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You Can Lead an Agent to Technology, But You Can’t Make ‘Em Type.

A special treat today!  One of our original guest authors, Elizabeth Weintraub from About.com, is back with a bold message.

You Can Lead an Agent to Technology, But You Can’t Make ‘Em Type.
By Elizabeth Weintraub

You can lead an agent to technology, but you can’t make ‘em type.” I made this statement to the marketing director at my company, who roared and then realized the seriousness and truth in that statement.

My company announced today that it is withdrawing all advertising from the Sacramento Bee come September 1. It spends, corporate heads estimate, $2 million a year in major newspaper advertising.

Part of the problem, the way I see it, is our local paper’s Web site is in direct competition with my company’s Web site for identical eyeballs. The driving force behind that decision likely has to do with the down real estate market in Northern California. Corporations need to cut back on advertising revenue and spend money where the buyers are – which is on the Internet.

My company says there’s a 500% chance that buyers will spot a home for sale on the Internet than print ads. Although no source is cited for the origin of that figure, it seems to be pretty accurate to me.

I think the question is “Do real estate companies find themselves in competition with major media Web sites?“

A question asked at my office meeting bears mentioning. An agent said she recently moved to Sacramento from the Bay area. During her search for a home, she relied heavily on Internet Web sites. She looked at the Sacramento Bee’s Metrolist homes, but also scoured local company sites to find Sunday Open Houses. She wanted to know if my company would supply open house information for all homes on its Web site or just its own. The answer was, or course, just its own.

How does that benefit the consumer?
Short answer, it doesn’t. I think my company is short-changing itself. We don’t have all the listings in the area -- although we do have a majority of them -- but it doesn’t present a good user experience for the home buyer. The Home Buying Website I write, which provides expert advice geared toward consumers at About.com, insists we link to outside sources to provide a “good user” experience. I agree with that premise.

The_QuestionYou know who is going to eventually rule in any local market, right? It’s the consumer-friendly Web site that gives buyers what they want: up-to-date, meaning hourly updates of listings, which my company achieves in part. But pertinent information such as houses that are open on Sunday should not be excluded.

Consumers want complete data. They don’t want bits and pieces of information. They want to know the condition of the entire marketplace, and in my neck of the woods, open houses are important to buyers. The dates and times for scheduled open houses are already entered into our local MLS database, so it wouldn’t require extra work to extract this information.

I am very excited that my company is putting money, time and energy into Internet marketing. I wish they would give it more thought before rolling out an antiquated system. Although, in all fairness, the new system that goes into place next month is supposed to rival all national Web sites. But it still won’t contain all market data.

In the best of both worlds, real estate companies will realize the need to spend money to educate their agents on the value of technology, in addition to meeting the needs of the marketplace. When I talk to agents in my office about technology, their eyes glaze over, for the most part. That doesn’t make me any smarter than they are, and they could very well possess wisdom that I lack, especially given the fact I landed in this particular market from another. I didn’t grow up here and don’t know anybody from high school.

Elizabeth_WeintraubBut I’ve been in this business for a few decades; I have a GPS that talks to me, I have a computer and I know how to use it. I tour listings every week and comb the sold comparables. Perhaps you can only lead an agent to technology, and that includes its management team, but I don’t know if you can force them to step up to the plate.

Sacramento Realtor Elizabeth Weintraub is the Home Buying Columnist for About.com at homebuying.about.com.


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I agree with you. The Brokerage I am with has about 140 agents between the two offices. I know for sure 2 agents have blogs. I may just be in the early stages with my blog, but I see real value. I think alot of older agents need to be educated to see the value.

I love the Realtor logo on the horse, great pic.

We belong to a 10 office 300 agent firm and we are mostly web based. I know of only 3 of us that blog on a regular basis my wife and I and one other.

The firm has a great web presence and we find owners of other firms signing up and using our site a lot.

We have cut back greatly on print advertising as most of prospects look at our website or drive by our signs.

We need thirsty horses! Every company should be creating a blogging platform for their agents to blog anything and everything and use some of those print savings on tech education. Even if you can only get 25% of your agents blogging you can create a significant content presence. A company blog is the best example of using the company name and building from there that I can think of. If you are a lone blogger out there you are basically starting from scratch. Check out the google page rank of your company site and imagine how much ahead of the game you will be if you start to build from there. Just a thought to wet the mouth of thirsty agents.

Interesting post. Even as late as 3 or 4 years ago most of my calls came from print publications. Nowadays it's not worth the money. My local paper has a policy that you have to have a print ad in order for the ad to appear in their online classified section.

Rental ads seem to draw more calls than for sale calls.

I would agree our company is in competition with the local media - and that is a really good thing because for years our company was held hostage by the major media in our locale. We could not compete with the newspaper...there was only one venue for open houses and we paid through the nose for it. Now that consumers are using the web so much, we can afford to cut back in the newspapers and put that money back into our online presence.

Few of our agents blog, too. I think it will be the young ones, new to the business in the next few years, who will blog because they have personal blogs now. They will build their farm via their blog rather than postcards, calendars etc.

My broker (#1 in the area) walked away from print ads January 1 and has not looked back. In fact, the #2 broker in town also followed suit.

I've been thinking about this very topic for three years at which time I first pulled out of print media and invested heavily in my website. The return in the short run has been absolutely worth it in that the payback has been tenfold over print however, I'm now finding people asking me if I'm still in the real estate business! there is something to be said for a print media presence. Now I'm going to try advertising my blog and website rather than listings and see what happens.

I realized this a few years back and agree completely. Print ads are out and the Internet is where its at. If your're not on the Internet, you loose. Just that simple. In terms of pulling Open House info and making that accessible to the user, it only makes sense.

My broker- the largest privately-held real estate company in the metro DC area- also pulled out of large print ads this year. However, we DO post all our listings in the online real estate section of the local newspaper- The Washington Post. Each ad links back to our company's main website- where anyone can search for all listings- not just our company's listings. So I don't see washingtonpost.com as being in competition with our website.

Each agent has a choice of using the MLS version of their listings- or they can go into our company's backend system and "enhance" their listing with more information and more pictures. I see this as just another facilitator to find our listings.

Getting open house information - no matter what the technology- is still up to the agent to get that info out. Whether its a print ad or on the internet- it just shouldn't matter.

The bottom line is that any online ad posting is there to attract buyers- and if you don't have all the listings in the area- the buyer is just going to go someplace else.

Hello,

Very Very impressed with your site here. I have a question that I don't knoew where to place it. Presently I am using Wordpress I host myself through a Hosting provider. I am thinking to switching to Typepad hosted through Typepad. It looks easier doing things through Typepad. I notice you folks use Typepad. Would someone look at my blog and let me know? My blog is at http://www/gatosblog.com

Thanks
Jim


Jim Gatos,
The TypePad platform is a bit easier to use - it is a plug and play model. However, there are some challenges that come with the tool. 1. You don't own it. 2. You have a root domain that has typepad.com in it. 3. They have recently experienced some server issues (my site was down for as much as 3 hours yesterday). 4. It will only improve in functionality as their product improves... And more I'm sure.
The WP direct upload product is the foundation of all the custom blogsites that we have developed. It is hard to call what we do a WP blog any longer, however, because we have done so much custom programming to make it unique for each client... Nonetheless... if you can handle the management of the site, you are in much better share to have a WP direct upload site as you do with your current situation.
Why did I choose TP over WP in for the Tomato? Back when I started it, I didn't fully understand the choice, so I flipped a coin... I wish today that it had landed on WP. Oh well. It's certainly working for me - can't be too upset.

Hey, well, thanks for your answer. I played with both of them and I actually sat down and "mastered" Wordpress first before I did the blog. I liked the look of Typepad, however, and I also liked the idea you can post without pain with Typepad. Thanks for your honesty and frankness. Maybe I should just consider another template.,,,LOL

Thanks,

Jim

Mighty Tomato, so nice to read another great post from an excellent guest writer. Elizabeth's point is well taken. I firmly believe anyone who has not dug their heels into the internet scene will be at a disadvantage in a few years when the major players are already up and running and lost time will be hard to make up.

I agree that agents that are willing to blog will have a much greater internet presence, but few can put the time that is required into it. Even if they startblogging, most cannot keep it up. I hear there are already companies that will blog for you, but wonder how local those companies can be. Personally, I will keep writing my own stuff, and perhaps that will make my blog stand out from the crowd, if the arena ever gets crowded!

Yes time is not most agent have freely i think its better to have some geek to do it for you

Time is a constant pressing issue for agents as it is for their perspective clients. What is great is that blogging allows the agent's differentiation and to paint themselves as a local expert in some venue. It also personalizes their services and credentials...AND...it allows their busy clients as well to sit down at 6 a.m., 12 midnight, whenever THEY have time and learn more about the agent and hopefully the market. If a professional can make it a part of their business plan, (put it under marketing if you will), and schedule in a time that they can take 15 minutes or more to update their blog, then they can do it, and get results AND respect, for prospects.

The brokerage I am with has 9 offices and over 270 agents. To my knowledge I am one of only 2 or 3 that blog at all. Sadly the general response to my urging the other agents to get involved is, "I don't have time for all that."

Time is precious, but so is business.

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