by Rebecca Chandler
As the holidays approach, many of us will spend some time reflecting upon last year’s successes and failures and trying to learn some valuable lesions. Here are 5 questions to ask about marketing your business.
to determine what to repeat and expand and what to abandon.
If you answer these questions honestly and thoughtfully, reflecting on 2013 will help you devise an improved plan for 2014. Need help? Contact your local Real Estate Book representative. They are local and well-trained real estate marketing professionals.
The real estate market has been one of the strongest pillars of the economy following the greatest financial downturn since the Great Depression. Amid low interest rates and a great deal of intervention from policymakers, home buyers received an added incentive to purchase a home. Meanwhile, sellers enjoyed low inventory levels and rising prices. However, a new survey finds that sellers might be losing their control on the market.
In the third quarter, 72% of real estate agents said now is a good time to sell a home, down from 86% in the previous quarter, and the first drop of the year, according to Redfin, an online estate brokerage. On the other side of the closing table, 55% of agents said now is a good time to buy, up from 46% at the beginning of the year. Thirty percent of agents also said that sellers are having difficulties getting their home to appraise for the contract purchase amount.
"At the end of this summer, you could smell the rubber on the road from buyers hitting the brakes," said Redfin San Diego agent Sara Fischer. "The cutthroat competition and frenzied demand has relaxed considerably."
Although interest rates are still low on a historical basis, the recent rise in home prices is affecting home affordability. In the second quarter, 69.3% of new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $64,400, according to the National Association of Home Builders. That is down from 73.7% in the first quarter and is the first reading below 70% since late 2008.
In August, home prices across the nation increased on a year-over-year basis for the 18th consecutive month. According to CoreLogic, a property information and analytics provider, home prices jumped 12.4% in August from a year earlier. In fact, home prices have logged double-digit gains for seven straight months. Home prices are still 17.1% below their bubble peak in April 2006, but every state posted an annual increase in August.
Going forward, the survey from Redfin finds that only 5% of agents believe home prices will rise a lot in the next 12 months, down from 44% at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, 11% of agents believe prices will drop a little over the next year, compared to only 4% in the second quarter.
Wall St. Cheat Sheet is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.
REALTORS® are looking for ways to cut
costs and conserve cash in today's challenging markets. When it comes
to saving money on marketing, Amy Chorew, an expert on helping REALTORS®
use technology to boost their businesses, has the answer – social media.
While websites, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are often associated with teenagers sending a nonstop stream of messages, photos, videos and music, this sort of instantaneous, personalized interaction is exactly what makes them such ideal marketing tools for real estate professionals, says Chorew, vice president of platform development for Better Homes & Garden Real Estate. And, best of all, they are free.
Facebook, the world's most-visited
website, can be an especially valuable marketing tool for REALTORS®.
Just as when marketing yourself offline, the key to effective marketing
on Facebook and other social networks is finding people with shared
interests, making personal connections and then looking for business
opportunities that might arise from these.
Start with people you know, Chorew says, by joining the Facebook pages of schools you have attended and of organizations, clubs and community groups you belong to. Monitor these pages and listen to what people are talking about so you can post information that is of interest to them.
"Eighty percent of what you post on these pages should not be about real estate at all," Chorew says. "It should be about your interests and passions, your life and anything to do with your community. When people know you're on the school board, or that you like to run or cook or are a wine aficionado, when they are ready to hire a REALTOR® they will think of you first because they share the same interests."
Chorew, for example, belongs to a Facebook book club that has resulted in business for her. Another agent she knows, who is an avid runner, started a Facebook group for runners in her area.
Facebook is also ideal for prospecting and networking. Agents should strive to reach out on the site to three new people every day, Chorew says, and introduce themselves with short, friendly messages free of any real estate references. "Just say hi and be yourself," she says. "It's the new way of prospecting."
Online videos are another powerful
and cost-effective marketing tool. YouTube should be every agent's go-to
website for posting videos that deliver value to clients instead of
simply serving as a promotional tool, according to Doug Devitre, a St.
Louis-based REALTOR® and founder of a consulting firm focused on helping
real estate agents apply technology to improve results.
Too many agents are posting dull, unmemorable videos in which they talk about themselves and don't provide people with helpful information, Devitre says. They should be educating viewers on topics, such as what to expect in a short sale, or covering frequently asked questions that come up in a transaction.
The most effective videos also contain what Devitre describes as "a call to action," or a clear, unmistakable message to viewers, such as a request to visit an agent's website, share their contact information or pick up the phone and call.
To separate themselves from everyone else, agents should strive to make their videos as unique as possible. "You want your video to get people to say, 'Wow, that was really great. I know somebody else who should watch that.' When you plant a seed in the mind of a viewer, that's when a video goes from 10 views to 200 views to 2,000 views, because other people did the marketing for the agent," Devitre says.
Another cost-effective marketing tool for agents, Devitre says, is www.slideshare.net, a free site that allows you to post PowerPoint presentations online. "This is the YouTube of PowerPoint presentations," he says. For an extra $20 a month, you can have pop-up windows appearing throughout a presentation asking for contact information, which can be an effective way to generate new leads, he says. PowerPoint presentations produced on the site are also mobile-friendly and can be easily turned into a link that can be sent to any mobile device or posted to any website.
Communicating With Your Customers
by Peggy Morrow
Peggy Morrow, CSP, is President of
Peggy Morrow & Associates. She is
an author, consultant, certified
professional speaker and training consultant in business for over 27
years. Author of two books on
customer service, she has also published over 400 articles on management and
customer service as well as being named a “content expert” for Inc Magazine’s
web page, Inc.com.© 2012, Peggy Morrow. All rights reserved. For more information about this article or author,
What happens when customers try to communicate with your company? For example, when they have a complaint or want some information? Is it a positive experience-one that will ensure their continued loyalty? Or is it a frustrating experience-one that will make them easy prey for your competitors?
I'm sure at sometime you have ended up in "voice mail hell" after you have gone through the "press one" for this and "press two" for that. In a recent customer service class, several participants told me that the impression they receive when they have to navigate through a long automatic routing system is the feeling that the company does not really care about the customer, just in saving money.
What about your company? Do you have several methods for customers to contact you? Or do you set up as many barriers as you can to try to force them to use your website? Yes, websites definitely have a place in the communications mix, but customers should have other options, too. Not everything can be answered in a FAQs section.
Are your systems highly responsive? Are your e-mails, voicemails, and tweets checked often? Do you have online, live chat available? Everyone is in a hurry today and they need information NOW, not in 48 hours as one company told me when I requested information. At least they set my expectations by telling me when to expect a reply. Many companies do not even do that.
In the "old days," our method of communication with customers was by telephone or the written word. Then it moved to FAX and finally e-mail. Now you can put up a portal to the company and your customers can literally plot their own course. The key is a variety of choices that make communication fast and easy because that is often one of the ways your customers judge your company and decide whether to do business with you or not.
In general, make your contact channels customer friendly. I recommend that you perform a "dummy check" on your various methods to contact your company. Have a friend or business associate call your company to see how easy it is to get their questions answered. You may be surprised!
And as always, please think of me to help your organization establish a culture of true customer service or build better teams. firstname.lastname@example.org
When Marge Bennett, ABR, CIPS, CRS, a sales associate with RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers, FL, gets a call from someone who saw her on Trulia, she immediately calls back. "I ask them what they're looking for, but my goal is to get them to meet with me," Bennett says.
"I want to sign them up on either my Market Leader account or on Listing Book." Both are lead incubators that allow Bennett to continually keep in touch with prospects until they're ready to buy.
With the advent of Zillow, Trulia, Market Leader and other online lead generators, real estate professionals are sometimes inundated with leads that range from hot to cold. The problem is figuring out how to follow up and convert the leads to sales.
"A lot of agents look at leads wrong," says Garrett Frey, owner and "ninja master coach" with Ninja Coaching in Redding, CA. "Just because a lead says he's not moving for a year doesn't mean it's a cold lead. In fact, that person should be put on your warm lead list. More often than not, that person is just confused or something is holding him back. Maybe they haven’t found the right school."
That means any lead you receive is worth chasing. Here are some tips for converting those leads to sales.
1. Call immediately. "Agents spend tons of money for leads, and they don’t immediately follow up. It's a killer," says Frey. "I knew one agent who would [if she was able] call the minute the lead hit her desk. Her goal was to call the person before that person even left the website." For Bennett, she calls immediately to create a sense of urgency.
"Most people will deal with the first person who communicated with them, and if they’re satisfied, you've created a client for life," says Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty International.
2. Google, and then get face to face. "Every new person who comes through my lead generators automatically gets searched on Google and added as a friend on Facebook. I want to know more about him or her so I can tell what may be important to that buyer or seller," says Bonnell.
Then, get face-to-face. "Find out what they want and deliver it to them in person," says Bennett. "If someone is an investor, I schedule a meeting and come prepared with information that applies to the investor's interests. You don't talk about condos to a person who is interested in 10 acres of land."
3. Personal contact is important. "Anything you do must be personalized," says Bennett, who finds that 50 percent of her business is from online leads (the other 50 percent is referral).
Bonnell agrees. "You must build a relationship. Leads should be thought of as people. Too many agents don't think of the people behind the Internet lead. These are real people with real moving vans, and they want to matter."
Frey recommends the FORD conversation:
"Call your leads and start the conversation." Keep that conversation personal.
"Be personable and let them know you care," says Bennett. "Really listen. People know when someone is paying attention, and they will dismiss you if you treat them with dollar signs in your eyes."
4. Create a follow-up system. "I recommend agents have a six-week action plan personalized for each lead. Make a list of your leads and plan when follow up will occur," says Bonnell. "The best system is the one that works. Don't overthink it," says Bonnell. Bennett uses a contact management system where she categorizes people by type of buyer or seller. "That helps me target different groups so when I send a newsletter, I send it to the right people. People find it irritating to receive a promotion that doesn't apply to them," says Bennett.
This system allows her to touch and nurture a contact. "I had a deal close earlier this year that took over a year to get to that point. I called every month just to chit-chat, and I sent them targeted information," she says. "When they were ready to buy, they called me."
5. Add value. "I always ask myself, 'What can I do to add value to this person today,'" says Bonnell. Then, she passes along information that is specific to the person's interests. For example, "If they're looking at three-bedroom homes in a specific neighborhood, I will call them to let them know the school district or give them some statistics on recent home sales in that neighborhood," says Bennett, who also answers buyer and seller questions on Trulia Voices, an online forum on real estate.
Converting leads to sales comes down to one thing: personalized and consistent follow up. You've heard the saying, "People do business with people they know and trust." Build that trust. Foster that relationship, and your online lead conversion rate will jump.
Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer.
As participation in various online services grows every day, the participants in social media become attractive targets for almost every type of business, organization or service.
Sadly, in the head-long land rush that is social media, there are a lot of real estate professionals rushing to participate using the "ready, fire, aim" method of engaging. And in their rush to leap into the action, they often leap right over the edge of a cliff into a free fall without redemption.
A little over a year ago, The Economist wrote, "Social networking will become a ubiquitous feature of online life. That does not mean it is a business." That doesn't mean that one cannot derive business benefits from their social media interaction, but it stresses the importance of effective engagement with your community. The key is to remember that what your community wants and needs is more important to them than your product or service.
In fact, no one cares about your product. Well, that may not be strictly true — you might care about your product. However, rest assured that it's not the focus of interest to your potential customer that you think it is.
People are, by necessity, the stars of their own movies. They are interested in their needs and the needs of their communities. It is only by establishing that you are interested in their needs as well that people may return your interest.
Think about your own reactions when you meet people face to face:
We tend to feel kindly toward people who take the time to show interest in our lives, our families and our interests. We are not as well disposed toward people who seem only interested in what’s good for them. And yet when we put on our “business hats” we forget our own honest reactions and assume that others do not have those same honest reactions to being solicited without invitation.
In her book The Whuffie Factor, Tara Hunt suggests that you start building your business with social capital when you "turn the bullhorn around" and start listening to the community with which you want to do business.
It sounds so simple, but it is many times the exact opposite to the training that made many small business people and professionals successful in the off-line world. They have become so accustomed to selling their product that the relationship-building part of their business strategy has become less important.
It's really very simple. If you get people to care about you, they may then care about your product or service to some degree. If you are a trusted member of a community, the other community members will want to do things to help you because you have done things to help them.
Perhaps the hardest part of the concept for people to grasp is that this desire of the community or their pre-disposition to help or support you is not a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" action/reaction. It is about growth of a relationship, which is nurtured by your actions and the respect and trust that are built as a result of the body of those actions — not by a single speech or article.
If you make genuine contributions of value to others without regard to your own needs, you will become an integral part of the community, and therefore, will be an integral part of their product and service infrastructure. You will be called upon to supply your product or service when it's needed by the members of the group.
Amy Chorew is the Director of Training for SMMI and owner of TheTechByte. She is a nationally acclaimed instructor, who is highly experienced at helping managers and real estate agents maximize the infinite opportunities that technology offers them. You can find her at www.amychorew.com.
Bill Lublin is Founder of the Social Media Marketing Institute and CEO of CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold, Philadelphia's largest Century 21 firm. He is an active real estate investor and blogger, writing for Agentgenius, and his own blogs, REreflections and MovePhilly.
By Lynn Minnick
As a certified international property specialist (or CIPS), I was able to participate in a really fantastic webinar session offered by the National Association of REALTORS®’ Global division. The webinar was presented by NAR Director of Digital Engagement Nobu Hata, who offered very helpful ideas for developing marketing with a global customer base in mind. As a result, here are the items that I am considering implementing to attain a more global reach:
The next step is taking my pages of notes, heading into a strategy session, and building an action plan. But the best take-away from this webinar was that all of the ideas work for growing both your international and local businesses.
Are you looking to buy a new home? Are you thinking that now's a great time to find bargains? Before you make an offer, it pays to know a little about the seller's situation.
If a home is being sold for below what the current seller owes on the property—and the seller does not have other funds to make up the difference at closing—the sale is considered a short sale. Many more home owners are finding themselves in this situation due to a number of factors, including job losses, aggressive borrowing against their home in the days of easy credit, and declining home values in a slower real estate market.
A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when the seller's lender has taken title of the home and is selling it directly. Homeowners often try to accomplish a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure. But a short sale holds many potential pitfalls for buyers. Know the risks before you pursue a short-sale purchase.
You're a good candidate for a short-sale purchase if:
If you're serious about purchasing a short-sale property, it's important for you to have expert assistance. Here are some people you want to work with:
Some of the other risks faced by buyers of short-sale properties include:
The risks of a short sale are considerable. But if you have the time, patience, and iron will to see it through, a short sale can be a win-win for you and the sellers.
* Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. A REALTOR® is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and is bound by NAR’s strict code of ethics.
Note: This article provides general information only. Information is not provided as advice for a specific matter. Laws vary from state to state. For advice on a specific matter, consult your attorney or CPA.