Realtor.ca MLS Search

The Realtor.ca website is one of the top visited Canadian real estate sites. It is owned and operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association.  (CREA) has over 100,000 Realtors (including brokers, agents, and salespeople) across Canada as members.  ciVisitors to realtor.ca can search for homes listed by local participating mls boards .

Realtor.ca Search

Review of Realtor.ca Search

When the home buyer arrives on the realtor.ca website, they must click to agree with an agreement or contract before they can begin searching for a home or condo. The search box has fields for city, price of property, number of bedrooms, and number of bathrooms. Their search tool requires a lot of specificity in selections otherwise too many properties will be returned, and the system was designed to handle only 500. The Realtor.ca developers still haven’t figured a more user friendly search tool that retrieves a smaller selection of appropriate homes. Thus the searcher must refine their search again and again which probably annoys most of them.

Google’s search engines incorporates a larger number of search parameters which allows them to narrow down the best results and present them to the user. However, let’s say the searcher choosesNorth Vancouver, 4 bedrooms, and price between 700,000 and 750,000 dollars. That will probably result in about 30 properties. There are additional search parameters on the results page including fireplace, garage, A/C, waterfront.

From this graphic, you can see the dominant role of the map. CREA believes location is the most important feature people want in a home. The homes are placed on the outside.

If you want your home to get first look, it is wise to price the property just above the $700k price point or above the 50k increment levels they chose.  They start the listing at 700k so 700,995 is a good price to get you top placement. You should choose your main property graphic well too. There’s not much you have control over at this point.

When the visitor clicks on the More Information link, they are delivered to a separate page with your mls listing info in it.  The information is very standard and there’s not much to help you differentiate it. You have your pictures and your property description. You’ll want to write your description well.

Is it worth it to optimize your listings for the mls and realtor.ca? In comparison with Google leads and even Kijiji leads in Canada, it may not be even worth a thought.  It does however make you appreciate other systems that provide an opportunity to give you better exposure than other agents.  And that’s what marketing is all about.

Thousands of agents in your province use the same search process every day using the mls systems, so it is worth optimizing your descriptions and additional information to get their eyeballs first. It is competitive today and your clients want all the bids they can get.

Real Estate Agent Survey

What’s Most Important to you for 2012?

Other Polls: Social Media

Canadian agents and home sellers should read up on realtor.ca and download the realtor.ca app.  US home searchers, download the realtor.com app.  Find out more about the Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLSVancouver MLSEdmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS associations.

Active Rain Realtor Survey

Survey Reveals How Successful Realtors are Creating Better Results

Real Estate Agent Survey

A new survey conducted by Active Rain suggests successful, rich real estate agents are using technology 6 times more than those agents making less than 35k per year. The survey identifies other best practices that agents who make more than $100,000 are using and those who make less than $35,000 don’t.  Of course, the results are slightly skewed by the fact that successful agents are able to spend more and access better converting lead channels and marketing methods. They may also be better informed. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the marketing path the rich agent is taking today.

“It’s no surprise that today’s most successful real estate professionals are working harder, making better use of technology, and investing more capital in their own success,” said Steve Murray, publisher of REAL Trends and a 30-year veteran of the real estate industry. “Smart agents should study this report and not only emulate the focus areas of the best agents, but strongly reconsider the non-performing activities that clearly are not leading to a higher income.”

The Active Rain Survey discovered that successful agents are:

  • Spending 10  times more money each year than poor agents to market and advertise their business
  • 6 times more invested in technology to support and run their business, which includes a top-notch IDX Web site, email marketing campaigns, and lead management systems
  • 54% more likely to use proactive email marketing campaigns with their prospective, current and past customers
  • utilizing a blog, YouTube, and Twitter to build leads
  • using online video on YouTube as a medium to market themselves, their listings and business
  • 3 three times as likely to outsource their search engine optimization (SEO) and lead generation efforts
  • Twice as likely to buy internet leads

If you’re thinking of taking your real estate business to the next level, consider Realty Market Leader – leveraging the best technology with the right promotional strategy that includes everything above.

Real Estate SEO IDX VOW Social Media Content Development Lead Conversion

Social Media and Search Engine Optimization

Internet Promotion Cheaper and Providing Better Reach

Of all methods of promotion available to you today as an agent or broker, social media and Search Engine Optimization are easily the most cost-effective. And they make a great team. If you’re not doing all you can in these areas, you’re leaving the market to your competitors. If you don’t have the time or expertise to utilize these channels well, you should hire someone who does.

Top Social Media Channels for Real Estate Agents

As the above graphic shows, realtors are already involved with social media and suggests they’re comfortable with it. The question it doesn’t ask is whether realtors are using social media well.  A shoddy, non-strategic effort could actually be undermining their professional image.

Your facebook page just might be a hit to your former clients and to many new ones. You can use it to develop closer relationships, stay in touch, and to create leads. Is it a lot of work?  Yes, especially if you want to be better than your competitors. If you look at how pervasive social media sites are now, it is hard to ignore them in your business. You really need to commit to social media for real estate.

SEO is a complex matter of writing words and linking pages. It involves tuning your website content so that it resonates to words such as real estate, homes for sale, home listings, foreclosures, short sales, house for sale, condos for sale, etc.  The higher your pages rank near the top, the more traffic you’ll get and the higher quality leads you’ll get. If you don’t rank well, the leads may not be as good quality. But a lead is a lead, and the real matter is whether your site has what it takes to engage your visitors and make them want to contact you or return to your site.

SEO Still Tops for Online Lead Generation

A search engine examines about 100 variables with respect to your website or blog and weights them in varying degrees. Therefore, what puts one realtor’s site at the top is sometimes very subtle. The best approach to SEO is not to do it yourself, but rather have a professional optimize it and even take over development of content.  Search engines and Social media can deliver motivated buyers and potential sellers.

Here’s what you need to focus on:

  • Increase the amount of content on your website and blog
  • Have RealtyMarketLeader optimize your current content for Google rankings
  • Create a Facebook page to present and build your brand image
  • Use Twitter to show you’re up to date and really involved with the community
  • Develop your blog with interesting content from around the web
  • Develop your blog to create interesting conversation and present useful info to consumer
  • Create home tour videos to create a brand boosting presence on Youtube
  • Advertise on Facebook and Geotarget your ads

Social Media Management for Realtors

Heavy duty users of social media can sign up at http://www.postling.com which offers a service to integrate and streamline your social media postings. It also allows you to monitor what people are saying about you and your business.

Contact Realty Market Leader to get started on an effective SEO and Social Media presence.

Increasing Leads for Real Estate Agents

Target Niche Prospects and Build Rapport with Them

In previous posts, I spoke about real estate lead conversion and client segmentation. Real Estate Lead Conversion covered some practical matters related to online lead conversion.  It has a list of items you need to review and implement to increase your calls and registrations .  It wets your appetite for the next post  Realtor Lead Conversion which delves into the issue of segmenting your target prospects. This post goes further into the matter of choosing which niche prospects are right for you.

There are a good number of factors that go into whether the prospect will contact you when they’re on your site. Aside from the mechanical stuff on your site such as listings, and general real estate information, lead generation may down to personality and style matters.  People contact others who are relevant to them and that takes in a wide range of factors such as age, gender, appearance, and capability.  If your website doesn’t have enough info for them to make a decision about you, then you need to start building in elements to communicate your compatibility. This is where you get into personal info, video, and even facebook pages. If you’ve always wanted to keep yourself out of your real estate business, you’ll probably find lead conversion challenging.  You have to take an intelligent gamble and personalize and focus your brand image strategy.

Niche Targeting: you need to identify the best niche groups in order to modify your brand image and website content so you can better appeal to these people.  Prospects fill out your contact form or phone phone you because you seem compatible with them, their personalities, lifestage, and their goals.

For example, if you appear to be an outgoing condo specialist who is generous with time and information, and you can offer broker discounts for new condo purchases, or you can demonstrate your negotiation skills, buyers will likely consider you to be the most relevant condo specialist.  Or if you’re appealing to older babyboomers who are looking for a retirement condo, you may want to brand yourself as a golfer, who travels, likes 50’s music, and who takes financial investing seriously. You’re creating “sympatico” with your older audience.

Real Estate Branding Video – Florida Realtor Discusses His Brand Image Development


Choosing Niches: If you’re resisting narrowing your target market focus, remember that trying to appeal to every buyer and seller probably hasn’t worked for you, and it won’t in future. The real estate market during the past 4 years has changed in ways few people or experts talk about. The online market is competitive and other agents can and will win niches.

The first step to becoming truly customer focused and building your niche brand image is to understand the niche categories. You may already know a certain niche (young families) very well, but is it enough? Once you have a good understanding then you can serve that niche(s) at the highest level possible.

Any agent can choose any niche, however each will likely have to approach them in a different way.  You’re likely going to be weak with some customer segments, so maybe you should think about which type of people you work well with and of those who don’t seem to appreciate your style. That’s on a face-to-face personal level.  Then when you design your website and write your persuasive, informative content, you’ll know exactly who you’re speaking to and trying to persuade. Your imagery, style and topics will all be targeted to your specific target audience.

Sandra Bellini

Sandra Sellani is a branding expert who frequently speaks at conventions. See her article on Real Estate Agent Branding which discusses uniqueness as Key Branding Factor. Take her Brand Quotient Test Online

I myself have specific types of agents I work with. The great thing, is that these excellent real estate agents and brokers contacted me.  That’s mainly because they found my site via Google and they saw that my services match what they need. The personal style of my site and myself is straight forward and thorough. That increases clarity and gives them confidence that they’ll get powerful solutions.  It is a niche target audience of agents that really do need my services. And while style of communication and work expectations may vary, they are the type of agents that keep their eye on the end goal.

Review  my previous post on realtor lead conversion.  And review your current list of prospects and categorize each. Choose the best 5 that you believe you’re selling to or could sell to.

Nationality (Mexican, Indian, Chinese, American)
Language (Spanish, English, Chinese, Hindu)
Buyers
Sellers
Mortgage Financing
Male
Female
Home Searcher – Window Shopper
Information Seeker
Low End Market
Mid Market Buyer
High End Market Buyer
Condo Buyer
Family Home Buyer
Quick Seller
Maximum Price Seller
Low Commission Seller
Broker Brand
Uncertain Buyer
Uncertain Seller
Age
Personal/Impersonal
Investor
Retiring
Divorce
Relocation/Traveller
Economy Watchers

Your blog and facebook pages offer an opportunity to discuss issues related to your community. That will include local politics, sports, recreation, commercial developments, and neighbourhoods. This helps to integrate you with their thoughts or questions about the community. Think about life in any city and people such as the city mayor, entertainment celebrities, restaurants, or sports teams come to mind.  Wouldn’t it be great if you were one of those people, that homebuyers associated with your city?  Many top agents take branding seriously, putting huge funds into billboard advertising, local flyers, and appearing in the news media. Ambitious and expensive but it probably should be every agents goal.

Hiring a branding consultant to build your brand image? You won’t find many, however some of the experienced ones are capable of researching and defining the niche variables, and helping you position yourself correctly. You’ll want to them to demonstrate their grasp of brand  positioning in the real estate industry. If they don’t discuss real estate on their website, then they may not be interested in the real estate business. You need someone who is.

How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?

95% of Real Estate Agents don’t Make Much

If you’re considering a career in real estate sales, you might want to investigate just how much money they really make.  Public opinion is that they make too much.  A 5 % commission might sound like a great deal, but you have to remember their costs. They actually do have to spend a lot of money to market themselves and their client’s properties. They have thousands of other agents to compete against.

The mostly costly fees they face are income tax, brokerage fees, travel costs, advertising and marketing fees, continuing education, and their own accountant fees. Read this article that discusses real estate agent income.

Realtor Income

Research from Dan McCarthy ViralHousingFix shows US Realtor income has dropped substantially.

Most agents don’t earn a great deal, especially in the US. Canadian real estate agents are faring better this year.  What the public doesn’t realize is that most agent make very little and early in their careers, they must struggle. Choosing to become a real estate agent or broker is a tough choice especially during a recession.  Selling homes requires a variety of skills and aptitudes requiring more confidence and determination. The time between sales can be long.  Only someone with spirit and determination can make it. Becoming a teacher, doctor, bus driver, policeman, or government adminstrator might seem much more sensible. And it usually is.

Aside from income tax, much of an agent’s income goes to advertising and marketing expenses. The costs of creating advertising flyers, cards, magazine ads, renting an office, or doing outdoor advertising is phenomenal.  If you saw the actual costs you’d seriously question why anyone would want to gamble at a profession where there is no certain, regular paycheck.  Then consider the work is sales which requires perhaps the greatest maturity and skills of any profession.  If you don’t believe, try to sell something to someone and you’ll understand. And don’t forget the work hours. Forget 9 to 5 workdays. You’re an entrepreneur in this field and you are your business 24 x 7. It requires dedication.

It may only make sense to jump into a real estate career if you intend to be one of the top 5%. They are the ones who can enjoy some discretionary income and who don’t sweat it out.  They may earn profits of 100k to millions per year.

Money is important but money alone cannot create satisfaction with one’s life. The satisfaction agents get from meeting buyers and sellers, selling homes and finishing deals is high on their list.

Powering Up Registrations and Info Requests

Strong Registration Page is Major Key to Lead Generation

The last step in your lead generation funnel is to get them to make contact via phone or registration form. After your outstanding value offer or listing page and other content has given them a reason to make contact, they need to sign up.

It’s all about flow and continuing to build a sense of urgency and purpose.

If they’ve filled out a form, then your site has in some way given them the purpose, confidence and courage to contact you.  It validates that you’re giving them what they want and they are asking for your assistance. The other conversion sign is the direct phone call to your number. If you’re good on the phone, then a phone call is powerful.

Right now, let’s concentrate on the call to action and the registration page because this combo generates great leads. If the person actually registers with you, they’re almost asking to become your client.  That’s not so with a request for more information on a property.  When registered, they may hire you as a buyers agent.  If they want to sell their home or condo, they will probably phone you and your phone manner will be critical to successful lead conversion.

The Call to Action is the activity you set in motion on your site. You take them from one thing to the next, building interest and desire which leads them to make a decision.  You’re encouraging them to make a decision. At this point you request that they fill out the form or phone you. If they don’t, it means you haven’t given them a good enough reason to do so. You failed to interest them. You have to take a good look at the style and quality of your content and figure out why it doesn’t generate interest. All your content should be written with contact as the goal.  Then you’ll be expressing yourself properly. You need to build interest to drive them to the contact page.

If they do get to the registration page, then you have generated sufficient intent and desire, but’s important to create some sort of expectation.  As we know, people get to the registration form and then give up.  So your battle isn’t over when they get to the registration page. It’s a shame when they get that far and give up for some unknown reason.

People need clear cues and goals therefore your registration page must promise something concrete and of value. If it’s vague, they may not complete the registration. They must have a purpose for contacting you and if your form confuses them or diffuses their desire and intent, they may abandon it.

The registration page content then has to appear to answer their interests. Vague registrations that ask for names, addresses, phone numbers etc. with no appropriate dialogue with them, or an opportunity to let them express themselves are not liked. People don’t want to just cough up their personal contact info because they don’t trust such requests. That’s why your request has to be wrapped within a certain context.  The context makes the request legitimate. Even if they don’t trust you, a clear purpose will override that distrust (e.g., they must know some critical detail that’s missing from the property description, and only you know that).

Why Should They Sign up With You?

This question goes back to your unique value proposition – your expression of the value you’ll deliver and why you’re the right agent.  You should have crafted an attractive personality on your site, demonstrated knowledge of real estate sales and transactions, knowledge about the real estate niche they’re interested in, demonstrated positive results, and shown that you’re busy and in demand. It’s all a picture of a relevant, well respected, and effective agent/broker.  This builds trust and confidence.    Now they know they’re not wasting their time.  Read more on effective personal traits, what clients think of agents, and about the real estate sales conversion process.

On the form page, you may want to explain briefly what contacting you will do for them, and reassure them that their info is private, not shared, and that you won’t bother them later, and that it is easy to opt out.

In this graphic below, we see the sign up “call to action” down in the lower corner where it is inconspicuous.  Since it isn’t relevant or visible to them, they won’t bother signing up.  The sign up needs to offer something specific such as a key part of information about the property itself such as the condo fees,  property tax, recent upgrades, floor space, layout view, or pictures of the “beautiful master bathroom”!  Dangle the carrot in front of them. One good carrot, is to see an exclusive video of the property with the real estate agent discussing the salient value points of the property. That kind of thing gets them hungry to make contact. Always capitalize on their impulse, just as a online retailer would try to capitalize on impulse purchases. They’re only one click from your competitor, so do what’s necessary.

Ineffective Calls to Action Fail to Convert Leads

The benefits of signing up have to be more than just saving searches and easy access to vague, unnamed info.  It is best to have your call to action up in the property description area, and you should leave out key information on the property listings so they have a reason to contact you.  This is why many realtors are choosing custom idx. With customization, you can decide not to show certain info thus generating a reason why they should contact you.

If people don’t contact you because they’re not sure you’re likeable or personally compatible with them, then focusing on property details and other vital info might help them get over that hurdle.  This is a chance for you to express generosity, helpfulness, and spirit right at the key moment when they have to decide whether to get involved with you.  You should also consider how many form fields to use as it affects conversion rates.

Being more Relevant and Helpful - Build Trust in your Call to Action

Your registration forms are vital to completing your lead conversion funnel. They reaffirm the value you’ve built up in their minds as they’ve perused your site and they’re personal not general.

Lead conversion companies are very aggressive about how their forms are written and displayed. They get right in the face of the prospect with persistent pop ups, large bold fonts, pictures, testimonials, and providing a good value offer. Unfortunately, their offer is usually vague and designed for mass response rather than to convert specific website visitors as you can do on your site. It commoditizes your services and makes you look like a street hawker, not a personal friend. Your form is on your site, not on some spam site amongst dubious content.

Your registration form should be short, up to 5 fields, and include one open-ended field where they can ask a question or say something to you. This gives you good info about their motivation for buying making your phone conversation more effective.

Lead generation companies often create poor quality leads because there is no transparency about who they are,  who they represent, and the relationships they develop. So how many buyers would trust them? And that’s why they work so hard on perfecting the lead conversion process. They have to work harder.

So take a look at your registration page and the info on your property pages and ask someone else to look at them and tell you if they’re really motivated to contact you based on those pages.  From SEO generated visitors to your registration form, you need to supercharge the whole process. Build up your value proposition, brand image, and demonstrate value on all your pages that they might visit, and then provide a good call to action with a registration form that keeps them moving forward to contact.

If you triple your contacts through improving this process, it can mean tens of thousands of dollars more in commission. It’s not just more leads and sales — it’s better, more motivated prospects.  You’re in control of the quality of the prospects you create through your marketing.

WordPress blog sites are content management system with virtual office capabilities and allow a realtor to provide fresh content. When they’re well optimized for SEO, they can be very effective as a lead generator.

Canadian agents and home sellers should read up on realtor.ca and download the realtor.ca app.  US home searchers, download the realtor.com app.  Find out more about the Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLS, Vancouver MLSEdmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS associations.

Real Estate Investment Opportunities

Finding Investment Opportunities with Legs

If you’re an investor, you’ve probably focused strictly on property itself as the only investment in the real estate sector that matters. If you were investing in gold, you might attracted by the security.  Gold is popular but people may give it more credit than it deserves as a safe or profitable investment, or one that has a terrific upside potential. Fact is, it might not appreciate much beyond its current price.

If you invest in Gold stocks (the gold mining company) you have a better chance. The profit margin for a mining company is huge because its fixed costs are stable. The more they mine, the more you earn and they’ll make a lot more than a 10% increase in the price of gold bullion itself.  The key is leverage, and add to that a variety of profit opportunities and you have a winning formula.

The same principle applies to real estate. Today’s real estate market is complex, highly regulated, and the macro economy is hurting.  Competition from FSBO and Discount brokers also makes it tough for real estate brokerages. Profit margins are down and sales are not what they used to be (except for Canada which is booming).  Smaller, more versatile companies possessing multiple, mutually-supporting businesses, can fare well, especially if they intend to be market leaders, can fare well.  Such innovative, entrepreneurial businesses can intiate a number of enterprises ranging from landscaping to home financing to marketing services in any city in North America.  If the markets are poor where you are then why not go where they are good?

If you’re looking for unique investment opportunities in the real estate sector, please inquire. From mortgage sales to online hotel marketing to property sales, there are opportunities to profit in this business, particularly in Canada. Please contact me if you have venture capital or just have the funds to launch new startups.

Realtor Marketing – 2012 is a Big Opportunity

Fight Mediocrity with Better Marketing Results

2012 is a whole new year with plenty of promise for agents in the US and Canada. Whether your city market continues its stagnation or stellar growth isn’t the issue really.  Good or bad, your local real estate market offers incredible potential if you carry out your online marketing effectively. You can excel in any market if you’re top dog.  If you just coast along not understanding your online customers, you’re likely going to be disappointed.  Being the market leader is one of the most intelligent quests an agent can pursue and it can happen if you dig in and learn.

Planning your Marketing Strategy for 2012

Important Posts:

Search Engine Optimization
Social Media Usage
Realtor Marketing 2012
Lead Conversion
Improving Lead Conversion
MLS IDX
Optimal IDX System
WordPress Blogs
Real Estate Sales Niches
Chinese Buyers
Babyboomer Market
Real Estate Videos
Real Estate Agent Traits
Branding and Personality


Questions: What are your plans for your website development, email contact, niche targeting, SEO & PPC, Facebook, Twitter and social media exposure? Are you ready for the mobile revolution? How many websites do you have? Are you aware of your online brand image and what you can do to make a powerful asset? What is your cost per lead generated?  What is your conversion rate?

Lead Conversion Pays the Most Dividends

The top online marketing challenge for realtors is lead conversion. However, you still need to have a good volume of traffic and leads. It is a tough challenge evidenced by the staggering number of realtors who are unable to grasp the mechanics of online lead conversion. And there’s those who aren’t making at least 200k per year. Perhaps there’s something’s wrong with your website and online marketing strategy and you need to fix it.

This year you need to attract more prospects and improve your lead conversion funnel. That helps to increase good leads and deter the bad ones. Less work for you and much better results.

Are you stuck with an ineffective Virtual Office website and content management system. Why stick with it? There are some really good ones available with all the bells and whistles and they’re embarrassingly cheap.

Are you doing all you can with SEO? This is still numero uno when it comes to high quality lead generation. Combine that with a well planned website built for lead conversion and you’re ready to build clientelle. If you’re trying to do all this on your own, it must be a daunting task. Even the pros are stressed at the challenge of success in online real estate. Do it yourself SEO, content writing, and site design are exhausting so it might be wise to find a good marketing service provider.

Is lethargy and pessimism stopping you from making it all happen in 2012? Some agents cite insufficient funds to make it happen but usually it’s a lack of confidence that’s the real underlying concern. All agents at some point must make a decision about whether they’re really committed to their realty careers.  Who you have working for you really tells you about your commitment to being the best.  If you’re not working with anyone, it’s time to start leveraging others help and expertise. We’ve all specialized to gain greater competence in our niches, and some of us have put that extra effort into researching and developing excellence.  That’s the kind of people you need working for you.

Make 2012 a great year. Name your sales goals if you want, but the real goal is excellence. The money will come later.

Realtor Lead Conversion

Converting Leads a Top Priority for All Realtors

It may be true that real estate sales is a game of numbers, however that doesn’t really account for a vital component of successful real estate sales – improving conversion rates. And today, with competition from FSBO and discount brokers drying up a small portion of sales, market demographics being so fragmented, and top agents/brokers grabbing up a bigger portion of sales, any agent wanting to move up the income ladder needs to convert at a higher rate.
Real Estate Client Segmentation
A few agents believe that all you need to do to raise conversions is appear to be friendly, helpful, provide good service, and appeal to the buyer’s emotional side. There is a belief that conversion is an art rather than a science. Why don’t agents break selling down into a science? The world’s top sales gurus do. They get analytical because they have to.

It’s amazing that the searches on Google for real estate lead conversion are relatively low, so you’d surmise that all agents are doing very well and convert their leads exceedingly well. Apparently they’ve got all the sales they want and don’t need to improve!

I know that in working with agents and brokers that all need to improve lead conversion. However, they are uneasy about what’s needed to improve conversions and increase sales. It’s a game of increasing the quantity and quality of leads that’s for sure, but lead conversion inevitably relates to effective strategies – beginning with being customer oriented.  Break down your target audience into identifiable groups and build your strategy to serve them well.

From high search engine rankings, to adwords campaigns,  great web design, valuable content,  powerful brand image, to a top notch lead conversion funnel, it’s an endless stream of expense to increase lead conversion.

Do the general principles of lead conversion apply to real estate or this is industry too different? Is there a simple solution to converting your website visitors and increasing closed transactions?  If you believe in mathematics, there is a simple equation for everything. Realistically though, the number of variables is vast which is why we can’t command any kind of lead conversion equation. And can we realistically foresee or control any variable such as the visitor’s gender, income, time of day, prospect distractions, geolocation, nationality, budget, mortgage financing, competition, previous experience and prejudices, expectations, or economic conditions? We’re lucky to get any web visits let alone the exact type of buyer/seller we want  (Actually SEO can help a little). Each of the thousands of visitors we see at our website every month is unique so how can serve them all?

Standard Realtor Website - Doesn't Serve Any Niche or Segment in Particular

Buyer and Seller Segmentation

Using segmentation is one way to improve lead conversion. You need to understand, identify and target these niche segments. It’s wise to segment or divide up your potential visitors into categories or niches.  By segmenting effectively, you’re giving key groups of prospects what they’re interested in.You’ve probably already segmented via your navigation links: homes for sale, condos for sale, foreclosures, neighbourhoods, etc. as you can see in the typical real estate picture above.

That’s a good general approach but today with consumers seeing so much generality on the web, they don’t want to waste their time. They want to know that your site and you as an agent aren’t a waste of time.  They want to know that you are relevant to them.On your website, you demonstrate that relevance by delivering the focus, style, language and content they want.

People want action. So think about what action they want to take and build your content to fulfill it. Easier said than done.The action they want is a quick view of a home they’re interested in, with details, followed by contacting a helpful agent about seeing that home. So that’s your strategy.Now you have to figure out how to get each type of prospect into their own conversion funnel.

It requires a lot of thought, unique content for them, and the right calls to action. If you fail at any point in the lead funnel, you fail.  They could abandon their shopping cart at any time for any reason which you won’t know. Maybe their kid just threw up on the carpet, and they’ll have to start their Google search all over again tomorrow.

What are the Major Real Estate Prospect Segments?

The hard part is that segments overlap, so work on your major basic segments first:

Nationality (Mexican, Indian, Chinese, American)
Language (Spanish, English, Chinese, Hindu)
Buyers
Sellers
Mortgage Financing
Male
Female
Home Searcher – Window Shopper
Information Seeker
Low End Market
Mid Market Buyer
High End Market Buyer
Condo Buyer
Family Home Buyer
Quick Seller
Maximum Price Seller
Low Commission Seller
Broker Brand
Uncertain Buyer
Uncertain Seller
Age
Personal/Impersonal
Investor
Retiring
Divorce
Relocation/Traveller
Economy Watchers

If you have other segments or niches you’ve learned from your own experience and sales training, please let me know.  The basics are easy. In practical application you see that every buyer/seller is in several categories.  You have to make up your mind what your own designer segments will be. Is it a babyboomer retiree looking for a new condo or investment property? Is it a Chinese investor looking for condos in the city? How about a male with a family of 3 kids looking to upgrade?

If these are your real segments, you have to begin to redesign your web site content and lead funnel to serve them. I don’t think there’s any reason why you can’t serve ten, twenty or thirty unique types of buyers and sellers. However, it might be wise to have several websites to cover the ground, if you can afford it. On your site, you might want to narrow it down to 5 or 6 major types of buyers. When you try to hard to serve too many, you come out looking unfocused and a lot of these segments are incompatible such as divorce sellers and family buyers, luxury homes and mortgage financing, or too many different nationalities.

Lead conversion is affected by selection and focus, and understanding what each group wants to see and doesn’t want to see. You might as well give up on standard website templates and platforms as the ultimate solution because as you now know, people want to know you’re focused on them. You show your focus and compatibility by delivering the style and content they expect.

Read up on a Keller Williams sponsored research paper with a very different look on realtor sales strategy.

wordpress  idx plugin is an exciting new product that you should be aware of.

WordPress sites are well respected by Google and they offer excellent content management for the do-it-yourself agent who is able to generate fresh content on a frequent basis.  Canadian agents and home sellers should read up on realtor.ca and download the realtor.ca app.  US home searchers, download the realtor.com app.  Find out more about the Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLS, Vancouver MLS, Edmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS associations. See homes for sale on the MLS Mississauga system.

WordPress IDX for Real Estate

WordPress IDX Plugin Solutions Worth a Look

WordPress was originally developed as a blog content management system to provide bloggers with an easy to use and manage CMS. Blogs are a great solution for agents who don’t have time to manage their site content via an html editor. That’s why the wordpress platform is so popular. You can add news, videos, and even property listings now and Google just seems to like the wordpress format. The wordpress idx plugin is perhaps the most important feature to come along yet.

Wordpress Blogs

Some great wordpress idx products are available, but Canadian real estate agents are not able to use many of them. So far, these providers are focusing on US markets only.

WordPress Content Management

WordPress has stuck to its core niche yet it’s now seeing its platform being used in new ways.  The major developments are blog plug-ins and widgets that allow automated content from popular sources Twitter feeds to Video to news feeds.  It’s web 2.0 compatibility allows all sorts of functionality with the social web.  Integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are fairly seamless.

Blogs – Do it Yourself Ease but SEO becomes a Little More Difficult

Blogs however have their limitations. Although they are time efficient for do it yourself content management, it necessarily gets you more involved in the nuts and bolts of your site (instead of building leads through personal contact, and selling). It takes agents away from their core competence. And, pages can only be edited one at a time as opposed to editing in Dreamweaver is very quick and efficient. Those with large sites with tons of content can find it difficult to organize their SEO strategy to keep the details working with the whole.  That’s the realm of a professional search engine optimizer and top agents are very wise to have a top SEO pro working with them.

One of the most exciting new solutions for real estate agents is the wordpress idx plugin.  The wordpress plugin allows blog owners to have mls listings display in their blogs. The key benefit aside from having so many properties visible is that the listings appear right in the blog and not on a 3rd party site.  Some wordpress idx solutions have very easy to read layouts that are effective for search engine spiders. A key goal of any real estate agent SEO solution is to have thousands of their pages show up in Google searches. A source of top quality leads.

This graphic shows a typical listing in the left column of a 2 column blog layout. The layout itself is under your control since it’s your wordpress blog. You may need a wordpress blog programmer to help you customize your blog.

Wordpress IDX Plugin

Wordpress Blog IDX Plugin - Displays MLS Listings

Keep in mind however, that the wordpress mls idx solution is available to any agent, so you’re just getting up to a level playing field with your competitors. If you’re going to exceed the competition, you’ll need some sort of custom solution.

Canadian agents and home sellers should read up on realtor.ca and download the realtor.ca app.  See the realtor.com app.

Mobile  apps from Realtor.caTruliaZillow, and Realtor.com. Find out more about the Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLS, Vancouver MLS, Edmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS associations.

What are the pros and cons of using a real estate slogan? Learn more about the bank foreclosure market.

Real Estate Lead Conversion

Realtor Lead Conversion Tips

There’s nothing like a recession to test everyone’s theories about developing traffic, capturing leads and then converting those leads to real transactions.  When times are tough, consumers are more flighty, difficult, choosey, and they have greater expectations.  It’s best to let them know that you can fulfill those expectations – that the door is wide open to complete home buying satisfaction. From encouraging them to ask their questions, sending property listings by email, to helping them with financing, you’re ready to help them buy their dream home. Lead conversion may come down to how you present your brand image.

This post is about everything you can do before they call you or register on your site. What comes after first contact depends on your training and sales techniques.

Online searches are in the early buying phase whether they’re just beginning a home search or are looking for details on a specific home for sale.  Realtors know they have to be patient and persistent because it may take many months before prospects get serious about buying or selling. By optimizing your website and online lead funnel with the tips below, you’re increasing the odds the prospect will make contact. And by maintaining consistent contact you may end up with a client many months or even a year later.

Number one key to sales conversion is to be selling properties people want. For instance, newer homes in good neighborhoods just seem to sell themselves (although will sell higher with your help). Your conversion rates will have some correlation to the quality of product you’re selling, however you can still improve your lead closing by presenting better value and showing you are a better agent than your competition.

Number two key to sale conversion is to have your site ranking higher on Google, doing Google Adwords ppc, and getting more traffic. That bigger net is bound to catch a few nuggets of gold. Your online lead funnel is your website or websites and they need to collect more traffic.

Number three key is to have lots of properties for sale – your mls listings and your office listings provide the best reason for them to contact you.

Leads won’t happen today just because you’re available and you have lots of homes listed on your site. Your unique value proposition has to be strong. Create the perception that you are offering value. You certainly don’t want to promise to reduce your commissions – as that is only a losing proposition. Demonstrate Value and Competence — It’s important to increase customer service and to demonstrate how you’ve delivered value to your clients. Some agents are doing that through their blogs – discussing sales and how their clients benefitted. The home selling prospect arriving at your site needs to know how you’ve exposed the property to more buyers, and how you’ve manufactured a higher selling price, and how you’ve delivered more value and service. That needs to be spelled out clearly.

And, the home buying prospect needs to know how you’ll help them get their dream home.

Your website should be set to create a dialogue – think about how everything you’re doing online creates a need for them to contact you and begin a relationship.

So how do you increase calls and registrations from these online window shoppers now at your site?

  • absolutely incorporate a lead management system that requires registration and indicates to you what they were looking for
  • ask an open ended question within your registration pages/popup to help you learn more about what’s really on the prospects mind, and that will require that you contact them
  • remind the buying prospect that they are buying in the most advantageous market ever for them – it reminds them of how positive a market it is for them
  • remind the selling prospect that they need to make good decisions and get on with their new life
  • tell them that delaying the purchase decision isn’t good for them psychogically – someone else will grab that property before they do
  • give them direct access to the types of homes they interested in specifically – don’t make them search because search tools on websites are lousy
  • don’t rely on your static mls search tools – you need to understand their weakness and do custom programming to improve their conversion power
  • visible search links make it real easy for them to find homes with the key features they want or like: 3 bedroom, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom, renovated kitchen, waterfront, bungalow, new roof,  open concept layout, 2 car garage, near school, etc.
  • use your lead management tool to qualify inquiries and registrations
  • on your mls listings, encourage them to contact you – that you have valuable information
  • encourage them to save their home searches on your mls search system – no need to go elsewhere
  • write a newsletter and keep them posted on opportunities and news
  • discuss your business, what’s happening in your coverage area, and some details of working with clients — they need to see what you’ve been doing this year
  • maintaining constant contact with prospects means you’re more aware of how hot they are to buy or sell
  • let sellers know of negative and positive events that might ruin the value of their property
  • ensure your email updates only go to prospects that will be interested — untargeted emails mean your emails are treated like spam and you’ll get opt outs
  • respond immediately after they contact – see what properties they were looking at in your CMS stats/lead management tools
  • focus on those prospects/clients with the most search activity on your site
  • ensure your replies to them are courteous, professional and grammatically correct – do a spell check
  • collect the key conversion information – when do they want to buy, how many bedrooms, what neighbourhood do they like and why, price, and do they need help with financing
Your Lead Trap
This example shows a pop up registration which is your most powerful lead tool. It’s activated after the visitor views on or two properties. That’s smart, however, in this case it doesn’t do a sufficiently good job of building desire and purpose or helping the realtor begin the communication process with them. It just says it’s for FREE, but who would expect to pay for a registration? It should instead say Register Now, and search all mls listed properties and save your searches. Then you can return at anytime to review what you’ve looked at. There’s no obligation.  Tell us about your ideal home or condo and what features you want to have.
Lead Generating Pop up
Lead Generating Pop up Response Form
There’s no one size fits all solution to lead generation and lead conversion. The point is to improve your lead conversion funnel. Think beyond features and benefits to a website that begins a helpful, respectful relationship with the prospect.
Read a review on realtor.ca and download the realtor.ca app.

Should you use For Sale by Owner websites?  Learn more about the  best real estate apps including apps from Realtor.caTruliaZillow, and Realtor.com. Looking for homes in major US and Canadian cities? See the posts on Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLS, Vancouver MLS, Edmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS.

Condo Market Should Heat up in 2012

Echo Boomers Heading for the Cities after Leaving Home

The children of babyboomers are getting older and are ready to leave home. From 15 to 35, they’re the generation that won’t enjoy the lifestyle and wealth that their parents were lucky enough to have. Many have been living at home and need to move out to their own condo. One estimate is that there are 875,000 echo boomers between 25 and 35 in Toronto and hey need condos for budget reasons and they want to live closer to the city and jobs.

In Toronto, the condo boom is immense with new projects across the Toronto, Mimico, and Mississauga regions.  Given the lower price point of condos and a lack of new housing development in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, the Canadian real estate scene is about to be dominated by condo sales.  In Toronto, there are bidding wars for available condos. Those who own older homes are now renovating to include separate apartments to rent out. This trend will continue as new housing starts have fallen dramatically.

Learn more about the Echo boomer generation.

MLS search for other cities: Chicago MLS,  Vancouver MLSEdmonton MLSSan Diego MLS , San Jose MLSSeattle MLS , Houston MLS and the Los Angeles MLS. Realtors, find out more about becoming your market leader.   Read more on the US housing forecast 2012 and the CREA forecast for 2012.  The US real estate market is already coming back and now is the right time to get established.  US realtors should read up on  real estate video,  custom idx programmingbest new smartphone appsChinese real estate investors, and about marketing to baby boomers.

Real Estate Business Financing

BDC Canada Frees up 200 Million for Small Businesses

The Business Development Bank is a Canadian Federal government corporation which was created to provide investment funding for small business and medium size enterprises. Initially, BDC was more about helping Canadian companies with export potential.  The company just announced a new program to provide funding for Canadian small businesses that need help even if their market is only the Canadian domestic market. However, we all know that increasing demand for Canadian property is coming from outside Canada.

BDC ICT Loans can be up to $50,000  to finance your Information and Communications Technology purchases:

  • BDC CanadaHardware (servers, network, telephony, computers and accessories)
  • Software (ERP, CRM, human resources, supply chain, finance and accounting)
  • Services (IT planning, strategy, security)
  • Internet services (online sales, marketing, social media)
Entrepreneurs with ICT projects that do not exceed $50,000 must submit their loan applications online at www.bdc.ca. Companies that need more than $50,000 can contact the BDC business centre in their area, apply online or call BDC customer service at 1 877 BDC BANX (232-2269). Check out their venture capital program too.
If you’re like most Canadian real estate agents, you’re likely suffering because you don’t have the funds to get yourself well established online. And if you’re not one of the top agents online, there’s not much traffic left to work with at your site.  The loans offers by BDC might be significantly lower interest than your credit card too.
Taking out loans to boost your business is a gamble, however if you’re a reasonably successful agent or broker, these additional funds are what could take you to the top in 2012. The BDC ICT loan program is worth a look. If money is the only thing holding you back from becoming a market leader, then here’s your chance to make your dreams come true.
Learn more about the Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLSVancouver MLSEdmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS property markets.
Realtors, is your 2012 real estate marketing plan a winning one or are you hoping and praying for big sales next year? The wisest move is to let a competent, productive and efficient internet marketing providers help you increase sales, maximize leads and improve your realtor brand image.
From MLS listing optimization to search engine rankings to original content development, Realty Market Leader offers unbeatable value for any Vancouver real estate or Edmonton real estate agent.

Do Realtor Associations Deliver Good Value?

Realtor Associations Struggling Too

Ask a real estate agent or broker what they think of their realtor associaton and you probably won’t get a positive statement.  Some feel their local realtor association is there only to take monthly membership fees and deliver little of value in return.  If you check out any realtor association website including realtor.ca, NAR, gvreb, TREB, CREB, and Sandicor for instance, you’ll notice how meek their assistance is.  If an agent would like a helpful breakdown of price trends in specific neighbourhoods, or if the general public wants more detailed information, it’s either not available or is presented in an unintelligible format.  A real estate association has very detailed stats on sales and they feel it’s their property and have little reason to let others utilize it.

Why do Realtors have to Belong to a Real Estate Association?

For obvious reasons, the industry needs some sort of organization to protect home sellers and buyers from fraud, and from misrpresentation to the general public. Beyond that though, it’s tough to find justification.  Realtor associations can be useful, but they need to help realtors sell, so that realtors can justify their commissions. Most realtors only credit their association with collecting and providing the MLS listing service.

Here’s one typical comment on the web:

“in order to use the local MLS I must belong to a Local Association, in order to belong to the Local Association, I have to belong to the State Association, in order to belong to the State Association, I have to belong to the National Association of Realtors. So, for around $400 in association dues, I am allowed to pay $39 per month to use the MLS.”

and another comment:

“I would say that the NAR’s reputation is not great on the street level right now due to their political lobbying and advertising in the wake of the RE meltdown here. It hurt many homeowners and right now people are not confident that the organization is an honest source of information.

The NAR does offer it’s members tangible benefits like discounts on continuing education, information, access to market information/analysis etc so many agents join the national organization. They try to use the ethical standards as a selling point for their services over a non NAR affiliated agent. Some people find that attractive, others are less interested.”

With many homeowners expressing anger about the amount of fees, government taxes, and commissions they have to pay on the sale of their property, they’re choosing to go outside the mls system to sell their homes or have the right to access the mls without using an agent. There’s plenty of people complaining about real estate agent rip offs.  Real estate agents on the other hand are forced to charge high fees such as the realtor association dues and brokerage dues which adds to the cost of home selling.  So, many are choosing FSBO to sell their home. If there is a problem with selling and buying with a real estate agent, the source is often the local realtor association.

Looking for a new home? Should you use For Sale by Owner websites?  Use your iphone or Android phone and download real estate apps  apps from Realtor.caTruliaZillow, and Realtor.com to see home details while you’re driving around the neighbourhood.

Learn more about the Seattle MLSSan Diego MLSLos Angeles MLSHouston MLS, Vancouver MLSEdmonton MLS, and San Jose MLS.

Custom IDX

Is Custom IDX Worth the Expense?

Custom IDX is the process of programming display of mls listed properties on a realtor’s website. Realtors can pay a fee to their local mls provider for access to the mls database. The idx programmer can then create displayable home listings on the realtor’s site. Not all realtors have listings on their websites since it is costly to set up.

There are providers such as real geeks, realestatewebmasters and agentimage who provide the idx listing service as part of their realtor web hosting services. They often provide custom idx services too yet ongoing per hour programming charges can be very expensive. These companies know realtors need constant updates and are quite ready to bill them continuously. When the charges become too much for the average realtor to bear, you’ll have to look for alternatives – that being a freelance custom idx programmer.

A good number of realtors are choosing custom idx development on their websites and many more are considering it. An experienced, proficient custom idx programmer can make the listings work as the realtor wishes whereas realestatewebmasters and other such providers may restrict what realtors can do on their hosted sites. With realestatewebmasters as an example, the realtors site is hosted on REW’s servers which means the realtor doesn’t have complete control or flexibility. A custom idx applied to the realtors site hosted by itself, means the realtor has more freedom and perhaps less ongoing expense for idx development and website development.

More programmers are seeing the demand for custom idx and that current providers are charging excessively for the service. Competition will bring the price down.

For a dominant real estate broker or top selling agent, custom idx is wise and affordable, but for the average Vancouver real estate agent, San Diego real estate agent, or Edmonton real estate agent, the cost and risk might not be manageable. Real geeks and realestatewebmasters may set this all up for you for $500 to $2000 plus monthly hosting fees. Custom idx might take 20 hours x $100 a hour which is $2000 up front.

The key to whether to use custom idx really comes down to whether your knowledge of SEO and presentation psychology is sophisticated enough. You must know how the regular idx listings are limited and how it prevents you from maximizing exposure and listing leads. Some idx systems are awful and perform very poorly. Those who have gotten burned with them only know they didn’t work. They have no idea why.

If you’re using Realpagemaker, Agentimage, realwebsolutions, Point2Point, moneymaker4agents, realtysoft, idxbroker, mcsres, and other providers and you aren’t getting big traffic and leads, then you need a change.

Now you have the task of finding a good custom idx programmer. That’s when you find out it’s like the wild west and you may not get what you paid for. Further, you may end up ordering the wrong kind of idx format giving you the same results you had before. You must know exactly what was wrong with your current provider. And you need a custom idx programmer you can trust otherwise you’re going from the frying pan into the fire.

If you’re a client of Realty Market Leader, we help you find a good custom idx programmer as part of a powerful real estate marketing strategy. Some are available for a lower price and some are expensive. Quality and integrity don’t necessarily come with a high price so you need to structure your programming contract to limit your risk.

Given how consumers are adopting smartphones, some agents are seeking real estate smartphone apps custom mobile idx programming as well. The main benefit here is that when searchers find your site, they can download your branded, custom idx that presents listings the way you want. Some web hosting providers may offer their own mobile idx mls app which you can modify and brand as your own. The one drawback of some of them is that their app may not favor you enough. The goal of the apps is to give home searchers what they want and to ensure they contact only you.

Find out more about real estate marketing, best realtor apps, and . We can work with realtors using the Edmonton MLS, Vancouver MLS, San Diego MLS and Seattle MLS systems as well as any other mls across North America. Dedicated real estate marketing is the right choice for 2012.

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