March Madness for Real Estate Events

I’m a volunteer on the planning committee for the next Seattle Real Estate BarCamp and I’m amazed at how many events being planned for real estate professionals in March…it’s borderline madness!

Here are a couple that I’m aware of:

March 2, 2011Northwest Video Marketing Summit brought to you by Frank Garay and Brian Stevens of TBWS fame.   Cost is $100 and you’ll leave the day long event at the Seattle Center with your own video blog.  Follow on Twitter:  #vmssea

March 3, 2011Seattle RE BarCamp takes place at the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms (same location as last year).   RE BarCamp is a FREE event where the real estate industry can come together to learn from each other (social media, tech, trends, etc.).  It is NOT intended to be a “class room” with instructors.   It’s an “un-conference” where participation from attendees is required.  The agenda is determined the morning of the event based on what is suggested by the participants.  If you’re wanting to be taught and not comfortable with the BarCamp format, you might want to consider other events.  Twitter: #rebcsea

March 9, 2001Agent Reboot  at the Washington State Convention Center.  This is more of a sit down and learn type program with a set schedule of what will be taught.   Cost is $49 if  you pre-register.

March 15 -17, 2001Real Estate Coach Tom Ferry will be at the Meydenbauer Center.  Cost $197.

Am I missing anything?

Are you ready for BuzzRE???

Next week, I’m helping to organize an internet marketing educational event and I encourage everyone interested to set aside next Thursday to join us!  For the BuzzRE event, we’ve lined up some of my favorite educators in real estate marketing including:

edgefieldIn addition to the great lineup of speakers, there’s going to be ample opportunities to learn from and network with hundreds of agents from the Pacific Northwest, many of whom are leaders in internet marketing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re want to learn about SEO, SEM, blogging, conversations, tools, or any other online marketing topic, the experts will be there and you just need to join us to take part!

Details for location and much more are on the BuzzRE website, but here’s a few key stats:

Cost: $25

When: June 2nd: 6pm – kickoff party
June 3rd: 9am – 5pm (with after party till 11pm)

Where: McMenamin’s Edgefield
2126 S.W. Halsey St.  Troutdale, OR 97060
(Just 10 minutes east of PDX)

More info:


We ran another BuzzRE event in Orange County a few weeks ago and it was so much fun. So many great people and so much great feedback, which has really helped guide this event in Portland!

Are you going to be there???  Let us know!

Let us know if you’re going to be there!  Either here or on Twitter!  (The hashtag to connect on twitter is: #BuzzRE).  And just a few of the Seattle folks I’ve noticed mention they’re going to be there include: Linda Aaron, Galen Ward, Darin Persinger and Scott Thomas

So much fun and let me know if I can add your twitter handle to the list!

[For those interested in a trip down memory lane… I had conversations with another real estate old-timer not too long ago, and we look back at the Las Vegas NAR event in ’07 as the kick-off point for real estate conversations on Twitter…  Back then, we were all trying to figure out if there was anything behind the hype of Twitter, and it seemed to me that the best place to figure out if it made sense was at a conference where we could use the tool to better connect.  With that in mind, I posted a list of real estate folks with Twitter accounts who would be attending NAR so others could follow along and connect with us. While the list started off small (I published the list with only 5 twitter profiles: JeffJoelJessicaKeith and Myself), I remember that by the end of the week, I was connected to over 50 people on Twitter who I’d met at the conference…  and I like to think that the background real estate conversation on Twitter that was sparked at NAR ’07 has never really died down!

Anyway, I was reminded of this story as I posted this list of a few folks from Seattle joining us at BuzzRE and realizing how these small lists of people sometimes blossom into unpredictable and amazing conversations!]

I hope to see you in Portland next week!

Thanks for the great time, Zillow!

As one of the presenters put it, last night Zillow took a page from real estate agent’s marketing tools and conducted an “open house.”  A certain number of agents were invited to attend, some mortgage professionals, and there were even invites out to buyers and sellers that frequently are on the site. Part of the open house involved sessions where the attendees could learn more about how Zillow functions – one session for marketing and another for the more technical side of the site.  So, my business partner and I split up to cover as much ground as possible.

For me, the marketing session didn’t produce anything new.  But, I guess I hadn’t realized until being there what a “power user” me and my team are with their site. Somehow I thought that the invites had said that they would be introducing new features, but as far as I could tell it’s stuff that we have found and started using as each new feature was introduced.  Plus, we also had already figured out that syndication sites (like Point2, vFlyer) weren’t the best way to get an individual agent’s info maximized for SEO. Although we do still use syndication sites because the go out to a lot of other sites that we just don’t want to spend the cycles having to re-enter each listing over and over and over.  It is very time consuming.  Gotta love widgets, that’s for sure!

Speaking of technical stuff… I was interested to see the data that they gave about the various sites and the stats for user activity.  Part of what was shown here also filtered over into the conversation at the after-function with regard to Zindexes ( and how that is measured and it’s rate of accuracy.

Afterward there was a soiree down at the Waterfront Grill in their private function locale in the former Rippa’s space.  (I’m curious to know where those photos they had taken will end up…. no, nothing tawdry, just lots of PR stuff) Good times had by all and some great debate between agents and Zillow employees alike.  Thanks to David Gibbons, Drew, Mike, and Scott Huber for all of your discussions with us and for being wonderful hosts along with your other employees.  It was really great to meet all of you and we look forward to seeing what else is “up your sleeve.”

The pain of over pricing and poor photos… and how not to get bit by them, 9+ questions to ask your listing agent.

I’ve noticed a trend in my business lately.  Several consumers are contacting our team for help in re-listing their home after having a poor experience with a prior agent.  While it is true that selling activity in Puget Sound is lower this year than last, there is still some positive selling activity occurring with some areas of Puget Sound continuing to grow in housing values.

So, with there still being some sales activity why is it that these folks are contacting us?

What I’ve seen as key factors in the lagging sales of these homes is poor pricing and presentation of the properties.  In one case the price had been overinflated by hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus it had poor presentation in photos and staging, so the home languished sitting on market for over a year.

In the majority of these situations things could have been handled differently with the past agent.  And, while I believe that me and my team provide a higher level of service than many others, we know we aren’t the only game in town that can figure out the right mix of marketing, presentation, and pricing for a property.  However, in these instances, I do believe the former listing agents could have done a better job – for certain – but, as a seller, it is also up to you to do a good job of interviewing a prospective agent.  A few good questions by the seller might have led to a different decision about how the house was marketed and led to a better discussion about what impacts the value of a home.  This, in turn, could have led to a more informed decision about where to place pricing.

So, to try and help those of you out there who are considering putting your home on the market, here is a list of 9+ questions you can use to qualify and interview your prospective listing agent.

1.   What methods of advertising do you use, and why?  Can you tell me which will likely be the most effective?  How comfortable are you using Internet advertising methods?

2.   Do you think my home will need prep work or staging to get it ready for market?  What types of things do you suggest for sellers and why?

3.   What is the typical timeline for selling a home that you have represented and how does that compare to the local marketplace?  What percentage of selling price do you typically get compared to list price?

4.  Do you offer any particular programs or services for each home that you sell such as a home warranty, professional photos, etc?  Does your fee determine whether additional services are included or not?

5.  If you don’t provide these additional services yourself – do you at least have companies you can refer me to that if I choose to use them directly to prepare my home more effectively, I can do so?

6.  Are there any special considerations I should have while selling my home such as security, prep for showings, etc?

7.  How often will you communicate with me about the sale of my home?  What kinds of reports can I expect?

8.  Will I get a chance to review and approve any of your advertising or marketing materials such as the flyer, MLS ad, or otherwise?  If not, why?  If I am not satisfied with a piece, will you work with me till I am?

9.  How will you determine the price that should be advertised for my home?  Will you include me in those pricing decisions and explain to me any reasoning for a price above or below my own estimate?

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive but it will definitely open up a lot of good (or what should be good) conversation between you and the agent you are interviewing.  If the agent is unable to respond to any of these questions then you should seriously reconsider whether or not you will use him/her regardless of if it is a “family friend” or otherwise.  In today’s marketplace it is important that you make the right choice the first time, if you can.  The buying public is much more sophisticated today than even 10 years ago because of the Internet and because of the onslaught of home focused television shows and channels like HGTV.

Used Car Salesmen, Trial Lawyers and Real Estate Agents

[Editor’s Note: It’s been a while since I added a new contributor to our mix here at Rain City Guide, but when Gordon Stephenson showed some interest (after at least two years of requests by me!), I can’t help but be excited to have him on board! Gordon is the Co-owner and Managing Broker of Real Property Associates. I first came across Gordon when Zillow added him to their Board of Directors in July of ’05, and have run into him both online and offline since then. He’s a great guy and a virtual real estate institution in Seattle, so I couldn’t be happier to bring him on board as a contributor!]

When I started selling real estate fresh out of college, nearly 20 years ago, my parents were confused, even apoplectic: “You just earned this degree and you’re choosing to sell real estate? How are you going to pay back your student loans? Couldn’t you have done that with a GED?

In Search of a Secret Weapon

You: An articulate, interesting and dynamic real estate agent/broker with a desire and determination to turbo-charge your online marketing activities. You have a wild streak and are willing to consider the day (potentially sooner than later) when nearly all of your business is generated online (a la Ardell)

Me: A ruthless online real estate marketing machine looking for a short-term commitment so that we can walk on stage in San Francisco at Inman’s Bloggers Connect conference as the winners of Project Blogger. 🙂

I happen to know that Ardell already has already chosen her secret weapon… so has Jim. While I have a few people in mind, I figured I’d open it up to the RCG community before I commit to anyone. (While not required, it would be helpful if you’ve either already attended one of my seminars or would be willing to attend the March 30 seminar in Pasadena…)

Note that there are a bunch of rules and guidelines, but we’ll do our best to differentiate ourselves by not following too many! I’m of the opinion that no one wins in marketing (personal, professional or corporate) by following the rules. 😉

Also, there was discussion while developing “the rules” on the appropriate amount of money that a participant could spend promoting themselves. If you team with me, this will be a very cheap endeavor. I need someone willing to commit time not money…

You can apply to take part by leaving a comment below. My recommendation is to read up on the event and then convince me that you are hungry and can commit to focusing your marketing activities to the online environment over the next few months. There WILL be a lot of publicity around this event, so this is not for the timid.

And in all seriousness, expect to have a lot of fun!

Interview with Joel Burslem of the Future of Real Estate Marketing

[photopress:joel_crop.jpg,full,alignright]When I first started reading Joel’s blog last Spring, it was like reading the type of posts I wish I was writing… He was covering a huge swath of the real estate technology field every day and making me look lazy! Needless to say, I always enjoy his writing and I consider him to be today’s gatekeeper of real estate technology news.

In terms of real estate technology, if it doesn’t go through the Future of Real Estate Marketing, it probably doesn’t matter.

What inspired you to start blogging?

I’ve always enjoyed writing as a way for me to help get my thoughts together on a particular subject and I’ve had a personal blog in one shape or another for about four years now. My first blog in fact was simply a way for my wife and I to keep our friends and family informed of our travels throughout Asia.

I have worked in different marketing roles over the years, in several different industries, but real estate was a new challenge for me. I quickly realized I had a lot to get up to speed with and started doing a lot of research online, which meant stumbling across and reading some of the existing real estate blogs, including RCG.

Naturally, after a while, I felt compelled to jot down a lot of what I was thinking about and so The Future of Real Estate Marketing was born.

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

I find it fascinating reading about and reporting on how the Internet, social media and technology are changing the real estate business. I’ve always tried to steer clear of market analysis or commenting some of the more pressing structural changes facing the industry. I prefer to leave that to the experts.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

I’ve always tried to have my own voice be heard through my writing. That’s by far the most personal side of blogging for me. Also, I’m fairly selfish on the things I write on; I tend to focus only things that interest me. But because I come from the high tech/consumer marketing world, and not strictly a real estate background, I think that I bring a fairly unique perspective.

From a technical standpoint, I use WordPress 2.0 with a heavily modified Qwilm theme. I did all of the design myself. I don’t consider myself a web design guru, but I can muddle my way through HTML, PHP and CSS. I love WordPress’ extendibility and am constantly installing and playing with new plugins. You can expect to see the sidebars on my site change fairly frequently.

Do you have any favorite posts?

Not any in particular. But I do like to think really big picture at times. Those are the posts that I really enjoy sitting down and hammering out.

What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?

RCG of course. I’m not just pandering to the host either. Dustin was definitely a driving force in getting me to put my thoughts out there. His encouragement early on was what helped me stick with it too.

I love the Bloodhound, Greg’s prose constantly amazes me, even if it takes me a couple of times to read it and understand it. The guys at Sellsius do an amazing job of pounding out useful posts day in, day out. I’m especially excited about some of the newer voices on the scene; Mary at RSS Pieces and Pat at TransparentRE in particular.

Some others in my newsreader:

Required Daily Reading

Guilty Pleasures

What tools/websites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

I swear by Firefox and its extensions. I collect links and interesting articles with and compose my blog posts with the Performancing plugin. I usually have several tabs open at the same time and I never have to leave my browser.

How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?

I never saw blogging as a way to improve my business when I first started. I just started writing. It’s grown to a point over the last little while where it can support itself financially (advertising revenue covers my hosting costs now) and it’s definitely helped raise my own profile in the industry I guess, but I think I’d still keep writing even if no one was reading it.

What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?

Maybe another redesign? Who knows… I’ve always more or less done things on a whim with FoREM. I love the challenge of pulling something down and recreating it in an entirely new form. I’m not happy unless I’m constantly innovating. That’s led to a lot of sleepless nights.

What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?

Honestly I think there’s going to be a shakeout. People are dipping there toes in right now and I expect over the next 6-12 months we’ll see a big rush of Realtors trying out blogging. But I’m guessing most will quickly tire of it. Those who are still at it in 3 years time will be the ones who persevere and stick it out.

I also hope we’ll see a lot more netcasts/vlogs – right now there’s a real lack of decent real estate-related content outside of the written word.

Thank you Joel!

If you liked this interview, you may find some of these appealing:

Interview with Rudy and Joe of the Sellsius Blog

In terms of real estate bloggers, Joe and Rudy are at the top of their game… Follow their blog for a little while and it becomes obvious that these are two guys who are committed to understanding, tracking and promoting the real estate blogosphere. I can’t be the only one to wonder if I’ll ever get a sneak peak at the money-making side of their operation (which was first announced on RCG in August 2005), but that is besides the point because this interview is about blogging and there is no doubt these guys have played a pivotal role in shaping the connections between real estate bloggers as it exists today!

What inspired you to start blogging?

We started blogging very early. As Silver Sponsors of the Inman Connect NYC in January 2006, we attended several conferences on blogging and caught the bug. We were readers of RCG, Matrix, Inman & Property Grunt. Property grunt & Inman gave us positive press and encouragement and you gave us life as vaporware 🙂 We never forgot it. This really inspired us. In the beginning it was easier, since we had no readership to answer to. We felt, heck, no one is reading us so let’s do what we want. So, in a sense we inspired each other. We decided early on we’d break some rules, go our own way and see what happens. We’re still learning.

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

We enjoy marketing , branding, advertising, technology and personal stories. Our business is promoting our members, helping them attract more clients and improving their bottom line. We are always looking for anything new and innovative that can help them.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Hopefully, our personality comes across in how we write, comment and choose our images. We try to interject humor and put the Sellsius° spin on a topic. We look for the exception to the rule and go against the grain when we feel it’s right. We stand up for the consumer’s right to informed choice, we advocate for professionals and want to improve the industry we love.

Do you have any favorite posts?

We love all our Zillow posts, especially Unzillowable, To Coin a Phrase and Mining The Elusive Unzillowable, where JF debates David G. We are also proud of the Bell Labs posts where we collaborated with Ryan Block of Engadget to save a piece of technology history. We felt like journalists covering a story. We liked Realtor’s Allan Dalton Calls Zillow Carnival Act because we got to create our best Selltoon°. We also like our promo pieces (Mary Kay Gallagher and Willie Williams). We did a Year’s Best Posts so you get an idea of what we liked. We like a lot of what we do because we’re having so much fun.

What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?

We try to keep up with everyone in the real estate blogos. We would not choose a favorite because at different times we follow different blogs. It depends on the topic discussed. Zillow posts always get JF’s attention. Copyblogger is a must read. We also like Lifehacker, Micro Persuasion, TechCrunch, PronetAdvertising. There are so many more. We still visit grow-a-brain and Joe likes some Russian sites. We find a lot of great writing & commenting on Active Rain.

What tools/websites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

Bloglines, tabbed browsing, the Wire Services, YouTube, Wikipedia (often better than Google), Firefox extensions like AIOS & Stumbleupon, Google’s Images, Alerts, & News. Fast Stone Capture for screenshots & resizing images is a MUST. Tiny URL, CoComment & Commentful are useful commenting tools.

How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?

The blog helps build the Sellsius° brand and we will use it to promote our membership. We are big believers in branding. We want the Sellsius° brand to represent trust, honesty, caring, knowledge and PASSION.

What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?

We can’t be too specific other than saying we are going to better promote others, including other bloggers. We will also partner with other bloggers for new ideas we have for the genre. We have already collaborated on a consumer facing blog called

What is the one tool or feature that you wish your site had?

We invented the Blog Surfer to help retrieve archived posts in a new way and increase page views. The blog surfer is a random remote control, a blog post stumbleupon. We would like it to be tag or category specific so you could surf only marketing posts, for example. Our page views skyrocketed with the surfer.
A tool I’d like to see is an automatic Table of Contents Creator where each post title would be sent to a categorized Table of Contents, with a corresponding link to the post. Blogs are like books and a Table of Contents is necessary. But keeping a Table of Contents up to date is cumbersome. If you visit our Table of Contents, it needs updating.

What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?

Blogs will be attached to every real estate website. Every blog will have advertising of some kind. That won’t even take 3 years, maybe only 1. More contributing writers. More hired writers. Payment gateways to transact business on the blog. Blogs will be more varied. Skype on every blog. Blogoholics galore.

Thank you both Joe and Rudy for indulging me in this great interview!

Want more? Here are some more interviews with other influential people within the real estate blogosphere:

If you build it, they will come…

I started responding to Brian’s comment and it turned into a blog post…

[photopress:200px_Field_of_Dreams.jpg,full,alignright]I can tell from the enthusiasm I’m seeing around real estate circles and all the action I’m seeing in the beginning of this new year that this will be a breakout year on the blogging front. There are a bunch of different reasons, definitions and ways of viewing the overriding theme, but I’d characterize it by saying we’re definitely seeing a massive swing where agents are now using pull methods of marketing instead of push methods.

Many agents are creating their own blogs, refocusing their content based on lessons learned, focusing on improving the quality of their listings, or taking part in social networks… No longer are agents going to push their message at consumers when they don’t want it (like mass-mailers, supermarket ads, bus benches, etc.), but rather I can sense that more and more agents are looking for ways to reach potential clients when and where they WANT to be reached…

To steal a theme from a classic movie… If you build it (provide good, helpful, interesting real estate information), they will come!

How to Market Yourself on LinkedIn

This is a follow up to my recent endevor to immerse myself in some of the more popular social networks on the web. Now that I think we’ve exhausted the MyBlogLog discussion, I thought I’d turn to LinkedIn and some of the ways that agents can use this platform to market themselves and potential earn new clients.

How LinkedIn works

LinkedIn is a relatively “closed” social network in that you don’t really get much power out of the system unless you are actively involved. While it is possible to see a someone’s online resumes without being logged in (here’s mine), the service only becomes really useful when you can see their connections and references.

How LinkedIn Really works
For LinkedIn purists, you need to only like to people you know and trust. That way, when other contacts are looking to use the services or hire someone from your contact list, they know they can have a higher level of trust in that person. This sounds good in theory, but LinkedIn doesn’t work that way anymore. Too many people have muddied the true “trust” waters, so the “rules” have changed.

For many people using LinkedIn today, the “game” is to link up with as many people as possible. For someone trying to reach an audience of potential people to hire and/or give them work (i.e. real estate agents, mortgage brokers, lawyers, etc.), you want as many connections as you can get because each connection gets you that much closer to someone who may be looking for your services in the future.

Why should you be on LinkedIn?

Here are four good reasons:

  • Real estate professionals are still pretty novel on the site, so there is plenty of room to stick out.
  • It is really easy to stand out… Simply upload your address book and ask previous clients for recommendations.
  • The site is primarily made up of well-to-do, tech savvy people. In my office at Move, I would estimate something like 75 to 80% of the people have an active LinkedIn profile, including almost our entire executive staff.
  • It meets the “what’s the worst that could happen test?

Seven steps to make LinkedIn work for you
Step 1: Sign up for an account
Step 2: Fill in your profile
Step 3: Upload your address book and connect with everyone who is already a member of linked in (If I’m not in your address book, add my email:
note: They make it extremely easy to upload your online address book (like one through Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and/or Hotmail) by simply giving your username and password, although my advice is to always use extreme caution with giving up your password!
Step 4: Selectively invite people from your address book… My experience has been that unless I send a personal invitation to someone with a really good reason why they should join, I get a REALLY low response rate. Nonetheless, if you have some previous clients who are particularly tech-savvy (and would give you a good recommendation) then they would make a good invite candidate.
Step 5: Start recommending anyone and everyone you can. If you give a good enough review of someone, they are quite likely to return the favor! That’s a lot easier than begging for recommendations and definitely makes a good place to start
Step 6: Start begging for recommendations from all your previous clients who are on the network (and presumably have a good opinion of you!)
The cool part about these last couple of steps is that once you get even one recommendation, you’ll start showing up in their list of recommended service professionals.

Step 7: After a few weeks, I recommend returning to the site and re-uploading your address book. It’s easy and you might be surprised how many of your new contacts are already on the site!

Obviously, the more recommendations and the more connections the better.

To give you an idea of how this might work for you, my wife and I were recently interested in finding a financial adviser in our area. The first thing I did was clicked on the financial adviser link and then sorted by people who were only one degree of separation from me. One guy out of that list looked real promising and will probably get a call from us soon. Next, we went one more degree of separation and found a few more (some with a ton of recommendations). We’ll definitely give at least one or two of those people a call when were ready to start the process of actively finding a financial adviser. The parallels for reaching someone who is searching for a tech savvy real estate agent should be obvious!

There is lots more information about how to use LinkedIn all over the web, but I figured this primer was probably pretty good for the typical real estate agent… Nonetheless, if you want more, check out Guy Kawasaki’s 10 12 Ways to Use LinkedIn.