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March 4, 2015

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10 Ways to Get The Most Out of LinkedIn

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 17:35

Bill Gassett

By Bill Gassett

What do you think LinkedIn is for? Is it just for people who are trying to find a new job? Should you only visit it if you want to recruit somebody? Or is it one of the best ways to grow your real estate business? If you chose the third option, you are correct. In fact, HubSpot, reports that LinkedIn is three times more effective at generating business leads than Facebook or Twitter. And since leads result in more sales and more money in your pocket, it is clear that LinkedIn cannot be ignored.

Here are 10 ways real estate pros can effectively use LinkedIn to increase their online exposure.

1. Remember, It’s Not Facebook

First, it is crucial to realize that LinkedIn is not like your other social networking sites. This one is all about business, and you better keep things professional. So no sharing that funny meme your Aunt Linda showed you, and no posting pictures of what you are eating for dinner or your funny cat. There are plenty of other sites for that.

2. Make Sure Your Profile and Company Page Are Complete

Since you are a real estate practitioner and independent contractor, you have your own professional brand, thus, you should have both a personal profile and a Company Page. Each one should be filled out completely. Not only should every detail be included—like your website, links to your other social media profiles, any awards or certifications you have, and past companies you have worked for—but it should be displayed in a way that is easy to read and engaging.

3. Include Keywords

Just like you do with your website and blogs, your profile and Company Page should be keyword rich. When people want to find a “real estate agent in Massachusetts,” for example, you want to make sure you show up.

4. Share Plenty of Content

When you are deciding which content to share on LinkedIn, always have the goal of helping others, but make sure the type of information varies. On one day, post an informative article on a new development in real estate, and on the next, share an opinionated blog post about what agents are doing wrong. Make sure you’re not just sharing your own content. Those who are successful in social media understand that it can’t always be about YOU.

5. Publish Directly on LinkedIn

Not only should you be sharing loads of information, you should also be writing your own. One thing that makes LinkedIn unique is that it allows you to publish your content for all of LinkedIn to see. They are referred to as long-form posts, and you definitely need to be taking advantage of them. Not only does it make you look more credible when you have them on your profile, but they are searchable both on and off LinkedIn. People do not have to be in your network to view them, and they are able to connect with you directly from the post. This is an invaluable tool for growing your network and establishing your expertise in the real estate industry.

6. Study Your Analytics

LinkedIn is very generous in the amount of information they provide to you. They tell you exactly which of your posts received interactions and which ones didn’t. You should study these analytics thoroughly so that you can capitalize on what people like and avoid the stuff they don’t.

7. Connect With Everyone

There has never been, and never will be, a rule that you are only allowed to connect with people that you know on LinkedIn. You should do searches for locals in your area, other agents, home appraisers, mortgage brokers, and anyone else you want. The thing is, there is no such thing as too big of a network. You never know where each connection will lead you. Over the years, I have seen some really shortsighted agents who say, if they don’t know them then they won’t connect. This might be prudent thinking on Facebook, but not on LinkedIn!

8. Capitalize on LinkedIn Real Estate Groups

One of the hidden gems on LinkedIn is the group feature. They are the difference between agents who really drive traffic back to their website and those who don’t. However, there is a proper way to use them.

  • According to the Social Media Examiner, you should look for groups within your industry—or groups that contain your target niche or market—that have enough members to get you exposure, but not so many that you get lost in the shuffle. Aim for between 1,000 and 5,000 members. You can also join a few of the larger groups for when you are sharing something of a more general nature.
  • When you interact within the groups, remember that you are there to add value. You should respond to others’ questions, give your opinions, share advice, and ask questions that make people think. You should not post links to your site unless it is something of value.
  • Don’t post your listings! I cannot emphasize this one enough. Real Estate agents are notorious for only thinking about promoting their listings. Social media is about forming relationships, not trying to sell to people. Do you think anyone goes to Linkedin groups to buy a home? I hope you realize the answer is no. This is one of the most annoying things real estate agents do in social media. What’s worse is there are some groups that spell out the fact you can’t post listings and some practitioners do it anyway. This is the perfect way to look like a fool in front of your peers.
  • Don’t try to be active on too many groups at once, or you will not be able to provide anything useful to any of them. Instead, choose three or four that you really think could boost your exposure and make sure to check-in with them several times per week. Some excellent real estate groups to take a look at joining are The National Association of REALTORS®, Real Estate Professionals Group, and Real Estate Professional Referral Group.
  • Once you are part of a conversation, don’t leave it unfinished. Always go back to see if anyone has responded to what you said.
  • After you have established yourself within the group, you can start asking your own questions and solicit feedback. If you ask one that garners a lot of attention, you will even be featured as a top contributor within the group, increasing your visibility tenfold.

9. Start Your Own Group

If you are really ambitious, it could be time to found your own group. This puts you in the driver’s seat, and, if done correctly, can really catapult your recognition in the real estate industry. In order to set the precedent, you should set up an auto-email that goes out to all new members welcoming them to the group and setting the ground rules (like no soliciting). You can also let them know that you will be sending out weekly or monthly emails with industry resources and tricks of the trade.

10. Help Others

Finally, you should take a few minutes each day to endorse and recommend other people. They will appreciate the gesture and may even return the favor.

These are some of the best ways a real estate agent can use Linkedin to get meaningful results. Do you have any tips for successfully using LinkedIn? Share them in the comments below.

Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.

 

Why You Need a Mentor

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 18:50

Jay O Brien

By Jay O’Brien

We’ve all received the calls, opened the letters, and deflected the in-person pitches. Real estate is perhaps one of the only industries that attains its workforce through blind recruiting rather than interviewing.

It’s quite simply a numbers game for many brokerages, and the strategy becomes less about value creation for agents and more about the bait.

How do brokers attract more agents and (hopefully) retain them? Unfortunately, the most common misconception is the one that revolves around what truly motivates people: money. If money is truly the greatest motivator, the success of real estate agents would be through the roof since selling a home is the one and only way to get paid. Clearly, this is not the case. But when agents are looking to make a switch, we still hear the question time and time again: “What’s the commission split?”

This is not the question you should be asking. Let’s not forget, 90 percent of zero is still zero.

@Yoel, 2014. Morguefile

The relationship between a brokerage and an agent should be mutually beneficial, and monetary rewards should not be top priority. Don’t put the cart before the horse. First, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • “What has my business looked like in the last year?”
  • “Did I do more business each year? How much more?”
  • “What are my biggest challenges right now?”
  • “Where do I need coaching?”
  • “What are my goals for this year, and the next, and the next?”

If you do not know the answer to all of these questions, how in the world is your broker going to know?

In such a heavily self-disciplined environment, it’s very easy to notice when a real estate agent becomes complacent. If there is a problem, struggle, or challenge, it’s very difficult to identify it and face it alone. Instead, an agent is more likely to think they are in the wrong office or behind the wrong brand. They might think an office change will correct their productivity.

It is paramount for an agent to position themselves with a person, or people rather than a brand, company, office, etc. The genuine growth of a real estate professional cannot be quantified in purely commission splits. Remember the saying, “You get what you pay for?” Often, if the commission split ratios are dramatically skewed in the favor of the agent (especially from day one), then usually there is very little value being added from the brokerage. It’s simple business 101: You can’t spend more money than you make.

I am constantly looking to grow in various aspects of my own life, so I have a personal coach for several things: golf, yoga, CrossFit, AND business. If an office has promised you the moon and the stars along with a compensation plan that is too good to be true, something probably doesn’t smell right. I would venture to guess that most agents reading this would agree that doing 25 deals a year at 75 percent is much better than doing two at 90 percent.

With that, find your person, your mentor. Find someone who can hold you accountable and coach you to greatness. It is absolutely critical to your success. Take that path, and watch the money follow.

Jay O’Brien is a managing partner and co-owner of RE/MAX Prestige in Costa Mesa, Calif. Connect with Jay at www.jayobrienrealestate.com or jay.obrien@remax.net.

5 Tips to Tighten Your Real Estate Tool Belt

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 08:30

Alyssa Hellman

By Alyssa Hellman

Sometimes it seems like new real estate products are released every day. It’s easy to become distracted by trying every new marketing tool or tech gadget, but over time the luster fades and you’ve got to get back to business. Here are my five tips to tighten your real estate tool belt and decide what products you really need.

1. Get in touch with your local and state association. Your association doesn’t charge their dues just for membership. Most associations offer a slew of services that allow agents to operate their businesses effectively, yet many of these tools & services go unused simply because agents don’t know they exist! Explore your association’s offerings to see if there are free or discount offerings of tools you already use or things that would be helpful moving forward.

2. Have a plan and commit. Without a concrete plan of what you want to do, you make yourself susceptible to “shiny object syndrome” – using tools just because of hype rather than utility. Knowing what you want to deliver to clients (e.g. your niche or specialty, special services, company culture, or brand) should be guided by your plan with an eye on new tools, not the other way around.

@Hotblack, 2013. Morguefile

3. Master your craft. I wouldn’t trust someone with a drill who has never used a screwdriver. Before you add to your tool belt, make sure you have mastered the tools that you already have. Or, make sure you contract with someone who has mastery of the tools. You don’t have to be a jack of all trades to deliver great service. Master your own craft and don’t be afraid to partner with other masters of their craft to deliver great service.

4. Network with your peers. Sure, you want to stand apart from the competition, but you can gain a lot from working with each other. Your clients choose you for you. I have learned about some of my favorite systems from my peers and continue to actively engage with them to learn from each other and grow professionally.

5. Know when to hold em’, know when to fold em’. Don’t feel the need to stay signed on with something you never use. As your business grows, it will evolve. Your tools will need to evolve too, so something that worked at one point, won’t always work later on. Be flexible in your business and evaluate your tools regularly to make sure they are still helping you, not holding you back.

Regardless of the products you choose, you must remember that they are just tools. At its core, real estate is a relationship business and your tools should always help you enhance, not distract, from your relationships.

Alyssa Hellman is the Go Leader at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, Go Realty based in Cary, N.C., serving Raleigh-Durham and surrounding areas. You can find Alyssa on Twitter @AVHellman or visit her website www.alyssahellman.com.

Develop a Killer Online Strategy

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 13:23

Charlie Allred

By Charlie Allred

Having a blog can be a killer online strategy for your real estate business. A vibrant blog can be the very top of your online funnel. But your potential clients must feel understood when they first arrive at your site.

Last month, I talked about creating a niche to strengthen your online presence. By all means, you can address several niches on your blog. However, you have to start somewhere, so start with one niche.

I believe all real estate blogs should be as community oriented as possible. Your blog should show that you’re a resource for the community. For instance, you could publish articles on your market’s parks, schools, or restaurants. Write articles about community activities or local places. Think about anything your potential clients would want to know before they moved to the community.

Here are four tips for creating a vibrant blog:

  1. Address your niche; always address your niche. Think about what people in your niche market would want to know.
  2. Write consistently. I generally say posting one article a week is ideal, however, if you know you can’t commit to once a week, commit to every other week.
  3. Answer questions. You are the expert, so answer questions your clients ask regularly.
  4. Create lists. Create lists of information your potential clients would want to know if they are moving to the area. For example:

Notice the list above goes from a broad subject – moving to Phoenix – to the more narrow focus of Old Town Scottsdale homes. One of my niches is the Old Town Scottsdale neighborhood, which includes even smaller market niches of zip codes 85251 and 85250, as well as the McCormick Ranch area of Scottsdale. I could break this down even further into subdivisions. I suggest, if you can, make your niche market a subdivision, write four or five articles on each subdivision, then move on to the next subdivision.

Focusing your expertise on a specific neighborhoods is much easier in newer communities because they have subdivision names that are often searched online. I specialize in an older area of town where subdivision names aren’t used much, so they I try to use keywords that are associated with my area.

To get started with your killer online strategy:

  1. Choose your market niches.
  2. Make a list of questions, articles, lists, photos, and videos you can publish to your blog that addresses each of your niches.
  3. Don’t forget to add keywords associated with your market niches for each article.
  4. Start writing your blog posts, but manage your time. I recommend limiting yourself to one hour max per week writing, 30 minutes making graphics or taking photos, then publish the article.

Charlie Allred is a Phoenix-based designated broker for Secure Real Estate and author of the book “Pinnable Real Estate: Pinterest for Real Estate Agents.” She is a Pinterest expert coaching agents on how to gain more leads, followers, and clients by using Pinterest. Learn more at her blog: www.PinnableRealEstate.com.

 

Cook Up Success With a Real Estate Team

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 15:09

Dave Robison

By Dave Robison

Creating a successful real estate team is a lot like cooking. You have to add certain ingredients to the pot – a little of this, a little of that, more of another thing to make it sweet. The temperature and how long you cook it has to be watched, otherwise you risk it coming out cold or burning it. Some people are naturals at cooking, others not so much. Some can’t cook for the life of them.

So, is there a secret recipe to building a team? Absolutely not. There are too many different ingredients (some limited in quantity). Often, you end up having to work with what you have. But you do have to pay close attention and make sure your ingredients (team members) work well together.

First, to successfully “cook up” a team, you are going to have to get good at different things. Here’s a quick list:

1. Know yourself. How well do you know yourself? I’ve taken a lot of different personality tests over the years. I’ve also spent countless hours  reflecting on what it is that I do well, what I do fast, and what I don’t do well at all.

©Prawny, 2014. Morguefile

2. Know other people’s strengths. This is sometimes very hard  – I have messed up a few times giving the wrong tasks to the wrong people because I didn’t know their strengths. So I have implemented a few different tests and indexes to get to know people around me, including DiSC and Kolbe. I want to know what they do well and how that aligns with my strengths and weaknesses.

3. Develop a resilience. I love what Barbara Corcoran says: The main trait of successful people is they don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves when something bad happens. You have to learn to deal with set backs, failures, disappointments, etc.

4. Learn how to work through conflict. Looking back, I see there where times that I failed by not taking action when other members of my team had a disagreement. It may sometimes seem easier to get rid of someone or ignore a problem than to work it out. This is where many teams lose their members. There will be times when members of your team will be highly emotional. This is a critical phase: if you get your team members through it, they will often become highly commitment to you. Individuals shouldn’t quit at first disagreement, and sometimes you will have to help them work through it.

​5. Love them, help them, love them. Everyone makes mistakes. You have to allow people to make mistakes. Help them through it and then be sure to show the love again. People won’t stick their neck out on the line for you if they know you will cut it off. They will stay safe. And if you want to grow your business, have to allow them to make decisions even if it’s not the one you would make.

Stay focused on these things and the team you cook up will be one of success.

Dave Robison, known as “Utah Dave,” is broker/owner of UtahDave.com Neighborhood Experts.

Point of Sale Mandates for Real Estate: From Cumbersome to Destructive

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:38

Sam DeBord

By Sam DeBord

Government entities often attempt to place additional restrictions or costs on the transaction or transfer of real estate.  While there are often good intentions involved in the creation of these “point of sale” mandates, most proposals for new or increased transactional hurdles have serious negative consequences.

Point of sale mandates are a concern not only for real estate industry professionals, but also prospective and current home owners in a community. Barriers to the transfer of real property slow down the marketplace and often reduce home owners’ equity through transactional costs. Point of sale mandates can also create overall market depreciation by increasing failed transactions.

©cohdra, 2007. Morguefile

There is a wide range of point of sale restrictions on real estate transfers across the country. Some are minor in nature, while others are significant.  Any restriction adding costs, inspections, or bureaucracy to a real estate transaction is a drag on the industry and on home owners, but the effects of some mandates are much more severe than others.

Utility Inspections

Some point of sale mandates are intended to improve the community. Sausalito, Calif., has a mandate that requires owners to inspect their sewer laterals (which connect to the street sewer lines) and repair them before selling the home. While a buyer can (and often should) have a sewer scope inspection independently, the city has created a broad mandate that is sometimes unnecessary for certain property types, ages, and situations.

Municipalities in some areas, including Seattle, require inspection of on-site sewage systems or septic tanks to ensure they meet state regulation standards for operation. This point of sale mandate, much like the sewer lateral mandate, is intended to protect the groundwater and the health of the local community, but it only applies to those home owners who are selling.

This often causes an uneven distribution of responsibility and cost. Consumers can already get their own septic inspection independently when they buy a home. The governing authority may truly believe that all sewer lines or septic systems need to be inspected regularly to promote healthy groundwater. If so, they should propose a policy for all residents’ systems to be inspected on a regular basis and let the community decide if they agree.

Full Home Inspections

Some of the most concerning mandates include some form of government-managed home inspection at the point of sale. These can create fines, repair requirements, and even loss of occupancy rights if they are not adhered to by the home owners.

In Marin County, Calif., home owners are subjected to resale inspections before they can close escrow on a sale. These inspections can call for remediation or charges for items which are not in line with current code or permitting. This often leads to current building standards being applied retroactively to work that was previously done without a permit but according to the building code as it was written at the time.

In Austin, Texas, an energy performance audit is required to be performed and delivered to the buyer before a closing. These pricey inspections must be paid for by the seller. They rate the home’s windows, insulation, ducting, HVAC equipment, and even appliances for energy efficiency and make suggestions to buyers for improvements. They can generate significant repair requests from buyers that can scuttle sales agreements.

In Berkeley, Calif., resale inspections are focused on energy improvements as well. Toilets, shower heads, faucets, water heaters, water lines, duct work, chimneys, insulation, and weather stripping are all required to meet city standards. The cost to the home owners can reach thousands of dollars in many cases.

Point Of Sale Mandates Taken To The Extreme

The Cleveland area has some of the most heavy-handed point of sale mandates that exist in the country. In at least 20 of the metro’s suburban cities, inspections must be done before selling, and in some cities even before the home owner enters into contract to sell their home. If the inspection finds code violations, they must be repaired by the home owners even if they decide not to sell.

The onerous nature of these inspections is exemplified by the city of Maple Heights’ mandate. When home owners receive their point of sale inspection report, if there are code violations, they are granted a 90-day temporary permit to occupy. The city has taken the authority to revoke the home owners’ occupancy rights if they don’t fix the violations within that time frame. Even if the sellers never received an offer from a buyer, they are required to make the repairs to the home at their own expense.

Home owners may have to fix basement floors, electrical wiring and outlets, lighting, hot water tanks, window screens, gutters, fences, or even a concrete slab with three or more cracks. There are more than 40 categories of potential violations which a city-approved inspector can call out for repairs. If sellers can’t finish the repairs before closing, they must put the money for the repairs into an escrow account managed by the city to ensure they will be done. The occupancy permit for the home is dependent upon it.

Sensible Policy For Point Of Sale

Home buyers certainly want their homes to be safe, but they need to be able to make their own decisions about asking sellers for repairs or doing repair work themselves. Some neighborhoods are full of homes built in the 1920s or earlier. These homes have many features that would be considered outdated to an inspector and inefficient by new energy standards, but are often perfectly acceptable to the buyers.

Forcing a person who has lived in a home for 50 years to upgrade all of its systems before selling to a buyer who would have been happy with its previous condition is inefficient and an overreach of authority. It creates a significant financial detriment to the participants in the transaction and to real estate values as a whole in that community.

Our focus through REALTOR® policy has been to continue to educate the public on important safety and energy concerns about their homes. We educate home buyers about energy efficiency options and costs. We implore our buyers to have home inspections and, where appropriate, specialized inspections for sewer lines, septic systems, etc. We’ve taken on the primary role in advising home buyers and sellers about the dangers of lead paint, mold, and other hazards.

We don’t need point of sale mandates from government agencies to make these ideas into costly blanket inspection requirements for all home owners. Buyers and sellers already have the opportunity to research relevant information about their homes, and make their own decisions as to what kinds of features are valuable and necessary to them.

Point of sale mandates, at their very core, are not an effective way to make policy. They put an inordinate weight on the small part of a community that happens to be selling a home that year, while others who stay in their homes for decades don’t share in the cost. We need to continue to educate our clients, as well as our politicians, that empowering home buyers and sellers to learn more about the safety and efficiency of their homes is a far better way to promote those values than adding roadblocks to the sale of their homes.

Sam DeBord is a director for Washington REALTORS® and Seattle King County REALTORS®, and managing broker with Coldwell Banker Danforth. Connect with his team, Seattle Homes Group, at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

Use Your Tweets Wisely

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 08:00

Bill Gassett

By Bill Gassett

So, you’ve finally joined Twitter. How do you know what to tweet about to maximize your time and energy on this rapid-fire platform? How often can you tweet without annoying people?

Your followers’ Twitter feeds moves at lighting speed, so it’s okay to post up to 10 times per day or more. Just don’t do all your postings at once, as this floods people’s feeds and is considered spamming. Spread your tweets out through the day and evening for maximum visibility. Switch up the types of posts so it doesn’t get too boring for your followers. Since you are a real estate professional, it’s expected that you’ll post about real estate topics much of the time. However, you can also tweet about other things that are interesting or helpful to your followers.

Here is a typical day’s worth of Twitter posts:

  • Post around five informative articles or interesting pictures/videos from around the web.
  • Re-tweet interesting posts from people you follow (see below for more on this).
  • Respond to a couple of tweets from others. This is especially effective if you can find people asking questions about real estate, and answer them.
  • Post personal comments about real estate or links to content you have written on your blog. It doesn’t have to be a recent piece, either. For example, here is an article about the inaccuracy of Zillow home value estimates. Most real estate agents are constantly explaining why a “Zestimate of value” should be ignored to both their buyer and seller clients. We all know how far off base Zillow can be! This is the kind of helpful information your followers will enjoy and gladly re-tweet. You can even add some humor into your tweets. Here’s a popular tweet I sent along with the blog link: “You have better odds of seeing Big Foot than an accurate Zillow estimate.”

Re-tweeting Other Real Estate Content

It is important to understand that you shouldn’t just broadcast your own content on Twitter. To be successful with Twitter and grow a following, you have to share others people’s content and engage with them. Keep in mind the social aspect of social media. When someone tweets your content, the best way to return the favor is to look over their profile and re-tweet something they have shared that you find interesting.

Follow Important People and Industry Leaders

Who you follow is just as important as who follows you. It gives you a chance to interact with people, build relationships, and perhaps even get a shout-out. Seek out local news anchors, hot-shot agents (besides yourself, of course), or anyone else you would love to mingle with. If you are lucky, they may even follow you back. You will also want to follow your past or present clients, other agents, mortgage brokers, builders, and anyone else with whom you want to build a connection.

Have Conversations

Twitter is absolutely a two-way street. It’s not just about getting your message out, but building lasting relationships. Whenever you are mentioned, reply. If you are new to Twitter, send out a quick thanks when you get a new follower. If you see something interesting in your Twitter feed, comment on it. It’s a pretty simple concept, yet it’s one that often gets ignored.

Manage Your Time

I often get questions from real estate agents such as, “How do you manage your time on social media?” or “How can I possibly be thinking about tweeting real estate articles if I am out selling houses and meeting with clients?” Time management is always an important consideration when it comes to social media. Fortunately, there are some great tools that can help you manage your time on Twitter. One of my favorite applications is Buffer. Buffer allows you to set what you want to tweet throughout the day on auto-pilot. You could schedule ten articles you want to share and Buffer will tweet them out for you.

Additional Twitter Tips and Advice:

Update Your Profile

When someone views your profile, they instantly form an opinion of you. Can they trust you? Are you a professional? Do they want to interact with you? Make sure that both your profile and header picture give the right first impression. You also get 160 characters to summarize who you are, so come up with something different and catchy that still makes your profession apparent.

Sure, you might gain some website traffic from people viewing your profile, but it is more likely that people will click on interesting blog posts that you share on Twitter (in moderation, of course). In addition, include the Twitter icon—linked to your profile—on your marketing materials, your email signature, and your website.

Add a Period

Did you know that if you start a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle, only that person (and people who follow both of you) will see your tweet? To get your comments to your entire fan base, put a period before the @ symbol if you’re beginning a tweet with someone’s profile name.

In summary, Twitter is all about making connections and staying relevant. As long as you are active on the site and really consider whether or not your tweets add value to your followers, you should be golden. Before long, you will notice an increase in website traffic, and you may even gain a client or two. If you are interested in learning more, read my previous post, “6 Twitter Rules for Real Estate Agents.” You will be a social superstar in no time!

Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.