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Clicks and Bricks

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sell it on ebay


Our Changing Industry

We spend a lot of time on discussing new business models, social media, technology, and how we all think the consumer wants to buy. We prognosticate endlessly about how each idea we have or new technology we observe is going to revolutionize the real estate industry, and agents are going to either evolve or die (Whenever I hear things like that I think of the old Comic Book Alien with a Huge Head carrying off a struggling woman who looks well dressed for either work, a cocktail party OR an alien abduction).

Sometimes I think we forget about the basics that are involved in our business. No matter how much time people spend on their computer looking for property, they need to walk the neighborhood, see the property, experience the home and the neighborhood. And they want someone they can trust , who is knowledgeable about those things to help provide them with guidance in finding a property that has the right location and appropriate physical attributes in a community that they have chosen.

And then they still need help with negotiation, the physical inspection of the property, the contractual portion of the purchase, obtaining financing etc. And no, I don’t think attorneys negotiate worth a damn in real estate (unless they specialize – and have a great deal of knowledge about real estate valuation and the current market, in which case they are a real estate professional with a law degree).

We Still Need Boots on the Ground

And with all due respect to all of the on-line real estate models I’ve seen to date, they still end up with an agent meeting a consumer and providing the on the ground service that all of us provide to our customers and clients. No, I’m not a Luddite. I love technology and think that its a very useful tool, and I am constantly looking for new ways to use technology to make me better at my job and my company more efficient. But I don’t think that we’re going to wake up anytime soon, and find out that we need to be retrained for new jobs.

Let Me Give You an Example

The store pictured above is an amusing business model that represents IMHO the contradictions of the thought processes found in much of the real estate business and the RE.net

People have always had stuff they didn’t want. We have all heard that one man’s trash is another man’s gold. And we all know that when we have trash, we want to sell it and turn it into gold. At first people would sell things from their house , or on local physical bulletin boards in stores and schools, on their own. Then there were enough people recycling things that antique stores and thrift shops became their venues of choice.

Technology improved, and people started by posting things on Electronic Bulletin Boards for Sale. But these were limited enterprises commercially, until someone got the bright idea of building an on-line auction site know as EBay. EBay changed the way people sold their junk. It was easy to buy on EBAY, and there was tremendous exposure for your junk. But some people found it unsatisfactory, and the store above was born (and it is only one of a number of such stores, and franchises around the country. People are now going to a physical location to sell their stuff on the Internet. (There is a great conversation about this business model in the Steve Carell movie The 40 Year Old Virgin, but I just couldn’t find the video clip to add here- But what the heck its a funny movie go see it and you’ll remember this post when you see the scene) Is it just me or is this a huge ironic circle?

The More Things Change

Maybe its just because I’ve seen so much in the industry over the years which have brought some tremendous changes in How we do What we do, but the basics are still the same. We take Buyers and Sellers through one of the most traumatic events of their lives, protecting them as best we can, helping them to reach their goals, and making the process as smooth as possible for them. We reach farther, get more information faster, and transmit it to clients in distant places, but we still add value to the process, and I believe its a value the consumer wants and looks for, So far I haven’t seen a technology that changes their needs or our ability to satisfy it – as hard as that seems to us some times. So I guess we’ll keep on needing to go to work for at least a little while longer.

Bill is an unusual blend of Old & New - The CEO Century 21 Advantage Gold (Philadelphia's Largest Century 21 company and BuzzBuilderz (a Social Media Marketing Company), He is a Ninja CEO, blending the Web 1 and 2.0 world together in a fashion that stretches the fabric of the universe. You can follow him on twitter @Billlublin or Facebook or LinkedIn.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. BawldGuy Talking

    June 29, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Funny thing is, you’re right even if the belly to belly turns out to be virtual. I think that’s what my English teacher called ironic.

  2. robin | fort Lauderdale Real Estate

    June 30, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Bill..Bill.. Bill..just when I think we’ve turned the proverbial corner….

    While I doubt seriously that the real estate agent as an animal will go extinct, the business model is on the endangered species list. Adaptability may be a word to add to the repertoire.

    Like Kelly wrote yesterday, real estate agents, IMO, need to stop speaking in the terms of what they want and what they feel.

    For instance when you say “they need to walk the neighborhood”…Bill, I live in a waterfront community on the east side of Fort Lauderdale. People don’t walk neighborhoods when they look to buy here. They barely even drive the neighborhood. In fact seldom are there even open houses.

    When people buy here they are doing so from previewing homes online and then contacting a Realtor who they also found online.

    That’s not an anti-realtor factoid, it’s just the state of the market. Sure, the old 5 and Dime was a great place. I used to love the neighborhood feel of yesteryear. Kids could actually grab a bottle of Pepsi and parents felt safe letting us go down to the corner store.

    Then it got torn down and they built a Walmart!

    I miss that corner store and the way life was, I truly do. However, I got over it. I changed, as most realtors are going to have to do as well or be left behind.

    As the service providers before them, Stock brokers, Insurance agents, Travel Agents, etc…(oh yes, there is still a place for some of them as well) the rest wither and go away because they did not adapt.

  3. Greg Cremia

    June 30, 2008 at 6:36 am

    While the web is changing the initial phase of the buying process the actual purchase is the same as it always has been. True, buyers can now do their own research before we ever meet them, and they know what houses they want to see, but they still end up looking at all of the properties available. Always have, always will.

    Before we see the demise of real estate gents we will see the demise of car dealers. If people are not comfortable buying a car without a test drive then there is no way they will ever get comfortable buying a house without doing a walk through.

    Real estate agents are not going anywhere. At least some of them. Those who are ignoring these changes will be replaced. Nothing new here.

    What has changed is the playing field between agents and brokers. Little brokers like me can now compete with the mega brokers. The web is the great equalizer.

  4. Bill Lublin

    June 30, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Robin I agree with Kelley also, and I make that statement based upon my experience as a tech savvy buyer who purchased a second home last year in West LA near the beach. We had the choice of all the communities from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach, and had spent so much time at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey that they would ask where our dog was when we didn’t bring him.
    But when I was going to be putting hundreds of thousands of real dollars into a property, I wanted to knwo what I was buying and what it was going to be like to walk out my door everyday.
    And I buy a heck of a lot more property annually then most consumers.
    So I still think, becuse our products are so unique, and each area so different that consumers will still have a need for some physical connection with the area before they complete a purchase. 🙂

  5. Frank Jewett

    June 30, 2008 at 10:06 am

    One real estate comparison to that eBay store would be transaction management systems like SureClose, TRPoint, and RELAY. Some agents may have their transactions on those systems, but most of them refuse to learn how to use those systems (even to look up vendor contact information), preferring instead to visit or call the “corner store” of their transaction coordinator.

  6. Paula Henry

    June 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Bill – I agree! While there are some clients who will buy sight unseen, the majority want to “feel” what the home is like. Even if they don’t walk the neighborhood, they will drive through.They check out the schools, parks, shopping and amenities.

    When we moved back to Arizona from California, we knew the city, yet we still looked at homes. We wanted to walk through, we did walk the neighborhood before we decided on the exact home for us.

    While we need the online presence, we still do our business face to face.

  7. Holly White

    July 1, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Fortunately or unfortunately we get about 85% of our business from the leads our website generates. Fortunately because I am thankful for our ranking and traffic, but unfortunately because I haven’t spent as much time developing other advertising and marketing avenues and pray that we never lose our ranking… but I digress….

    We’re not trying to sell homes online (rarely have we sold homes sight unseen), we’re merely giving people the opportunity to do some research prior to physically looking at them. It saves everyone time and money. With gas prices the way they are nowadays I’m pretty sure the general public is welcoming the ability to take some of the leg work out of finding an area they want to be in.

    I will say however, that from time to time I’ll get someone who doesn’t want to look at all online, they want me to personally find homes for them to look at after we’ve talked about their criteria (which is fine)…. but they still found me as their Realtor ONLINE. I am a full service Realtor who is thanking God I latched on to the internet several years ago. I’ll always have an office and I’ll always have that one on one time with my clients. Those Realtors who don’t “get it” though will more than likely disappear sooner than later.

  8. Bill Lublin

    July 1, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Paula and Holly – if you guys agree with me I must be right 😉
    And I think you make the points effectively and appropriately – thanks for commenting.

  9. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 2, 2008 at 6:00 am

    Theres 2 ways to look at – from a human perspective, and from a business perspective. From the human perspective, people are still people. Buying/selling a home is generally an emotional roller coaster and we help guide them through the entire process. From a business perspective, there are dinosaurs among us. Either you are adapting to the constantly evolving business, technology, and expectations from your clients, or you are going to become extinct.

  10. Holly White

    July 2, 2008 at 8:35 am

    @Bill – Thanks! And you are right on! First and foremost, we’re hands on Realtors. Nothing is going to take the place of that. Gaining those clients to hold the hands of is where the internet comes in (for me anyway).

    @Jennifer – Well said!

  11. Jonathan Dalton

    July 2, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Real estate is local, folks …

    The Phoenix real estate market stretches about 75 miles from one side to the other. Many buyers from out of state have no concept of how expansive the area is until they get here.

    Last month, one of my buyers who started their search in Glendale ended up in Chandler after side trips to Fountain Hills and Gold Canyon. They drove several hundred miles just checking out different areas.

    Sight unseen might work if someone knows a particular community or subdivision they want, but if they just want to be in the Phoenix market in general they are, as my Canadian friends say, hooped.

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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