Alex Stenback of Behind the Mortgage has a way of making real estate writing entertaining. While all of his articles convey good nuggets of information, he often throws in articles like Your Lawn is a Legume to keep you on your toes. Additionally, his linklubes are among the best in real estate.
When not blogging, Alex is a Mortgage Banker at Prime Mortgage in the Twin Cities area.
What inspired you to start blogging?
I’d been an avid blog reader, as much for the entertainment value as anything else, while at the same time, looking for a better way to communicate with my clients, prospective customers, and professional partners – canned newsletters have never been my thing, and really how timely is a quarterly, or even monthly newsletter anymore. One day it just sort of dawned on me – why not a real estate and mortgage blog.
Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?
Because most of the mortgage industry is such a sales-pitch, huckster-come-on oriented marketplace, I enjoy educating readers on how it really works and exposing some of the more tawdry tactics and operators in the business – I really try to respect the intelligence of my readers, who are generally the opposite of those that fall for the “lowest rates on the planet” type of advertising.
What have you done to personalize your blog?
After I’d established the blog, maybe eight to ten months in, I had some professional design work done, but for newer bloggers, I always recommend against getting too caught up in the design and appearance of the blog – focus on the content first, develop your style and a readership, then worry about looks – some of the most widely read blogs around run a very basic template to this day.
Do you have any favorite posts?
One of my early posts about African Weather and Mortgage Rates remains one of my favorites, along with the times we’ve broken news stories, which then got picked up by local media.
What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?
Too many to list, but one of my all time favorites, and maybe my biggest influence was Hugh McLeod’s www.gapingvoid.com.
What tools/websites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?
RSS feeds, delicious, and google alerts.
How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?
Readers who become clients accounted for 20% of my business this year, which is a number that stunned even me. Its been great PR as well – If done right a blog will get you more valuable PR (media mentions, interviews, expert status, search engine rankings, etc.) by accident than most PR firms could get you on purpose, and at a vanishingly small fraction of the cost of any paid web marketing effort. Also, some advice for those considering a blog – let sharing information, informing, and entertaining your readers be your focus. If you are blogging just for PR, Search engine rankings, and to have another advertising channel to pipe the same old canned real estate content onto the internet you are putting the cart before the horse, and the blog may very well fail – people’s radar for sincerity is highly tuned in the blog world.
What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?
We’ll be adding a couple of new features, a few of them still in development and top secret, but they will be complimentary to the blog, and dabble in other forms of media in one case – I am a big fan of keeping it simple, and good – there is such a thing as too feature rich – part of the reason blogs work so well is because they are very narrowly focused – many larger websites are sunk by their own ambitions to be all things to all visitors.
What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?
The marketplace is starting to get very crowded, with major media (NYT, ahem) starting to catch on to the form. I think we’ll see more “superlocal” blogs emerge – call them real estate microblogs, where rather than focusing on major metropolitan areas, they track real estate happenings in very specific areas, neighborhoods, etc.
(Read more interviews with some of real estate’s top bloggers under the Real Estate Q&A category)