Real Estate, Realtors, and the Internet in 2013
In case you have not noticed yet the housing market is actually in recovery. It’s a slow recovery and not equal in all places but it’s a recovery. The housing market is actually contributing positively to the U.S. GDP and helping the economy press forward in 2012. This is despite lackluster improvements in unemployment, higher prices for food and gas, and a sluggish private sector. This is what we are seeing in dozens of real estate markets across the country. These trends are at different starting points across all markets.
- Increased Sales Activity
- Decreasing Supply of REO’s
- Increasing Number of Short Sale Transactions
- Decreasing number of “Traditional”/”Equity” Transactions
Taken together we are seeing Housing Inventory numbers drop. In several markets across California, in Phoenix, and a few dozen other markets across rest of the country this trend has been going on since January – February of 2012 and has caused housing inventory numbers to drop to levels we have not seen since 2004, 05, and 06.
So what does this all mean to Realtors?
Change. If Real Estate Professionals have learned anything since the real estate crash, it is the need to change and adapt to the marketplace. Realtors must adapt their business plans and marketing techniques to the coming trends in order to better service their clients and to keep their pipelines full. We saw immediately after the real estate crash many agents reluctant almost to take on Short Sale or REO transactions. Furthermore, we saw other agents who waited and had hope for the market to revive quickly before adapting their business models to the reality of long-term depressed home values and what seemed to be a never ending supply of REO’s onto the market.
When we talk about Marketing and Real Estate and how to market yourself and your listings on the internet effectively through social media and websites we must first answer the question “What is your business plan?”
Your business plan is the market, or types of real estate transactions, that you are going after, such as, Short Sales, Buyers, Equity/Traditional Sales, or working with Investors/Rehabbers. In a tightening market where housing supply is low, then New Construction becomes a viable option again for buyers and builders which will create opportunities for Realtors! The overall marketing plan for a any Real Estate Agent is based on what type of market are you going after, which is defined by your business plan.
The Online Marketing Plan for a Real Estate Agent for the purpose marketing of yourself and your listings via the internet is just one piece of your overall marketing plan which should include the following;
- Database Marketing
- Cold Lead Marketing (Mailers, Print)
- Online Marketing
Online Marketing for Real Estate Agents in 2013
Now were ready to talk about Online Marketing….
In many other industries we have seen the Internet completely transform how buyer and sellers conduct business and transfer information. The travel industry and the insurance industry are of particular note here because they offer many similarities to what is happening in the real estate industry currently.
Take the Travel Agent. Years ago when you needed to purchase a plane ticket or make reservations for a vacation you would go to your local travel agent to purchase tickets and/or get pricing. People could also look up travel agents using the phone book (yellow pages) and compare prices from different agents. Fast forward to today where most people will search for and purchase travel arrangements via the travel websites (Hotels.com, Travelocity, Expedia), or directly to hotel/airline websites (American Airlines, Hyatt.com) to begin “shopping” for rates and availability. Today, travel agent is typically only consulted for exotic trips and a consumers perception of using a travel agent assumes there will be a premium price paid for travel arrangements made via a travel agent. The internet allowed the flow of INFORMATION to be accessed directly by the consumer, who could then make a better informed decision by choosing the best deal based on their criteria.
The key word here is “Information”. The more access a consumer has to the information about a product, service, or a house, then the better served the consumer can be provided they are receiving good information. Good information makes a buyers and sellers in a marketplace more knowledgeable about all aspects of any product/service such has quality, pricing, and availability.
Over the last several years, the flow of information in the Real Estate Industry is also being shifted more directly to the consumer via the internet with websites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and IDX availability for virtually any Realtor and/or brokerage website. Consumers in real estate are Buyers and Sellers who seek information about housing availability and prices. However, both Zillow and Trulia are of particular note because they have become such a dominate force for providing this information to buyers and sellers. Almost single-handily, both of these companies have defined what a real estate search should be and what information buyers and sellers require.
Let’s look at the numbers….
Zillow: The number 1 Real Estate Website in the U.S. with 35 million monthly visitors (from Zillow.com). Launched in 2006 by former Microsoft Executives in Seattle, WA.
Trulia: The number 2 Real Estate Website in the U.S. with 23 million monthly visitors (from Trulia.com). Launched in 2005 by former internet pros in San Franscisco, CA.
Realtor.com: The original real estate website which was the number 1 website until it was taken over by Zillow and Trulia with approx. 10-12 million monthly visitors. Realtor.com is now run by Move Inc. who licenses the name Realtor.com from the National Association of Realtors, NAR.
So what does this all mean to Realtors?
Change and Adapt. Learn how to use Zillow & Trulia effectively. Learn how to update your listings and promote your listings on these platforms for the benefit of your clients and your bottom line. Furthermore, learn how to improve a buyers and sellers experience by providing more information through the use of High Quality Video, High Quality Images, Blogs, and Websites. Here are some examples….
EXAMPLE 1: When the inventory levels drop in your market and listings become GOLD what will your strategy be? More likely your strategy will be to get more listings. Every other Realtor in your market will want more listings also. The competition for listings will elevate. Part of your listing presentation to a new potential client will include your online marketing plan for the property. How will you effectively market the clients property online without knowing how to use Zillow & Trulia properly?
EXAMPLE 2: You are doing a good job on getting listings in your market but now need some more buyers and want to try to keep both ends on as many deals as possible. The buyers are most likely landing on Zillow and/or Trulia first. Now how will you attract that buyer traffic towards your listings and services?
EXAMPLE 3: Use better images & more images to promote listings. Too often Realtors are using their smartphones for taking their marketing pictures of their listings. This may work for an REO’s or Short Sales but not in a market with a tight inventory. You are actually dis-servicing your client by using poor photos of property listings. When buyers go online to search for property they are searching through many listings online and don’t stay on a particular listing for too much time. The photos are extremely important to capturing that initial interest of the buyer.
Now flip this around. If your on a listing presentation and the potential client checks you out on Zillow and/or Trulia and notices your current listings with poor quality photos? You don’t have to be a real estate professional to know what they will think of your “marketing expertise & capability” to effectively list their property.
EXAMPLE 4: Property Videos. Same as the images, use good video to improve the experience for your potential buyers. Secondly, use this as a marketing tool to offer to your potential sellers. Both Zillow and Trulia allow you to place custom links for property videos!!! Quality property videos can also be effectively used on Facebook and YouTube if done correctly.
EXAMPLE 5: Blogging: Buyers and Sellers are seeking more information online first. Plus, they are more willing to read an article you send them which is published on your blog or the Trulia Blog than if you were to send them a PDF of it. Blogging is a great way to provide a ton of information about market stats, buying, selling, foreclosure, and community. Plus, it establishes you as an authority figure on these subjects.
The Bottom Line for Realtors and Marketing in 2013
Online Marketing in Real Estate is no more than a series of tools a Realtor uses to promote themselves and their clients listings on to the internet. Get the proper training to service your clients better and make yourself a better marketer.
I will be having the Online Realtor Marketing Plan come out in print by December 2012, at a cost of only $150 for the training guide and the class LIVE. This will teach you all of the basics and help you build a foundation for moving forward in 2013.
Thanks and please leave a comment or question below if you have them.