Happy New Year from BlueRoof

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This has been an eventful and interesting year for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It started out with a bang and it’s ending with bang and in between I’ve enjoyed the ride. Some highlights from my year include;

A trip to Hawaii (Hana)

With my incredible wife. I’ve been to Hawaii before but this trip was amazing- I probably felt more fully relaxed than ever before. It was in January after all the holiday travelers had left and we had the entire resort to ourselves (well, it felt like it at least).

Taking our entire family on a cruise

We all went down to Mexico for over a week and tested the limits of one huge ship. This was the first cruise for all of us and we all enjoyed it a ton. We call it the “ice-cream” cruise because every time we saw one of the kids they were eating ice cream. I enjoyed the alone time with my wife, the excursions and the piano bar was a blast.

Launching BlueRoof.com

Everything about it has been exciting- from the inception and pushing it through to the TechCrunch party in Seattle where I met some real entrepeneurs, to the Inman Connect where we got some attention and began a pretty cool little company story. It takes a lot of energy and effort to build a website and it takes a lot of energy and effort to start a company. Doing both can be very expensive, a big pain-in-the- @ss, and pretty exciting. There are a lot of pressures that come with owning a company and knowing that families and careers are depending on you. Change can bring out the best or worst in people. Of course there are many variables, but some people seem to handle change well while others do not and it’s been interesting to see how different people react and handle different things. The company has also brought my wife and I closer than ever. We have worked together for years now, which is really cool because most couples can’t stand to be around each other very much but we can be together all day and still want to be together all day tomorrow, and this entire experience has only made us want to be together more.

Making our Home

No, not building our home. We bought the place last year and we loved it then, but this year we’ve really made it ours. It’s a relatively big house (almost 5000 square feet) and finishing each room off in our own style and taste, a lot of remodeling  and adding our own personal touch has made it our home. We still have a lot that we want to do to it, but this is why I would never want to rent again- we’re making our home as we go and it’s all ours.

The Holidays

Every year I love the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, but this year (probably because of all the pressure we’d been under) I really enjoyed my time off with family and savored every moment of it. Christmas is always fun when you have a bunch of kids and seeing them have so much fun is magical and it reminds me of what life is all about- enjoying the ride.

And this year I have really enjoyed the ride…

 Here’s to 2007- I hope it’s as exciting and fun as 2006 has been,

Cheers!

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Specialists Benefit Real Estate Consumer

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Most of my career in real estate has been on the listing side. I usually have gotten my business from for-sale-by-owner’s (FSBO). I call them and ask if they would like help selling their home and then follow up with them (sometimes for months and months) until they become frustrated enough trying to sell on their own that they’ll list with me. Most agents don’t enjoy working FSBO’s because it’s tough emotionally, but most agents do prefer to work with sellers because it generally takes less time. And I’ve done well helping people sell.

And I’ve worked with buyers also, usually a couple at a time, showing homes in between my listing appointments. But I always worked whatever leads I could find, whether they were buyers or sellers or both- I would, as most agents do, take the business wherever I could get it. Nothing wrong with that…

But now I’m working exclusively with buyers and referring all of my selling clients to a listing specialist (Tom) on our team. And I believe our clients are better off for it. Tom works exclusively with sellers and so he can focus on them and make sure they are taken care of. He is not driving around showing homes, which takes a lot of time. He spends all of his time working to sell the homes we have listed, writing and re-writing the ads, tracking the traffic and showings and getting feedback on the showings, discussing the market and strategy with the sellers, and showing the homes he has listed. Since most of our clients come to us from our website, he doesn’t need to spend all day prospecting for new business, which is where most agents spend the majority of their time. He is listing more homes than most agents but also is much more available to his sellers than most agents.

More time for sellers= good.

And because I am only working with buyers I can also specialize and spend all of my time with them. One of the benefits for me has been that I can be readily available to my buyers and spend as much time with them as they need. And because I’m not spending my time trying to get listings I can dedicate more of my time to assisting my clients finding a home.

More time for buyers= good.

Moving can be a frustrating experience, but finding a new home can be fun if you have the right help. Some people spend days, weeks and months driving around looking for homes or going through newspaper ads or out-dated magazines trying to find a good home. That would frustrate me, plus that way you never really get to see all the homes available.

When I help people find a home I search for homes with them and try to show them homes they are going to want to see. Instead of spending days driving around looking through homes they won’t like and becoming frustrated, they can spend their time having some fun shopping for homes they will like to look at. I search for homes, find homes, schedule the showings and coordinate the routes. I drive them or they can follow me if they prefer, and I show them through all the homes. And then of course I pull comparables, help write and present the offer and coordinate everything all the way through closing and the best part is I am paid by the listing agent so the buyer doesn’t have to pay me anything for all of my services.

It’s good to specialize in certain areas of town or cities so we can know them really well. Many agents spend time specialize in geographic areas, but few specialize in buyers or sellers also. By focusing on buyers I can give them the very best service and attention, and that’s good for everyone.

Top Ten Real Estate Markets for 2007- Salt Lake City Ranks #4

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CNNMoney published it’s 2007 Real Estate Outlook on Thursday, which takes a look at different markets across the country and gives CNN’s opinion of the top ten places to own real estate in 2007.

For their predictions of the 100 largest metropolitan areas across the country they also enlisted counsel from Moody’s Economy.com and real estate valuation company Fiserv Lending Solutions.

Salt Lake City ranks #4 for projected appreciation in 2007 behind McAllen-Mission and El Paso Texas and Albuquerque New Mexico.

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Salt Lake also has the highest Median Home Price on the top ten list at $186,230. Median price is, of course, not the average sales price. The average sales price in Salt Lake County is around $240,000- median price is the mid-point for prices in an area, meaning that 50% of properties (including condos) are priced higher and 50% are priced lower than that amount.

Salt Lake also ranks as the #3 fastest appreciating metro in
America (at 19.2%) for 2006.

Orem (just South of Salt Lake City) also ranks as the #3 safest city in
America.

And with the areas incredible economic and job growth in the next few years, things are looking good for home owners in the area.

The Internet Makes Giants of Us All

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Every Saturday morning millions of kids all across the country lay on the floor watching cartoons. Usually they are so glued to the TV programming that they don’t even realize they are also seeing hundreds of commercials for toys, hamburgers, other TV programs and whatever else can be pushed at them.

Once in a while they remember the ads because they feature a character or person they recognize or the ad is funny or cool or something. And these ads work. They sell a ton of product and services. And all day long people are watching TV programs and seeing powerful ads that are funny or interesting, and once in a while a 30-second ad is so powerful that it can actually make people cry.

So why doesn’t everybody run TV spots for their product?

Because it’s really expensive, that’s why. For the most part, television is out of reach for most companies. Even using Spotrunner you have to pay for the airtime and anything on network is going to run you over $1000 per spot.

So how can someone reach the public, as though they were on tv, but without the budget of television?

Print advertising is more expensive than ever, even with its value plummeting, and with direct mail you have to catch attention and do it multiple times before it matters. Billboards are mostly for long term branding and radio has a higher cost-per-thousand than anything.

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But the Internet…

The Internet makes us all equals. We all have the same amount of space on these monitors to get our message across. It’s what we do with that space that matters.

Some websites (YouTube, Google, eBay) have programming that make them great, but even those began with little money. Craigslist began with almost nothing but it filled a niche and is now one of the most-visited sites on the net.

With a free account on wordpress a blogger can go from nobody to having thousands of daily visitors within a few months. Some of the top watched people on YouTube don’t spend any money on their videos but get thousands of people subscribing to them daily.

Teenagers with no money can battle industry giants- and win!

Many sites that rank high on the search engines are actually really crappy sites with very bad user-interfaces because Google and other search engines can’t tell good ones (with good content and design that is visually appealing and fun) from bad ones. Instead they look at meta-tagging, links and keywords and other technical things to decide which sites are the best. So you have these template sites and link-farms that are the same as thousands of others ranking at the top of many search terms simply because they used that same amount of moniter space differently than other people did.

Some bloggers who are otherwise just regular people getting no real attention become quasi-celebrities in months. Some people are looked at as authorities because of their blogs. And usually we actually judge people/companies by the look and feel of their website.

We have worked with dozens of clients who decided to work with us before they ever met us because they liked our website best. Hopefully they got some value from the site and learned about us enough to make that decision, but it goes to show the power of utilizing that same amount of monitor space. One of my websites cost me a few thousand dollars to build (have built- I’m no programmer) and with some on-line marketing has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for our team of agents. Of course we need to do the work and earn the business, but we got the leads from the site.

And I’m the same- when I’m looking for a product or service I go to the internet and I look around for a site that looks like it represents people or a company that I want to work with. A company or person’s website tells me a lot about them and the image they are projecting. If a website offers me no value, but just wants to collect my information I usually go elsewhere and have a bad impression of that company or person. But if a company site gives me a lot of information and I enjoy being on their website I feel better about that company and want to work with them.

My first website was built in 2000 and cost me under $1000. Within a few months it had climbed to the #1 position on Yahoo (the dominant search engine at the time) for its relevant keywords and I sold it for many times my investment. I utilized that space better than others had. Today it is (sadly) almost the exact same site that I built and sold six years ago and still ranks in the top 5 organic results on Yahoo for many of its keywords.  

With a few hundred dollars anybody can create a website and do minimal promotion which can result in a phenomenal ROI. Millions of people have websites and the ones that get the most traffic are not always the ones that cost the most or represent the biggest companies. NO other medium will allow someone to get the exposure of the Internet with a couple hundred bucks, or sometimes without any money.

The Internet is the great equalizer in marketing, promotion, and communication. Utilizing it properly can mean the difference between being a leader in your field and struggling to make an impact.

Could Google’s Success Be Its Undoing?

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Google became successful very fast because it offered a simple solution to a problem we all had, namely finding results on the internet. It gave us the best results and it was extremely simple to use. And these reasons for success could also be ways for someone else to take that business.

Today there are many search engines that do the same job, and some arguably give better results than Google. And they are all just as easy to use and offer a similar UI.

This is why Google is investing in so many auxillary programs such as spreadsheets and money managers, and offer them for free- so people will continue to go to Google for their needs.

Dharmesh Shah has a post about this topic which is very interesting. It really would be easy to switch from using Google to another search engine for most consumers. Dharmesh brings up some good points about why it would be so easy to switch;

Low Training Investment:

Low Customization Investment: 

Easy Experimentation:

Better Results Are Obvious:

Obviously other search engines have been trying to woo people away from Google, but they’re offering a similar product. What if MSN or Yahoo or Ask or another search engine actually developed a better user experience with better results and promoted it- would it be difficult to move away from Google?

Pass the MEME

Drew Meyers memed me today. I had never heard of a meme, and for those of you who don’t know what it is, according to Drew’s blog here’s the definition:

It’s a thoughtstream carried from one person to another, or, to be more precise, a “unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to the other,” so says Wikipedia. Basically, it’s the blogging equivalent of a chain letter. The cool thing about blogging is that the meme can be tracked. Entire websites are devoted to doing just that. Some memes, however, are deliberate…sort of a social game to build community and engender relationships.

KIND of a cool idea getting different people’s posts about the same topic.

The topic of the meme is “Five Things You don’t Know About Me”

1- In fourth grade I lost the school spelling bee by misspelling the word beautiful. Afterward I went home and wrote the word over and over hundreds of times and to this day I still remember that loss whenever I write the word.

2- My beautiful wife and I were married in the Bahamas.

3- I have a fractured wrist as a result of golfing. I went golfing with a couple friends and my business partner, Mike, was driving our cart and we were messing around and we rolled the cart going down a steep turn, which threw me out and into the railing just in time for the cart to roll on top of me. From now on I’m only playing chess with Mike.

4- My favorite drink is Jack-and-Coke

5- I love the rain

Thanks for the invite Drew-

I’ll be inviting Joseph and Rudolph from Sellsius Blog– Tag- You’re it!

What Do Home Sellers Want?

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I have taken hundreds of listings in my fourteen years in the business. And I’ve sold my own homes so I have been the home seller myself. I’ve had successes and failures and through the years I’ve tried to gain a better understanding of the consumer and see the trends.

But one thing I have learned is that home sellers don’t really care about price, they care about value. And I include myself in this assessment.

See, lately I have been focusing on price (commission), and we’ve taken a good amount of listings (70 in the 150 days since we launched BlueRoof.com) but most sellers are focused on something else. Sure, they would like a lower commission, but I think what they really want is security. To know that their home will be sold quickly and for top dollar.

We all make decisions based on emotion, whether we realize this on a conscience level or not. When I go through the drive-through at Wendy’s I’m buying food that will make me feel good- some food maybe makes me feel healthy or comfortable or happy or full. When we buy a car we are looking for something that will make us feel safe, important, frugal, excited, etc. And when we decide to work with someone we make that decision based on how we feel about them. They are aggressive, laid-back, sharp-minded,  easy-going, tall, beautiful, successful, eager, or whatever else we are looking for. But on some level they are someone we feel good about.

Some people want to work with someone who cares about their home and will protect it. Some people want their privacy and don’t want to be inconvinienced. Some want every penny they can get and others want to sell very quickly- and of course most people want a variety of these things. So if they meet someone who they feel will accomplish their goals and take care of them, they will want to work with that person. As an agent, we simply need to find those people who want to work with us.