I bought my house way, way back in 1998. In technology terms, those were the dark ages. Particularly if you were in the real estate business.
My realtor, Sherry, was great. She showed my wife and I dozens of homes before we found the one we live in now. She worked tirelessly. She drove us everywhere. She intervened (and likely saved my marriage) when I wanted to buy that really cool house with the basement party room and built-in urinal. Instead we wound up buying a nice house with a newly finished deck in a good school district. No urinals.
Sherry was all personality and hard working. And she relied heavily on the technology of the day. A mobile phone. A car. An office phone. And a not-too-up-to-date website that listed available homes. Oh, and a fax machine for sending documents back and forth. It all sounds so quaint nowadays doesn’t it? A lot’s changed in thirteen years.
Being a realtor in 2011 is a completely different ballgame. Sherry is now retired and I’m sure she’s thanking God for that. She doesn’t have to do what today’s realtors have to do to survive and profit.
Like Ines Hegedus-Garcia. She sells real estate in one of the worst markets in the world: Florida. This is the land of empty high rises, slow drivers, humidity and boring baseball teams. Actually, it’s not so bad. They’ve got the Miami Heat. And even as existing home sales continue to fall nationwide, sales of houses and condos in Florida have gone up, particularly in Ines’ home town of Miami, where sales have risen to a five year high.
Is Ines a top, top producer, raking in zillions? I don’t know. I didn’t ask her. But she’s doing well. And what’s most important is that she’s doing well in a very difficult market.
Ines and her husband Enrique sell real estate and manage properties. They’ve survived and profited in real estate hell through hard work, hustle and mostly…through technology. Particularly technology. Because realtors in 2011, especially those working in distressed areas like Florida, need to use every bit of technology available to succeed.
Ines’ real estate empire is built on one foundation: her blog called Miamism.
“Real estate is a seven year cycle,” she told me. “And referrals are everything. To get sales leads, our blog is our number one tool. I write about subjects I like and offer as much valuable information as I can to potential buyers. I write about everyday questions that my clients ask me. It’s never about me. It’s about the consumer. And what information they need to make an informed purchase.”
Ines started her blog in the heady days of 2006. She used to spend a few hours a day on it, but now she says she writes for no more than an hour. “Now I have a library of over a thousand articles. So I can piggyback off them, repost and use older content.” Ines posts about four to five times a week. Her posts are short, generally under five hundred words, because her typical audience are “scanners.” Sometimes she’ll write a longer piece if the subject has something to do with architecture or history.
Ines does all the things you need to be doing in today’s world to run a successful blog. You can sign up to get blog posts emailed to you. You can search for homes. You can leave comments. You can contact her directly. You can download flyers and link directly to real estate related sites. Her blog is her website. Her website is her blog. And if you’re going to run a successful blog like Ines, you’ll need to enjoy writing and be prepared to spend time on it every single day of the week.
And the results can be significant. According to Ines, her blog now gets about a thousand visitors a day. She does the whole thing on WordPress.org. And she’s modified the look and feel of the site about four times since she began writing it, using a designer and search engine optimizer that cost her about $2,500 each time. From the blog, she ties in other technology.
For example, she’s created Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn pages which all connect to each other. And she’s a big user of Flickr, the photo sharing site. “It’s real estate,” she says. “Of course people like to see pictures.” Ines uses a syndication site called Posterous to get the messages out. She posts something on Posterous once and the service distributes to all of the social community sites where she participates.
Her blog gets found because it’s active. It gets picked up by Google because there are a lot of posts. And comments to her posts. And links to other social media sites. And links back to her blog from her passionate fans. She’s constantly updating key words and “meta” data for searchers too. It didn’t happen overnight. But it’s amazing how popular a blog can get if you steadily work on it for five years or so.
I bet if my realtor Sherry was still selling real estate today she’d be doing the same thing. Because this is the realtor of 2011. In 1998 you get away with just a phone and a car. Today…it’s a whole different world.
And in today’s world, it’s all about the smartphone. Ines has mobile apps for all these sites on her phone. She updates them throughout the day when she comes across opportunities for those that follow her (“New Miamism Blog Post – Miami Heat Road Rally”). And she responds quickly to people that ask her questions (“Do you know anything about Fellsmere?”).
Ines is a big iPhone user. In her opinion, it’s one of the most important tools for running her business. She keeps notes on the device throughout the day and then syncs these notes with her email. She uses Qik to chat with customers and stream to them live videos (“look at this new place…it’s coming on the market tomorrow…want to meet me here later today?”). She takes videos throughout the day and posts them to her (of course) YouTube account, which (of course) is tied back in to her blog and her social media sites.
Ines also relies heavily on a mobile application from Realtor.com, a very strong industry tool provided by The National Association of Realtors. She has her clients download the application so they can do a little searching on their own. The application is GPS enabled. “You can drive around and immediately find out sales prices for homes on the market.” Although she’s not that worried about losing potential customers to her competitors, she still has herself registered on the site as their agent of record. “Clients drive around, find properties they like and email to me. I can then respond back to them immediately.” General technology is great. But technology specific to an industry is usually the most valuable of all.
“I’ve picked up these tools because I’ve needed to pick up these tools,” she says. “I have to be better than my competition. I need to be able to respond to my clients on the spot. That’s the way it is in Miami.”
Ines admits she’s at it all hours of the day and on weekends too. Because people buying homes tend to do their searching at these times. She tries to set boundaries. Like dinner time. But these rules sometimes get broken. How busy does it get? Her teenage kids tell her she’s on her phone too much. “I’m way ahead of them too,” she boasts. “They can’t come home with a new thing…I almost always already know about it.”
Home Sales Down? Not For This Realtor – Quicker Better Tech – - Forbes