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Opinion Editorials

Tools, Toys and Tricks… Have we forgotten anything?




I love the real estate industry for many reasons, but few come close to the right and ability to buy tons of toys and call them a business investments. From new laptops to GPS, we can use it all! We’ve got super cool webpages, twitter, digital cameras and more! We’ve even figured out how to qualify our Facebook time as business. We’ve adapted it all… but have we forgotten something?

I’ve read hundreds and probably thousands of real estate webpages/blogs and too many times have I found them all about the Realtor. Marketing to and about the consumer simply pays more.

dogontreeYou’ve seen it, the “Million Dollar Producer” tag lines that are on all the business cards and the sacred production awards that agents feel compelled to spill all over the newspaper. This information is put out there, as if selling millions is impressive to the consumer. Is it any wonder that the consumer thinks practitioners get paid too much?

In most areas of the country, it’s not a real struggle to sell millions of dollars in real estate. In the Northern Virginia area, the average home sale is about $400,000, so selling three of these will put you in the Million Dollar Producers club, but still leave your income at less than the national poverty level…that doesn’t leave much money for marketing and caring for the client.


How about those photos? I love the glamor shots, photos from 12 years ago or holding the phone to their ears. Talk about false advertising! The phone up to the ear? What are you saying to the consumer…that you’re so busy that you can’t take the phone from your ear long enough to get a photo? If that’s the case, than you’re too busy to help me with my phone purchase. Blueroof has done a good job at explaining the difference of good versus bad.

As far as bad housing advertising, this isn’t just a mistake, it’s a disservice to the client who has put their trust in you. Norm Fisher does one of the best jobs of capitalizing off of other agent’s mistakes. He has put together a VirtualTour of bad agents photos to see how he can do better.

Almost everything that’s done in marketing has some message that resonates with the consumer, and not usually is it what you might have intended. A group of college students have come up with interpretations for Real Estate Jargon, and it’s pretty funny. But, what I got more out of it, is that people really think that practitioners are trying to hide something in their marketing. We need to understand that people inherently do not trust sales people; regardless of the industry.

Here are a few hints from the 2007 National Associations of Realtors Profile of Buyer and Sellers.

86% of consumers started their search on-line

95% were looking for Property For Sale

smokingdr4% were looking for the Real Estate Agent

Consumers wanted an agent for the following services:

49% Wanted help finding the right home to purchaser (largest category)

13% Wanted help with negotiating the terms of the contract

11% Wanted help with negotiating the price

What did the consumer appreciate about their agent, once hired?

97% Thought Honesty and Integrity were important

36% Thought Proficiency with Technology was important

68% would use the Realtor again and only 5% wouldn’t use their agent again….


The Internet is absolutely important to the real estate practitioner, but we have to embrace it and it’s appropriate application to consumer interaction. What can we learn from these numbers? First, the largest majority of home buyers go on-line to start their real estate transaction and very few use print media. Of those that do go on-line, they are looking for the property and not YOU. Sorry to hurt your fragile ego, but don’t fear, there is more than enough back patting to go around in a real estate brokerage or local association – we love giving ourselves awards .

But really, when a consumer goes looking for real estate, they go to Zillow and because that’s where the homes are! It’s interesting that when we visit most static webpages, we find the “About Me” page as the “Home” page instead of an IDX link to homes. By the way, no one goes to your webpage to JUST look for your personal listings. Very few, if any do a google search on “homes for sale by <insert your brokerage / firm name here>.” The only people doing that are your competitors because they aren’t busy enough to keep them from fretting about you. So, why worry about what the competition is searching for online? If they had business, they wouldn’t have time to stalk you!

I think that one of the main reasons why we’re seeing social media applications working, is because of the next bracket of information. 49% percent of consumers wanted help finding the home, 13% negotiating terms and 11% negotiating price. A well maintained blog will allow the real estate agent to put information out there for the consumer to grab and realize that the writer has a clue and can be trusted to help them with aggregating the information. A poorly maintained blog tells the consumer that the agent doesn’t put a lot of effort in their own marketing venues and that may translate into their practice. I am amazed, as an instructor, how often I ask how many students have a blog and many don’t know or say that they rarely maintain it. I think it’s better to not have a marketing venue, than to have one that you only tend to half-heartedly.


girlscdsHaving technology and knowing what to do with it are two different things. I don’t think it’s surprising that the consumer wants transparency in the form of honesty and integrity. It maybe surprising that Technical Proficiency wasn’t rated higher. I theorize that it’s because the consumer simply expects us to have the tools to do the job and they realize that the job is still a person-oriented industry.

For all the nay sayers in regards to technology and to those who say that technology will replace the real estate agent, I say that it simply enhances us and proves our worth more! How many consumers will spend the time to really know how to use all these application for the their real estate benefit and to meet their ultimate goal of a successful transaction.

Social media is the next natural evolution of consumer interaction. It’s the marriage of the static internet that consumers were using and the inherent need for social interaction that is required by most to have a well rounded existence.

I think that 68% of consumers saying they would use the same agent again, is a great standard. Most liked their agent and that says volumes, the fact that only 5% would not use the same person again also says positive things for our industry. How many of you have been accused of a bad transaction, simply because it didn’t go your client’s way? How about when the home doesn’t sell because of the market or the high sales price? So, 5% isn’t that bad, but I do agree that we could do better.

The social media aspects have armed the practitioner with advantages that others do not have. Entering a client’s Facebook page or Twitter profile (you can follow me HERE) in with yours let’s you connect with the client much better than those agents who sweep in and spend the minimum 45 minutes to get a listing agreement signed and then calling back only when it’s time to renew that listing. Interacting with them will help put a personal connection that will help when you’re trying to deliver uncomfortable information or convince them of a decision that is in their best interest.

Keeping up with trends and techniques is vitally important, but not if you’ve placed more value and effort into having the best webpage over having the best connection with the consumer. If you’re ever in doubt, look at what you’re doing and ask what you would think if you saw the other guy doing it?




Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is

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  1. Teresa Boardman

    March 17, 2008 at 6:13 am

    My marketing is certainly different than that of most of my peers. I tend to focus on real estate and not on my face. I am going to disagree with you on one thing here. No the homes can not be found on zillow. At least not homes for sale. When consumers look for homes on zillow and some of the other national sites they are seeing about 20% of what is available in our market. Nice sites but not the best for consumers looking for homes.

  2. Mike Farmer

    March 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Teresa, that is a very pertinent point. If buyers really want to see what is available they will go to local RE sites that have an IDX function and the capability of putting the homes in context with accurate area information.

  3. Mack in Atlanta

    March 17, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Teresa, I agree that zillow does not show all the homes that are available. They also give out flawed estimates of value in their zestimates. We as REALTORS must do a better job of educating the buyers that they can obtain more complete information about homes for sale by utilizing our sites.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    March 17, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Teresa, MIke and Mack… I agree that is what is currently going on, but I think it’s going to improve itself over time. I am not endorsing Zillow, per se; but I think the concept is going to be more popular in the future IF NAR doesn’t fit I think and Jim Duncan has illustrated this, that Zillow and Truila area listening and reacting to the need for change faster than NAR.
    Thanks for pointing out the issue!

  5. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Thank you for offering all the great stats. I POUND this into the agents I train, on a daily basis .. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU… THEY JUST CARE ABOUT WHT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM.

  6. Sean Purcell

    March 17, 2008 at 1:30 pm


    Great post. Lots of good ideas and “lane markers”. I will print this and add it to the folder where I keep guidelines for every online piece of marketing I do. Would love to see you expand on the idea of
    Entering a client’s Facebook page or Twitter profile (you can follow me HERE) in with yours

    What would you look for, what would you do and how would you do it?

    Thanks for an informative post.

  7. Toronto realtor

    March 19, 2008 at 9:37 am

    I actually do like real estate business. I started a years ago with buying this small appartement in Toronto, then I sold it after a time and so it went all again.. After a certain period I was owning few properties and I was living on the rental income. Now I work as a realtor in Toronto and I encourage my clients, or anybody interested to invest in real estate. There are many creative players on the market that succeeded, but I always advise to get a professional, to do the research and other work for you. Investing in a real estate is a high-level commitment, but as a future buyer, try to collect solid informations, don’t get scared by initial hurdles.

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Opinion Editorials

Starting a new remote job? Here’s how to impress your team

(EDITORIAL) New world. New normal. New remote job? Here are three steps to help you navigate your new job and make a lasting first impression.



new home office

My past gig selling ergonomic furniture seems so much more meaningful these days. That’s a real aluminum foil lining on a horrible, deadly, terrifying situation, but I’ll take it.

For those of us who can keep up the grind for that daily bread (sourdough apparently) from home, we’re in da house like it’s a late 90s video. Or a much much much lamer early 2000s video aping late 90s videos.

It’s been weird. Intellectually, I know taking breaks to roast Brussels sprouts, hang my delicates, or weep uncontrollably into the living room carpet is NOT what I’m being paid for but…I’m doing it. And I can because I know my coworkers, superiors included, are doing the exact same.

We’ve already built up the kind of rapport that says ‘So long as XYZ gets done, organizing your spice rack between calls is fine, because we are all going NUCKING FUTS, and whatever keeps us from starting fires without driving up company costs is all gravy. Also here’s a picture of my dog’.


BUT, for those of us cranking the money mill in a whole NEW work situation… it’s gonna be… well. Not necessarily like that.

If my first off-color joke to my manager was over G-Chat instead of face-to-face, I can’t even IMAGINE what horror shows would go through my head if she say… went to go check her mail right as I hit send and just kinda left whatever it was I said about bras hanging there.

So what can you do to improve your new-person status when you can’t meet your team and cozy up face-to-face?

Make introductions

Imagine you’re taking a pre-covid19 bus. Some stranger taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, you wanna approve this invoice right quick?”

Not the worst thing you could hear on public transport by a long shot, but it’s still a little presumptuous, no?

That’s why you need to introduce yourself.

Not just in the general group chats or Zoom meetings. No one’s going to remember those (and there’s a 75% chance you don’t have your video on anyway).

Introduce yourself every time you ask someone new for something. Like this: “Hi colleague! I’m April, the new girl in 2nd shift goth ops, how are you? I had a quick question about our joy division, do you have a moment?”

I get that I’m an 87 year old biddy when it comes to matters of courtesy, but when you can’t actually see someone or offer to grab something from the communal fridge for someone, this stuff goes a LONG way. Bonus, you might get some extra positivity back! And we ALL need that.

Scroll back

Put that mouse wheel in reverse, what we’re gon’ do right here is go back. The cool thing about work chat-ware is that most versions will have a history you can scroll through! Your mission now is to creep through public, multi-person channels and see how your new peeps cheep.

You’ll get a great sense of who’s who, the general vibe, and even see frequent pain points and questions that come up before you have to ask about them (which you WILL).

Is this the kind of workplace where you can leave an ‘It’s Twerkin Tuesday!’ GIF, and get a whole bootylicious thread going to lift everyone’s spirits? Or do you work with more of an “Here’s an interesting article about twerking for spine health” kind of crowd?

This is how you find out.

Keep your own records.

Art Markman over at the Harvard Business Review mentioned a super fun and also true fact: “ Your memory for what happens each day is strongest around things that are compatible with your general script about how work is supposed to go. That means that you are least likely to remember the novel aspects of your new workplace” .

Ergo, it makes sense to keep a diary of everything that happens at work so you can get help with what you need most… because those ‘novel aspects’ are EVERYTHING, experience or no.

I personally suck at making my hands write as quickly as I think, so I suggest a diary in the form of Google docs, or even a private Tumblr/Twitter, etc, where you can hashtag what you need to look back at, and search your logs at your leisure later.

Make sense?

It’s not always easy to navigate a new position, even if you’re the naturally charming, adaptable type. Adapting to several major things at once is a lot for anyone! But hey, you’re doing the right thing by reading this as it is. Gold star!

Congrats on the new gig. Keep your head up, or whatever direction medical doctors recommend – you got the job. You’ve got this!

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Opinion Editorials

5 ways to grow your business without shaming the competition

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) We all need support as business owners. Let’s talk ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur that do not include shaming your competition.



Entrepreneur women all talking around a meeting table.

The year 2020 has forced everyone to re-assess their priorities and given us the most uncertain set of circumstances we have lived through. For businesses and entrepreneurs, they were faced with having to confront new business scenarios quickly.

Perhaps you were forced to add virtual components or find new revenue streams – immediately. Regardless, this has been tough for everyone.

Every single person is having a hard time with the adjustments and at very different stages from others. We’re currently at the 6-month mark, and each of our timelines are going to look different. Our emotions have greeted us differently too, whether we have felt relief, grief, excitement, fear, hope, determination, or just plain exhaustion.

Now that we are participating in life a bit more virtually than in 2019, this is a good time to re-visit the pros and cons of the influence of technology and online marketing outreach. It’s also a great time to throw old entrepreneur rules out the window and create a better sense of community where you can.

Here’s an alluring article, “Now Is Not the Time for ‘Mom Shaming’”, that offers an example from about a decade ago of how the popularity of mommy bloggers grew by women sharing their parenting “hacks”, tips, or even recipes, and crafting ideas via online posts and blogs. As the blog entries grew, so did other moms comparing themselves and/or feeling inadequate.

Some of the responses were natural and some may have been coming from a place of defensiveness. Moms are not alone in looking for resources, articles, materials, and friends to tell us we’re doing OK. We just need to be told “You are doing fine.”

Luckily, some moms in Connecticut decided to declare an end to “Mom Wars” and created a photo shoot that shared examples of how each mom had a right to their choices in parenting. It seemed to reinforce the message of, “You are doing fine.”

I don’t know about you, but my recent google searches of “Is it ok to have my 3-year old go to bed with the iPad” are pretty much destined to get me in trouble with her pediatrician. I’m hoping that during a global pandemic, “I am doing fine.”

Now, comparing this scenario to the entrepreneur world, often times your business is your baby. You have worn many hats to keep it alive. You have built the concept and ideas, nurtured the products and services with sweat, tears, and maybe some laughs. You have spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and trying processes and marketing tactics that work for you. You have been asked to “pivot” this year like so many others (Sick of that word? Me too).

Here are some ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur (or at least, ideas worth considering if you haven’t already):

  1. It’s about the questions you ask yourself. How does your product or service help or serve others (vs. solely asking how do I get more customers?) This may lead to new ideas or income streams.
  2. Consider a collaboration or a partnership – even if they seem like the competition. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
  3. Stop inadvertently shaming the competition by critiquing what they do. It’s really obvious on your Instagram. Try changing the narrative to how you help others.
  4. Revisit the poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and re-visit it often. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
  5. Join a community, celebrate others’ success, and try to share some positivity without being asked to do so. Ideas include: Likes/endorsements, recommendations on LinkedIn for your vendor contacts, positive Google or Yelp reviews for fellow small business owners.

It seems like we really could use more kindness and empathy right now. So what if we look for the help and support of others in our entrepreneurial universe versus comparing and defending our different ways of doing things?

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.



Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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