A good real estate agent is very familiar with the neighborhoods where he or she shows properties. But because of legislation called the Fair Housing Act, the agent can’t legally share all of that information with you.
Why the restrictions? The government wants to make sure that home purchase decisions are based on a property’s fair market value and not factors such as race, religion or ethnicity. In other words, the law is meant to stop agents from steering clients toward or away from certain neighborhoods.
What can’t a real estate agent discuss with a buyer? We asked Scott Klein, an agent based in New York City, to give us a rundown on the topics that are off-limits.
The Do-Not-Ask List Neighborhood Scout, for example, you can get a description of a neighborhood’s “look, feel and character” that includes information about residents’ age, income level, ethnicity and other factors.
Household income: Wondering if a neighborhood is considered upscale? Don’t bother asking your agent. Klein says he can’t discuss economic class with prospective buyers.
But it’s relatively easy to find demographic information online, including average household income for a particular area. At
Schools: As with income level, sharing information about schools “might be perceived as steering someone into a certain neighborhood,” says Klein. “However, as a Realtor I can direct people to sources of information about education in that area.”
Here, too, the web offers prospective home buyers a wealth of information. Buyers can find useful school statistics, including enrollment, class size, and reading and math scores, at sites like School Matters and Great Schools.
Religion: The religious makeup of a neighborhood is another topic that’s off-limits for real estate agents to discuss. If a buyer wants to find out about active religious communities in a particular neighborhood, Klein directs them to local houses of worship for information.
Crime statistics: Surely an agent can answer questions about local crime statistics, right? That’s pretty public information. But it turns out that even this data is considered a sensitive topic under the Fair Housing Act.
Once again, buyers have to do their own research to find out if a certain neighborhood is considered safe. Homebuyers can find crime statistics online, including where sex offenders live, by logging onto Family Watchdog.
Klein also recommends that his clients pay a visit to the local police precinct and walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for it at during different times of the day.
Environmental concerns: A buyer would want to know if, say, a home is located near a Superfund site. In general, a real estate agent isn’t going to be much help when it comes to neighborhood environmental issues. Buyers will need to figure this out on their own. One way is to visit the EPA’s web site, which includes a database of environmental information, searchable by Zip code.
The one exception to this rule is if there is an environmental problem with a specific home. “If it pertains to that particular property, and it’s something I have knowledge of, I am required to disclose that,” Klein says.
So why use an agent if you have to do so much information-gathering yourself? An agent can show you homes, guide you through the buying process from start to finish and help you negotiate the best deals with sellers.
Nobody likes someone who is an ego-maniac. However, a lot of real estate agents get a bad rap, because some agents think that to build a great personal brand, they need to talk about how great they are. This is very put offish for many people – especially your Gen X and Gen Y clients who are slow to trust and quick to judge anyone who calls themselves an ‘expert.’
Here are some simple strategies that real estate agents can use to instantly set themselves apart from the pack:
Craft a Compelling Pitch
You need to be able to clearly define yourself, and sum up precisely what it is you do, in 30 seconds or less. When in doubt, make a simple bullet point list of the skills you excel at. Ask yourself: How do I see myself? Your pitch needs to be brief, to the point.
Take Control of Your Your Name
Input your name or your business’s name in Google, and see what comes up. It’s vital that the majority of results that appear – especially the first ones, all speak to the same clear message. You should not only own a website with your personal name as the domain (a given, right?!) – you should also have profiles on all major social networking services (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) under the same name. Even if you plan to do nothing else on social media – as a minimum – set up your profile.
Create Strong Branding Platforms
Personal branding is about establishing yourself as someone that brings unique, indispensable real estate services and skills to the table. You need to create platforms (blogs, Facebook pages, online video channels, etc.) that can help broadcast your skills and experience to as many people as possible. All of these platforms should also be stamped with your signature name, logo and imagery. Once built, it pays to pump out content through them that illustrates your expertise.
Be Generous with Your Time
Acts of kindness and generosity serve to generate goodwill and help build invaluable relationships and contacts that can pay off immeasurably. Charitable work presents great opportunities to establish trust, grow your personal/professional network and make a positive impact – you never know when it might lead to a vital mention or referral. Go above and beyond the call of duty. It doesn’t just speak to personal values and work ethic. It also presents a prime opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.
Accessibility is the Name of the Game
Whether using blog posts, tweets or your professional Facebook page, accessibility is the name of the game. Not only do people need to know you’re out there – they also need to know where and how to reach you, that you’re available to connect as needed and will respond to requests for outreach in a timely fashion. This doesn’t mean having to broadcast your personal information to the world or staying up until 3 a.m. responding to 200 e-mails . But it does necessitate that you not build too many layers of insulation between yourself and incoming queries, and be respectful of acknowledging people’s questions and feedback (even if it’s just through a series of blog posts).
The bottom line: If you want to be a go-to real estate agent, you’ve got to earn people’s trust. That means being genuine, listening and responding quickly!
Bonus tip #1: At some point you will want to work with a professional designer or your broker’s marketing department to help create your brand for you – i.e. your look, logo, imagery, etc. Don’t take a short-cut! Using their expertise will help save you time and money in the long-haul!
Bonus tip #2: Be respectful of your brokerage’s brand and image. Although you are independent, pay attention to style guides and/or branding standards your brokerage has published. There are so many ways to differentiate and brand yourself but still stay within your brokerage branding guidelines.
Would love your comments and feedback – please leave me a comment below!
Want a real estate marketing tip?
Use real world client testimonials.
Adding testimonials can add credibility to a real estate marketing program. When the testimonial comes from a known source, like a neighbor, that power increases tenfold. So how do you go about using testimonials?
An easy but effective formula:
Create a testimonial “harvesting” system:
The easier your testimonial gathering system is, the more likely you’ll do it on a regular basis. Put something down on paper. Map it out. Make it a point to solicit a testimonial from each client, a number of days after the transaction.
Follow your timeline consistently. And be sure you make it clear how you will use the testimonial (simply by using the phrase “in my marketing efforts”).
Use your client’s full name and address whenever possible. When you write a testimonial-request email or letter (or call them on the phone), ask if you can include their full name and address. Explain that it makes the testimonial more believable than something signed by “B. K. from Liverpool”
For example, if you lived at 344 Elm Street, Syracuse, NY, which of the following testimonials would capture more of your attention:
One signed by J. Riley, Syracuse, NY?
Or one signed by John and Beth Riley, 357 Elm Street, Syracuse, NY?
Send thank-you cards or a small gift to testimonial providers. This will boost your referral rate. Besides, it’s just plain nice (and there’s plenty of room for nice in today’s business world).
Use the complete testimonial:
Open your newspaper up to the movies section and you’ll see testimonials that look like this:
Besides the fact that these snippets are worthless, what’s the first thing they bring to mind? If you’re like me, you might say they look like they’ve been taken out of context by a tricky writer. Use the full testimonial, or at least the full sections that are most applicable.
Testimonials carry more power than anything you might say about yourself. Create a simple harvesting system and follow it consistently. Be honest about your intentions. Send a thank-you card or small gift.
Although many may not believe it, the real estate industry is actually one of the most tech savvy industries around today. The necessity to cover numerous territories and the demand to provide all inclusive services makes the real estate professional almost dependent on the technologies available to them.
This dependency has pushed many real estate professionals to jump on new technologies and quickly become familiar with the various ways to maximize their time and build their businesses by attracting new buyers, sellers and investors. The bi-product of this trend has been a strong demand from the real estate industry for technology companies to continue pushing the envelope to build faster, more efficient and more effective real estate marketing technologies.
Technology for the real estate industry has evolved so quickly over the past 10-20 years. We can still remember pagers being ‘high-tech’. Every Realtor seemed to have had one as it allowed them to be even more accessible than most real estate professionals probably intended. These types of technologies changed the way we thought of and worked with a Realtor. Now, our real estate agent is more accessible than ever, which leaves them with less time in the day to focus on important aspects of their business, like marketing their business and their clients’ properties.
Welcome new marketing technologies that make a real estate agent’s job more about inbound lead generation and less about call volume and how many business cards can be passed out in one day.
Real Estate Technology Goes Local
Chris Thorman, who blogs about property management software at Software Advice recently posted a very interesting article titled Searching for Real Estate Made Easy: Geo-Fences and Mobile Phones. This article sparked us to look deeper into new marketing technologies and share them with our audience. We feel that technologies like the one we’re about to mention will help to change the way real estate is marketed and discovered by prospective buyers, sellers and investors.
The real estate technology market has been flooded in recent years with “location-based” applications to help buyers find properties in their area. With little variation, they all work in about the same way:
What if a prospective real estate buyer didn’t have to initiate an application to get real estate data? What if the data just came to their phone automatically?
Sound far-fetched? Well it isn’t. Advertising company, Placecast, has developed a service called ShopAlerts and we think it has very interesting implications for the real estate industry. ShopAlerts allows users to opt in to receive marketing messages on their phone from retail stores that are nearby. For example, a person would sign up for alerts from Old Navy and would automatically receive tailored text message marketing notifications each time they were close to an Old Navy store.
This could work in the same manner for the real estate industry. Users could opt in to receive alerts about specific types of properties. And when they near those properties, they cross a “geo-fence” which prompts an automatic notification to be sent to their mobile phone.
Essentially, a person lives their life and in the meantime, receives notifications about properties they’re close to that match what they want. Is this ideal marketing or what?
Where Is Real Estate Marketing Technology Headed?
The way we see it, real estate marketing is going to continue to evolve and improve to a point where just about every step of the marketing process becomes so automated that a Realtor can literally start and complete an effective marketing campaign in minutes from their phone or computer. We are a long way off from this currently, but with the addition of new technologies like the one mentioned above it will not be long before homes start marketing themselves.
We would love to get your take on these burning questions as you are the pulse of the industry. Simply drop us a comment below with your take on all of this. We will do our best to provide you with some useful insight on how to use the majority of these technologies to your advantage and how to leverage them going into the coming years and real estate market trends.
Gleaned from an article by Vinny LaBarbera
We’re bound to be disappointed.
No matter how great its fingerprint sensor is or how elegant the new gold color looks when the iPhone 5S is unveiled next week, there’s going to be an inevitable sense of disappointment when the lights come back on after Tim Cook’s wrap-up.
But it won’t be because the iPhone 5S is underwhelming or the iPhone 5C is too expensive. It’ll be because we know too much.
There was a time when an Apple event would be a great unknown. Leaks and rumors have been part of Apple’s lore for decades, but it used to be a few kernels of truth buried under piles of speculation, prototypes and concepts that were years away from fruition, if they ever saw the light of day. Each event would bring wild conjecture and giddy anticipation, but when Steve Jobs took the stage, he would always find a way to show us something we had never imagined.
The iPod in his pocket. The MacBook Air inside a manila envelope. The iMac G4 rising up out of the floor. The big reveal was an extension of the design.
All that’s gone now. Today, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal are the most reliable rumor sites on the net. Next Tuesday, Phil Schiller will introduce the new iPhones with nary a hint of surprise; we’ll watch as he shows off whatever new features we haven’t read about (if there are any) and fervently hope he’ll be carrying something, anything, that we aren’t expecting.
But he won’t be. The element of surprise has all but left Apple’s product introductions. It’s a fascinating turn for the company, one that investors and analysts still haven’t come to terms with.
And it has nothing to do with the departure of Steve Jobs.
But it does have something to do with an Apple software engineer named Gray Powell. You see, it was his 3GS-disguised iPhone 4 that was left at a German bar and sold to Gizmodo for all the world to see, well before its scheduled unveiling. It was an unprecedented leak — the iPad had been unveiled just two months prior to swirling tablet rumors but very little solid information — but no one knew just how much of an effect it would have on future products.
Without the Gizmodo exposé, the iPhone 4 is another stunning reveal, a brilliant design turn that catches us all by surprise. Glass. Metal. Retina. Instead, its introduction at the 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference was a confirmation of what we already knew. Even the press release seemed resigned to the fact, using “presents” rather than the standard “introduces” in the headline.
It was the first time anyone beat Apple to the punch. Now it’s a regular occurrence. From the iPhone 5 to the iPad mini, every piece of hardware Apple has released since has been revealed ahead of time, piece by piece, until we have the whole picture. It’s not just Apple that deals with these sorts of leaks, of course, but no other technology company depends quite as much on the element of surprise.
But maybe it’s better this way. Without so much secrecy and hype around every event, it’s freed Jony Ive to be more surgical, more deliberate about his work. The iPhone 5 and iPad mini were hardly breakthroughs, but they rank among the best things Apple has done. There’s a subtlety to their genius, an intense attention to detail that doesn’t instantly take our breath away, but continues to surprise us in little ways. There was no big reveal, but they’re just as astonishing.
It’ll be the same with the iPhone 5S and the iPads. Internal refinements and precise enhancements will set them apart from their predecessors, but nothing about them will elicit awe. The iPhone and iPad aren’t about surprise anymore; there’s a relentless pursuit of perfection in their design that no leak can undermine.
Apple unveiled the iPhone six months early so the FCC wouldn’t inadvertently disclose its filing. Looking back at its introduction — the very pinnacle of the so-called Stevenotes — we had absolutely no idea what was coming. We hung on Jobs’ every word, barely comprehending what he was telling us. It was the ultimate prestige, a product so long rumored it had begun to feel like a myth, revealed to us when we were least expecting it.
There will be a time when Apple surprises us again. Perhaps it’ll be the iWatch or the television set we keep hearing about, but likely it’ll be something we’ve never imagined, a product so simple, so obvious, we wonder how no one thought of it before. Apple hasn’t lost its ability to innovate, it’s just shifted away from surprise as element of its latest designs.
But some day it’ll return. The anticipation just needs a little more time to build.
Getting a little anxious for your home to sell? Haven’t had anybody look at your house in quite a while? Have you had hundreds of showings and no offers?
Then you need to make a change.
You’ve got four options:
Change your price
Change the condition of the property
Change your agent
Change your mind about selling your home.
I know, I know. You don’t want to lower your price. Who does? Having been a home seller myself, I know it doesn’t feel very good to sign that status change form to change your price. However, looking at the combination of your competition, market conditions, the number of showings you’re getting, and the strength of your agent’s marketing plan, changing your asking price may be the key to getting your home to sell. Out of every 8 homes on the market last month, only 1 sold. Do you really want to sell that house? It may be time for a price change.
What about changing the house itself? Sometimes, making improvements to the property is the key to getting the house to sell. What changes would you make if you were buying that house all over again? What have other agents and visitors said about the house? Having a staging consultation can be a good way to hear an objective view of your house, and to get a comprehensive list of changes that can not only improve the value of your home, but help it to sell faster. Your agent should have a list of service providers that can help you make the changes.
Can we talk about your agent? When was the last time you heard from your agent? Have you seen the pictures of your property? Is the MLS description correct? What is the marketing plan, and has it been followed? Is your agent offering credible, reliable, and honest advice? Do they return phone calls and emails? Can your agent justify their marketing program and explain, with tangible results, what works best to sell a house? If so: Has your agent been telling you all along that you need to make changes to the house and/or price? Is it finally time to listen to your agent’s advice?
Lastly, you can decide to not sell your house. Maybe you don’t really need to move. Or maybe you do. Maybe you can’t afford to sell at market value, or maybe it just hurts a little too much to sell at market value. Why did you want to sell your home in the first place? Are those reasons still valid? There’s a variety of reasons why selling your house right now may not be the best time. What’s the best choice for you?
These are four changes that a Seller has absolute control over. We could blame your house not selling on the CNY real estate market, but will that make you less frustrated or make your home sell? The state of the market is out of your control. If you want to sell your home, then we need to focus on the things that we can change.
What will you change to get your home sold?
Here are some questions that will help you decide whether you’re ready for a home that’s larger or in a more desirable location than your current one. If you answer yes to most of the questions, it’s a sign that you may be ready to move.
Have you built substantial equity in your current home?
Look at your annual mortgage statement or call your lender to find out. Usually, you don’t build up much equity in the first few years of your mortgage, as monthly payments are mostly interest, but if you’ve owned your home for five or more years, you may have significant, unrealized gains.
Has your income or financial situation improved?
If you’re making more money, you may be able to afford higher mortgage payments and cover the costs of moving.
Have you outgrown your neighborhood?
The neighborhood you pick for your first home might not be the same neighborhood you want to settle down in for good. For example, you may have realized that you’d like to be closer to your job, relatives, or live in a better school district.
Are there reasons why you can’t remodel or add on?
Sometimes you can create a bigger home by adding a new room or building up. But if your property isn’t large enough, your municipality doesn’t allow it, or you’re simply not interested in remodeling, then moving to a bigger home may be your best option.
Are you comfortable moving in the current housing market?
If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but the home you buy also will be more expensive. If your market is slow, finding a buyer may take longer, but you’ll have more selection and better pricing as you seek your new home.
Are interest rates attractive?
A low rate not only helps you buy a larger home, but also makes it easier to find a buyer.