July 2009

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The Advertising Age has Ended, the Edutizing Era has Begun Consumers simply do not want to be “sold” anymore. They have become cynical about advertising claims and “its all about me” advertising. They dont want to hear an agents claims of greatness. They want to understand what you can do for them. They want to know that your claims are backed up by legitimate experience and insights you can bring to them. They want you to prove why you are the best agent or broker for them.  Simply making promises of greatness is not enough to attract consumers anymore. Customers trust brands in the same way they trust other people. When a company performs consistently against its stated values and follows through on commitments consumers generally trust them. Those that say one thing and do another are those who are abandoned after their one chance.

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ChaCha close to “cracking” mobile voice search

by THE WAV GROUP on July 23, 2009

As reported on MobileMarketer, MSearchGroove recently evaluated three mobile voice search tools for the iPhone- Google, Yahoo and ChaCha. The researchers from MSearchGroove evaluated the overall performance of the voice-enabled mobile services from ChaCha, Google and Vlingo for iPhone with Yahoo by asking a series of 18 queries from six typical mobile search categories such as navigation, direction, local information, general information, social and long-tail. In the category of queries asked as questions, ChaCha accurately interpreted 94.4 percent of the tests and delivered accurate search results in 88.9 percent of cases. Google’s results on the other hand were pretty dismal. On the other hand, Googles voice recognition technology only interpreted 16.7 percent of queries accurately during testing and delivered accurate results 22.2 percent of the time. Vlingo for iPhones interpretation of voice queries came in at a respectable 72.2 percent however the answers it delivered via Yahoo were only accurate 27.8 percent of the time.  Other than ChaCha, many of the tools are just not  quite ready for primetime yet. So how can the real estate industry take advantage of the growth of mobile voice search?  While voice recognition software has come a long way in the past it is still not anywhere as accurate as using traditional phone functionality. While “push #3 for listing details” is not quite as sexy as voice recognition, it is a lot more reliable and a lot more ubiquitous.The ideal combination for communication with the largest number of consumers combines voice and text. Mobile expert Susan Marshall, VP Marketing ChaCha says” “While teens send about 3,000 text messages per month as compared to making 191 calls per month, voice is still a common method of communication by a large segment of the population, particularly the over 18 crowd,” she said. “To provide the best possible mobile search user experience, we need to provide both voice and text search in an easy and accessible way.” Since real estate consumers have so many different types of phones and phone usage habits,  the more flexible the applicaiton, the more valuable the mobile real estate search will become. Companies like VoicePad allows a real estate consumer to search via voice prompts and then receive more indepth listing information via voice, email or text. To learn more about how to use Mobile Search to grow your business click here to download a free copy of our Mobile Search White Paper.  

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Don't forget about Video when you are edutizing

by THE WAV GROUP on July 22, 2009

I have been writing a lot about edutizing lately and have been offering several methods for attracting new customers with educational pieces containing relevant, timely information consumers are interested in. We talk a lot about how it is very important to share local market statistics to consumers to help them understand the ins and outs of the marketplace. Importantly, by sharing this imformation agents and real estate associations can reinforce their position as local experts.

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A few weeks ago we announced the launch of the MyC.A.R. application from the California Association of REALTORS.  Today the application went live in the iPhone App Store.  The MyC.A.R. is another great example of how agents can use Edutizing to position themselves as experts.  The application allows an agent to share monthly market statistics for 21 regions in California along with current loan information and highlights from C.A.R.’s “Market Matters” newsletter. it is a great “cocktail party” tool to answer the question that inevitably gets asked – How’s the Real Estate market doing?  It is a great mobile lead capture tool that agents can use to provide quick answers to potential clients. They can use the application as a way to open the door for a new client relationship. While the application is currently available free for members of C.A.R. it can be licensed and branded by other local and state associations. An extension of the popular WINForms®/ZipForm® software for the iPhone also is in development.  A demo video is also available on YouTube: My C.A.R. can be downloaded directly from the Apple iTunes store for free. Simply search for the keywords “My C.A.R.” in the Applications section. C.A.R. members can acquire a members-only access code by visiting http://www.car.org/tools/mycar. The access code is then entered in the “REALTOR® ID” field that exists on the applications user profile page, providing additional application functionality.  

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Morgan Lane Marin to acquire Pacific Union Real Estate

by THE WAV GROUP on July 20, 2009

Bucking the odds in a highly volatile, recession-stymied real estate market, Morgan Lane Marin has grown meteorically, from just $52 million in sales in 2006 to $315 million in 2008. Combined, the two entities will have 17 offices, more than 430 real estate professionals and 2009 sales volume projected to be $2.2 billion, according to Mark A. McLaughlin, CEO of Morgan Lane. The goal of the combined operations is to become the Bay Areas leading luxury real estate brand an objective McLaughlin said will be achieved by retaining and recruiting the industrys top-producing professionals and leveraging resources and international marketing programs of Christies Great Estates.  “Its a business philosophy that has proven itself at Morgan Lane in Marin County,” said McLaughlin. “With Pacific Unions strong reputation and platform, coupled with Morgan Lanes agile and entrepreneurial local management and marketing methods, we have every reason to believe that we are well positioned to become Northern Californias dominant luxury real estate brand.” For Pacific Union the acquisition brings the company full circle back to its roots three decades ago, restoring it to a locally owned and operated, high-end boutique brokerage. “This is great news for Pacific Union, as it will now return to local ownership,” says Avram Goldman, CEO of Pacific Union. “These are two highly regarded companies with similar cultures.” Adds Goldman, “Pacific Union is already well positioned as a leading Bay Area real estate company. By joining forces with Morgan Lane, we have a tremendous opportunity to expand both companies presence and further dominate in the regions we serve.”

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ESPN wins where real estate portals fail

by THE WAV GROUP on July 20, 2009

There was significant debate about the concept of Localism in Real Estate on the heals of our whitepaper on the topic.  The paper pointed out that a web strategy that links together hyperlocal websites with a central hub site will draw more traffic than a mega-portal.  Not content with being a sports colossus with broadcasts in 200 countries, ESPN is taking aim at hometown sports coverage, threatening one of the last strongholds of local newspapers and television stations.  And it is working! After a promising test run in Chicago, ESPN is adding local offshoots to three more cities. On Monday, ESPN, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, plans to announce local Web sites in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas – in what executives say is only the “first inning” of their effort to provide hyper-local sports coverage in cities across the country.  In less than three months, ESPN Chicago has become the citys top sports site, attracting about 590,000 unique visitors in June, according to data from comScore, an Internet measurement company. Second place went to The Tribunes online sports section with 455,000 unique visitors. George W. Bodenheimer, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks: “Once ESPN establishes itself in local markets, it plans to move deeper into local sports – down to the high school level and perhaps beyond – by using social networking and other technology to inform its journalism.”  Sound familiar?  In the case of local real estate, the agents are the journalists, providing the best local coverage of real estate activities by area and neighborhood. “Localization will not pad ESPNs bottom line anytime soon. But it could turn into a significant growth engine over time.” said Michael Morris of UBS. “But if this area takes off, and ESPNs success record is astounding, it could really add up in a hurry.”  

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Google Voice for Real Estate

by THE WAV GROUP on July 17, 2009

Reprint:Updates to Google Voice By DAVID POGUE It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Google Voice. To refresh your memory, I quote myself: “Google Voice began life in 2005 as something called GrandCentral. It was intended to solve the headaches of having more than one phone number (home, work, cellphone and so on). GrandCentral’s grand solution was to offer you a new, single, unified phone number, in an area code of your choice. Whenever somebody dialed your new uni-number, all of your phones rang at once. (perfect for real estate agents) Continue reading… “No longer did people have to track you down by dialing multiple numbers; no matter where you were, your uni-number found you. As a bonus, all voicemail messages landed in a single voicemail box, on the Web. “GrandCentral also let you record a different voicemail greeting for each person in your address book. You could also specify which phones would ring when certain people called. (For the really annoying people in your life, you could even tell GrandCentral to answer with the classic, three-tone ‘The number you have dialed is no longer in service’ message.) “For people with complicated lives, GrandCentral was a breath of fresh air. It felt like a secret power that nobody else had.” Then, after Google bought GrandCentral and unveiled an improved version a year later, I wrote: “Google Voice maintains all of the original GrandCentral features – but introduces game-changing new ones.” The new features included free transcriptions of your voicemail (the text of those messages gets sent to you by e-mail and text message); free conference calling; dirt-cheap international calls (2 cents a minute to France or China, for example); and, perhaps most profoundly, Web-based sending and storing of all your text messages. That’s a first in cellphone history; for most people, text messages scroll away off the phone after 20 of them or so, with no way to capture them. Anyway: today, some updates. First, Google has *finally* taken Voice out of its private beta-testing stage. It’s been pouring out invitations to everybody who’s been on its waiting list–a long, long list. Already, everyone who ever asked to sign up for GrandCentral has been granted a full, free Google Voice account, and the company is almost finished inviting people who’ve requested an account more recently. Once that’s complete, the company plans to give every member a couple of […]

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At the beginning of each quarter, I sit down with our Broker clients and review the advertising plan and media slotting.  In our last meeting, there was plenty of discussion about newspaper advertising given our posts like Newspapers are like Nursinghomes, and Will the Last Newspaper please shut off the lights.  It is pretty well known that we do not believe that the current rates newspapers charge for advertising represent a good return on Broker advertising dollars.  Agents may need to advertise in the newspaper strategically to meet business committments to sellers, but it does very little for Broker Brand Advertising – in fact, focus group indicate that consistant broker advertising makes a brand stale.  It is hard to get your brand message to “pop” in the newspaper. Other forms of print are still hot, and may be neglected.  If you are a broker carrying more than 100 listings, you may want to consider publishing your own glossy magazine.  Every broker who is doing this receives terriffic results.  Charge your agents for ad space at cost. You can distribute them in a myriad of ways – blow them into the newspaper by zip code, direct mail, street racks, offices, agent hand-outs, flyer boxes, etc. If you do not have have enough willing agent advertisers, or enough listings to publish your own magazine – take advantage of your local glossy real estate magazine offerings.  Homes and Land and/or The Real Estate Book.  As some of you know, I was involved with a real estate magazine company for three years launching a web services company to support the magazines and expanding the business.  Here are a few realizations that I learned during that time. 1.  Print drives web – If you look at our Broker Website Effectiveness study, you will find that 65% of broker web traffic comes as a result of direct URL type-in – granted, this is all print – listing signs, business cards, magazines, newspapers, building signs, etc.  But private research done 5 years ago yeiled that about 20 visitors a day will visit your website from a page of magazine advertising.  We measured this by launching new websites that were only published in the magazine of 25,000 circulation. 2.  Magazines drive phone calls – again, although this research is dated, we noted that magazine advertisers purchasing a full page were getting 20 calls per month off of their ad.  We used special […]

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A great example of Balanced, Relevant Edutizing

by THE WAV GROUP on July 15, 2009

I ran across a terrific example of edutizing today from Prudential Georgia REALTY.  The company offers a series of videos describing the state of the national real estate market, local real estate market, and several other topics.  What really impressed about these videos is the tone. They are balanced and honest using a variet of credible third party sources to discuss market trends and future projections. While the videos clearly depict the true state of the real estate market they also leave the viewer with a hopeful perspective on the future of the Atlanta real estate market.  The video production is professional – much like a CNN news program or documentary. It helps project a business-like disciplined face to Prudential Georgia REALTY. I found the video on a the REALTOR LinkedIn Group so the company appears also to be promoting the video among the REALTOR community as well as to consumers. They are using social networking to expand the reach and value of the edutizing content they are producing. This is a great example about how to use your company’s expertise to share a professional, balanced view of the real estate market. This type of information is really valuable to consumers – much more so than an ad that simply says list your home with me. Hats off to Dan Foresman and his team! If you would like to learn more how you can successfully employ Edutizing in your business, join us at a pre-Inman conference session called GAINING AN EDGE WITH EDUTIZING. The session will be held on August 4th from 1:30 to 4:30 pm and will feature a variety of industry leaders expert at delivering EDUTIZING to their customers. Hope to see you there!    

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Gaining an Edge with Edutizing

by THE WAV GROUP on July 14, 2009

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about moving from Advertising to Edutizing. The whole idea is that consumers are interested in working with agents who clearly demonstrate indepth knowledge of all facets of the real estate industry and the local community.  The concept of Edutizing is really taking off around the country.  The California Association of REALTORS has put together a 3 hour session to help agents take advantage of this new communications phenomenon. The session called Gaining An Edge with Edutizing will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 pm on August 4th, immediately before the Inman conference. The session will talk about what is driving consumer’s interest in edutizing.  Real estate executives from around the country will share real world exampled of how they have successfully deployed edutizing to build their business and differentiate themselves from their competition.  In addiiton, the session will talk about how to use mobile to communicate your local knowledge and expertise in real-time.  Kicked-off by Leslie Appleton-Young, Chief Economist for CAR, it is sure to be an interesting event. Leslie will share the results of the 2009 C.A.R. Homebuyers and Sellers Survey.   I will be moderating one of the panel discussions as well. By attending the session you will not only learn from industry edutizing experts, you will also receive a free copy of CAR’s 2009 Home Buyers and Sellers Survey ($29.95 value), as well as a step by step guide to Edutizing.  There is also a cocktail reception following the event to allow you to network with fellow Edutizers. Hope to see you there.  

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CAR 2009 Homebuyer Survey Released

by THE WAV GROUP on July 9, 2009

Increased affordability, low mortgage rates motivating home buyers, according to C.A.R.s “2009 Survey of California Home Buyers” Quick Facts: · Share of first-time buyers rose to 38 percent in 2009, compared with 19 percent in 2008 · Forty-nine percent of all buyers purchased a home through a traditional market sale · Eighty-eight percent of traditional market sales were financed through fixed-rate mortgagesLOS ANGELES (July 7) Favorable home prices, record-low interest rates, and the belief that rates will rise in the near future were the primary motivators leading home buyers to purchase in 2009 compared with last year, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) “2009 Survey of California Home Buyers” released today. Sixty-eight percent of buyers said price decreases motivated them to buy a home, while 39 percent reported low interest rates helped them move to a better location. Twenty-three percent claimed the likelihood that rates will move up as the motivating factor. “After back-to-back years of sharp declines, home sales in California rebounded in 2008 and early 2009,” said C.A.R. President James Liptak. “The increase reflected the combination of favorable prices, low mortgage rates, and home buyer tax credits, fueled primarily by sales of distressed properties that accounted for more than half of the states transactions. “Housing affordability has improved dramatically in response to the decline in home prices along with historically low mortgage rates, creating a tremendous opportunity for home buyers in California,” he added. Forty-nine percent of all buyers purchased a home through a traditional market sale, while 38 percent purchased a REO/bank-owned property, according to the survey. Reflecting the difficulty in closing short sales–properties selling for less than the loan amount–only 13 percent of buyers purchased a short-sale property. Home buyers who purchased a REO or bank-owned property experienced the highest level of difficulty in obtaining financing, compared with a more traditional transaction. They rated the level of difficulty as 8.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 representing the greatest level of difficulty in obtaining financing) compared with a 7.7 for home buyers with a traditional market sale and 7.6 for short-sale home buyers. Eighty-eight percent of traditional market sales and 75 percent of short sales were financed through fixed-rate mortgages. By contrast, just 43 percent of those who bought a REO/bank-owned property used fixed-rate mortgages. Financial literacy with respect to mortgage financing appears to have been a challenge for some buyers. […]

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MLS Vendor Accounts by Map

by THE WAV GROUP on July 8, 2009

I have been chatting with Mike Sparr, CEO and Founder of Goomzee, thier Realty Connect product is among the premier providers of real estate text message marketing.  Mike is preparing some excellent research about MLS, and was kind enough to share a preview of some of his research.  Please enjoy this map below which details MLS vendor accounts across the United States.  It is very interesting to see the geographic preferences of one vendor over another – Fidelity and Rapattoni are very popular in the west but their number of accounts deteriorate as you move into the South East.  Marketlinx dominates Florida, Texas, and the South East, but has fewer accounts as you move northwest.  This map will be interactive when it is published in the next few weeks.  Be sure to watch the Gomzee Blog for release information. The following image was created by Matt Cohen of Clareity Consulting and is republished with his permission.  Click here for original image

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In a move to keep REALTORS in the center of the conversation between consumers and access to local and concise real estate property informaiton, Six Northern California Associations of REALTORS agree to offer Clarus Market Matrix as a member benefit. The member Associations of of BAREIS and SFAR offering the solution include Coastal Mendocino, Marin, North Bay, Northern Solano County, San Francisco and Solano Associaitons of Realtors.  In total, this agreement which pushes the customer count over 100,000 allows the California Association of REALTORS to count nearly 50% adoption of the Clarus product across the state.

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Will the last newspaper please shut off the lights

by THE WAV GROUP on July 5, 2009

A year ago I blogged about the decline of the newspaper industry in a piece called“Newspapers are like nursinghomes.”. A year later the decline has accelerated. The economic crisis has hurt the newspaper industry as it has so many industries. The question is whether it will recover (or at least rejoin its slower downward path of last year) when the economy as a whole recovers; or has the economic crisis merely revealed the terminal status of the industry. I am pessimistic about a recovery by the newspapers. One reason is the current economic situation. A serious, protracted economic crisis can result in changes in consumer behavior that persist after the end of the crisis. A change in consumption, even in some sense involuntary, can be a learning experience. People make what they think will be merely temporary adjustments in their consumption behavior to reduce financial distress but may discover that they like elements of their new consumption pattern; and businesses too, which have reduced their newspaper (and other print-media) ad expenditures drastically. They may never go back. Newspaper ad revenues fell by almost 8 percent in 2007, a surprising drop in a non-recession year (the current economic downturn began in the late fall of that year), and by almost 23 percent the following year, and accelerated this year. In the first quarter of 2009 newspaper ad revenues fell 30 percent from their level in the first quarter of 2008. This fall in revenue, amplified by drops in print circulation (about 5 percent last year, and running at 7 percent this year–and readership is declining in all age groups, not just the young), have precipitated bankruptcies of major newspaper companies and, more important, the disappearance of a number of newspapers, including major ones, such as the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Falling revenues have led to layoffs of some 20,000 employees of the remaining newspapers. Print journalism has come to be regarded as a dying profession. Online viewership and revenues have grown but not nearly enough to offset the decline in ad revenues. Even the most prestigious newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today, have experienced staggering losses. News, as well the other information found in newspapers, is available online for nothing, including at the websites of the newspapers themselves, who thus are giving away content. The fact that online viewing is rising as print […]

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Our end of the month client financial reviews were hopeful for the first time this year.  June seems like it turned out to be the best month of the year for brokers, and sales are ahead of cancellations for most of our technology clients.  Hip Hip Hooray! Nevertheless, this coming winter may be tougher than last winter, so build reserves.  We advise keeping these six covenents in mind as you plan the balance of your year. Hold Cash – Be sure to have enough cash on hand to cover cash flow shortfalls between November 2009 to March 2010. Continue to be Creative and Innovate – shortfalls in cash have stimulated new online marketing tactics which have been effective.  Keep up the good work. Stay focused on the Customer – All customers spending money today expect you to appreciate their business more in a recession.  Make sure you are meeting your commitment to them.  The customer is buying on price first, and product second.  Be very competitive. Stay on top of your brand mentions – Information about you and your company is moving around the internet at lightning speed.  Be sure that you stay on top of your online reputation. Don’t Bet on Government Stimulus – Stay hopeful, but do not assume that the government stimulus will work.  Many economists are speculating that real estate will not see quick results.  Be prepared to fight a long battle, and be mindful that as the stimulus wears off, many of the systemic business problems will still be around to fight. Focus, Focus, Focus – Don’t try to do too many things – focus on doing the core things well – retain your current customers and fight hard to get every new source of revenue you can.  

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You Think The U.S. Was overleveraged?

by THE WAV GROUP on July 3, 2009

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in a recent article from China Daily, there was an amazing fact from The China Statistics Yearbook 2008 revealed.  They found that the average home price in Beijing was 23 times a local family’s average income, compared with the international level of four to six times.  Do you think they are setting themselves up for a MAJOR fall?  Their government has come through with up to 30% discounts on mortgages for first time home buyers, but it doesn’t seem like that will be enough to make those loans truly a prudent investment over time. China is also experiencing irrational property price increases.  “One thing we are concerned about is whether there is a new bubble being shaped. While people have a strong perception of excessive liquidity and further price growth, the possibility of a bubble is pretty big,” said Gu Yunchang, secretary-general of the China Real Estate Association. In just the past WEEK in  Beijing’s Central Business District, residential property appreciated 6.5 percent, according to leading property broker Homelink. “We used to talk about monthly price growth, but recently, it’s more about daily change,” a broker with Homelink said. In Shanghai, developers of the luxury Tomson Rivers apartments, known for their price of more than 100,000 yuan per sq m ($14,000), sold 10 units in the first 25 days of June. Before that, only four had been sold since the project was marketed in 2005. In Guangzhou, the downtown housing price reached 11,200 yuan per sq m ($1,600) in May, close to the historical high of 11,574 yuan per sq m ($1,700) in October 2007, official statistics indicate. And the average price of second-hand apartments reached an all-time high of 9,648 yuan per sq m ($1,400) in the same month. The current momentum is in stark contrast to the stagnation the industry suffered a year ago, when government policies to curb overinvestment and market fear of overpricing led to sliding prices and shrinking transactions. But the global financial woes prompted Chinese policymakers to ease the reins on the real estate industry, a key engine of the country’s GDP growth. Last October, the central bank authorized banks to offer up to a 30 percent discount in mortgage rates to first-time homebuyers. In May, the central government lowered the requirement on developers’ minimum capital fund from 35 percent to 20 percent of the entire investment needed. Local governments also made other preferential policies, […]

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According to the Mobile Outlook 2009, published by Mobile Marketer, a leading journal for mobile marketing, media and commerce, location-centric centric services are one of the key drivers of adoption to the mobile web.  Sure sounds like great news for the real estate industry. The study goes on to say that consumers are getting used to getting content online and they are even starting to trust the medium enough to transact banking business.  All good news for the future of mobile. The emphasis, however, should be on mobile’s complementary nature – it gives legs to other channels, including retail, online, television, print, coupons, radio, outdoor, direct mail and insert media.  It’s a great way to leverage your website or invite consumers to connect to you or through you when they are driving around looking for property information. There are several wireless services now that let you brand a mobile experience for a consumer to search for a property from their phone.  VoicePad, for example allows a consumer to receive property information from any type of phone. Kurio, Mobi Manage and Smarter Agent allow consumers to search for property from their smartphones. Top of the trends list is the consumer’s growing comfort with consuming news and content on mobile phones, along with exchanging SMS text messages, shopping for products and services, checking email, playing games, conducting mobile banking transactions and searching for retail locations or driving directions. REALTORS can take advantage of this trend by publishing local market statistics via their iPhone, for example, using the new app from the California Association of REALTORS that allows you to pull up monthly market statistics and mortgage rates. It is important to think about how and where mobile fits in your overall marketing strategy today.  

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Housing Economic Summary from Jim Welsh

by THE WAV GROUP on July 1, 2009

In Jim Welsh’s June newsletter he offered the following synopsis of where we are heading in real estate.  I hope that he is wrong, but nevertheless believe it valuable enough to republish his thoughts.  He is offering his opinion based upon some pretty credible data sources.  Be sure to read the entire report to understand why he feels that “The combination of higher unemployment and underemployment, along with another round of mortgage resets will lead to another wave of foreclosures. This next wave will increasingly impact the mid to upper end of the price range.”

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