Super excited to say I’m now a partner …

Super excited to say I’m now a partner in Selliken Systems!

In my excitement, I recorded a short video about why I’m so excited about this opportunity:

If you’re curious to learn a bit more about the team I just joined, here are some links to HomeQuest and M Realty. And if that’s not enough, definitely check out Garron Selliken‘s blog… These are some great folks, and I couldn’t be more excited to be joining the team!

And of course, if you have any questions about what and why I gave up my independence to join this team, send ’em my way! I love those kind of questions! 🙂

Because favicon love is so easy to give

If you’re running a website, did you give your favicon any love?  Do you even know what a favicon is?

A favicon is simple a mini-logo (icon?) that shows up next to your URL in most address bars. (Favicons also show up on the tabs of browsers and are often included next to articles you write when being pulled by other news sites, such as this business week page about online real estate that pulled the favicons when linking to articles from Rain City Guide and Inman News). and

Here is the favicon I created for 4realz.net: 

In terms of a icon, I don’t like it as much as the 4realz logo that I generally use on my marketing materials:

but it shows up so much better when displayed at a really small size and kept the site’s color scheme. The idea is that people who know the site will quickly start to relate the favicon to 4realz.net.

Before creating a favicon for a different site (not yet launched), I decided to do a bit of research and look at the favicons for a variety of real estate sites. Here’s a peak at some of the sites I looked at:

There are some really good favicons there in that they are instantly recognizable for the website they represent, but just as many are pretty bad… and without the help of a little text, it’d be hard to know what site they represent.

So what makes for a good favicon?

A good favicon is:

  1. Really simple
  2. Limited to two or three colors
  3. Recognizable in place of your logo

However, as the examples form above show, using your logo is almost never a good idea.

For example, the blue/green “Z” house of the Zillow logo, just doesn’t cut it for me at the small size of a favicon.   Ditto for the landscape scenes used by Altos Research and Real Central Virgina.

Something more likely to work is a cute play on the logo, such as the tomato from the Real Estate Tomato, the owl’s eyes of Roost, the explosion from Blown Mortgage, or (I like to think) the rain drop of Rain City Guide.  At the same time, the “R” of Realtor is so recognizable that the realtor.com team was smart to keep their favicon that simple.

Looking through the list of favicons from above, it’s also obvious that the “home” metaphor is way overdone. Phoenix Real Estate Guy, Redfin, The Real Estate Bloggers, Move, HotPads, Estately, Altos Research, and Zillow all feature homes in their favicons…

Create your own Favicon!

So, you’re inspired to create a nice looking favicon for your site.   Here’s how I created the 4realz favicon in a few minutes using nothing more powerful than Microsoft Word (or in my case, Mac’s Pages app):

Step 1: Using a document processer (Microsoft Word will work), create your image. For the 4realz logo, I create a grey circle and put a blue “4” in the center.   If you feel like you need something more complex than simple graphics and simple text, then you’re probably making your favicon too complicated!

Step 2: Take a screenshot of the image

Step 3: Upload your screenshot to Genfavicon, and follow their simple instructions in order to create an “*.ico” image. (as mentioned in a recent hotlist post!)

Step 4: Rename the file “favicon.ico”and upload it to the root file of your server.

That’s it! Once you’ve created one favicon, I think you’ll see that the entire process can be done in less than 10 minutes.

It’s worth noting that in order to have a personalized favicon, you MUST be using a self-hosted website where you can add files to the server.  Folks using blog platforms like ActiveRain and WordPress.com can’t have their own favicon. 🙁

Of course, if you have photoshop you can get way more advanced and create really killer favicons directly from the app, but if you know what you’re doing in photoshop, then you probably wouldn’t read this far!  😉

Finally, favicons are important because they show just how much effort you put into the details.  They’ll never be a big thing (they’re way too small!) and they’ll never bring success to your website, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to create a fun, recognizable icon that will help you make a better connection with your readers.

Introducing the 4realz Hotlist

I’ve had this idea for a long time about how cool it would be to open up a blog to the general public with only minimal moderation to keep out spam, but I could never put all the pieces together until the wonderful folks at WordPress created a twitter-like theme called Prologue.

It was at that point that I knew I had to move 4realz.net to a self-hosted environment so I could realize this long-held dream and open up the site to the rest of you.  Well, after messing with the code for a while to get the site to operate just how I wanted, I’m ready to release what I’m calling the 4realz Hotlist.

4realz Hotlist Screenshot
4realz Hotlist Screenshot

So, here’s the idea…   Once you register with the Hotlist you’ll be able to submit articles to be published on the site.   And because I’m going to be very liberal in what I let get published on the Hotlist, it just became quite trivial to give yourself a link from the 4realz.net domain.

Here’s one way to think about the 4realz Hotlist.   After you write a blog post that you know is great, think to yourself: why did I write this post?   If you can sum it up in one sentence, then publish that one sentence as your 4realz mini-post along with a nice link back to your site.

With that said, don’t limit your activity to simply promoting your own stuff.   You can also use the Hotlist to promote just about anything interesting you find on the web.  And if you check out how I’ve been using the tool over the past few weeks, you’ll see that I’ve been embeding YouTube videos, photos, and generally linking out to anything that catches my eye.

But here’s the catch, I really want to encourage clever, interesting and/or insightful mini-posts.  So to put the incentives in the right places, I’m going to publish the highlights each week here on 4realz.net (Carnival of Real Estate style) AND include the highlights in my weekly emails that go out to many of the most influential people in online real estate.  This means that a clever one-liner is likely to get you some great traffic, some nice inbound links, and in front of some interesting people.

But enough about the tool… You really have to try it out to get a feel for how cool it is to publish a blog post from the homepage a blog, so get over to the Hotlist, register for an account and start posting!

4realz Gets a New Look

I was putting together a new blog for a client this past week (it’s not launched yet, so I can’t send you a link) and was inspired to use a new theme for 4realz.net.

There’s more than a few things that I like about this new theme, but some of the big improvements are:

  1. The code is really clean and easy to modify.
  2. I’ve become somewhat addicted to adding more pages to my themes, and by having the pages listed on the sidepanel (as oppose to tabbed across the top), I can add a virtually unlimited number of pages.
  3. The new theme has a convenient place for ads (i.e. the entire left sidepanel below the search box!)…. In terms of pricing and philosophy, I haven’t published anything yet, but when I do, you can be sure I’m going to borrow heavily from Jay.  And until I do publish something, you can expect that a 3 month commitment at $100/month will get you a 125 x 125 block on 4realz left sidepanel (assuming your ad is approved).

So far, the only problem I’ve noticed with this theme is that it’s doing something really quirkly with smiley faces in comments, so if you’re going to leave a comment, don’t use a smiley face (fixed!).

UPDATE:

Kinda random, but looks like Kris just update her theme as well… and was also inspired by Jay.  🙂

4realz Roundtable: The Value of Home Values

I’ve got something special planned for this week’s 4realz Roundtable. In honor of Realtor.com’s release of the home valuation tool, we’re going to cover the value of online home values!

Join us on Thursday at 4pm (PST) to take part in the conversation!

Of course, the discussion is what makes the 4realz Roundtable work, and so far, I’ve confirmed three great guests for the conversation:

And, of course, YOU are always invited to join the conversation. For the past two week’s we’ve had an active chat conversation going on during the call, which has been just as interesting and entertaining as what gets recorded! 😉

(By the way, I reached out to the realtor.com team, but received no bites in terms of people who were willing to sit at the 4realz Roundtable…)

Here’s a general outline of things I hope to cover:

  • Discussion on the background on online AVMs
  • How have perceptions of online AVMs changed over the past two+ years… Both within the industry and among consumers
  • What are some of the interesting legal issues surrounding AVMs in terms of privacy issue
  • Is there a reason to think that AVMs will get better in the future?

If you have other topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know in the comments and/or join us on the call and ask the question yourself! I’m going to do my best this time to make sure we reach out to some more of the people who call in to make sure we hear from you during the call!

UPDATE:

I’ve confirmed a few more guests for today’s show:

UPDATE 2:

What a great conversation!  Things definitely got a bit rough with David G on the hot seat for a bit, but overall, I had some great insights from the conversations and hopefully you will to!   If you haven’t listened to the conversation on the value of online home values, then listen here:

[podcast]http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-20339/TS-122563.mp3[/podcast]

Hanan is the first person to acknowledge…

Hanan is the first person to acknowledge 4 Realz with a most excellent note he sent to an email address he found in the living room
Hanan: You’re the best! You continue to be an inspiration to all real estate bloggers worth their weight in tubes!

To everyone else: Get over to Hanan’s post and sign your name! You have nothing to lose and $100 to gain. I like those odds!

In honor of Hanan, I’d like to end this post by waving the Grow-a-brain flag!

Grow-a-brain Flag