My Thoughts On Inman Real Estate Connect 2008

What follows are my impressions and thoughts about the Conference in San Francisco, July 23rd to 26th, 2008. I will try to report rather than comment however…

First of all…San Francisco is an amazing location for a Conference…beautiful, great weather, charm and great places to indulge!!

The US Economy is in a recession (not a popular word) but the optimists think there is one year left to bottom out…however, at the end of the day…Real Estate is very local. Some areas are active and not that affected by the rest of the marketplace. The market in Canada looks way more buoyant and positive; we are not facing the levels of debt that have become part of the fabric here. Our Banks do not allow borrowers to extend themselves to this extent.  The fall in the US market seems to be more about credit than it is Real Estate.

In the States prices are sticky, homeowners are slow to reduce but Builders are not. The Real Estate Market is still very local…New York and San Francisco are still good but have moved from a two month supply to a three month supply.  Most other areas are down 30%…

Blogging for REALTORS is moving to Brokerage Blogging and possibly soon to Association Blogging. The message has to get out in all sorts of ways…RSS Feeds (Really Simple Syndication), Blogs (www.ActiveRain.com), Social Marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Flicker). Blogging is all about engaging with others…posting about what people on your street are talking about…What are the needs in your Community? Get more into your niche! RSS feeds are very popular to give all consumers information that they are not getting from normal sources. Beware of Internet Ruffians. Blogging is all about engaging the consumer in a discussion.

Broker Chase International launched ChaseNation.com and got 15-20 of their REALTORS to blog about the areas that they work in. The Broker moderates the Blog and handles the leads if the REALTORS do not respond to them in a timely fashion. They use www.googleanalytics.com to track the usage in the Community and use the Blog to increase traffic to the Broker Web site. They suggest at all times that the writers be open, honest and transparent and use lots of market Stats. Use www.GoogleAlerts.com to track your visibility on the web.

Check out Interorealestate.com for incredible use of “Mashups” and properties that have sold.  There is no sign on till the Buyer wants listings pushed to them. They are powered by terabitz.com and have created a great experience for the customer. Note: they have a 2400 square foot office in the Silicon Valley, are paperless and web-based with 2000 Sales Associates.

There is a strong movement in the US to create an Open Web; lots of information for the Buyer and the Seller gets lots of visibility. Listings with good photos are viewed 3 to 1 and if photos are not good the consumer has a tendency to doubt the credibility of the REALTOR.

Better Homes and Gardens Franchise was launched run by REALOGY with Sherry Chris, ex Royal LePage VP as CEO. They say they are the first national Franchise to have a blog, use Twitter and Facebook.

MLS Issues: Historically MLS’s focus on the REALTOR rather than the Consumer but this seems to be changing. Most MLS’s are moving to RETS Compatibility (a standard format for sharing data between MLS’s). High quality, fresh data is very important today. They all want a better experience and will go to the site that has it…

Public Facing MLS Web Sites HAR.com; Some interesting additions being added or considered: Including SOLDS (Some just show the last asking price but say that it is sold), Agent Ratings (Opt-in allowed but last few Clients can rate you). However, Consumers are more comfortable with a Public Facing MLS web site like www.TorontoRealEstateBoard.com

IDX (Sharing of Data between Brokers) is moving to data syndication (Companies that get the information from the Brokerage or MLS and push it to numerous sites with the approval of the Broker through a single feed). Some listing aggregators (Homes.com) have move to listing syndicators…

The Millenials: 1st group to grow up with interactive media.

They are:

1.       Mobile: Want information on the go and are GPS enabled

2.       Omnivorous: use more types of Media

3.       Opportunistic: “If something is important it will come to me”

4.       Omnipresent: They want to participate

5.       Visual Generation: Photos and Video are important… www.Youtube.com

Some further notes and mental clips:

AgentGenius.com won the Inman Innovator Awards and has some great information. Sign up for their RSS Feed.

Average Sale Price in Manhattan is now 1.7 Million dollars.

US are not FINTRAC Compliant but have been the target of Money Laundering and Terrorism.

Most Internet Leads are early stage leads and need to be massaged. Conversion is the new problem with leads.

Consumers are reluctant to fill out forms and to complete business you have to meet.

“OPEN is the new Black (all the data). Unlock the SOLD data…”

“HOPE is not a business strategy.”

Brokers are learning that Branch offices are not important…web sites are. Brokers are moving from offline marketing to online. Move your money to your web site!!

Alex Perriello, CEO of Realogy (Parent company of Century 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker, and Sotheby’s International Realty and the newly launched Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate) had 5 suggestions for REALTORS:

1.       Know your local Market Stats

2.       Know where the opportunities are: Price Adjustments

3.       Mine Past Clients

4.       Build Consumer Confidence by showing SOLD listings in your marketing

5.       Start communicating with renters to convert them to buyers

“You cannot go to every Party” in reference to being everywhere

“In your Blogging find the balance between Information and Inspiration”

“Your listing should be everywhere that makes sense”

Here are some of my favourite RSS feeds for Real Estate:

1000watt Blog, 4 Realz.net, AgentGenius.comToronto Real Estate and Neighbourhoods Blog/Move Smartly, WAV Group

At the end of the day, it looks like we will always be meeting with clients face-to-face to complete transactions; it is engaging them in the first place that is changing.

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