Dumb Real Estate Agent Finally Gets It

By
Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.

The "Dumb Real Estate Agent" is me.  The "It" is Brad Caroll's wonderful new ActiveRain Blog Customizer.  (To get started, just click on that link or on the graphic.)

ActiveRain Blog CustomizerBrad is right - it's not our job to know how to do this stuff because our expertise is real estate matters.  That's why we need technology experts like Brad and why he made it really really easy for real estate agents, stagers and mortgage lenders on ActiveRain to customize their blogs.  

Many ActiveRainers are going online with their custom look in just minutes.  Yet, it took dumb me over six hours to get mine online - and that's waaaaaaaaaaaay too long.  Fortunately, I'm an empty-nester without a lot of other responsibilities besides real estate (and we all know how that's going).  Of course, I was encouraged by the fact that other real estate dummies agents figured it out even before Brad simplified the process with this 3rd generation of blog customizer in less than a week.

Well, I'm going to break it down for you as to MY experience... Maybe I can save someone out there from spending so much time on this.  I'm sure others will write about their experiences, too, and together maybe we can help Brad with material for a Custom Blog Builder Wiki (from the perspective of real estate dummies agents like me).

 

FIVE THINGS YOU SIMPLY MUST KNOW (OR DO) TO CUSTOMIZE YOUR BLOG:

Brad made this so easy that even I figured it out.  It's really self-explanatory; this post will re-assure you that it's not too good to be true.  It IS simple.  Thanks Brad!

1.  There are three elements: 

  • Background  (1920 x 1150 pixels)
  • Header (950 x 115 pixels)
  • Menu (that little bar at the top of your blog with SEARCH - REFERRALS - Q&A - GROUPS - BLOGS - MY HOME - LOGOUT)

Those sizes are important ONLY if you plan to use custom images.  You won't need them if you select standard colors for the header and background.

color selector

 

2.  Select standard colors for each of these elements, including a font color for the menu.  This is the easiest way to customize your blog appearance, and you'll be able to preview your choices right there on the screen.  (Several color options are provided.)  Even a real estate agent can do this.  

NOTE:  If you plan to use a custom background or header image, skip to Numbers 6-10 and then come back.

 

3.  Enter your ActiveRain user name where it says PROFILE.

 

4.  Click on SAVE SETTINGS. 

When I clicked on SAVE SETTINGS, I got kicked out of the ActiveRain Blog Customizer, so maybe that step wasn't necessary.  If Brad weighs in and addresses that in the comments, I'll edit this accordingly.  Anyway, when I logged back in, YES, my settings were still there.

snippet

 

5.  Look for the orange header at the top of your page that says "Click here to select your code snippet"  Follow the instructions provided.

If you're a real estate dummy agent, like me, you may not have touched your ActiveRain settings since Day One - or at least a long time ago.  Just to save you unnecessary trial and error, let me point out that there is a "description" box on both your ActiveRain Profile (NOT the one for entering the snippet) and on your Settings page (YES, that's the right one).

 

Applause - istockphoto

DONE!  Your blog is now customized!

The most difficult step in this process may be choosing the perfect standard color!  In the comments to this post,  Jennifer Martin says it took her just a few minutes to create her custom blog INCLUDING an image with text for her header.  

 

________________________________________________________________

EDIT 4/13/08:  Someone raised the question, how do I tell if it worked and how do I get rid of my new custom blog if I don't like it.  Here's the answer:  You can tell if it worked by returning to your blog after you complete these steps.  If it worked, you'll see your new custom blog.  If it didn't work, you may want to walk through the steps again.  If you don't like something about it, return to the ActiveRain blog customizer to make your changes, and follow Steps 3, 4 and 5 again.  If you want to go back to the basic ActiveRain blog, simply erase the snippet of code from the Description box on your Settings Page (and save). 

________________________________________________________________

 

But what if you're like me and have to be "unique" or at least "different"...   Okay, read on.  Figuring out the "how to" of going custom is what took me so long because the ActiveRain Custom Blog Builder assumed I knew some basic stuff, like how to size my photos or add text to my header - which I didn't.  Here are the things I learned through trial and error, with a little lot of help from Jeff Turner.

 

IMAGE OPTIONS:

6.  Select standard menu and menu text colors, even if you plan to use a customized background and/or header image(s).flowers - istockphoto

 

7.  Choose photos or graphics from one of these sources:

  • Photos you have taken yourself, stored under "my pictures" on your own computer; OR
  • Photos you have previously purchased or licensed, probably stored under "my pictures" on your own computer.  (The Black-eyed Susan photo I used here is the same one I provided to Real Estate Tomato for my "outside" blog - FocusOnCrofton, since I wanted my custom ActiveRain blog to be consistent with that look.)  OR
  • Stock photo(s) available online.  I use istockphoto most of the time, but you can just do a google search to identify others sources;  (Remember, don't use copyright photos - that includes photos your find in a google image search.)   OR
  • Create a custom image (or two).  Many people will add text to their header, for example. 

    I created a custom image for both my background and header (which is one of the reasons this took so long for me). The steps I followed are outlined at the bottom of this post.  

 

8.  Upload your image file to picnik (or another photo editor) for editing your image to the right size.

Jeff's video even shows you how to add text to your Header image.

I opened his video in one window, and worked in another window.  That enabled me to watch his demo, pause, and then go the other window to do that step.  Then I could go back to resume the video to watch the next step, pause, and return to the window where I was working.  I repeated this 'til done.  How many ways can I say "thank you" to Jeff...

 

9.  Save the finished background and/or header image(s) to a file in "my pictures" on your own computer.

P.S.  Jeff's video apparently was made before Brad simplified his customizing tool, and you no longer need to have your photo hosted on Flickr or anywhere else.  You can skip that step. 

(If, however, you do continue watching the video to see what he says about using Flickr, you need the pro-version in order to download the "original" size, as he does in his demonstration.  The free version does not allow that.  It's about a $25 one-time charge, so that probably won't break your bank.)

 

10.  Upload your photos.

Simply browse your computer for your saved header and background images.  It couldn't be any easier! 

Brad created this neat little tool (picture at right) to make it super easy for people like you and me.

The hardest part of this whole process was probably the initial decision-making as to which image(s) to use.

 

 

Now you can slip back into that space between Numbers 2 and 3 to continue.

 

________________________________________________________________

 

CREATING MY OWN  HEADER AND BACKGROUND IMAGES:

I wanted to maintain some elements from Focus On Crofton on my ActiveRain custom blog.  None of the standard colors satisfied me, so I had to take matters into my own hands.  This is what made the project so time consuming for me. 

NOTE:  You may never choose to do anything like this.  It is over-the-top optional.

My background image:

First I tried some background graphics from my old friend, istockphoto.  They didn't satisfy me either.  I really wanted the same blue gradient as the background on my outside blog, so here's what I finally did:

Focus On Crofton screenshot - copyright

  • Using a 30-day free trial for Snagit, I screen-captured my FocusOnCrofton website;
  • Cropped off the bottom of the capture (way too long);
  • Cut out the center (actual blog), then copied/pasted the background on the left repeatedly to fill in the gap so it went completely across;
  • Cropped off the top contrasting section so that only the blue gradient remained;
  • Saved the image to a file in "My Pictures"
  • Uploaded the file to picnik and followed Jeff's video to created a custom-sized crop (1920 x 1150). 
  • Saved the cropped image (over the previous un-cropped version) as a jpg file in "My Pictures" on my computer;
  • Went back to Step #9, and continued from there.

 

My header image: 

Again, I wanted this to be consistent with my "outside" blog, and my initial plan was to keep the blue background.  However, I couldn't seem to blend the Black-eyed Susan photo seamlessly with blue, so I decided to use white.  Here are the steps I followed:

  • Uploaded the licensed stock photo to picnik;
  • Created a mirror image of the photo, so open area is on the right (for the ActiveRain logo); 
  • Cropped the photo to match the cropping for my FocusOnCroftoon header;
  • Followed the steps in Jeff Turner's video to reduce the photo to 115 pixels tall;
  • Created the "faded" edge effect on the right side of the photo (using picnik);
  • Extended the header to the right a lot;
  • Created a custom crop to 950 x 115 (again, per Jeff's video) to get rid of the excess area I added on the right;
  • Added a fine white border so there would be a crisp edge on the left (where the photo is);
  • Inserted text (again, per Jeff's video);
  • Saved the finished header to a file in "my pictures" on my computer;
  • Went back to Step #9, and continued from there.

Jennifer Martin says in the comments to this post that it took only 10 minutes for her to create a custom header.

 

P.S.  Thank you, ActiveRain, for making your logo in the colors of my "outside" blog so it fits so nicely into my custom header.  That was very thoughtful of you.

 

Now, if someone would please tell me how to insert all those cool widgets on the right navigation bar....

 

Posted by

This infoMargaret Wodarmation was provided to you by Margaret Woda, an Associate Broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton Maryland. Contact Margaret today for general real estate information or to learn how she can help you buy or sell a home in Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton, Davidsonville, Gambrills, and Odenton. 

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Ambassador
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Lanre, Hey, that looks great!  Congrats!

Sharon, Did you try the standard color options first?  It's a great way to get started, and really foolproof. 

And don't feel bad about it not working... Trial and Error is how I figured it out, and maybe some little detail will be different for you because of a different browser.  Brad Andersohn just did a how-to post on this, and Brad Carroll posted FAQ. 

Apr 15, 2008 02:44 PM #91
Rainmaker
363,401
Susie Blackmon
Ocala, FL
Ocala, Horses, Western Wear, Horse Farms, Marketing

My page is temporary for the time being, and I too had to try a few times, so I wish you had posted this great walk-through last weekend! 


Apr 19, 2008 07:48 PM #92
Rainmaker
416,586
Mesa, Arizona Real Estate Mesa Arizona Realtor
Homes Arizona Real Estate LLC - Mesa, AZ
AzLadyInRed

Margaret you did a GREAT job on this tutorial! Your six hours turned into a great blog post that helped many that were/are struggling. I love how you set up the color scenario, included links from Jeff and others, and put the whole piece of the pie together. Wonderful! ;-)

Pepper

Apr 20, 2008 09:58 AM #93
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Susie - Actually, I did post it last weekend.  4/13, to be exact.  Sorry you didn't see it then, when it was featured on the ActiveRain homepage for more than a day.

Teri - Thanks fo ryour compliment.  I've heard from a number of people that it helped.  Since then, Brad Carroll posted a FAQ  section to his tutorial, so I'm sure that has helped, as well.

Apr 20, 2008 12:29 PM #94
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Frank Rubi
Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC - Metairie, LA
FrankRubiRealEstate.com
Margaret, Your not the dummie slowest real estate agent I am. Even with your great by the step instruction it still took me a couple of days to get this right. Any way now that I have the process I will work on the picture and text. Thanks for the advance guidances. 
Apr 23, 2008 05:12 PM #95
Rainmaker
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Robin Sherman
www.PensacolaForYou.com - Grand Points Realty - Pensacola, FL
Search Pensacola Homes, For Sale - Pensacola FL Neighborhoods
What a GREAT post! Even though your instructions are so clear, I'm going to wait until I have a day to devote to this. Thanks so much for taking your time to short cut the process for so many of us! 
Apr 23, 2008 05:37 PM #96
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Hi, Frank - Yep, working through it the first time was the hard part.  Tweaking it after that was the easy part.

Robin - I hope it helps you.  When I changed something a week later, I actually had to go back and follow my own directions.

Apr 24, 2008 02:48 AM #98
Rainer
55,757
Doug Fritchie
DOUG FRITCHIE-Silver Legacy Properties,Inc. - Portland, OR
Hey Margaret~ It is sooooo simple for dummies that I haven't even attempted it yet. I am telling myself that I am waiting for them to get all the bugs out.
Apr 24, 2008 03:03 AM #99
Rainer
33,321
deVismes P. Sharp
Benson and Mangold Real Estate - Oxford, MD
Talbot County Maryland Realtor

Please Help Me!  Have gotten my header all uploaded on the customizer but when I copy and past to my blog settings the header is not there.  What am I doing wrong?

By the way this post has been a blessing!

Apr 24, 2008 07:10 AM #100
Ambassador
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

deVismes - Goodness, I don't know.   I don't remember a step that was "copy and past to my blog setting"  -  Could you refer me to the number, so I can try to figure it out?

Doug - I think they do have the bugs out.  'Hate to tell you.  Why don't you start with just a standard color background and header.  You'll feel like you're making progress, and that will give you the confidence to undertake a custom design.

 

Apr 24, 2008 11:46 AM #101
Rainmaker
339,741
Karen Cooper
Karen Cooper | Sr Retail Loan Originator ! NMLS # 223305 | 360 Mortgage Group LLC Austin Texas - Leander, TX
Helping Homeowners w/Home Loans in 27 US States
Margaret - This is incredible! It is effort like your and Brad's that make Active Rain what it is. Thank you!!!  Off to go see how I do with this.
Apr 25, 2008 02:07 AM #102
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Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA
I've been afraid to try this, but I think I should.  I'll set aside some time this afternoon.
Apr 25, 2008 02:09 AM #103
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Chris and Karen  - just start with the standard color choices and see how it looks.  I think that quick positive results with that will give you the confidence to tweak the custom blog design with a photo or two. 

Apr 25, 2008 02:57 AM #104
Rainer
33,321
deVismes P. Sharp
Benson and Mangold Real Estate - Oxford, MD
Talbot County Maryland Realtor
I figured it out!  Thanks again for this post!  I could not have done it without it!
Apr 25, 2008 04:43 AM #105
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

I just checked it out, and it is GREAT!!!  Glad you found this helpful.

Apr 25, 2008 04:54 AM #106
Rainmaker
339,741
Karen Cooper
Karen Cooper | Sr Retail Loan Originator ! NMLS # 223305 | 360 Mortgage Group LLC Austin Texas - Leander, TX
Helping Homeowners w/Home Loans in 27 US States
Margaret - I love how it turned out! Simple, with your generous instructions. Thanks again!
Apr 26, 2008 12:58 PM #107
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Karen, I love it!  'Glad you found it simple.  I've actually helped a couple people by customizing and sizing their photos... now that I know how to do it, it takes less than 15 minutes.

Apr 27, 2008 06:18 AM #108
Rainmaker
1,007,773
Karen Anne Stone
New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate
Margaret:  I still need help, and I will gladly, thankfully take you up on your offer to help.  Whew !
Apr 27, 2008 09:07 AM #109
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Tracy Santrock
Fonville Morisey/Santrock Realty Group, Inc. - Cary, NC
Raleigh - Cary Realtor/Broker In Charge

Fantastic job on your header - very professional. I've had to tweak mine and I'm not ready to post yet.  You know it's all about image and between you and Craig you've set the standard.

Jun 08, 2008 03:21 PM #110
Rainmaker
127,142
Debbie Hutchins
Birmingham, AL

You dont sound "Dumb" to me,,,,,SMART GIRL!

 

 

Debbie

Nov 11, 2008 06:45 AM #111
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