The Dustin Luther factor: Where it all began, sprinkled with blogging surprises

First, I don’t know about other’s experiences in blogging, but stumbling upon Rain City Guide over a year ago or so and Dustin’s introduction to me of the world of moving away from a static glorified business card (called a website) to that of the dynamic and interactive world of Blogging has had a tremendous impact on me and as a small business owner (like everyone here).

For example, I’ve been able to make contacts with people whom I would never have had the chance to without the platform of blogging, both personal contacts and business contacts. Today, I got a chance to head back to my old stomping grounds in Seattle due to a courtesy signing with a client who teaches at Seattle University. After finding a parking spot, I headed over to the campus and walked to the School of Engineering to meet for our appointment. After about 30 seconds, I realized I was talking to an old neighborhood acquaintance whom I have not seen for over 30 yrs!

Inspired, after the appointment, I drove up Madison St. towards 19th and headed North towards St. Joe’s School on 19th and Aloha where I went to school as a kid. On the Northwest corner of 19th & Aloha is a small building where I was given my first job as a skinny, messy 70’s style haired bloke. The impact of that first job is really what set the stage for the foundation of work ethic and character building.

My first job was given to me by the late George and Evelyn Benson of Benson’s Mission Pharmacy on Capitol Hill. For those unfamiliar, George Benson was a long time pillar of the Capitol Hill community and a respected Seattle City Councilman. You want to talk about customer service? I distinctly remember George pulling up in his car to hand deliver a prespcription for my mom or dad at our front door a few blocks away. Those were the days of intensely personalized service. Mission Pharmacy and the Benson’s are no longer, but the windows I washed and the sidewalk I swept are still there as they were 30 years ago.

I headed over to my old house where I grew up, drove around the front of the home, got out of my car and headed over to the steps and walkway that wind up to the front door, but I stopped short of that trek—memories just racing through my head. Walking back to my car, I then drove around to the alley, which really was “our” front door entrance. Peering through my passenger door window I stared up into my old bedroom window and into the back yard. I was too embarrassed to walk up and knock on the door. Perhaps another day.

Part of the motivation for telling you this is about finding out who you really work with and the idea of “trust.” Does it matter to you? Trust in real estate is the glue that keeps customers coming back to you. Trust to do the right thing. Trust to work in the best interest of our mutual client.

When you strip away all the marketing persona and fluff in our industry and get to know potential new clients in a transparent and personal way, giving a glimpse into what makes you tick, warts ‘n all, it is remarkable how quickly you forge trust in the person standing across from you. Finding a common denominator and building trust with a potential client on a level that has nothing to do with business has been exceptionally fruitful.

Since the beginning of this year, just days ago, through blogging, I have reunioned with two old childhood friends and received fruitful clients. When you strip it all away I’m not terribly different than any other agent or loan officer trying to make a living. On Thursday, I headed out to brokers opens to meet some new people in the business who work in our area and I bumped into an old “acquaintance” whom I met at college in 1985. I haven’t seen her for 21 yrs. The funny thing about the meeting was that she (the agent) mentioned to me “ya know, I just speak my mind, and I wanted to you to know that I had a crush on you way back when we were freshman.” What a Brokers open and what a week.

Dustin, although I’ve never met your family personally, thanks for introducing me to a way that a small fry can compete with the Goliath’s.


[photopress:it.jpg,thumb,alignright] This comes under the category of “You learn something new every day.” Over the years I have found that I generally have a much higher percentage of clients who moved here from other countries, or whose parents moved here from other countries, than some of my peers. I was at a client’s house over the weekend (helping to strip wallpaper, which I am very good at doing) and everyone at the house was speaking both English and Romanian, except me of course 🙂

One of the guests taught me a new term, that was more politically correct, and I was at once converted! I asked if ESL, English Second Language, was an appropriate term or offensive in any way. My sister had taught me ESL, since she has a fairly high percentage of students that are ESL the same as I have a fairly high percentage in my field. Prior to that I was using “The English is not my first language crowd”, so ESL was definitely an upgrade.

A lovely young lady advised that her husband preferred EAL, and that it was more politically correct. Of course! How American of me to suggest that English was someone’s SECOND language, when in fact, it could be their FIFTH language. My friends from Bulgaria speak at least six languages. So EAL, English ADDITIONAL Language, is clearly more appropriate for most people from other countries.

I am a 2nd generation American, which may be the reason why I have a high percentage of clients that are Indian, Filipino, Romanian, Italian, Korean, Chinese, and others over the years. Not because I speak their language, which I do not, but because I understand that different cultures have different ideas with regard to home ownership.

I remember back to 1990, my very first year in the business. I had a client who was a young man from Russia. It was apparent to me, though he did not come right out and say it, that he didn’t have an accurate perception of what was included in the sale, and what was not included. Now many of my clients have some questions in that regard, but for this client the entire idea of owning a property was somewhat “foreign” to him.

I literally walked around and touched practically every item. He was in fact quite pleased to learn that the kitchen cabinets would be staying as well as the stove. He was a little confused about why the wall to wall carpeting was going to stay, but the area rug would not be there after the owner moved out. And when it came down to the mirror in the living room leaving because it was hanging like a picture, but the “mirror” in the bathroom WAS staying because it was a recessed, built-in, medicine cabinet, he just shook his head and took my word for it 🙂

This brings up a point that a recent commenter raised. He said he sometimes has to read my writings twice to “get” what I am talking about. In almost every real estate transaction a client has to trust that the agent is correct, rather than totally understand everything involved in the transaction. For persons who speak English as an additional language, who have not been involved in home ownership issues for most of their lives, being able to trust the judgment of the agent is even more important than almost anything else. Trust becomes the all important factor in the relationship.

Even if they do not understand all of the details and the “whys”, if they trust the person at the helm, life becomes a whole lot easier for them. Being able to focus primarily on which home they want, as opposed to each and every detail of the process, can be quite a relief for anyone, but especially for EAL clients.

7 Reasons for Real Estate Agents to Blog

A recent conversation on Tribe got me thinking about my experiences with being a real estate blogger. Here are my seven reasons real estate agents should consider blogging:

  1. Fun. I really enjoy the many conversations that I’ve had with real estate professionals from all over the world that would never had taken place had I not started this blog!
  2. Expertise. By simply writing about real estate and your local community in a public forum (like this!) you become an expert. Anna gets emails and calls from people on a regular basis asking for her opinion on real estate issues. I’m a transportation engineer, but even my opinion on real estate issues holds some weight! For example, someone from my wife’s corporate office recently called to get advice on how to better use technology in real estate.
  3. Trust. A client recently told my wife that he completely trusted her advice because of the honesty in her writing! That’s darn near impossible to get with a regular website.
  4. Knowledge. I follow local news, national news, local blogs, real estate blogs, tech blogs, etc, because I feel a responsibility to my readers. Maybe you won’t feel that internal pressure, but it definitely drives me to ensure that I’m up-to-date on real estate news.
  5. Ranking. Because of all the unique content, we get hits on all kinds of unusual real estate searches. In addition, because we’ve gotten some links from some high-ranked websites (mostly other blogs), her site ranks really well when compared to most real estate sites. Additionally, on typical real estate searches like “Seattle real estate”, we’re ranked very high (#7 on Google) for such a new site and I know that we’re beating out sites that are spending $1000s a year on marketing their site.
  6. Cost. Compared to most marketing techniques that agents are using, blogging might as well be free. I pay $100 a year to host this site. That’s it! The cost of blogging is measured in time, not money!
  7. [photopress:Sasha_Drawing_1.jpg,thumb,alignright]

  8. Potential. Rain City Guide is not even 10 months old yet. Give us two or three years of blogging, and we’ll easily be the most popular real estate site in Seattle. Ideally, the site will continue to grow as the web technologies evolve and more perspectives are added. I’d love to do more podcasting and videoblogging. I’d love to have someone document the building or remodeling of their home. I’d love to have some more real estate agents blogging about their local areas (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, etc. neighborhoods). I’d love to have someone take on some more analytical issues (Tom?). There are so many interesting ways that Rain City Guide can evolve that I feel like we’re only touching the surface of it’s potential.

When I look into my crystal ball to see the future of real estate blogging, I see one or two real estate blogs in each major city that have really captured the local market by having a group of prolific real estate professionals (agents, brokers, lawyers, etc) writing about local issues. I see people turning to these blogs to get unique and personal perspectives on issues like moving, building, buying and listing. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that that is where I plan on taking Rain City Guide!