Real Estate Report Card

There are a lot of Real Estate companies with applications that claim to be the “best choice for your Real Estate needs”. I’ve just recently come across an article that I feel accurately describes and grades a few of the major Real Estate platforms. It goes without saying that each review should be taken with a grain of salt. Most of these applications give you the same MLS listing results, so the majority of the reviews focus on design and touch user interface. The only way to find out which one is right for you is to try them all!

“Reposted from 1000watt Blog.” 

Zillow

Zillow announced that it will be the first publicly traded company to take questions from investors via Twitter and Facebook. It also re-launched its mobile apps, moving all the search options under the “hamburger” icon and integrated its Mortgage Marketplace into the experience.

Grade: B+

I think Zillow’s openness on social media has done wonders for its brand and I like the new design… but I don’t love it. Somehow it feels like it has lost a bit of its personality. Maybe I miss the green from the new all-blue look. (Too Trulia for them, perhaps?) Also, I’m really beginning to think that the map is not the best view for real estate listings on mobile. More on that in another post, though.

Trulia

Trulia’s suite of consumer products, its website, mobile apps and iPad app all got face-lift too. Photos got bigger. The design got flatter. And in the case of the search results page on their website, they lost the left rail altogether and moved to a two-column layout.

Grade: A

I like the direction that Trulia is taking its design. Deep-sixing that left rail of refiners is like a blast of fresh air across the page. Trulia was the last holdout of the major portals on this front. Vendors and brokers, if you’re still desperately clinging to that wall of drop downs and form fields on your website, do yourself a favor and move on.

Realtor.com

Realtor.com released school search in its iOS and Android apps this month. The feature lets you quickly find properties within specific school districts or boundaries with a quick tap. Great school ratings are integrated, as are important data points like teacher/student ratios. Parents everywhere rejoice.

Grade: A-

I love all the innovation coming out of “Move” on the mobile front. They were first out of the gates with a draw-to-search feature, which still feels like magic. School search is a such a no-brainer and their execution here is fantastic. I love the speed and responsiveness. My only hesitation in awarding them an A grade this month is that the app itself is starting to look a little tired, with feature upon feature being piled on. I think this is an app that is screaming out for a UI refresh.

Redfin

Redfin pushed out a major design overhaul of the company’s website a few weeks back. They buried the previous design’s “cadaver blue” and splashed the wall with Redfin red . The company’s tree logo also got felled. A quick survey of the comments on the blog post announcing the change shows people were none too happy with the change.

Grade: B+

The new identity and red makes a ton sense. After all, the color is in the company’s name. I really like the cleanliness of the new site too, but its mobile apps still look like they’re the walking dead.

Use QR Codes and Make it Easier for Buyers and Sellers

By now we all know that the easier you make it on a Buyer or Seller, the more business you’ll get. However, some Realtors are not aware of how easy you can make it. With today’s web 2.0 technology almost all the information a person could need  about a property is at their fingertips. Most of us do our research before visiting an open house or commercial property (most of us). But what about those who just happen to be interested when walking or driving by but are too lazy to go in? Put the information in their hands with a QR code or SnapTag. One of these slapped on a Real Estate sign makes it easy for someone to scan and visit your site or information right from their mobile device.

 

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Quick Response Code (QR) – Got their start in the automotive industry by making it extremely easy for shops to identify vehicles. The usefulness of these bar codes quickly caught the business worlds eye and now they can be found in almost every industry. The appeal of the QR code is obvious. These guys can be encoded with almost anything  and link you to  just about everything with a URL attached

 

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SnapTag – You either love it or hate it. The idea behind SnapTag is to encode a logo with any data that can be encoded into a QR code. Its main premise is that QR codes can be ugly and what better way to promote your business than with your own logo. Simple enough. However, the technology hasn’t exactly caught on and some critics say the tech doesn’t work as well as it should.

 

The benefits of these codes are simple. They make it easier for the Buyer or Seller to access your information, in turn, increasing your chances of nailing that listing or selling that property. As for which one to use? I’ll let you try them both out and you can be the judge.

 

Boost Your Real Estate Brand with Instagram & Vine

Instagram

Instagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I’ve mentioned in earlier post, the addition of video can help set you and your Real Estate business apart from the rest. As Realtors, we need to be up to date on the latest social technologies and two of the fastest emerging ones are Instagram & Vine videos. Vine is a mobile app owned by Twitter that enables its users to create and post short video clips. The service was introduced with a maximum clip length of six seconds and can be shared or embedded on social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook. Instagram is an app that previously limited the user to posting and editing photos. However, they now allow you to upload a 15 sec. video. So what can you do with a 6 – 15 sec video? A lot! Realtors are now branding themselves and their properties with sleek intelligent videos that give buyers a view of their property and a sense of how their business is conducted.

Here are a few sites that can give you examples of how Realtors are using these short videos:

ColdwellBanker

The Corcoran Group

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Photography and Your Listing

As many of us already know, photos play a major role when it comes to publicizing a property. Photos and videos grab everyone’s attention whether it’s on Facebook, printed marketing materials, or your blog/website. The photo/video must be clear, crisp, elegant etc. To achieve this many Realtors hire professionals to make sure the photos are  of quality, but what happens when professionals are not available? We’ve all been in a position where you are  touring a property for a client and you want to send them a quick pic or video to gauge their interest. Or maybe you’re not satisfied with the pictures on the MLS but you don’t have time to hire anyone. How do you make sure these photo/videos are quality? Here are a few tips for you to follow.

The Rule of Thirds – The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. The iPhone Makes this easy with its grid feature. If you break the image into nine sections, how do your subjects fit in those spaces? You don’t always want them in the middle.

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 Use a Tripod (when available) — this will allow you to take a longer exposure and give you crisp, clear photographs with available light.

Use all of the available lighting  — in the home, being careful not to shoot directly at bright light coming from windows unless you are using multiple exposures or exposure adjustments. When the camera sees the bright light coming from the window, it thinks there is enough light for a proper exposure; what will actually happen is the room will be underexposed and detail will be lost.

Wide-Angle lenses are best for photographing rooms, as they will show more of the room, which will enhance the space.

Never Shoot at Mid Day — When shooting the property from the outside its best to avoid shooting at mid day, this is when the Sun is at its peak and the light will cause the camera to under expose the picture.

These are just few tricks that can help you when taking photos of your listing. Happy Clicking!

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A New Social Real Estate Platform

A while back I got wind of a new Real Estate Social Media app that was considerably different from the others.  So, I decided to check it out and I must say it’s pretty good.  It’s called DreamPro and it makes communicating with Buyers and Sellers very easy.  It provides a clean sleek way of presenting properties to clients by sending them an E-Postcard.  When agents come across an image or property that they feel a client might like, they can use the DreamCards, a feature of the DreamPro app, to write text over the full-screen image and send it to clients.  They can send these through email, phone number, or any client that the agent has registered on the application.  The app will send messages to prospects that have already signed up on DreamPro’s sister app DreamHouse (for Buyers).  This makes it easier for the agent to manage “mobile farms” — the community of consumers they’ve signed up on the DreamCommerce system (the database).  All in all, it’s a simple app that can have a huge effect your efficiency and the satisfaction of your clients.  A satisfied client generates more leads, so it’s worth trying out. Happy Hunting!

Benefits of Info-graphics on Your Website

Info-graphic or Information graphic, are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating info-graphics can be referred to as data visualization,information design, or information architecture………Sounds boring doesn’t it?  Of course it does, but it can actually stand to make your website more exciting. To put the above paragraph in simpler terms an info-graphic takes data (usually numerical, statistics, ratios, etc.) and puts it into a fun and easy to understand picture.  Here is an example of an info graphic depicting Social Media use as it relates to the Real Estate industry.

 

social-media-marketing-for-real-estate-infographic-02

Simple, to the point, and most of all it’s interesting! What took me an entire page of text to explain can be done in seconds with a simple picture. We live in world of instant gratification. People want you to get to the point immediately or they’ll lose interest. Placing an info-graphic on your website will not only help you organize your information into an easy to understand format but it will also help you keep the reader’s attention.  Chances are the info-graphic in the center of the page is the first thing you looked at and from there you decided to read the text. As a Realtor you should use this to your advantage.

So how can you as a Realtor use info-graphics? Any way you want to. I’ve seen them used to announce new listings, community updates, and used to chart a certain Realtors success for the past few years. The uses are only limited to your imagination.  Here are a few sites that will help you design an info-graphic quickly. Each has its own unique graphic generator but all create quality info-graphic. Try all and see which one you like the best!

-> Infogr.am

-> Visual.ly

-> Piktochart

 

 

Use Social Media Analytics to Improve Your Real Estate Efficiency

As I’m sure you all know by now Social Media is an extremely effective and affordable marketing tool; one that every business in every industry should be utilizing. The use of Social media turns us into our own public relations or marketing firm. However, while Realtors may acknowledge the potential of these tools, they often fail to go further and see what is or  isn’t effective. This is where analytics comes in. To put it simply, the analytics of your Social Media sites are the cold hard data which come from the number of clicks, views, likes, etc. WordPress has a simple version of this on the black bar at the top of the page (for those of you who use WordPress and are logged in). Although it may seem boring, knowing the statistics of your different sites is extremely important if you want to gauge the effectiveness of your campaign. As a Realtor you need to know who is responding to the promotions you publish, whether or not they are sharing it (which means they’re excited about it), the amount of people who are actually engaged in your links, etc. All of these things can help you tailor your message toward a specific demographic or geographic, which as a Realtor, is one of the most valuable abilities to possess. Research what Buyers and Sellers like to view, replicate it, and toss of what they don’t.

So how can you get a quality analysis of your social media sites? I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the 3 best analytic programs:

Google Analytics:  Allows you measure sales and conversions, as well as gives you fresh insights into how visitors use your site, how they arrived on your site, and how you can keep them coming back. It includes Analysis tools, content analysis, social analysis, advertising analysis, etc.

 Radian 6: Social media monitoring tools, social media engagement software and social marketing

 Hootsuite: A better view of your social campaigns with powerful analytics tools and customizable reports that gives you a complete and comprehensive picture of your participation in social spaces. HootSuite Social Analytics closes the loop between social and digital with real-time views into campaign results.

 Each program has its own unique benefit but all provide you with valuable data that can lead you to closing more deals in a shorter amount of time. On top of that, they are very user-friendly and easy to link up to any current social media site that you may have. If you’re a Realtor and you are marketing through social media there is no reason for you not be analyzing your data on your own when these sites practically do it for you. Happy Hunting!

Real Estate Tech Trends : Part – II

Last month I gave you guys a list of trends relating to technology and how buyers and sellers use it to find a their agents. So today I’m gonna give you a few more statistics for you to use in your daily hustle and bustle.

Why Buyers choose their Agent:

24% Say they chose a Buyer who is honest and trustworthy.

21% Say they chose a Buyer based on their reputation.

15% Say they used an agent that was a friend or family member.

12% Say they chose an agent based on their knowledge of the neighbor.

9% Say they chose an agent because they thought the agent had a caring personality.

6% Say they chose the agent because they received a timely response.

5% Say it was the Prestige of the firm.

4% other.

Expected Response time <VS> Actual Response Time:

SELLERS:

77% of seller expect a response from their agent within 30 minutes of an inquiry.

45% of sellers expect an instant reply from their agents after an inquiry.

Only 24% of Agents respond to sellers within 30 minutes of initial contact.

BUYERS:

88% of buyers expect a reply within 1 hour of inquiry.

42% of buyers expect to be contacted instantly.

Only 30% of Agents respond to Buyers within 1 hour of inquiry. 

Response Time importance:

6% of buyers say response time is somewhat important when selecting their agents.

94% of buyers say that response time is Very Important when selecting their agents.

All Say that Response Time was important.

Repeat Business:

74% of buyers say that they would definitely use an agent that was recommended to them by others.

15% of buyers say that would probably use an agent recommended by others.

5% of buyers say that they would probably not use an agent recommended by others.

4% of buyers say that they would definitely not use an agent recommended by others.

2% of buyers said they don’t know.

Only 10% of buyers actually used agents they had previously used.

This is only Part II of Real Estate and Tech Trends. Part III will be coming soon and focuses on how Buyers & Sellers use and respond to both new and traditional marketing tactics!

Make Your Real Estate Platforms Mobile Friendly

u.s. share of time spent by device-1

So as we all know by now Social Media is the way to go. Many of the major companies have figured out the same. I recently read an article that focused on how companies are making their ads more user-friendly. Native ads are ads that are embedded into the page itself (Facebook news feed ad, Twitter’s promoted tweets) as opposed to the traditional banners, pop ups, etc.. When I read this, it occurred to me that this type of ad not only allows the company to swindle its way into the reader’s focus, but it also allows the ad to be seamlessly applied to mobile applications as well. How many promoted tweets or ads have we seen on our mobile devices that we didn’t know about?

As a Realtor,  I instantly noticed that I should not only be taking advantage of these “Native ads”, but that I should also make sure that all my web-based platforms are mobile friendly. Social media usage is increasing drastically on mobile devices. Sites such as 4Square and Instagram are already at 99% mobile usage. Twitter is at 70% and Facebook recently reported that a little over half  (51%) of its users are mobile users. This trend seems to be increasing as application UI (user interface) gets better each year. As a Realtor, you need stay on top of all emerging technology, including tech trends. If you see that more and more people are using the web from their mobile devices then it would behoove you to make sure that all of your real estate pages, virtual tours, YouTube pages, etc. are mobile enabled or mobile friendly.  As a Realtor, service your Buyers and Sellers better by making things easier for them by having sites that are simple to navigate and easily accessible on any platform.

 Fortunately, there are a few sites that can help you do this for free. Dudamobile is a website that will convert your website into a mobile friendly format and you can customize it as you see fit. Mobify and Gomobi are two other notable mentions. These are only a few choices of sites that will make your websites mobile friendly.  As a side note, most social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are already optimized for mobile use. So get cracking and browse through your sites to see which ones need to be mobile friendly!  Be accessible on all platforms and watch your followers and conversion rates double!

 

How to Design A Better Real Estate Website

Although this is titled how to build a better ‘Real Estate’ website, the tips that I’m about to give you can be applied to any website. As I’ve said before realtors have to be well versed in a wide variety of skills, web design is one you should add to your repertoire. Most of us are already using the multitude of web 2.0 applications and free websites that are available (if you’re not you should be). However, you’re doing yourself and/or your company a great disservice if this website is poorly designed.  There is an acronym that I came across a few years ago that has helped me design all my webpages, blogs, etc. –C.R.A.P.   ironic isn’t it? How can CRAP help me build a better website, I’ll tell you!

C.R.A.P. stands for Contrast. Repetition. Alignment. & Proximity

Contrast:   The concept of contrast is to avoid elements  that are visually similar. Most often this refers to color, but can also include  size, line thickness, shape etc. Make sure the background color of your webpage doesn’t clash with the copy. Try and make things like your headings, text, sub headings etc a little different. This allows the reader to visually understand ‘what is what’ without actually having to read(people are lazy). Sometimes the smallest change can make all the difference. Contrast is going to be the most visually effect tool your going to use.

Repetition: Many people get confused when trying to adhere to both repetition and contrast. The goal of this is repeat visual elements of the design throughout the piece. Categorize your subjects and stick to it. You should keep the same font size & font for all subtext, the same font size & font  for all main headings and so on. This helps develop the organization and will give you an overall theme to your webpage.

Alignment: Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every element should have some visual connection with another element on the page. This gives your page a clean, organized, and professional look. If the main copy is aligned left then the rest of the page should be as well.

Proximity: Items on your webpage that relate to each other should be grouped close together. When several items are in close proximity to each other, they become one visual unit rather than several separate units. Much like alignment this helps organize information and reduces clutter.

Naturally these aren’t strict rules. There are going to be some exceptions that may work depending on its purpose. However for the realtor that is looking to bring themselves into the 21st century these are some pretty solid guidelines to adhere to. Don’t try to overdo it, simple is often the best way to go. The presentation of the property should be your main focus, anything else might take away from that.