Impact of Social Media in the Luxury Market

Earlier today I got my hands on a survey that the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM) did of their members around how they are using social networks.

institute of luxury home marketing logoOne of the reasons I really like this survey is that the number of emails and calls I get from luxury agents and brokerages has ramped up lately, and yet, I haven’t had a great source of data to at least anchor the conversation in terms of social media presence within the luxury market.  This survey will definitely help me jump-start many of those conversations.

ILHM asked their members questions like:

  • Which social networking websites do you use?
  • If you had to choose just one social networking site for the member networking group, which would it be?
  • Have you ever given or received a referral, or generated business via a social network?

The answers to these questions and more from the 473 members who responded can be found within their survey results document (PDF), but I’m gonna summarize what I think are some of the more interesting findings:

  • LinkedIn (30%) and Facebook (28%) about equally dominate the mind-share of luxury agents
  • Over 80% of the agents said they were using social networks
  • When asked where ILHM should have a member group, people were equally divided between LinkedIn and Facebook
  • 20% of respondents said they had generated business out of social networks
  • Non-real estate social networks like Twitter and MySpace didn’t register much interest, while ActiveRain was the only real estate specific site mentioned that had any real traction
  • The social networks offered by Zillow and Trulia didn’t even hit the radar on the survey.  I’m not sure if this is because agents think of Trulia and Zillow as search sites and the idea of Trulia Voices or Zillow Advice being social networks didn’t occur to them or because the agents surveyed simply aren’t using these services.

I’m a bit surprised to see Facebook register just as high as LinkedIn only because LinkedIn seems like such a natural fit for luxury agents, but with so much buzz around Facebook in the press lately, in retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I’ve been telling agents for a long time now that they should be using LinkedIn to market themselves (that article is over 2 years old already)… and that advice rings even more true in the luxury market where it seems like agents are often extremely concerned with their image.  Especially if you have years of experience, then you really have to try to look bad on LinkedIn.

And, by the way, if you’re looking for one more person to connect with on LinkedIn (or better yet recommend!), I’m always looking to connect up with interesting real estate people!

Update: I hadn’t noticed before posting, but John C’s comment prompted me to check out ILHM’s blog: Luxury Insight, where I see that they also posted information on the survey.

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.

LA Times Examines Local Home Search Options

Over two days in June, we searched each site for three-bedroom, single-family homes on the market in Santa Monica.

The results:

These numbers are always in flux, but from what I’m seeing I think there are between  90 and 100 MLS listings on the market and around 45 to 50 foreclosure listings.

Finally, it’s kind of a waste to do this kind of research unless you’re willing to do a quality analysis. My experience has been that the sites that do not have direct access to MLS info tend to have more listings that are out-of-date and/or listed with outdated prices.

zillow homes in santa monica

* It’s worth noting that I’m pretty sure the reporters messed up with their Zillow numbers… When I just did a search that limits the results to 3+ bedrooms in Santa Monica, then there’s a little graphic that says there are 166 listings for sale, but those are for ALL homes for sale and only 64 of the homes match my criteria.   The Zillow results should probably have been closer to 64 listings which would put them slightly below Trulia.

Matthew Ferrara just left an interesting comment about Realtor.com Home Values…

…that reminded me of this video from the previous head of REALTOR.com:

[Ferrara’s comment]

“…Instead of just copying everyone else, maybe REALTOR.COM (and by extension, NAR) could make some decisions based upon market realities. And the reality is that Zillow (and other similar tools) are really inaccurate because the “conditions” on the ground are always so fluid that “estimates” based upon “market data” which is always stale because of “time” are really bad education for consumers. REALTORS should know better. Many consumers buy homes “regardless” of their estimated market comparable – and many sellers are able to sell for higher (or can’t sell nearly the same as a computerized estimate) because of all sorts of NON estimated items – like poorly performing schools, local tax changes, crime, etc – NONE of which can be accurately reflected by a computer. Only by REALTORS who keep up with “the full marketplace” of issues that impact homes.

If I interpret this right, Ferrara thinks that realtor.com should not offer such an AVM product, but should instead focus on helping real estate professionals educate consumers on  the fact that AVMs aren’t worth the digital real estate they’re printed on…

My guess is that Ferrara has his pulse on the finger of most realtors and they’d love to hear this… but at the same time, Zillow has single-handedly changed the public’s expectations.  Consumers now expect free home valuations when they go online and if they don’t get it from a realtor, they’ll go elsewhere…

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]

4realz Exclusive: Realtor.com unleashes the Zillow killer and you…

…didn’t even notice:

new home values tool on Realtor.com

Apparently, Realtor.com launched their answer to Zillow recently without much fanfare!

The first thing to note is that the new tool mixes estimates for home values along side listings from the Realtor.com database. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but even with an announcement from NAR, the blog world has been silent. (And I’m told by someone-in-the-know that it has been live with a link from Realtor.com for a few weeks already!)

The part that seems to be missing is accuracy of the listings.

For example, the VERY first comparable I tried shows a home value estimate that is clearly way off base… The home at 26227 Adamor Road in Calabasas, CA which recently sold for $575K is listed on Realtor.com with an estimated value of $925,399 and Zillow with a zestimate of $564,000.

Recently sold home on Realtor.com

OUCH! If I was a REALTOR trying to sell a home on Adamor Road, I sure would be pissed if REALTOR.com was estimating homes were selling in the million dollar range, but actual sales were closer to the $600K range! A “beta” label only goes so far!

The second example I tried (by simply typing in Seattle, WA and then zooming in randomly until I could see a listing) was the home at 7352 26th Ave in Seattle, WA showed a recently sold price of $880K, the Realtor.com home value is $690,000, while the zestimate is $900,500.

For the third example, I decided to head further east to Chicago (no real reason other than NAR is located in that area). I randomly landed at 1729 N Melvina Ave in Chicago, IL which recently sold for $225K. the Realtor.com home value is $218,183, while the zestimate is $247K.

Results:

Two horrible estimates and one decent estimate out of three tries. It makes sense that the realtor.com team has not made a PR push around this feature yet! 🙂

On a related note: Things get even more interesting when you think that NAR took on a similar project (was called “Gateway”, now called “Real Estate Channel”) to aggregate home information across the country. These types of projects are not cheap… so why create duplicate efforts?

A fascinating conversation about NAR/DOJ…

I really want to thank the industry titans who participated in today’s podcast:

As well as all the people who listened in and provided wonderful chat commentary throughout the podcast. There were so many great names that showed up that I can’t wait to get many of you on future podcasts!

I thought if I gave us a half-hour we’d be able to cover the subject completely… but with the crew above, we were flying along after an about an hour when I decided to pull the plug in order to save some energy for next week! 😉

And if you missed the live call, don’t worry, you can still catch all the recored action here:

That was so much fun, I know we’ll do that again… Hopefully soon! 😉