Is it important to be proud of your real estate website?

One of the things that has stuck out for me in talking with agents and brokers all over the country is just how embarrassed many are by their website.   When an agent hands me their business card, it’s so much more common for them to start making an excuse about their website (“oh… but don’t go to my website, I’m fixing it up right now”), than to show any pride in their site (i.e. “check out integration I added with Facebook”)… and it got me thinking…

How important is it to be proud of your real estate website?

So I asked the question in a Facebook Poll and I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Free IDX solution?

I met the guys from softRealty in Atlanta last week and they convinced me the have a pretty good thing going. Their plan is to offer a free IDX solution to agents that is ad supported. (They also offer a $30/month solution that is ad-free).

They’ve got two* one thing working against them:

  • My guess is that most agents will stay away from any solution that puts ads on their website

Like most IDX solutions, they’ve built the backend so that it can be framed into other agent sites. I’m not a fan of framed solutions, but the price is right, so it will be interesting to see if they get buzz as they roll out into markets beyond the Atlanta area…

* whoops!

[Update:  I notice I get a lot of traffic from folks looking for technology solutions to this post.   If you’re one of them, head over to my real estate technology tool shed where I’ve got lots of information that can get you up to speed quickly]

Inbox: How do I connect my blog with my website?

I got an email this morning with a question I’ve received many times in different formats, so I figured it was worthy of a blog post:

Hello Dustin,
I am just reading the article in the Realtor Mag. I would like to talk with you about blogging. How do you set it up to connect to your web site? Is it easy? Are their any cost?

I broke your question into two parts.

Part 1: How do you set it up to connect to your web site?

As I see it, there are three main options:

1) Your blog is hosted on a different domain than your agent website

  • Link from your blog to your website (and assuming you want to send traffic the other way), then a link from your website to your blog)
  • Use a widget to grab the latest headlines from your blog and add them to your website. I don’t recommend grabbing ALL of the text from the post for duplicate content reasons, but there is nothing wrong with grabbing the headlines and/or a snippet of text

RCG Screenshot

2) Your blog is hosted as a subdomain or subdirectory of your agent website

  • It is a very viable (and not necessarily difficult to implement) to have your blog be part of your website and this has the benefit of concentrating the inbound link benefits that you’ll get from having your real estate site.

3) Your blog is your agent website

  • I got tired of managing a largely ineffective agent website and actually took the site down completely once we started to get so much more traction through Rain City Guide. There’s no reason you couldn’t still have all the typical features of a agent website (about me, testimonials, MLS search, etc.) on a typical agent blog.

Part 2: Is it easy? Are their any cost?

Easy is very relative depending on the outcome you want to see. Setting up a blog is relatively painless (and free) on WordPress.com or Blogger. There are also real estate specific blogging solutions, some of which are free (ActiveRain, Zolve, RealTown, and REALTOR.com) and some of which cost money (Incredible Agent, Ubertor, Real Estate Tomato, RSS Pieces and Realivent). Obviously, when you’re willing to pay, there is often better integration, education and the ability to customize the blog to fit in with your online marketing plan. (Don’t have an online marketing plan? It might be time for a 4realz Education. 🙂 )

I’ve had it in mind to do a bit more research on existing blog platforms specific to real estate (costs, features, etc.). I should have something ready to publish within the next few weeks.

Completely didn’t see Terabitz going the…

personalized website for brokers route (example).  It’s nice to see that Terabitz is stil around (I didnt’ hear or see anything from them at RE Connect), although with $10M in funding, those had better be some expensive websites if investors are going to recoup their money.

45 Things I Learned at RE Connect

(some names left anonymous to protect the innocent)

  1. There’s a hell of a lot of VC money floating around this industry. I was surprised at how many people there were with lots of VC funding. Joel seemed to notice the same thing: “a whole new crop of real estate search sites that are going to be hitting the market”
  2. Reporter from the REALTOR Magazine was in the audience of our presentation. (thanks to Ines for pointing out the story: NAR is opening their eyes to blogging.)
  3. Zillow dropped their beta tag.
  4. Zillow’s big press release (picked up by many others) was a case of “make-news”. I’d be worried for their business if they weren’t making the improvements they announced (adding more listings, improving the quality of Zestimates, dropping beta, etc.). Joel doesn’t write much about of the improvements, while Greg quotes it extensively and seems to gush about their RETS announcement, which even the Zillow team pulls back from in the comments.
  5. Trulia was profitable for at least one month last year expects to be profitable at some point this year.
  6. According to comScore, Trulia had more traffic than Zillow in December! (Congrats Mike on the awesome prediction)
  7. comScrore and Hitwise are measuring traffic on two different internets. (Hitwise shows Trulia with 1.45% of category traffic and Zillow with 2.28%).
  8. Also interesting from the Hitwise report is that Move.com moved from #2 to #5, while RE/Max moved from #2 to #5. That’s big enough news where I would have expected to see a Press Release. Realtor.com at #1 and Move.com at #2 is huge for Move, Inc., even if it is only for December. (Oddly, I’m getting all the Hitwise numbers for December from an Inman Blog article on my feedreader. The actually article was removed from their site for some reason, so maybe the numbers are butchered!)
  9. Vast.com acquired Adaptive Real Estate Services (ARES). (That answers one question, although it does not give me any confidence that Vast.com has thought out their listing content acquisition strategy)
  10. Lots of neighborhood projects coming out. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice to anyone looking to build a successful social network in this space. If you really want consumer adoption, you’ve got to have a clear answer to this question: “What’s the consumer benefit?” So, so, so many of the “social networks” I saw this week were focused around real estate professionals. ActiveRain was an anomaly. Be able to explain your consumer proposition clearly, or don’t expect success.
  11. With that said, VillageMaker from RealProSystems will likely be a success… in that agents will the product, not in the sense that consumers will use it. This is the ultimate social network with the real estate professional at the center of the transaction in that a real estate agents must invite consumers to this platform. Sounds great, except it won’t work for all but a few agents.
  12. I am now the owner of “all the marbles”.
  13. Google staff really don’t like it when you take pictures inside their offices. Don’t be evil (Jay noticed this too!)
  14. Saul Kline is still the same great guy even after becoming CEO of Point2. (Frances has photos). His stated approach for moving Point2 forward is sound, although I’ll let him explain that approach when he’s ready.
  15. Lots of start-ups are twisting and turning to think how they an make their products more REALTOR friendly in the hopes of catching some Second Century funding! Mark Lesswing is a popular man at these conferences.
  16. I was surprised how many tech start ups get funding with only the roughest plans to get listings. Teresa gets that this is a mistake!
  17. Trulia launched their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly because nobody in the online real estate space has enough market penetration to think there are a finite number of users for their services. Trulia needs more listings. If this helps convince more brokers that they need to send their feeds to Trulia, then it is a good move. (Joel has an example of what the branded service looks like on FOREM)
  18. I really liked one startup and can’t wait until they launch in a little bit because I want to see how they market themselves. The product is an (solid) incremental improvement on search, but I don’t think it is enough of an improvement to go viral on its own.
  19. The beer for bloggers event is a great way to start off a conference. (photos on the Zillowblog and Sellsius).
  20. Teresa has some great photos from the week, including this action shot of me. Dito for Jeff.
  21. The WellcomeMat boys are quite the fun crowd. I really want to see them succeed because the technology is top-notch. Next step for them is figuring out a way so that their users don’t have to do their own marketing. If uploaded listing videos were getting hundreds (or even dozens), I think they’d be well on-their-way to being a a must-have product for most agents.
  22. I’m more bullish after RE Connect on Altos Research.
  23. Drew found a way to work at RE Connect. I’m not sure how he pulled it off.
  24. Professor Nouriel Roubini didn’t show up to RE Connect with the idea of making a lot of friends. He was consistently vocal in his belief that the downside to this market is going to be HUGE. He made Noah look like a moderate! (Here’s the video!)
  25. While I didn’t plan to go to many of the sessions, I surprised myself by going to only one session (see previous comment).
  26. I LOVE NYC.
  27. While I enjoy writing the occasional update, I’m simply not a good twitterer. On the other hand, Daniel is the twitter man.
  28. Apparently, there is a $15B dollar opportunity in the online real estate space since I heard multiple people throw that number around.
  29. Rumor has it that Cyberhomes is going to spend a LOT of money on advertising this year in order to reach out to consumers. This is a change from my take on their original approach in that they were going to focus on reaching out to agents by offering them a “white-label Zillow”. I like Marty Frame a lot, but I don’t think ads will do the trick. I hope they have one-more thing up their sleeve.
  30. Kris Berg is always lovely. Offline or online, she is one of my favorite people in the RE.net.
  31. Jay Thompson is another one that I found to be just as great in person. Networking with people like him is the reason to travel to NYC.
  32. The business mind of Damen Pace doesn’t stop moving.
  33. Rudy has some mad video editing skills.
  34. Daniel is the video man! It’s obvious he loves this stuff.
  35. As one would expect, Lockhart is quickly growing his team at Curbed and it was a lot of fun to meet them at the NYT party. From what I saw, Lockhart tried to dampen expansion rumors. He would only talk about Chicago at this point.
  36. BofA bought Countrywide. Lots of commentary on Jillayne’s post on RCG and Brian Brady’s post on Bloodhound.
  37. Redfin’s PR about returning $10M to consumers didn’t do much for me. I’ll be more interested to find out when they start making business model changes in order to get profitable.
  38. People have begun calling Rain City Guide “Ardell’s Blog” behind my back! LOL!
  39. Inman will soon be launching a new website with new features and a new design.
  40. Up Yours! Video TV war! Intothebox.tv rips on BrokerIPtv.com (around second 40). Not to take sides, but I was interviewed by the BrokeIPtv team at RE connect, and will be interested to see what comes out of that. On the other side, Rachel of Intothebox is oddly interesting… In watching, I just keep waiting for something to fall or break.
  41. I could never repeat linkation too many times. I keep repeating myself and people continue to act like it is new information. Please tell me if and when I need to stop with the linkation bit. 🙂
  42. ActiveRain introduced a few new people from their team. Rumor was that they have some funding that they will announce soon.
  43. Brendan King and other ex-Point2 folks were passing out business cards with the company name VendAsta. My guess is that the name is only temporary.
  44. Greg Tracy has branched out the BlueRoof brand to start doing consulting and website building for other real estate professionals. He “gets it”, so I can only imagine further success ahead.
  45. I really do enjoy just about everyone in the RE.net and real estate tech communities. 2008 is going to be fun!

Phew! Now I think I’m caught up so that I can get back to regular updates!