at WebHome USABlog presents, “Realtor Dirty Tricks” where he discusses Glenn Kelman and the NAR.

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Thank you to everyone for participating in this week’s Carnival of Real Estate. Next week look for it over at The Matrix.

Carnival of Real Estate Comes Home to BlueRoof

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The Carnival of Real Estate will be here, on BlueRoof, again, next Monday, March 10th. As some of you may remember, BlueRoof hosted Week 4 of the Carnival, way back in September, 2006. Now we’re on Week 81 and between then and now there have been some amazing posts, and from every good real estate blogger on the web. I’m excited to see posts from bloggers I have gotten to know, and maybe some I have yet to meet.

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For those not familiar, the Carnival is where real estate bloggers submit their best blog posts, and the “winners” for the week are posted at the host blog (this Carnival it will be BlueRoof Blog), so everyone can see some great writing, and be directed to some great real estate blogs.

This week’s Carnival is up at The Real Estate Tomato, and Jim Cronin does not dissapoint, adding his personality and wit to the event. Jim’s been a great real estate blogger and coach for a while now, teaching agents how to have a successful blog and how to find their voice.

You have all week (until Sunday, March 9th) to submit your your posts so don’t be shy- build your blog traffic and contribute to the online real estate community through the Carnival and let us all see you shine…

Top Ten Cities to Buy a Home in 2008

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Forbes released an article on Feb 7, 2008 naming the top cities for buying a home in 2008. These are “…markets where job growth is strong, foreclosures are relatively low and inventory is high. With these factors in place, buyers can still dictate terms of sale and negotiate prices, but aren’t as exposed to the economic and lending risk problems that have sunk many markets around the country.”

Salt Lake City tops the list, again, as being the #1 place to buy a home this year, saying, “Of the major metros in the U.S., Salt Lake City is adding jobs faster than anywhere. The economic boom in SLC has drawn residents from all over the country, and more than a few home builders trying to make a profit in these otherwise woeful times. Housing supply has gone up quickly, and there hasn’t been a high rate of foreclosure.”

But some of the other cities might surprise you.

For example, the article places Phoenix at #5, saying, “Phoenix has a very high foreclosure rate; there’s no way around that. Based on RealtyTrac’s estimates, there is one foreclosure for every 87 households in Phoenix. Still, our data suggest that strong job and economic growth in many non-housing sectors of the local economy is enough to offset it, and people are still moving to the Valley of the Sun at a quick rate.”

And Las Vegas at #7, saying”Las Vegas is a market hammered by foreclosures, due largely to extremely high speculation in both residential communities and the condo market. Though the housing slowdown has hurt jobs in the construction sector, Vegas continues to attract businesses and job seekers to its growing economy, making its excess inventory (and there’s a ton) less toxic than in other places. “

The complete top ten cities are

1 Salt Lake City, UT

2 Raleigh, NC

3 Orlando, FL

4 Charlotte, NC

5 Phoenix, AZ

6 Seattle, WA

7 Las Vegas, NV

8 Jacksonville, FL

9 Richmond, VA

10 Houston, TX

Realtors Beware- Learning From Home Depot

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Rob at The Notorious R.O.B. (Rob works at OnBoard, a data aggregation company) wrote an excellent post about the damage that can be done to brokers and agents by using Trulia, Realtor.com, Zillow, and other third-party listing aggregation websites.

From Rob’s post;

“[The] consumer then has a relationship (or at least an experience) with Trulia or whoever; it’s how they found the house, and found the real estate agent…

…But the brokerage?  Or the brand?  Just like I couldn’t remember the name of the contractor that did my windows, would any consumer remember RE/Max or Coldwell Banker or whatever?

Would said consumer, upon resurfacing seven years later (on average), remember the agent who took such good care of him the first time around?  Or would he remember the really useful website where he found a house and someone to “install” the house for him?”

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Instead of building the brand of these companies, build your own brand.

It’s a great post and a good story, and it has a good message that every broker might want to think about.

Dustin Luther Gets 4Realz

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Dustin Luther is the author of one of my favorite real estate blogs, some even call him the “Godfather” of real estate blogging because he put together Raincityguide, which was the first (that I know of) real estate blog with both a consumer focus and with many contributors. It’s also important to note that the contributors are not all real estate professionals.

He has worked with Move.com (which runs Realtor.com), and he’s a good all-around guy.

Now, Dustin (along with Jim Marks of Virtual Results) will be sharing his experience with Realtors who are interested in learning about technology. I’ve seen Dustin speak and he is high-energy and doesn’t waste time on nonsense. But the most important reason I like Dustin as a speaker is that he has the most important characteristc- he cares about helping people. And, if he’s anything like me, that’s just as important as the money.

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I don’t know what sort of marketing or websites they will be encouraging people to use (Jim’s company does internet marketing), but good education about technology is important in our industry and having good people to tech it is rare, and welcome.

 

Realtors are Just too Damn Old

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Ever been out with friends at the local bar filled with 20 and 30-something’s having a drink and you notice the old horny dude in the back just sitting, watching? He’s probably a nice guy and has a lot of great stories about the “good old days” when he actually belonged at this college hangout, but he doesn’t quite fit in with the vibe and environment.

Many Realtors are that old dude. Experience is good. Knowledge is good. Stories wrapped in nostalgia can be good. Being  outdated and unwilling to evolve and offer effective service because you’re too (old, lazy, experienced, busy, set in your ways, dumb, etc) whatever -  that is bad.

I’m not a fan of the blogging movement that seems to be happening where agents simply bitch and whine about everything just to gain some sort of credibility with consumers, as if to say, “See I’m complaining- I’m on your side, so give me business!”

I am not complaining to get business- I am complaining so that hopefully 100 of the old agents who read this will leave the business immediately. And by old I don’t necessarily mean age, it’s more the attitude and approach. But it usually does correlate to age. The average age of Realtors today in America is like 87 or 104 or something. It’s just really old.

Let’s look at some of the reasons for this…

People enter into real estate at a much older age than other professions. They rarely gradute high school thinking they want a career in real estate and then immediately pursure that dream. There aren’t many kids running around dreaming about being a Realtor. Usually people enter real estate after years spent in some other career in some other field. They decide they want something easy different and give real estate a try. And then some make it, but most do not (90% of people who get a real estate license do not renew their license).

Older people know a lot of people. After ten years on the city bingo league and twelve years as soccer-mom and six years in the PTA and a lifetime going to church, some have a big sphere of friends and family and associates to beg network from. So some of these agents just hang around waiting for somebody to call them and don’t think about enhancing their service to attract new business.

Older people seem more trustworthy. Every generation seems to have this belief that people from past generations were better workers, more trustworthy, more wholesome, better dressers, better people, more dignified, more educated, more spiritual, and just plain better people. This is not true. Every generation is just as good as the last and just as bad as the last. Just because someone is older does not make them anything necessarily, except older.

Some older people have nothing better to do. There aren’t a lot of job opportunities for a 54 year old real estate agent who used to be the vice president of PaperDolls,inc. They don’t have anywhere else to go, so they stick around, passively. Without having a real drive, they don’t work to be the best or even be better. Many times they are content to just be there at all.

It’s tough to fire an older person. If 23 year-old Justin doesn’t cut it or learn the new stuff it’s easy to kick him out and tell him he needs to find another job. But good ole’ Betsy who’s got all the great stories and knits everyone sweaters and has no other job prospects, that’s tough. So noone kicks her out. She just hangs around doing nothing and not learning anything new and not giving her clients the best service and not making any money.

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I’m not saying that everyone older than me should leave the business. I’m saying about 85% of the people older than me should leave the business. There are 9000 agents in Salt lake and 8000 of them are older than me. If 85% of them (6800) left the business there would still be 2200 agents in Salt Lake, which would still be 1000 too many, but it would be a good start. It’s been no secret that I think there are way too many agents and it’s too easy to enter the real estate field.

Competition=good.

People unwilling to learn new things=bad.

I know,  I should respect my elders. And being young doesn’t make someone more tech savvy or have more energy or better. That is why I’m not saying everyone older should leave- only 85% of them. There are 15% who continue to learn and evolve and understand new trends and have enough energy to work more than 2 hours a day and actually return phone calls. And I agree that just being young does not make someone more tech-savvy, but younger people can be slapped-around and molded more easily. And if they don’t cut it nobody really cares about kicking them out of the business so there’s less guilt when they leave.

Like it or not, admit it or not- real estate is in a state of flux right now. The industry is being forced to evolve and those who lead the charge and accept the new protocol of constant change will be those who lead. Others will follow, and others will be pushed out of the way. This is not only acceptable, this is healthy. Evolution is all about making way for newer, and more evolved breeds.

Technology does not take the place of a relationship and it shouldn’t. Technology, when used properly,  should enhance it. I remember when I first got into the business they were just switching the MLS onto a computer. Previously it was just a big book. And I remember how much resistance there was to the change. They kept the book around for a while to help with the transition and I remember how most agents thought they book would always be around because nobody would want to drive to the office to look on a computer to find homes when they could just look in the book that they carried with them everywhere. This was only fourteen or fifteen years ago.

Tomorrow’s successful breed of Realtor will be heavily equipped with technology, a forward-thinking attitude, and a willingness to grow as they work diligently toward adding value for their clients. 85% of agents today do not want to grow and adapt and diligently work toward anything. 85% of agents today want to take their past or their extensive list of friends or their 40 hours of real estate schooling and sell enough homes in 2 hours/day to be successful. There are a lot of good people in the real estate business and hopefully those good people will evolve and stay in the business as it changes.

Prudential  Utah just made it mandatory for every listing to have a virtual tour because 60% of the agents weren’t taking photos of their listings or having any sort of photo tour posted. When I search for homes on the MLS many listings don’t have any photos other than the drive-by snapshot the MLS takes.

Consumer expectations are changing. There is more dicussion taking place between consumers and between consumers and agents. People demand value, and value is not the commission rate. Value is what someone gets in return for the price. It’s the whole experience. Consumer’s are moving online more and more every day and older techniques for marketing are becoming less effective. Those who want to be successful in this industry in ten years need to begin growing toward that today. Or move out of the way and watch as some of us lead the evolution.

Cry-Baby Board of Realtor Associations and MLS’s Continue Desperate Rule-Making

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The Northwestern Wisconsin Multiple Listing Service, operated by the Realtors Association of Northwestern Wisconsin, is realizing that it is a lame monopoly that is going extinct, in fact, an MLS system. And they have decided to take the same ridiculous position that the Regional MLS of Minnesota and the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois and Northwest MLS in Washington have taken…

They cry about it and demand that the term “MLS” is theirs and demand that people stop using it. Do they have a copyright or trademark on the term, you ask? Of course not, but that doesn’t matter to these cry-baby pissy-pant’s- what matters is they want to continue their monopoly of information.

Here’s how the MLS works:

Broker pays MLS a fee to become a member, Broker takes listing, Broker displays listing on MLS, Broker pays MLS more money to display MLS listings on website, MLS sets ridiculous rules that broker must follow or be completely cut off from using MLS information.

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And the Boards of Realtors are the ones handing down this new trend after the National Association of Realtors decided that it would continue being irrelevant give that authority to the local Boards.

MLS’s around the country are seeing the writing on the wall. They know they are a monolpoly and that they cannot continue to control everything like they want to. So, instead of evolving and becoming a solution and making things better, these absurd MLS’s are rolling around on the floor kicking and screaming.

These MLS’s don’t want agents to be able to use the term “MLS” to advertise their services to the public. Although the information for the home searches on the agent websites come directly from their MLS, they don’t want the agents to be able to say so.

This precisely shows why we need new systems and websites to replace the MLS’s- or we need some real leadership at NAR to help connect the dots for these guys. All these MLS’s doing damaging things and NAR is just watching the crash-up derby from their comfortable position at 10,000 feet and that does not help the industry.

Inman has better coverage.

2007 Magnificent 7 Finalists

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Larry Cragun at RealEstateUndressed just released his 2007 finalists for his Magnificent 7 awards. I’m honored to be among the nominees for an article I wrote in August. I met Larry last year when we both shared a speaking role (about blogging) at the Inman Connect convention. I am pleased to say that he wasn’t undressed. That would have made things a bit uncomfortable.

The cool things about Larry’s award is that it is specifically for articles written for consumers, which knocks about 95% of the articles written on real estate blogs right out of contention. There is a lot of discussion right now about “knowing your audience” and writing for them. Well, most of my audience is real estate professionals, and roughly 40% of my readers are consumers.

So who do I write for? I write what is on my mind and hope that is finds an audience. I enjoy reading about real estate so I read real estate blogs, even if the articles aren’t written for me. Just as a chef may read recipes that aren’t suitable for his restaurant or a dog owner may read stories about cats. Who the words are written for matters far less than who they impact.

Hopefully the stuff I write about the industry has some appeal to consumers who happen across my real estate blog, at least as long as they are reading real estate blogs, which should last about the same amount of time they are in the market to buy or sell a home.

Video is Over-Rated

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Video has been the “new” thing now for while and some people are really into using video for blogging and for real estate tours. But not everything that is new is better.  I have not embraced using video in real estate sales or in blogging (vlogging), and here’s why…

The written (typed) word inherently allows you to go at your own pace- read fast or slow, re-read over and over- stare at and study, or speed-read at a very fast pace.

Moving video of something standing still (rooms in a home) accomplish nothing more than a still-shot photo does. Moving around a room with a video doesn’t really show you anything you wouldn’t see in a few photos.

Copy/paste. With a written blog I can copy certain text I want to share, and simply link back to the original. With a video I have to show the whole thing if I want to share it. With virtual tours I can share the photos I want and only the photos I want.

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Sometimes people don’t look as good as they write.  

More moving parts= more room for mistakes. I pay a professional to do my tours, but even if I were to do my own virtual tours, I could snap 200 photos and pick the best ones to show my listing. By doing a video, even if I get the lighting right and there are no annoying background noises and I can hold the camera steady, there is still the issue of shooting flattering angles and just as importantly, not shooting unflattering angles of the home, or me.

Difficult to keep your eyes on the ball. When I read a blog I am reading the message the author gives me. When I see a video I am just as interested in the quality of the shoot, the sound, what they are wearing, what they look like, where they are, what’s going on around them, etc. The message is in there, too, but it doesn’t have my full attention.

Movies are never as good as the book. When I read a book I get to know the characters in a different way. I read what they are thinking and feeling and get all the great details that are typically missed in the movie version. Books have my full attention (see above paragraph) on where the author takes me. Movies (videos) sometimes suffer the message for the show. When I watch a horror movie I’m thinking of what they used for the fake blood (chocolate, ketchup, red dye?) and not the plot.

Photos are easier. Much much easier for most people. As I mentioned before, there are lighting and sound issues, and having a steady hand, but I need to plan my steps and route and think about a bunch of little things that affect the shoot. With photos an agent can take them and then sort later for good ones. And if you mess up a little- photoshop.

Start and finish on my time. I can begin to write a post and then stop and finish later. I can snap photos of a house and then go to an appointment and edit through them later. With video you’ve pretty much got to do the whole thing at once.

I understand why some people like video. I like watching videos, too- just not for real estate.

It’s Black and White- How to Sell Your Home

Daniel Rothamel from the Real Estate Zebra Has produced a video that discusses how to sell your home. The beauty of this video is that it applies to most all real estate markets around the country. If you are selling your home, this is a must see.

Point2 Agent Shaken Up- Good For Consumers and Agents

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I don’t know as much about Point2 Agent  as a company as many agents do, but I am a member and have used the system. It seems to me to be an entry-level type service with a template website given and then you pay for add-ons and additional services. One thing I do know is that the company, as far the real estate piece of what they do, is centered around template websites. I think it’s important for our industry to evolve and maybe it’s time to begin to step-up to a higher level of website than templates offer.

There are better options than templates.

For most agents, a template website is their only on-line presence- either a template or an “agent page” on their broker’s website. So consumer’s see all these template sites and it affirms to them that agents don’t know much about technology. Often the consumer ends up going to the better websites (clean user-interface, enjoyable search experience, etc) that they can find, and in most areas Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia are the best they can find.

Problem with Trulia, Realtor.com and Zillow is they are not real estate companies- they are technology companies. They take agent information (listings) for the purpose of selling ads and leads to agents. Their purpose is not to help consumers find homes, it’s to sell ads or leads. Obviously that’s not the best business model for the consumers (or agents)?

Now Point2 Agent is getting all shaken up and people are talking about it. I don’t wish bad on them at all, in fact for many agents they have been the only a good solution, but I think this shake-up may a good thing in at least one way- maybe it will open some discussion about different and even better online solutions for agents.

Instead of creating well-designed websites that offer real value to the consumer, agents usually either get a cheap  template just to have a website or they pay a technology company (Trulia/Realtor.com/Zillow) for leads. I understand why- it’s a lot easier and much less expensive than it is to build a custom site. Custom websites can cost a lot. I spent well over six figures on BlueRoof.com, and it’s tough to pay that kind of money, especially if you have no experience converting online leads and have no idea what sort of return (if any) on your investment you’ll get. But help is on the way.

Point2 and other template sites serve their purpose, to be sure, but I think many agents who have a Point2 websites would like to have something better.

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In February there will something much better.

See it here:

http://blueroof.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/blueroof360-industry-best-realtor-websites-lead-and-client-management/

The Media Says Now is a Good Time to Buy

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That wacky media, and it’s incredible contradiction… From the Deseret Morning News come this article talking about how Salt Lake’s stellar economy and job growth are shielding it from the same harm some other markets are facing (sound familiar?) From MSN Money comes this article  about buying real estate now, and this one  saying now is a good time to invest in builder stocks because the market is collecting a strong pent-up demand from homebuyers.

From the Article,

“Employment is still strong and plenty of folks who have the desire and the means to buy aren’t doing it. Why? For most of us, buying a home is the biggest investment we’ll ever make. Would you buy a house when everyone is telling you that home prices are headed down? Me neither. But the demand isn’t going away. The ready and willing buyers are waiting for a signal that home prices have stabilized. Everybody wants a bargain, and many will rush to buy if they think that prices are headed back up. That signal could come early next year.”

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Even Donald Trump is saying that now is the time to buy. On Larry King October 21st, Trump says,

“It’s an amazing situation. There are tremendous opportunities. You know what’s interesting, I was begging people not to buy real estate two years ago. And everybody was interested in buying. And now they are less interested, and this is the time they should be going out — not buying, negotiating to buy. This is the time. “

Trumps also addresses the foreclosure issue,

“TRUMP- But this is the time. You were talking about books. This is the time that people should be going out and making unbelievable deals on real estate. And one other thing, Larry, you read all the about subprime and all about the people (ph). I don’t understand where these people come from. The bank sends them a letter, and they leave. They send them a letter, you have to be out. They leave. Why don’t they call up the bank and negotiate?

KING: Yes, everything is negotiable.

TRUMP: The bank doesn’t want to take over their house. I mean, the bank, whether they are nice or not. What are they going to do, put security people in there? I mean, the bank, you can sit down. You can make a better deal than you would have made five years ago with the bank.

Cut the price, make it interest, make it long-term. The bank needs these people. But what happens is the bank sends them a notice, the people leave. I don’t get it.”

Makes sense to me- when it’s a buyers market- that would be the time to buy. There is pent-up demand because people get scared, but here’s the thing about real estate- you don’t wait to buy real estate- you buy real estate and wait.

Buying a home is a long term investment. You buy a home and enjoy the tax benefits and the pride of ownership and as the years pass you enjoy making a lot of money from your home rising in value. Most of the wealth in this country has come from real estate. Most people who have wealth have made that wealth through real estate- either all or in part, through owning real estate.

Of course the market goes through cycles, but if you stay for a while, all real estate (especially in metropolitan areas) goes up in value.

The media as a whole is one of the biggest factors in different real estate markets suffering this year, but it’s not everyone. People who know investing know the best time to buy is when everyone else isn’t buying. And in real estate, the best time for buyers to buy is in a “buyers market”. Hence, the name…

Speaking at NYC Inman Connect Jan 9th-11th

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The annual New York InMan Connect Conference will be January 9th through the 11th, hosted at the The Marriott Marquis in Times Square. 

I’ll be speaking at the event in a session titled, “Tapping New Methods for Finding Buyers.”

From the InMan Speakers page;

Real Estate Connect provides the highest quality content and speakers to create an unparalleled learning and interactive experience. Speakers include prominent executives, entrepreneurs and innovators from real estate, mortgage, finance and technology’s leading companies. In addition, you’ll find the celebrated and controversial, including key journalists, authors, influential bloggers, and visionaries who track industry trends.

Featured speakers at Real Estate Connect NYC 2008 include:

  • Rudy Bachraty, Co-Founder, Sellsius & Founder, Kiosk Realty
  • Simon Baker, CEO & Managing Director, REA Group
  • Jeffrey Bastress, President, Startpoint Realty
  • Kris Berg, Broker Associate, Prudential California Realty
  • Teresa Boardman, Realtor/Broker, Keller Williams Integrity Realty
  • Kevin Boer, Founder, 3 Oceans Real Estate Blog
  • Brian Brady, Managing Director, Worldwide Credit Corporation
  • Joleen Brannigan, Chief Operating Officer, Grace Hill
  • Frank Breithaupt, VP of Marketing, Affiliates and Operations, Homescape
  • Chris Brown, Vice President Product Development, Apartments.com
  • P. Morgan Brown, Chief Operating Officer, New Day Trust Mortgage
  • Joel Burslem, Social Media Manager, Inman News
  • Jonathan Butler, Founder, Brownstoner Media, LLC
  • David Cardwell, VP of Capital Markets & Technology, National Multi Housing Council
  • David Charron, President & CEO, MRIS, Inc.
  • Sherry Chris, President & CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate
  • Walt Clark, Sr. Vice President, Transaction Management Solutions, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions
  • Renwick Congdon, Chief Executive Officer, IMPREV
  • Jeff Corbett, Author, The XBroker Blog; President, RealEspace
  • Matt Corgan, Director of Technology, HotPads
  • Tamela Coval, Director of Business Development, Apartment Guide
  • Marc Davison, Partner, 1000Watt Consulting
  • Jason Doyle, Division Vice President, Homes.com
  • Jim Duncan, Realtor/Real Estate Consultant, Real Central VA
  • Thomas Evans, President & CEO, Bankrate, Inc.
  • Robert Eychner, President, Eychner Associates; 2007 President, Manhattan MLS
  • Richard Ferrari, Senior Vice President, Prudential Douglas Elliman
  • Dr. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist, First American CoreLogic
  • Pete Flint, Co-Founder & CEO, Trulia
  • Michael Fortinberry, President, CrossFire Sales & Marketing Systems
  • Marty Frame, Chief Information Officer, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions
  • Lloyd Frink, President, Zillow
  • Hector Gavilla, President, DiamondHomeVideos.com
  • Jamie Glenn, Vice President, Product Management, Trulia
  • Matthew Goldstein, Chief Operating Officer, LifeAt
  • Kate Good, Marketing Solutions Expert, KateGood.com
  • Dan Green, Chief Blogging Officer, Bring the Blog
  • Matthew Haines, Founder & Chairman, PropertyShark.com
  • Bob Hale, President & CEO, Houston Association of Realtors
  • Matt Heaton, Chief Executive Officer, ActiveRain
  • Douglas Heddings, Senior Vice President, Prudential Douglas Elliman
  • Dottie Herman, President & CEO, Prudential Douglas Elliman
  • Erik Hersman, Principal, Zungu LLC
  • Edward Herson, Vice President, Halstead Property, LLC
  • Glenn Houck, Co-Founder, LeadQual LLC
  • Bradley Inman, Publisher, Inman News
  • Brendan King, Chief Operating Officer, Point2
  • Pat Kitano, Managing Principal, Domus Consulting Group
  • Saul Klein, President & CEO, InternetCrusade
  • Tom Kunz, President & CEO, Century 21 Real Estate LLC
  • Brendon Kraham, National Sales Manager Classifieds, Google
  • Brian N. Larson, Attorney at Law; President of Larson/Sobotka Business Advisors, LLC
  • Mark Lefanowicz, President, E-LOAN
  • Corey Leong, Founder & President, Real Estate Metaverse Association
  • Mark Lesswing, Sr. Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, National Association of REALTORS
  • Pamela Liebman, President & CEO, The Corcoran Group
  • Dustin Luther, Director of Interactive Marketing, Move, Inc.
  • Dave Marron, Chief Executive Officer, SphereBuilder, LLC
  • Rob Massey, Jr., CPM, Founder of RentalHouses.com & Vice President of Industry Development
  • Alexis McGee, President & Author, Foreclosures.com
  • David Michonski, Chief Executive Officer, Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy
  • Jonathan Miller, EVP, Director of Research, Radar Logic Inc., Co-Founder, Miller Samuel
  • Alex Montalenti, Co-founder & CMO, SubmitYourListings.com
  • Heidi Mueller, Broker Associate, Prudential California Realty
  • Oliver Muoto, Co-Founder & Vice President Business Development, vFlyer
  • Carter Murdoch, Senior Vice President, Bank of America
  • Vikki Neil, Vice President, Real Estate, Scripps Networks Interactive
  • Dave Nelson, Founder & CEO, TalkShoe
  • Craig Newmark, customer service rep & founder, craigslist.org
  • Reggie Nicolay, MyTechOpinion
  • Martin Nisenholtz, Sr. VP, Digital Operations, The New York Times Company
  • Cameron Paine, Chief Executive Officer, Connecticut Multiple Listing Service, Inc.
  • Stan Ponte, President, Previews Marketing Division, Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy
  • Mike Price, President, ML Broadcast
  • John Reinhardt, President & CEO, Fillmore Real Estate
  • Barry Ritholtz, Chief Market Strategist, Ritholtz Research & CEO; Director of Equity Research, Fusion IQ
  • Greg Robertson, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing, eNeighborhoods
  • Alison Rogers, Author & Inman News Columnist
  • Noah Rosenblatt, Founder, UrbanDigs.com; Licensed RE Salesperson, Citi-Habitats
  • Laurence Rosenberg, President, Rent-Direct.com
  • Brian Rothenberg, Product Manager, Yahoo! Real Estate
  • Professor Nouriel Roubini, Co-Founder & Chairman of RGE Monitor; Professor of Economics, New York University’s Stern School of Business
  • Kaira Sturdivant Rouda, President, Real Living
  • Rick Sharga, Vice President of Marketing, RealtyTrac
  • Dr. Michael Shermer, Founding Publisher, Skeptic Magazine & Executive Director, Skeptics Society
  • Ryan Slack, Chief Executive Officer, PropertyShark.com
  • Lori Snider, Principal, Creativity for Rent
  • Andrew Ross Sorkin, Assistant Editor, Business & Finance, Chief Mergers & Acquisitions Reporter, The New York Times
  • Steve Sorti, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Fox & Roach/Trident
  • Steve Spinola, President, Real Estate Board of New York
  • Celeste Starchild, Vice President Broker Sales, Threewide Corporation
  • Lockhart Steele, Founder & Publisher, Curbed.com
  • Christian Sterner, CEO & Founder, Wellcomemat
  • Patrick F. Stone, Chairman, The Stone Group
  • Jessica Swesey, Vice President of Content, Inman News
  • Jay Thompson, Designated Broker, Thompson’s Realty
  • Robyn Tippins, Community Manager, MyBlogLog, Yahoo!
  • Greg Tracy, Founder/Owner, Blueroof.com
  • Lisa Trosien, President, Apartmentexpert.com
  • Jon Tull, President, Lead2Lease
  • Jeff Turner, President, RealEstateShows.com
  • John H. Vogel Jr., Permanent Adjunct Professor, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth
  • Becca Wilson, President, Spherexx.com
  • Brian Wilson, Founder, Zolve
  • Marilyn Wilson, Founding Partner, WAV Group
  • Michael Wurzer, President & CEO, FBS Data Systems
  • Michael Yang, General Manager, Yahoo! Real Estate
  • Charlie Young, Chief Operating Officer, Coldwell Banker Real Estate

If you are in the real estate industry, these events are the best way I know to learn what’s going on and what’s coming up next in real estate. There are always top industry leaders, great sessions and a bunch of fun meet-and-greets. Connect is where real estate meets technology- so it’s about innovation and breaking new ground, something that brokerages are not historically know for.

See you there…

Why Do People Move?

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According to the 2006 Census Bureau American Housing Survey, more than 19.3 million Americans moved last year.

3,051,000 moved to establish their own residence (1.2 million changed from renter to owner)

2,869,000 needed a bigger place

2,308,000 moved for a new job or job transfer

2,330,000 wanted to be closer to work or school

2,792,000 wanted a better place

476,000 moved because they got married

588,000 moved because they got divorced

53% had their expenses go up when they moved

23% had their expenses go down

24% stayed the same

5,335,000 say they chose the neighborhood based on it’s convenience to work

4,375,000 chose the neighborhood because it was close to friends or relatives

4,916,000 liked the look of the neighborhood

Factors in selecting the home they moved to were;

6,733,000   Financial reasons
5,819,000   Room layout/design
1,264,000   Kitchen
5,013,000   Size
2,463,000   Exterior appearance
2,614,000   Yard/trees/view
1,926,000   Quality of construction
1,285,000   Only one available
4,047,000   Other

Of about 109 Million homeowners in the survey, over 58 Million say they pay less than $99/month for maintenance and upkeep of their home (3.5 Million say they spend over $200/month).

The Median Household income in America is $44,503

12% of the people in the survey bought their home with no money down

Square footage of 76,936,000 homes in the survey;

622,000       Less than 500 Square Feet
  1,775,000   500 to 749 
  4,959,000   750 to 999 
18,135,000   1,000 to 1,499
18,035,000   1,500 to 1,999
12,559,000   2,000 to 2,499
  6,565,000   2,500 to 2,999
  5,932,000   3,000 to 3,999
  3,662,000   4,000 or more
  4,691,000   Not reported
      (1,795  Median Square Feet)

Heating Supply

32% of homes are heated with electricity

58% of homes are heated with gas

1.3% of homes are heated with coal or wood

15,000 homes are heated with solar power
 

What’s Right with Real Estate

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It’s interesting to me to read all the conflicting opinions about real estate and Realtors. Public opinion of Realtors is rising in studies, yet I read about how all the new companies are trying to fix the broken system. Technology geeks are telling buyers and sellers to use their services instead of agents because they can do it better, news reports offer conflicting accounts about Realtors, and FSBO’s have their opinions. But what’s really interesting to me is that the people slamming Realtors most are…. Realtors!

It seems to be the thing for agents with blogs- Become the consumer’s advocate- not by giving them value and education (or a better value proposition), but by slamming the industry so they can say, “See, I’m pointing out bad stuff so I must be on your side”.

I’ve definitely given my share of criticism toward things in the business I disagree with, but I balance it with pointing out the good that agents are doing and the belief I have in utilizing one of the best agents in the area to help you when you buy or sell property. Sometimes when I post about the market being good, or not as bad as some think- people think I’m being biased or self-serving. Almost as if they think the only way to be truthful is to be negative. This year Salt Lake City has led the nation in appreciation for most of the year, yet some people think that because we aren’t shattering records, things must be horrible. Others see the reality and take advantage of a healthy market (1000 homes will be sold in Salt lake county this month- the same number as before last-year’s records), with a ton of inventory to choose from. I call it like I see it- the good and the bad and everything in between.

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We all play our role in society.Some people fix roads or cut hair. Some study traffic patterns and others serve coffee and muffins at the local coffee shop. I’m a Realtor and I help people take that new job in Chicago by selling their home, and I help the first-time home buyer find their first place, and I help people make good financial decisions- usually the best source of investment income in their entire lives. I help people have closure after a divorce or death in the family by coordinating the sale of property. And I, along with thousands of Realtors locally and millions nationally, help protect property rights, fight property tax increases, and help educate the public about zoning, transportation, and housing issues that affect us all.

I help my clients with my knowledge and by giving them information and helping them to make good financial decisions that will make their lives better. There are differences between information and knowledge. You can go to websites or read the newspaper to get information- but if you want knowledge, you need a professional with years of experience and a real understanding of the area and the process of wisely investing money in real estate. And that’s where I, and many other great agents in the area, earn our living. Sure there are a lot of bad sales people out there- in every sales profession. But there are a lot of us who earn our money every day. And that’s something that’s right about real estate…

Things I Like About the Current Market

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The current market in Salt Lake is this;

Lots of inventory, some people are watching to see what’s going on, lenders are beginning to realize they don’t have to completely shut down all loans to stay profitable, and lots of people are buying and selling houses still.

Still, regardless of the good and bad and everything- there are hundreds of people buying and selling homes every week in Salt lake county. And of course hundreds more are being bought and sold in surrounding counties as well.

Here are some of the things I like about the current market…

Everyone I talk to is not an “investor”. It drove me crazy the last couple years that everyone I spoke to claimed to be a real estate investor. Whether they had purchased rentals or flipped any houses or not- they all fancied themselves as an investor because they all wanted to be one. And they all thought they knew everything about real estate. They didn’t, they still don’t and now they can finally shut up and go back to being accountants and store clerks and fireman and whatever else they do for a career. They can let the real estate professionals be real estate professionals.

Far fewer For Sale By Owner’s. Not that there is anything wrong with trying to sell your house without an agent, but many of these people (because the market was so hot) were just a bit mean about their views toward agents. Some people will always be mean about agents, just as some people hate attorneys or think paying someone to change your oil is a waste of money. That’s just human nature- there will always be the fringe minority that has opposing views toward any given thing. Now that sellers need more help selling it’s nice for agents to be wanted more. We mostly work with buyers anyway.

Buyers market= Good for buyers. Most of our clients are buyers so this market is great for our clients. There is a great selection of homes on the market, interest rates are fantastic, prices are reasonable, and indicators show it’s a good time to buy and that prices will continue to increase so buying will be a solid investment. Sellers are still getting good prices for their homes and buyers are getting to choose from more inventory.

Many agents are leaving the industry. This is great news for everyone. Many of the part-time and new agents are leaving, which means they won’t be around to hurt any clients and give the real professionals a bad name. There are simply too many people in the business- real estate agents, lenders, title people, etc. This should be a great time to trim some of the fat from the business and allow the best to do their business. Of course there will still be far too many in the industry next year and the year after, but that’s just how it is. Many people who have gotten into the business the last few years really never should have. They chased dreams of riches and easy money and now many are seeing that this business is about clients and working your butt off for those clients. It’s working every day of the week, not being able to take vacations because your clients need you, stressing about deals, dealing with ungrateful people sometimes and rude people on the other side of the transaction that you have to deal with for the sake of the client’s best interest. It’s late nights and a lot of humility, starting out in this business and it’s not for everyone- in fact over 90% of the people who get a license- fail.

Two people can see the same experience very differently. A basketball goes into the basket as the clock ticks to zero- One team screams with excitement as they win and the other team sobs about their loss. A ball went into a basket, but different people feel very differently about that. Many people don’t like this market, but many people do- including me.

Fed Chops Half-Percent Off Rates/ Utah Job Market Still Strong

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Pick up a copy of the Tribune today and the whole front page talks about the .5% rate cut the fed just announced and how Utah’s job growth represents 5% of the entire country’s job growth. What does this mean for our local real estate market? Not much, actually. People with adjustable-rate mortgages will have some relief and people will get lower rates on home-equity loans and, but our job growth has been leading the nation for over a year, interest rates are a very low 6.25% right now (locally) and our local economy has been super strong for a while now. Local unemployment is still at all-time record lows for the state and people are moving into the area. But none of that really matters because many people need to sit and wait, wait and see, see and watch, watch and wait…

Our challenges are not interest rates- it’s inventory levels, lender restrictions, and the overall “Chicken Little” message the media is pumping out about the sky falling. Every factor is strong for our economy and real estate market, but these thiree things are causing people to stall. So it will take a few months of the media shutting up and things to calm down until people will be able to see how great a time this is to buy.

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About the news today;

Ben Bernanke, of the Federal Reserve, cut its benchmark interest rate by a half point, which caused the Dow to shoot up more than 300 points (it’s biggest one-day jump in over five years).

Last year 54,500 jobs were created in Utah, representing 5% of all jobs created in the country. Not bad for a state that only has 1% of the total US job force. When jobs are created and unemployment is 3-4% how do you fill all these jobs? People move into the area. And where do these people buy homes? Locally of course. So if people are moving into the area to fill tens of thousands of jobs that are being created, do we have a housing slump?

Just because every listing isn’t flying off the shelves the first few days they are on the market doesn’t mean everything is bad. It’s not supposed to take two days to sell a house. In “normal” healthy real estate markets it takes 30-90 days to sell good homes. What is our “average” time on market right now? It’s 36 days- not exactly sky-is-falling, but up ten days from the beginning of the year when things were crazy. 

Every day there is some other news about real estate in mass media and that itself is the problem. The market can’t be normal because it’s getting too much attention. It creates excitement- good and bad, and strong opinions from dads and sisters and uncles and friends who all “know” what they are talking about and all have different opinions they are telling buyers and sellers. “Offer 90% under market-value” or “things are going to get worse” or “Buy anything with at least 8 bedrooms”. This advice makes them feel important as though if not for their input these buyers would make the biggest mistakes of their lives and it’s good thing they get this valuable opinion information.

Those of us who know the market and watch indicators and trends and have been through market cycles know better. We know the stability inherent in housing (everybody needs a place to live) and the appreciation of real estate prices over a sustained period of time (all land in populated areas will go up in value). Real estate is an appreciating asset, and right now buyers can find some great homes with good prices in the Salt Lake area and with such a strong local economy and job growth, it’s a fantastic financial investment to buy right now- just make sure you have a good agent so you buy smart.

Renting Costs More Than Owning

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USAToday published an article last week titled Housing Costs Punish Family Budgets. The article spoke of the costs of buying a home and taxes and the rising costs associated with home-ownership. It also discussed how many people are spending so much of their income on their mortgage payments and how that hurts these families.  Aside from the too-easy “Why didn’t you buy a house in your price-range” argument, let’s instead look at an article they published two days later, titled Housing Crunch Hits Renters Hard. This article discusses how rents have gone up so fast that many can’t afford to pay them and are being forced to move.

From USAToday

The home mortgage crisis has received far more notice, but experts say the ranks of renters with dire housing problems are growing faster than the ranks of defaulting homeowners.

The Center for Housing Policy reports that the number of working-family renters paying more than half their income for housing has soared from 1 million to 2.1 million since 1997. Overall, advocacy groups say there are 9 million low-income renter households and only 6.2 million units they can reasonably afford.”These people spend huge portions of their income on their housing,” said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “They don’t do things that we all would like to do — save money to buy a house, or for college or retirement. It’s a very day-to-day existence.”

So they create news about how it’s too much to buy and then a couple days later say it’s costing too much to rent. Contradictory, of course, but this is what the media does. So what is the reality about buying versus renting?

I live in Cottonwood Heights, a very nice area in the Salt Lake City valley, with “average” home prices around $450-$500,000. Whether that is a lot of money for a house is subjective and depends on where you live now and your point of view. People from Texas may think it’s way too much and others from California may think it’s dirt-cheap. But let’s look at the difference in renting and buying. To make things simpler and easier for me I chose (as always) to use examples closest to my house.

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There is a big apartment complex (photo above) a few blocks from my home called Pinnacle Highlands. This is the largest apartment complex in the valley and it’s a nice community. I called them today and was told their next available 2 bedroom apartment is available in November. It has about 950 square feet and comes with one covered parking space. No utilities are included, but the compex has a pool. This apartment costs $990/month.

Now let’s look at buying a condo in the area and compare. I did a search in the area for a 2 bedroom condo for below with at least 900 square feet and found a few, but chose one I think will work well for my example. It is located in Holladay, which is directly north of Cottonwood Heights and is considered very comparable in house values and stature. This condo has 2 bedrooms, 950 square feet and is priced at $124,000. The HOA fee is $195/month and that includes insurance, exterior maintanence, water, sewer, garbage and gas. The home comes with one covered parking space and the complex also has a pool.

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Total payment on this home with putting no money down should be around $990/month. And that would include all utilities except electricity. Both have the same square footage, one covered parking space, two bedrooms, and both are in good locations.

Difference is, after five years renting you would have gained nothing financially. In five years the condo will be worth $155,000, meaning the owner will have made $31,000 (of course this is my estimate based on my 14 years in real estate selling hundreds of homes in Salt Lake). Not only will the owner of this condo make $31,000 but they will have written off approximately $7000/year from their taxes, totaling about $35,000 in tax write-offs for the five years.

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So which is the better investment? Sure selling the condo, they may pay $11,600 in closing costs (6% commission plus other closing fees) meaning they walk away with only $19,400 and it may take them a few months to sell. But having over $19,000 cash and have written off $35,000 from my taxes, plus having the pride of ownership has got to be a lot better than having nothing. Fact is, renting cost more than buying when you factor in the lost financial gains. Obviously I’m not the first to point all this out, but if renters knew what I know- they would be owners, not renters- and that’s my whole point.

You want to know whether or not owning real estate is better than renting? Look at the wealthy- do they own or rent? People who have made a lot of money in this country very rarely have made it without investing in real estate. Have your money work for you through your investments- specifically through real estate.

Home Builders Now Willing to Play Ball

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Some home builders are very straight-forward with the way they sell homes. They build a product and they market that product at a price they believe is fair in the market and will also bring them a profit.

One example would be Ivory Homes. Ivory has always treated my clients well and my clients have always seemed very pleased with their purchase. Ivory isn’t trying to be the lowest-priced home builder and they don’t compete simply on price- they compete on value and quality. And they tell the buyers this from the beginning. Their product is semi-custom, meaning you choose one of their floor plans but then have a lot of things you can change about the floor plan and layout. And they have always worked well with Realtors and other lenders. All of this may be why they are Utah’s largest home builder.

On the other side, there are home builders who are stubborn in their business practices and only work with consumer’s wants, Realtors and outside lenders when the market is such that they have to. Holmes Homes and is an example of this type of builder. Holmes has a reputation among sub-contractors for not paying on time, they refuse to pay Realtor commission during seller’s markets but completely change their tunes during buyer’s markets, refuse (as much as they feel they legally can) to work with outside lenders, and seem to work only for a profit, not for the consumer.

Oh, and while I’m speaking about builders- I need to mention that one of the worst I have ever worked with locally is Alpine Homes. Once the deal has closed they have been unwilling to fix problems, unwilling to listen to their home buyers, and unworkable. They offer agent incentives and bonuses to buyers, but then their product is less than great and once you close- they are done with you. In one of their communities I sold two homes on the same street and once my clients moved in, both had water drainage issues because the builder had not installed the landscaping properly so that it would run away from the house. With the first rainfall, of course, most every home on the street had flooding in the basements. One of my clients had a lot of valuable posessions in their basement that were damaged. The home owners were all contacting Alpine trying to get the problems corrected but Apline was completely unwilling to do anything about the problems. They would not have their landscapers help and they would not compensate anyone for damages. I was a managing broker for a large Coldwell Banker office at the time and spoke to one of their higher-ups and told them I was planning on letting every agent I came across of the service my clients (and their neighbors) were receiving and I would have our legal counsel advise these home buyers on their rights. Only after weeks of fighting and legal threats did Apline finally have some changes made to the landscaping (although they still would not reimburse for any damages). Okay, had to get that out there…

Now that the market is shifting more to the buyer’s side, most local home builders are more inclined to work with outside lenders, Realtors, and the client’s wants. Many are soliciting agents heavily and some are offering big incentives now for home buyers. Many of the builders who only two years ago would not pay an agent are now offering bonuses, and many who fought against flexibility are now changing their policies to be more consumer-friendly.

I have a lot of experiences with many of the local builders and I always share my experiences, and the experiences of my clients with people I work with who are looking at buying new homes. Some builders have earned solid reputations over the years and many have earned horrible ones. Today they all want to play ball because they have to, but agents know which ones are in it for the money and which ones are in it for the consumer, and now with blogging and social media, hopefully the public will hear more about it…

Utah Foreclosures Rates Far Below National Average

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According to it’s National Delinquency Survey, released today by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the percentage of Utahn’s with loans in foreclosure at the end of the second quarter 2007 dropped from 0.74% (second quarter 2006) to 0.55%. This puts Utah’s foreclosure rate 61% lower than the current national rate of 1.40% for the quarter.

As the Salt Lake Tribune points out, some of the factors include Utah’s economy creating jobs at one of the fastest rates in the nation, local unemployment rates at record lows, and our continued strong housing appreciation, which allows people to sell their homes and pay closing cost before needing to resort to foreclosure.

The strong local economy and job growth are two very important factors here as they help give indication as to where a real estate market is going. The strength of our local market for the last few years has been attributed to a number of factors that go beyond simple investor speculation and home rehabbing. Factors such as the strong local economy, job growth, the influx of people moving into the area, low unemployment, and significant improvements made the area’s infrastructure.

By the way, it’s fun to show all the “Chicken Little’s” how wrong they are… have a nice day.