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Going Beyond Selling Homes

Industry Observer with WideOpen Networks 250784

6621 Fairway View TrailI have always found something very satisfying about helping people find an area which meets their needs.  Perhaps some of that pleasure is related to having had careers which allowed me to choose where I wanted to live. Going to a new place and finding what we needed to have a good life there seemed to fit my personality.

I even enjoyed going back to my home in Mount Airy, NC many years after we had moved away.  For a few years my wife and I owned our family home in Mt. Airy before we sold it to the folks who now run it as a bed and breakfast.

There is also a great deal of work, pride, and enjoyment involved in getting a home like the one pictured in the post on the market.  That particular home is one where our family lived for 23 years in Roanoke, VA.  As we have gone through the process of selling it, I have written some about our experiences in Roanoke.

There is no surprise in that since we picked Roanoke as a place to raise our family. We stayed there because it ended up being a great place to live.

Our Realtor® in Roanoke commented about how effective some of my writing was in providing a good picture of living in Roanoke.  Many of the people with whom he works are not only looking for a home but also shopping an area to live.  Often the home and the area are just part of the equation which includes a job.  It take the right combination of all the elements to end up attracting a family to one area over another.

Realtors® are no strangers to this.  When I was selling homes, there were times when I felt like a combination tour guide and Chamber of Commerce spokesperson.  I saw families where the husband would love the area and the wife could not imagine living in the same spot.  When both loved the area, sometimes you got to focus on the houses.

The world of real estate will likely change greatly over the next five to ten years.  When I bought my first property in Nova Scotia in 1971, the only way to really find out about the property was through letters, phone calls, and an actual trip.  As anyone connected to real estate knows today, many buyers come to area with a list of homes that interest them.  When my wife and I were buying on the Southern Outer Banks several years ago, we spent a lot of time looking at properties on-line.

Buyers also come to the area with opinions about the area. Many of those opinions have been formed online.  Sometimes people make their decision about where to live in an area solely based on what they read on the web.

However, today's home buyer has had marketing messages in increasing volume and sophistication thrown at them for their whole lives.  Most people today are quickly able to ignore the fluff in marketing.  That is one of the reasons that they have often turned to the world of blogs and forums to get answers they trust.  I cannot count the number of times over the nearly eight years that I have been blogging that someone has written me asking for advice about moving to an area.

My one rule of blogging has always been to tell the story as I see it with both the positive and the negative.  If you do that for a lot of years and over thousands of posts, people come to trust your opinion and seek it out.  While I love the Roanoke Valley where we lived for many years, Interstate 81 is a traffic challenge for those living there.  To gloss over that problem would make my blog marketing fluff instead of something authentic that people can believe.

Similarly as I write about NC's Crystal Coast, the thought of hiding the story of Hurricane Irene has never occurred to me.  Talking about hurricanes on our Crystal Coast site is no different than me questioning whether or not Apple has become the technological equivalent of a sugary soft-drink.  No place, product, or company is without faults.

The web is a wonderful place to find and provide information. However, to be one of the voices on the web which actually matters, you have to believe what you say and be prepared to back it up with facts, pictures, and credible stories.  When I write an article about wading in ocean water in March, I can only write it if I have actually done that. You cannot talk credibly about hiking on the beach if you have not been hiking on the beach.

For years it has been popular for real estate firms to hire web development companies to create content for them. It is easy, fast, and produces lots of words with search terms.  Some of the content is obviously marketing fluff. Obviously some of it is good.  Also some firms have dabbled with blogs, and I actually wrote one for a company for a couple of years.  The trouble with good content is measuring the impact it has compared to poor content. No one has figured out the equation.

Your heart and mind tell you that quality writing is worth the effort, but it is harder to prove.

Very few people make a decision about where to live solely based on what they read, so it is very easy to push away and say the sale would happen without making sure the story you tell about an area is authentic.  However, I am willing to bet as people become even more engrossed in the Internet, good content will matter more and more.  Many people no longer have family or friends close to where they need to live.  They have to find other ways of figuring out their decision.  A  Google search is often the default first step.

I firmly believe that all sorts of Internet content are now influencing people's decisions. Very smart large companies now monitor what is said on Twitter, Facebook, and through influential blogs.  Surprisingly there is software to do that from companies like Radian6 which watches and flags conversations on the Internet.  There are already colleges using the software to improve their image.

With real estate marketing struggling to figure out what works in this economy, I doubt any real estate firms are going to be tackling something like monitoring the Internet conversation about their area or firm.  However, area governments and tourist boards which want to market their areas need to be paying attention and considering software to help them understand what turns people toward their area or away from it.

In the meantime, I think it is wise for both buyers, sellers, and agents to pay attention to what is being said on the Internet. Do a Google search and see what is being said. If you cannot figure out what to search try, "Southern Outer Banks" or "Crystal Coast Life" and see what is being said about the area where I live.

When you figure out where the discussion about your area is taking place, join the conversation in an authentic way or hire someone to do it.  Ignoring the Internet's discussion of your world is not a good business strategy.

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