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The changing landscape of buying a home

Industry Observer with WideOpen Networks 250784

The Connection PyramidI recently presented a class on social networking to some members of our local MLS in Carteret County, NC. As is my tradition in making presentations, I did not rely upon my own thoughts and conclusions.  I gathered information from contacts on ActiveRain and from those on LinkIn.

I had well over thirty people respond before I did my presentation, and some who have sent me notes since then.  My presentation tried to draw some conclusions from a very broad spectrum of comments.

My credentials for doing a social networking presentation are solid.  I started blogging six years ago, and I have written thousands of posts. I have used pictures, movies, and websites to connect with people for years before that. I even got a job as VP of marketing for an email company through social networking.

I worked at Apple Computer for nearly twenty years, I was instrumental in creating and bringing up an online store to connect with Federal employees and of course sell them computers.  I also decided sometime before 2000 that email did not have the kind of permanence that I needed to communicate with my team spread across the United States.

With that thought I created and maintained an internal website for my federal sales team.  It was at the core of how we operated.  Each year we worked to create a top ten list of what we needed to be successful. It was posted on the website along with sales data, presentations done by the team, and presentations that I did for the corporate folks in Cupertino. 

Our internal website was the heart of our accountability. With presentations online for years they took on a different meaning than ones that often disappeared immediately into corporate black holes.  What that meant for all of us was that if you said something, you needed to stand behind it and deliver.

We also kept our best presentations that we did to customers online for comment, review, and improvement. On top of that we pioneered delivering customer movies to corporate.  We video taped high level customers who had critical needs that we believed were important to Apple's success in the federal space.

As a measure of the effectiveness of our top ten list, I recently talked to one the employees still on the team. He attributed their recent success to items finally being checked off that were on our list as early 2001.

So what does all this have to do with buying and selling homes and social networking?  Actually it turns out that there are a number of very similar themes which I uncovered with my questions about social networking and how people go about finding homes in our Internet based world.

As I mentioned in my presentation, no one who responded said that the first thing they did was to pick up a phone and call a Realtor®.  Almost all started with some type of Internet search.  The more Internet savvy they were, the more likely they were to rely on their Google abilities.

People did everything from depend on Google Street View to eliminate houses to have relatives assist them in purchasing homes they never actually saw except online.

There were a number of comments from people about eliminating sites which had poor user interfaces or content that seemed dated or had few pictures or poor pictures.  There were positive comments on sites that provided movies of homes and valuable local information.

Three or four people commented that they would not trust anything on Facebook unless they actually knew the person doing the posting.

From the number of mentions, it was obvious that people were attracted to sites with high quality media and information.  Sites that integrated mapping, larger pictures, and ease of searching got high marks.

Once people got the basics of the search out of the way, they started looking for more localized information. Forums like City-Data and local blogs were mentioned as information sources.

Then as people narrowed their search, they started looking for trusted information which they either found by evaluating content or contacting people in their social network.  Most said they would check with friends by email but a few said they would ask for feedback from a few of their trusted Facebook friends.

Based on what I found from the responses, I went on to recommend in my presentation that Realtors® need to work on establishing four things online, visibility, credibility, trust, value, and accessibility.

While trying to go through all those items would essentially be cramming a 50 minute presentation into a few more lines, there are some basic suggestions that will help everyone.

Number one, pay attention to your website on a monthly basis. Old content which has little relevance will attract no one. If you don't understand websites and search rankings, hire someone who does.

Number two, do not put something online which will not stand the test of time.  If you say it online, be prepared to stand behind it or lose all your credibility. Participate in the online world. if you don't want to write, at least make useful comments on what others write.  Get an online profile, ActiveRain is a good spot, but if you can do a LinkedIn profile with recommendations from others, do it.

Number three, the online world makes some harsh and quick judgments.  You are judged by what you say online and what others say about you.  If you want to be trusted, you have to appear as someone who can be trusted.  If your Facebook friends are posting pictures of you in compromising situations in college, you have a problem.

Number four, your online presence is your résumé.  The content that you write or have written for you, reflects upon you.  If it is useful, high quality content, it will draw interest.  Also balance is important.  If you oversell something, you will likely pay for that.

Number five, if they cannot find you, they will not contact you.  Be online someplace besides Facebook.  ActiveRain is a good place to start.  Google yourself and act on what you find.  Know how to use a smart phone, and if you don't already know how, have your kids show you how to do text messages.

Finally, remember the online community is a lot like the community you live in today. You build a reputation, and you have to live with it.

Keep one more thing in mind, the Internet has essentially replaced newspapers. In doing so the Internet has segmented itself into places that resemble some of the sections of newspapers.  You want to be very careful that your online presence isn't in the comics section if you plan on your business being successful over the next five years.

If you want to check out what I consider rich content, have a look at this link.


David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
RealtorĀ®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct

Dave, great points will have to suggest this blog, thanks.

Oct 21, 2010 01:14 AM
Dawn Crawley
Dawn Crawley Realty - Pinehurst, NC
Find Pinehurst Homes

What do you think of the new Yahoo, Bing alliance.  I use to get higher rankings with Yahoo, and now I'm slipping there, but gaining ground on Google.  Your thoughts?

Oct 21, 2010 01:17 AM
David Sobotta

It is like anything on the Internet, time will tell as things shake out.

I am still a big believer in Google.  I am pleased to have held the top Google search ranking for Southern Outer Banks Real Estate, Beaufort, NC Travel Guide, and Emerald Isle, NC Travel Guides.  They are a good start to directing traffic to my other sites,

However, I will certainly keep it on my radar.

Oct 21, 2010 01:40 AM