Friday, November 20, 2009

Just Back from the Realtor Convention & Expo in San Diego

[Published Nov. 19, 2009, in the Denver Post - Jeffco editions]

Those of us who traveled to San Diego last week for the National Association of Realtors annual convention and trade show really lucked out on the weather, leaving before the snow storm began and returning after it ended..


I did attend one of the educational sessions, and I did enjoy several non-real estate activities such as visiting the Wild Animal Park and cruising San Diego Bay. But, for me, the major value of such conventions is the “expo” — the opportunity to get current on technology and products being introduced. In that regard, the NAR convention is the “daddy of them all.”

Being an iPhone owner, I was particularly struck by how many vendors offered apps for this device which has already transformed the practice of real estate.

It was only a year or so ago that I had an ordinary cell phone — no email, no web capability, nothing at all, compared to today’s smart phones. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine being a successful Realtor® without a smart phone. My wife, Rita, who is not in real estate, now realizes that she, too, must discard her cell phone and get an iPhone. I heard this weekend that there are 50 million iPhones in use today.

In a previous column I mentioned zillow’s great iPhone app which, curiously, zillow was not promoting at their booth.

Other vendors, however, offered something zillow doesn’t offer — a branded MLS IDX search engine, something I look forward to offering as soon as I can install it. Look for more about this feature after I get it up and running.

What will make such an app unbeatable will be a GPS component which allows you to search the MLS listings closest to where you are standing with your phone.

There were other technologies being promoted, of course, but the iPhone has definitely captured everyone’s attention and imagination — and with good reason.

Taking it all in at one trade show is like drinking from the proverbial fire hose — it’s simply impossible to do justice to what I learned this weekend. It’s only appropriate that the same kinds of technology allowed me to be completely in touch with my clients and business throughout the convention and expo. Indeed, I sold one of my listings while I was in San Diego.

I have never been more convinced that a real estate agent must be “with it” technologically to be competitive in today’s industry. If you’re unhappy with that fact, you can blame the iPhone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

18 (or more) Questions to Ask When Interviewing Your Next Listing Agent

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Published Nov. 5, 2009, in the YourHub.com section of the Denver Post:

I completely sympathize with sellers’ frustration and sense of powerlessness when it comes to putting their home on the market. Should you try to sell it yourself and save on commission? How do you know which agent to hire — and what will it cost? Should you hire your brother-in-law or risk alienating him (and your spouse) by hiring someone more qualified or more familiar with your area?
Perhaps making the process more scientific will help (especially with the brother-in-law issue), so I have prepared a set of 18 questions to ask the agents you interview, including your brother-in-law, which will give you a little more confidence that the choice you end up making is fairest and makes the most sense.

 I’m sorry that space limitations don’t allow a full explanation of all the questions, so feel free to contact me if you don’t understand any of them — such as the first one:
  1. Do you subscribe to Showcase service on realtor.com, and will you make full use of it for my home? (Browse realtor.com’s listings in your ZIP code to see how this service can help to promote a listing.)
  2. Do you promise to complete every possible MLS field describing my house, and not just the mandatory fields?
  3. Will your MLS listing of my house be syndicated to 20 or more consumer websites? (The MLS has a free service called “ListHub” which does this, but each broker must opt into it for his listings.)
  4. Will you also post my home for sale on craigslist.org — and how often will you refresh it?
  5. Will you produce a virtual tour (what realtor.com calls a “Featured Tour”) of my home? If so, which vendor will you use? (If this agent has any current listings, they should be on realtor.com, where you can compare his “Featured Tour” with those created by other vendors for other agents. You’ll see that their effectiveness varies greatly. I favor visualtour.com’s.)
  6. Will you produce a video tour of my home, and can you show me a video tour you have produced for another listing? (If he does videos, they will be on his realtor.com listings if he has “Showcase” service, which leads me to question #7…)
  7. May I have the address of one of your current listings so that I can see how it is marketed on realtor. com and elsewhere? (Google the address for “elsewhere.”)
  8. How many of your listings sold in the last year, and how many of them expired or were withdrawn without selling? (You may want to have another agent verify this data, since it requires MLS access to do so. This can also help you to verify whether the agent you are interviewing is being truthful with you.)
  9. Will you provide a staging consultation to help make my home show its best?
  10. Will you do email blasts or distribute printed flyers telling other agents about this new listing?
  11. Will you promote my listing at the various weekly Realtor marketing sessions and/or hold a broker open house?
  12. (Optional) Will you hold regular open houses for as long as I want you to do so?
  13. What is your commission, and will you reduce it if you sell my house yourself (no co-op commission owed to a buyer’s agent)?
  14. Will you reduce your commission further if I hire you to represent me in the purchase of my next home?
  15. Will I get feedback from you on every showing by you, and will you actively solicit feedback from other agents who show my home and tell me what they say?
  16. Will you mail out “Just Listed” postcards so that neighbors and others will know that my home is on the market?
  17. Does your company, or you, have a website on which your listings are promoted?
  18. How else will you advertise or market my home?
Bonus question: Will you pay a referral fee to my brother-in-law if I hire you despite family pressure?
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