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For Sale by Owner: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

April 16, 2015

Many sellers weigh the option of whether to use a Realtor, or take on the daunting task of selling their property on their own. Real estate transactions involve one of the biggest financial investments most people experience in their lifetime. With a small upside cost and a large downside risk, it is foolish to consider a deal in real estate without the professional assistance of a Realtor.

While some homeowners decide to list their home “For Sale by Owner” in an attempt to save money, many actually end up fsbospending more than they would have paying the 3% commission to a listing agent. After all, on average, an agent spends $1,000 on marketing initiatives for each listing alone. Aside from the marketing expense, they also are familiar with the most effective platforms to market their listings so that they sell at their most profitable price as quickly as possible. In addition, sellers lack the expertise required to effectively price the home and negotiate with buyers, which could be even more costly.

In summary, real estate professionals assist sellers with the pricing, marketing, security, negotiating/renegotiating, and the closing of their home. If you are considering listing your home “For Sale by Owner”, it is imperative that you are aware of the pros and cons and understand all that you are potentially sacrificing by forgoing representation of a seasoned professional.


Pricing:

In all honesty, pricing a home is probably THE most important marketing strategy, as it is essentially the most critical factor that draws in buyers or turns them away. A home that is not priced competitively may result in a longer time on the market, price reductions, and a lower selling price than it would have had if it were priced correctly in the first place.

Real estate professionals guide clients to make the right pricing choice based on the key factors in selling the property. They know the most current sales information in your neighborhood, including current listing prices, physical property conditions, financing terms, and other relevant data. In addition, they provide the average square foot costs of similar homes, median and average sale prices in the area, the average days spent on the market, and the ratios of list-to-sold prices in order to price your home at its most competitive price. Homeowners who choose to list their home themselves do not have the tools, knowledge or experience to know what price will move the home quickly, which can be more costly than anything else.

 

Marketing:

Real estate professionals also help market your home to other real estate agents and to the public. The choice of media and the frequency of advertising depend a lot on the home and specific market. A qualified real estate professional will know when, where, and how to advertise your property effectively. Plus, their industry contacts and networks provide a marketing outlet that sellers simply don’t have.

Aesthetically improving a home is another marketing tactic that real estate agents bring to the table. Often times, listing agents also work with buyers, so they know what features buyers are looking for in their home! This is a huge benefit to sellers, as listing agents will often recommend specific improvements, updates, etc. that will make the home more “marketable” and ensure it is more appealing to prospective buyers.

Staging a home is another important aspect of marketing a home. A real estate agent knows how to make the rooms look bigger, create an inviting ambience, enhance curb appeal, and highlight the most desirable qualities so that your home leaves a lasting impression after showings and open houses! Not to mention, the same staging techniques can be executed for listing photographs, videos, etc. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so displaying high quality, eye-catching photos online is one of the most powerful, if not THE most powerful, component to marketing a home!

 

Security:

The power of the internet can be a blessing and a curse to home sellers. Sure, you have a platform to maximize exposure of your property and reach more buyers (most of which start their home search online), but it also puts you at risk for the growing number of threats and scams circulating the internet, many of which target “For Sale by Owner” listings or rental properties.

Realtors help keep sellers secure. Real estate professionals are committed to treat all parties of a transaction with honesty and subscribe to a strict code of ethics. In addition, they are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the buying and selling process, which includes identifying potential threats and handling them accordingly before their client ever becomes aware of the problem.

realtor safetyKeeping your family and home physically safe is probably the utmost concern to home sellers. After all, countless strangers will enter your home and explore its rooms, amenities, and features during open houses and showings. Without the proper training, knowledge, experience, and tools, you are not only more likely to unknowingly allow the wrong person into your home, but also to be ill-prepared in handling a threatening situation if it presents itself.   However, real estate agents who are trained on safety know the necessary precautions to take to keep themselves, your home and family safe. Not only do they manage open houses and showings, but they also prescreen prospects and filter phone calls to eliminate potential danger. As a result, homes that are advertised as “for sale by owner” are more susceptible to both being targeted by – and falling victim to – these criminals.

 

Negotiating:

The power of effective negotiation skills can make all the difference in the world to delivering the most favorable outcome!   A Realtor objectively evaluates every buyer’s proposal without compromising your market position. If bid proposals are outside of the listed price, the real estate agent will devise an in depth analysis of the current market, advise their client on how to proceed based on what choices are available in the market, and mediate on the seller’s behalf until they are satisfied with the terms of the contract.

Keep in mind, the initial agreement is only the beginning to a long process of appraisals, inspections, and financing. A Realtor can help write a legally binding, win-win agreement that will be more likely to make it through the process.

 

Closing:

Between the initial sales agreement and the closing agreement, questions may arise. Unexpected repairs are sometimes required to obtain financing, or a concern with the title could potentially be uncovered. A real estate professional is the best person to objectively help you resolve these issues and move the transaction to settlement.

In addition, a real estate professional will coordinate the process of inspections, appraisals, and financing. They stay on top of contingency dates, process the required paperwork and documents, scrutinize every file, and most importantly, make sure their client is protected at all costs. All of these combine to prevent closing delays and ensure a smooth, pleasant experience from beginning to end!

 

If you are still considering listing your home without the help of an experienced Realtor, there are a few recommendations that will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that most sellers make. Hire an attorney to review all documents before you sign them, invest some time and money into marketing your home, research your current market prior to determining the listing price, pay someone to come stage your home, hire a professional photographer, and contact your local police department for safety tips!

For Sale by Owner: Tips for a Favorable Outcome

February 17, 2015

Selling your home is one of the largest financial transactions you will encounter in your lifetime. Real Estate transactions can be taxing even for the most seasoned professional, as numerous issues can erupt throughout the many stages of the selling process that cause delays.  If not handled properly and effectively, these setbacks not only produce unnecessary stress to the sellers, but they also can be detrimental to outcome.

for sale by owner blogOwners who sell their home by themselves are especially vulnerable to these  pitfalls, as they lack the expertise and market knowledge that a real estate agent possesses that ensures that they develop an effective pricing and marketing strategy; address the appropriate legal issues; prepare and finalize the necessary paperwork and documents; maintain industry compliance; etc. throughout every phase of the process. Plus, these sellers also lack the industry contacts that real estate agents rely on to overcome obstacles and ensure a smooth and efficient closing. However, if you are contemplating listing your home as “For Sale by Owner”, implement the following considerations to optimize your experience and results.

 

1. Research:

  • It is crucial to understand the ins-and-outs of real estate transactions. You can find information in books or even study the documents you have from buying your current home.
  • Gather all of the paperwork and forms you will need for the closing, (i.e. copies of property records for appraisers, the title company, and others, as well as insurance documents, disclosures and legal documents).
  • Line up a real estate attorney, appraiser and title company.

 

2. Stage Your Home:

  • Fix any cosmetic problems or functional issues before trying to sell your home. Things that you cannot fix should be addressed in the home’s pricing.
  • Paint your walls a neutral color, replace the carpeting, refinish floors, inspect appliances, heating/air conditioner, the roof, etc.
  • Make sure your home is cosmetically clean and perfect. Your home should be immaculate for any listing photos and scheduled tours!
  • Trim your trees, wash the windows, box up any clutter, and let in natural light.

 

3. Price Your Home Effectively:

  • The number one mistake for owners who sell their own home is pricing the home too high. This will scare away potential buyers and cause it to sit on the market for a longer period of time.
  • Pricing a home effectively helps a home sell faster.
  • Check out home sales within your neighborhood for the last six months. Attend open houses and check out your competition.
  • Hire an appraiser.

 

4. Utilize Multiple Platforms to Market Your Home:

  • Eighty percent of home buyers begin their search on the internet, so homes that don’t sell in a timely manner are normally the result of poor internet marketing.
  • Spend a good portion of the 3% you saved from a real estate agent’s commission on marketing efforts. A real estate agent spends roughly $1,000 and countless hours on extensive marketing for each listing, but homeowners who do not have access to the same tools and systems as licensed professionals can expect that number to triple.
  • Hire a professional photographer to take quality photos of the front, back and interior of your home. Remember to remove dishes from the sink, empty the trash cans, close toilet lids, etc. Pictures of an unkempt house will turn off prospective buyers.
  • Invest time and money creating, printing and distributing appropriate marketing and advertising materials, such as flyers, brochures, and postcards. Pay brokers for mailing lists so that you can distribute these pieces.
  • Pay a fee to list your home on the MLS to get similar exposure as a real estate agent.
  • Advertise on social media sites, local newspapers, Craigslist, and other websites that cater to home-sales-by-owner.

 

5. Perfect Your Negotiation Skills:

  • If you have a firm bottom-line, make sure it is justified with strong research.
  • Consider bringing in a real estate attorney to facilitate the process.

 

6.  Avoid Closing Delays:

  • Many problems can arise throughout the negotiating and closing process that are hard to avoid without a seasoned professional.
  • It is imperative that you are familiar with any paperwork required by your state.
  • Be prepared for delays, and make the turnover and move flexible to these delays.
  • Hire a title company to handle the last minute details, and come to the closing table with everything mandated by state and federal law.

 

There are a number of other pitfalls that “For Sale by Owners” face throughout the selling process, such as safety hazards and real estate scams.  Real estate agents receive proper training to secure their safety and protect their clients from falling victim to these scams, so it is wise to consider hiring a professional to at least host your open houses and showings. However, if you choose to do so yourself, contact your local authorities for safety precautions and tips.

 

Feng Shui Tips For Your Home

February 16, 2015
Feng-Shui-A-balance-of-elements

In Feng Shui, your home is viewed as a whole being where each part is intricately connected to the other with a constant energy exchange. By placing an emphasis on this energy exchange, Feng Shui is able to provide an analysis of what makes your home appealing and inviting. These simple suggestions will help you create a home that is welcoming, inspiring and balanced!

 

  1. In general, you should care for your home the same way that you care for yourself.
  • According to Feng Shui, your home is a metaphor of your life and reflects your balance.
  • Execute necessary repairs efficiently, including mold, cracks, broken items, dull paint, etc. that convey a negative image of your life.

 

  1. Once your home is back to its prime state, focus on the entry way.feng-shui-tips-entryway
  • This is considered the mouth of opportunity, where it enters and leaves your home.
  • Enhance your home’s entry with a fresh doormat, or place colorful plants on each side of the door. Clean it up by eliminating bug nests and cob webs. Paint a dull door, and keep it well lit.
  • By implementing each of these suggestions, the entrance of your home will be inspiring and create positive energy.

 

  1. After you transform your entry way, focus on decluttering the home’s interior.
  • According to Feng Shui, we are energetically connected to each of our belongings. Therefore, too much clutter will deplete our energy level.
  • Remove the items that don’t inspire you and keep only the items that you love. Remember, your home is a reflection of who you are today, not who you were 10 years ago.
  • Consider removing any furniture that could be hazardous. This includes any piece that blocks pathways that you can bump into, pieces with sharp corners, certain shelving, etc. Anything that can prevent your subconscious from feeling safe should be discarded.

 

  1. You can incorporate Feng Shui in every room of your house by arranging furniture in an empowering position.
  • The pieces of furniture where you spend the majority of your time should face the entry of that room, including your desk, bed, and couch.
  • Not only will this ensure that you are aware of your surroundings, but it also creates a more welcoming and inviting atmosphere when the guest enters your room.

 

  1. Incorporate nature into your home.
  • Living things bring vital energy into the home and can help realign its energy. Place plants in the corners of the room. If 3867-12759-feng-shui-foutain you have pets, bring them into your home.
  • This also applies to air and light.  Allow as much natural light as possible to illuminate every room. Open windows for fresh air, or buy air purifiers.
  • Moving water circulates prosperity throughout your home, so strategically place flowing water elements in the southeast corner of your home.

 

  1. Finally, implement the concept of Yin and Yang.
  • Incorporating both Yin and Yang components in every room is crucial in creating a balanced, supportive environment throughout the home.
  • Yin is considered to be a more passive or restful energy, so incorporate more Yin features in areas meant for rest, such as your bedroom or bathroom. Some Yin features include dark colors, soft paint, or circular décor.
  • Yang qualities should be more apparent in the active rooms of your home, including the office, kitchen, exercise room, or den. Brighter colors and lighting, less details, straight lines, and simple prints are associated with the Yang element.
  • Keep in mind, your body’s response to certain colors will vary depending on your stage of life, so monitor how colors make you feel and accommodate its usage accordingly.

 

 

Whether selling your home or updating it so that it is more accommodating for you and your family, incorporating Feng Shui into each room of your home is a cost effective way to enhance its appearance and reinforce positive energy!

 

Preparing Your Home for Thanksgiving

November 21, 2014

thanksgivingWith Thanksgiving less than a week away, many families are using the next few days to clean their home for guests, gather their recipes, and purchase ingredients. However, when hosting family and friends for Thanksgiving, it is crucial to be prepared for an assortment of issues that may arise. After all, there’s more to the holiday than just eating turkey and watching Football, and taking the necessary precautions can alleviate stress and ensure that guests have a memorable Thanksgiving holiday!

 

Before Guests Arrive:

 

  1. Evaluate All Appliances:
  • Make sure that all appliances you are planning to use on Thanksgiving are in working order to avoid any malfunctions when preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Research the life expectancy of your most used appliances. Replace or fix any that may pose a threat.
  • Don’t use your oven’s self-clean cycle in the week before Thanksgiving, as it can be stressful on the appliance. Instead, use damp cloths to clean it to avoid a last minute break down.
  • Check your oven’s temperature gauge. Place a thermometer on the middle rack, set the oven temperature, and when it heats up, verify that the temperatures match. If they don’t, make necessary repairs.
  • Put less stress on yourself and your oven by using alternative appliances for side dishes, such as a microwave, toaster oven, crock pot, or grill. If there are no alternative options, ask your guests to bring a side with them.

 

  1. Perform Basic Cleaning and Maintenance:
  • Refrigerator:   Clean condenser coils in the fridge with a coil brush, wipe down interior and door gaskets with baking soda and water, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to gasket at hinge, clean the water and ice dispenser and soak the spill shelf in vinegar. Clear out old food to make room for leftovers.
  • Dishwasher: For stainless steel tubs, run potscrubber cycle without dishes or detergent for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, interrupt the cycle and pour two cups of white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher. Close the dishwasher, and complete the wash.  For plastic tubs, fill the detergent cup with three to four ounces of citric acid crystals and run the normal wash cycle. Follow up with a second wash cycle and include detergent.
  • Microwave: Heat up one cup of water for three minutes on full power, and let it stand for five minutes after it is finished to allow the steam to soften the food. Then, wipe up the caked on food!
  • Pantry: Organize and remove old food, spices, etc. not only to make sure you have enough room to store ingredients for the meal and other miscellaneous supplies, but also so that you don’t ruin the food with outdated, poor tasting spices.
  • Overall: Tidy up bedrooms, bathrooms, and common areas that will accommodate your guests. In addition, make sure your home, especially your kitchen, is safe. Put household cleaners, sharp objects, lighters, and other harmful objects where they belong. Unplug appliances that aren’t being used, and wrap up the cord. If children are present, use backburners of the stove as much as possible, cover electrical outlets, or invest in a child safety gate to keep them out of harm’s way if necessary.

 

  1. Take Inventory and Create a Detailed Grocery List:
  • Food: Organize the recipes that you plan to use in one book, and write a detailed list of ingredients you will need for each recipe. Look through your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and cross the items that you already have off your grocery list. Remember to check the expiration dates of all food products and spices, and replace expired items as needed.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Make sure to have a full supply of cleaning products on hand in case any accidents occur. This includes laundry detergent, carpet cleaner, dish soap, kitchen and bathroom cleaner, etc., baking soda, non bleach detergent, ammonia, bleach, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, club soda, lemon juice, etc.
  • Cookware and Utensils: Look through your cabinets and determine if you have enough Tupperware containers, plates, spoons, forks, knives, bowls, pots, and pans necessary to cook each meal, store leftovers, and accommodate each guest. Repair or replace any broken items that you need to use, retrieve items that you loaned out but were never returned, and sharpen dull knives.
  • Seating and Eating Space: As soon as you have a head count on the number of guests you can expect on Thanksgiving, inventory your tables and chairs to make sure that they all have a place to sit and eat! If necessary, rent or buy tables and chairs, and repair defected items. Also, consider other tables, chairs, and household items throughout your home, and see if there is a way to convert them to temporary eating spaces.
  • Storage: Before guests arrive, make sure any large scale projects in the kitchen are complete and do not occupy needed space. If applicable, create more room by adding temporary storage, such as a rolling island or mini fridge, or improvise with what you have, and use spaces such as the laundry room to store food and supplies.
  • Prepare a Detailed Grocery List: Aside from food, spices, cleaning supplies, cookware and utensils, etc. there are other essential items that you don’t want to forget at the store, including garbage bags, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, coffee filters, batteries, etc.

 

Thanksgiving Day Cleaning Tips:

 

  1. Garbage Disposal:
  • Remove build up in your garbage disposal by grinding harder items, such as fruit pits, ice, or small bones, that scrape the inside of the disposal and pipes before grinding any other foods.
  • Flush food waste through the plumbing system and prevent debris from settling in pipes by running cold water for 30 seconds before and after each use.
  • Throw away non-food items, grease, and fat that can clog the disposal.
  • Take your time when cleaning up.

 

  1. Dishes:
  • Set up stations of plastic tubs, and fill them with soapy, lukewarm water. When you run out of room in the dishwasher, place dishes in the tubs until you can clean them or run another cycle through the dishwasher.
  • Line baking dishes and pans with foil before you start preparing the food. Then, when you are finished and remove the foil, the dish will be nearly spotless and require minimal cleaning!

 

Marketing Your Real Estate Business on Instagram

October 10, 2014

instagram logoAs one of the fastest growing social media networks, Instagram is an instrumental marketing platform for real estate agents, as it provides another free outlet for branding, exposing listings, generating leads, and engaging your audience. In addition, its function as a photo and video-sharing social networking service enables Instagram to establish a more personal and emotional connection with followers since consumers tend to be visually driven. In fact, statistics show that Instagram delivers 58 more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. Plus, with 200 million active monthly users, it is an effective and significant channel to reach potential clients, impress your current clients, and stay relevant to your past clients.

Whether new to the industry or an industry veteran, Instagram is a beneficial tool that will aid in virtually every aspect of branding, marketing, and prospecting.   Therefore, it is imperative that agents take advantage of this platform and incorporate the tips, various apps and capabilities below into their daily marketing regimen in order to stay competitive and build their business.

 

  1. Set Up Your Account:
  • Instagram does not offer the ability to create a separate business identity like Facebook does, so users are able to integrate their work related images and videos with their personal photos.
  • Current Instagram users should make necessary adjustments to their account to ensure that the username, picture, bio, and website represent their business and brand. To do this, login to your account through your smart phone, tablet, or computer, and select “Edit Profile”. Once you make the necessary changes, hit “Submit”.
  • New users will have to establish an Instagram account by downloading the app on their smart phone. Then, you can login with your Facebook username and password or create a separate username and password. Again, choose a username that represents your brand (i.e. RealtorJohnDoe).
  • Add your real estate headshot or a photo of one of your listings as your main image, upload your real estate biography to your account bio and your agent website to your website in order to send backlinks to your website and improve rankings!
  • Once the account has been updated or created, sync it to your Facebook account so that you can easily find your friends on Instagram.
  • Download a badge and paste it on your website, blog, email signature, email marketing, and other social media sites from your computer by logging in to your account, clicking on your username from your home page, and selecting “Badges” from the drop down menu.

 

  1. Interact with Other Users:
  • Consistently engaging not only those that follow you, but also those that you follow is crucial!
  • If your Instagram is synced to your Facebook account, you will be able to follow your Facebook friends immediately after creating your account.
  • Find other users to follow by searching for hashtags that interest you in the search bar, such as real estate, home décor, luxury listings, etc.
  • Spend time daily interacting with users by liking and providing thoughtful commentary on their posts as well as responding to comments from other users on your posts.
  • Add your Instagram badge with a link to your profile to your social media, email signature, blog, website, and email marketing campaigns as mentioned earlier, and include a call to action to encourage others to follow you.

 

  1. Brand Your Business in Every Post:
  • Instagram is a fast, simple and fun way to share your life with family and friends through photos and videos, so it is essential to post both personal and business related pictures throughout the day to relate to a broader scope of followers. However, even your personal posts present branding opportunities.
  • Let your personal posts illustrate your connection with and knowledge of the local neighborhoods and surrounding communities; thus, branding you as an area expert. Capture and share images while at local hot spots, a new restaurant in the area, neighborhood or community events, fundraisers, school functions, etc.
  • Integrate real estate oriented posts while on the job to remind your audience that you are a real estate agent. Share pictures of your happy clients, your personal listings, new listings or featured listings in the area, behind the scenes glances of the life of a real estate agent, new construction sites, homes you are showing to a buyer, vendors you work with, a successful closing, decorating or home staging ideas, gardens, etc.
  • Include captions to each post with information about the photo or video, such as details about an event, thanking a vendor or agent who helped you with a closing, the final score of a local sporting event, a restaurant review, a local business recommendation, remodeling or decoration advice, etc.

 

  1. Utilize Tools to Expand Your Reach:
  • Tag clients, colleagues, family and friends who are pictured in your images and videos or relate to them in some way. This will give you thehashtag opportunity to interact with them and their followers and broaden your scope.
  • Incorporate hashtags into the captions of your posts. Hashtags are essential and necessary to boost engagement and attract followers, as users can search for hashtags to find posts. Therefore, your hashtags should be relevant to your post and generic so that it is easier to find. For example, if you post an image of a listing, you could use #realestate, #realestateagent, #houstonhomesforsale, #pricereduced, #luxuryhome, #waterfrontproperty, as well as other property descriptions or the name of the neighborhood. If you are posting a picture of a football game at a local school, you might hashtag the school name, the opposing team’s name, football, the school district, other information about the school, like #awardwinning, #exemplary, #statechampions, etc. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags for each post, so the more the merrier!
  • Enable photo maps when you post a video or picture to pin your location on a map. Not only does this demonstrate your familiarity and knowledge with your community and neighborhood, allow users to find your photos on the map, and mark the exact location of different listing or showings, but it also builds your credibility as an expert in that area and creates relevance in your community.
  • Maximize exposure with social media integration to automatically share your posts to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. This not only saves you time, but it also ensures your branding is consistent on all social media platforms. To manually share your posts, click on the dots at the bottom of the image or video you want to share. Then, elect to “Share” or “Copy URL” and paste it to your desired destination.

 

  1. Capture Your Audience:
  • Enhance your images by using clear, focused pictures with natural light, and apply digital filters to edit brightness, saturation, contrast, etc.
  • Showcase your media marketing skills by posting videos of your listings, parks or amenities in the community, a certain neighborhood, a client testimonial, etc. to boost traction and response on your Instagram. In addition, surveys prove that current, past, and potential clients are more impressed and likely to hire agents who incorporate video into their marketing.
  • Download third party apps with the ability to modify or develop intriguing content. Flipagram is a free tool that allows users to create a short video of previously taken photos, complete with music and captions. You can also post beautiful collages that capture more followers through Pic Stitch or a similar app. Transform images into powerful marketing tools with Over, which allows users to add text to images, whether marketing an upcoming open house, your website, listing highlights, or adding inspirational messages to your photos. Take extended videos of your listings, a neighborhood, community events, etc. with Hyperlapse, a time-lapse video app that enables users to control the speed at which the finished video will play; thus, eliminating time restraints.
  • Stunning images, enticing videos, and third party modifications will help you construct appealing posts, but timing is equally important when capturing followers. Ensure you post during the most active times of day to increase engagement and reach more followers. Typically, social media usage is most active in the evenings, but you can analyze your follower’s peak usage hours on Instagram with Icono Square.

 

With new apps and capabilities consistently introduced, Instagram’s popularity among internet users continues to rise. Although all social media platforms are dominant sources for effective marketing and branding, Instagram caters to visually driven consumers, which accounts for an overwhelming majority of internet users and attributes to its status as the fastest growing social media network. Plus, it maximizes efficiency by allowing users to share the same visually stimulating posts with their fans and followers on other networks. Not to mention, with real estate agents devoting roughly 40% of their time daily to marketing related activities, the ability to market yourself on the go, whether in the car, at an event, or at a local hot spot with friends, family or clients, is a constructive use of that time. As new Instagram features continue to emerge, the opportunities to market your business, generate leads, attract clients, and deliver your message will be more profound, as will the need to embrace it in your daily marketing.

How Can You Build Your Online Presence and Attract More Clients?

September 2, 2014

online-reputation-managementReal estate is one of the largest transactions most people will encounter in their lives; so naturally, selecting the right real estate agent requires extensive research and interviewing. As buyers and sellers continue to use the internet as a primary source of information when conducting research throughout the real estate transaction, it is imperative that real estate agents grow and build a solid online reputation in order to stand out from the competition, influence people’s perception, and brand their business to even land an interview.

With social media becoming increasingly prevalent in a number of marketing initiatives, it provides a principal foundation that real estate agents and other small business owners can capitalize on when developing and enhancing their online reputation! Plus, there are an assortment of new tools and apps that have been introduced that allow users to incorporate several different methods into one platform! From branding and blogging, to creating an effective website and obtaining client reviews, there are several opportunities that will showcase you and your business in the most favorable light and boost your online reputation.

 

  1. Branding:
  • Perception is everything, and it is imperative that your potential clients are receiving the message that you want to convey. However, before you can determine what that message is, you have to define your brand.
  • Reflect on the qualities that differentiate you from the competition. What are your strongest attributes and skills? What is your area of expertise or specialty?
  • When you determine what quality or specialty it is that represents you as a Realtor, as well as your business and brand, reinforce it in everything you do, especially online.
  • Continue to highlight the other qualities that make you the best candidate for the job, as well, including your experience, awards, accomplishments and specialties.

 

  1. Agent Website:
  • Every real estate agent should have their own website so that potential clients can discover them and see what their about outside of referrals or social media.
  • Many times, an agent website is the first thing a client sees, so it is crucial to create a good first impression with a well written real estate biography and a professional head shot of yourself! Your biography should adequately represent you and your brand.
  • Provide content that engages visitors and keeps them on your site, such as helpful information that buyers and sellers are likely to research, featured listings in the area, and client testimonials.
  • Use key words in the content that you include on your website, such as real estate, real estate agent, and the cities that you service so that search engines will pick it up in a search inquiry.
  • Embed links to your social media pages so that visitors can easily access your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. and learn more about you, your brand, and what you bring to the table.

 

  1. Social Media:
  • Surveys show that the majority of internet users spend an overwhelming amount of time on their social media sites daily, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc, so maximizing your presence on social media is a key component to building and maintaining an impressive online reputation.
  • Since social media allows you to connect with clients every time they log in, it provides an ideal platform to brand yourself and your business. Therefore, it is crucial that you utilize each social media platform available in order to expand your reach. Plus, potential clients need to be able to find you on every outlet imaginable.
  • Upload your real estate biography to each of these sites, and include key words that are relevant to your neighborhood, specialty, and city.
  • Join real estate discussions on your LinkedIn groups, and ask for endorsements to legitimize your business.
  • Connect with clients on Facebook, and ask them to write a review.
  • Engage your fans, followers, and connections by posting, pinning, and sharing useful content that reinforces your brand, such as helpful tips for buyers and sellers, market trends, housing statistics, ideas for the home, etc.
  • Become the voice of authority when contributing to real estate discussions through your social media, blogs, or message boards.
  • Incorporate video into your social media marketing. It might not do much to affect your online reputation, but it enhances your online presence and impresses potential clients.
  • Keep all social media posts professional, even on your personal profile. Avoid posting anything that could alienate potential clients or cause them to perceive you in a less favorable light.

 

  1. Blogs and Other Informative Resources:
  • Develop a hub of online resources about your community and its neighborhoods that provides helpful information to buyers and sellers and portrays you as a neighborhood specialist. Include neighborhood statistics, schools, tax rates, amenities, average homes sales, and update the information frequently to keep it current.
  • Create a separate website where you can assemble such material, or embed a forum on your own website that can be easily accessed by visitors and found in search results.
  • Start a blog. Writing thoughtful, useful, relevant content is an extremely efficient and constructive way to build your online identity, share your expertise, and brand your business.
  • When publishing a blog, think about your audience. Write about topics that your target audience is most likely to surf the web for.
  • Use key words, titles and tags appropriately so that you can control your online search results.
  • Personalize the content to show readers a glimpse of your personality. Offer personal examples or stories that support your thoughts, advice and opinions.
  • Once you publish an article to your blog, share it across every social media forum to increase traffic to your article and blog site, as well as optimize SEO.
  • Embed links to your social media pages, website, etc. on your blog to create a domino effect with consumers who read your article. This not only encourages your audience to interact with your brand and engage in a call to action, but it also facilitates their online research without ever leaving your site.
  • Publish blogs to your site several times a week, and structure every article with content that emphasizes your brand.

 

  1. Reviews:
  • Perhaps the most influential contribution to your reputation, research indicates that consumer reviews of services and products are more compelling than any other type of marketing. In addition, they are 12 times more trusted than information provided by a sales/service provider. In fact, 75% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Furthermore, studies show that consumers who interact with reviews are more likely to buy the product or service.
  • Reviews support word-of-mouth referrals, and when a past client, friend or family member refers your services, the person that they refer you to will more than likely search online to find reviews to validate what was said.
  • Positive reviews from satisfied customers reflect your hard work, time, and efforts and indicate successful results. Plus, surveys show that they are key components that encourage potential clients to contact a real estate agent.
  • Facebook, Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, Google +, and Yelp are a few sites that allow consumers to write a review for real estate agents or other businesses that rank high on search results.
  • Ask clients to write a review on one or all of the applicable sites after their transaction has closed. Then, establish a strong collection of genuine, flattering reviews, and display them on your website and other social media pages.
  • Real reviews instill trust and confidence in potential clients, so resist any temptation to fabricate reviews and avoid anonymous reviews. Consumers and websites can often recognize fake reviews, and if you are caught, the website can place a consumer alert on your account, or the FTC can take you to court or administer a hefty fine.
  • Don’t delete negative reviews, as it authenticates the positive ones. Plus, surveys indicate that positive reviews outweigh the negative. Instead, respond to any negative reviews in a professional manner that illustrates your remorse, concern, and dedication to finding a resolution.
  • Avoid seeming defensive or placing blame. If necessary, contact the client privately to resolve the issue. Once it is resolved, ask them to write an updated review.
  • Complement negative feedback with positive blogs or news articles that might get more traction and rank higher in a search than reviews.
  • Set up a Google Alert to monitor positive and negative inquiries about you as they are submitted so that you can promptly handle each situation accordingly.

 

According to a recent survey, buyers and sellers agree that a real estate agent’s reputation is more important than their experience. While it may seem overwhelming, many real estate agents have embraced these tools and are implementing them into their marketing plan seamlessly, thus, generating more online presence, enhancing their online reputation, branding their business, and dominating internet searches in their area.

In addition to maximizing your online presence and contributing to your reputation, these marketing resources are incomparable in effectiveness and efficiency in comparison to traditional marketing initiatives, proven by increased leads, better client conversion rates, and a reduction in cost and time. As new social media sites, apps, and technology continue to advance, traditional marketing methods will continue to reduce in effectiveness and become more obsolete, as will the agents who use them. Therefore, it is paramount to take advantage and remain adept of the latest online tools and incorporate them into your marketing more and more every day to ensure that your business not only thrives, but survives.

How Can You Effectively Execute Online Video Marketing to Build Your Business?

July 29, 2014

online video marketing pictureA powerful marketing tool, online video,  is rapidly becoming a primary resource for consumers who surf the web for information and entertainment. In fact, more than 100 million internet users claim to watch online videos every day. When you consider the wealth of information found on the internet, it is no surprise that consumers are more attracted to video content that is easier to digest when seeking advice, a service or a product. Plus, video is more engaging to viewers and entices them to spend more time on your website or social media page. Furthermore, statistics show that online video viewers are also more likely to respond to the video’s call to action, visit the website of the company represented, and even purchase the specific product or service mentioned.

In real estate, online video is especially imperative, as it gives real estate agents a chance to introduce themselves, share market updates, showcase their listings, and inform viewers about the community. In addition, videos are ranked higher in a Google search, so agents who capitalize on this opportunity can increase their reach. Plus, statistics reveal that real estate listings with video generate four times more leads than those without video. If you want to grow your business or brand, consider incorporating the following types of online videos, as well as a few tips, tools, and strategies, into your marketing campaign.

 

What Type of Videos Can You Create as a Real Estate Agent?

  • Branding Video: Grab the attention of potential clients immediately with a humorous, fun, clever, and memorable branding video that characterizes you and your brand while making potential clients laugh.
  • Introductory Videos: Create a conversational video to introduce you/your team, share client testimonials, and explain your work philosophy, values, and interests to give potential clients an idea of what it is like to work with you and who you are as a person. It should describe your personality and establish trust with clients, not promote your services like a sales pitch.
  • Informational Videos: These are similar to introductory videos, except with a sales pitch. They allow you to differentiate yourself from competitors by emphasizing your credentials, abilities, and processes. When creating an informational video, employ the same tone as your listing presentation; sell yourself, but include content that applies to both buyers and sellers.
  • Listing Videos: According to NAR, 73% of sellers say they are more likely to list their home with an agent who used video to market their property. In addition, real estate listings with videos generate four times the amount of leads. Therefore, incorporating online videos of listings is not only beneficial in reaching more buyers, but also in attracting sellers. These videos allow you to walk viewers through a home and discuss its key features. Plus, you can edit the video with text that summarizes the desirable qualities of each room. With greater interaction and information, listing videos are much more appealing to buyers.
  • Market Update Videos: Create monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly videos that provide information on housing trends in your city and community. You can disclose information regarding home prices, home sales, mortgage rates, and other facts and figures.
  • Community Videos: A valuable resource for out of town buyers, community videos allow you to introduce buyers to the city and neighborhoods that you work in. Showcase the area’s parks, shopping, and dining options, and address the local economy and the quality of schools.
  • Instructional Videos: The majority of online video viewers are seeking information or entertainment. Therefore, instructional videos are more likely to capture a specific audience and retain them until the end, which increases the engagement with the video’s call to action.  Create a “how to” video that targets your niche audience, such as “how to stage your home”,  or provide tutorials with steps regarding certain aspects of the buying and selling process. These videos will not only increase engagement in your call to action, but they will also brand you as an expert in the field, establish trust with potential clients, and prompts repeat visitors.

 

How Can You Make Your Videos More Effective?

  • Be Creative: To maximize a video’s marketing potential, it needs to grab the viewer’s attention within the first few seconds.
  • Keep it Short: After ten seconds, a video starts to lose viewers. To hold the audience to the end and engage a call to action, restrict the video length to three minutes or less.
  • Distribute Across Multiple Platforms: Share each video across every channel that makes sense.   Depending on its content, videos can be promoted across multiple blog forums and social media sites; distributed through email marketing campaigns and press releases; or embedded on your blog or website.
  • Build Emotional Connections: Structure your video content to focus on a bigger story that relates to the theme of your brand instead of promoting yourself and what you sell. For instance, supplement videos about your brand, such as listing, introductory, or informational videos, with an assortment of instructional or “how to” videos.
  • Narrow Your Audience: Creating content that targets a niche audience will generate quality leads by attracting viewers who possess a clear sign of interest, watch the video until the end, and engage your call to action. To hook your niche market and filter out the random viewers, begin each video with a specific sentence about the topic.
  • Set and Track Measurable Goals: Identify your objectives in your online video marketing, whether it is to capture a certain number of leads or hold a certain percentage of the audience until the end of the video. Evaluate the results, and if necessary, modify your online video content and/or strategy accordingly. Continue improving your video content to cater to your niche audience, gain more viewers, and convert them into clients.

 

What Tools are Available to Facilitate Your Online Video Marketing Strategy?

  • Mobile Apps: This is an increasingly important segment to reach, as more than 1/10 online video plays happen on cell phones or tablets. Incorporating mobile apps, including Vine and Instagram, in your online video marketing is instrumental in reaching this growing audience.
  • YouTube: As the most visited video portal in the world, a YouTube account is crucial to a successful online video marketing campaign. Simply create a free account, capture videos and upload them. In addition, the videos have the capability to include a link to your website, and statistically, a viewer that visits your website is more likely to become a client. Remember to incorporate a variety of the videos mentioned previously on your YouTube account, and share them across other social media platforms.
  • Tubemogul: com facilitates online video syndication by allowing you to upload a video and insert its details and descriptions. Then, it publishes the video on YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, and metacafe.com, the four major avenues for sharing video. From tubemogul.com, you can promote your videos across each site, track each video’s traffic across all sites, and attain updated reports about its reach that you can send to your clients.
  • Paid Solutions: As you become more experienced with online video marketing, you can combine the use of free sites and mobile apps with paid solutions for your long-term videos, such as those you want to embed in your website and blog. This not only protects your investment and gives you more control than free services, but it also allows higher quality video.

 

Online video is an instrumental tool for marketing and advertising your business, and resources such as time and financial budget should be allocated accordingly. Effective use of online video marketing increases sales and leads, which is validated by the numerous businesses that have already tapped into this platform and reported an increase in engagement rates, click through rates, and conversion rates. As the popularity and use of online video continues its exponential growth, developing an online video presence is the most efficient and practical use of time, energy, and money spent on marketing. It is crucial that small businesses, including real estate agents, utilize this medium to maximize their exposure and branding potential, or they will risk losing business to those that do.

 

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