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How Long Does it Take to Own a Neighborhood?

Far Less than You Might Think

“I was being ironic.” – Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah)

“Oh, ho, ho, irony! Oh, no, no, we don’t get that here. See, uh, people ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony’s not really a, a high priority. We haven’t had any irony here since about, uh, ’83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at” – C.D. Bales (Steve Martin)

Give ’em What They Want

Once upon a time during web-based real estate’s Paleolithic era, it was just fine to have a simple sales site that trumpeted how wonderful you were and how many millions of dollars in sales you’d accumulated. Then the environment changed and static sites, particular the cookie-cutter template sites with identical content, were relegated to the morass as blogs emerged from the primordial ooze and began to find their legs.

More recent evolution has seen the general real estate blog abandoned in favor of hyper-local blogs – all the information you possibly could want about bake sales and Little League games and farmers’ markets and the local high school team. Which all is well and good, except it completely missed the point of what it is someone looking for real estate wants to see. In a word, real estate.

Building your local street cred is crucial if you’re working to acquire listings. Except your blog (and your real estate site) is going to attract far more buyers than sellers. And those buyers, while possibly interested in a bit of the local flavor, will always always always have more interest in the homes available. If they want the packet from the Chamber of Commerce, they can go to that website instead.

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So, in short, today’s ironic message coming to you on a real estate blog is you don’t need to blog to find and dominate a niche market.

Start Your Blog. Now Stop Writing.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with microblogging about everything down to the last pothole in your neighborhood’s main drag. It’s just that fewer people care than you think outside of your neighborhood and that at the end of the day, it’s a great deal more work with little additional benefit.

Want to know what you need to dominate a neighborhood?

  • Identify an active neighborhood – a few thousand homes, tops, with some decent sales history
  • A good domain name, hopefully rich with keywords
  • Listings, listings and more listings
  • Basic community information
  • Still more listings
  • A contact form
  • Um … more listings

Get the picture? It’s the listings that are the driving content of your site. People want to see the houses. So make sure you’re giving them those houses in as obvious a manner as possible. And with platforms such as WordPress available, creating a so-called “blogsite” – a blog functioning as a relatively static web site – can be accomplished in mere minutes.

Working with one agent today, we were able to get the framework for a focused neighborhood site put together in an hour or so. Once the IDX is available, we’ll be set. (I’ll add a link at the bottom once I have permission from the agent to do so.)

Keys to Remember

Going with a neighborhood niche site requires a slight change in your thinking. The point isn’t traffic … just about anyone can drive huge numbers with a gimmick or two. What you want is focused traffic – people who are looking for one specific neighborhood. The traffic will be less but there will be far less chafe with the wheat.

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One of my niche sites is Westbrook Village Real Estate, which averages 15 to 30 visitors a day. The site also received about a half-dozen or more search registrations every week. Huge numbers? In the grand scheme, perhaps not. But keep in mind this is a neighborhood with only 5,000 homes. And there are dozens of unique visitors coming to look for homes and other information every day.

Ventana Lakes Real Estate, another niche site, generates far less traffic because there’s less word of mouth about the neighborhood. In about 18 months of existence, the site has generated two closed sales for about $600,000. Again, not huge numbers in the grand scheme. But when you consider my total investment has been less than $50 … well, you can do the math.

Even better, the need for fresh content is somewhat lessened when you’re working with the often less competitive search terms for niche neighborhoods. Quality content posted once and tweaked every now and again for freshness is all the Google juice you’ll need (unless you’re trying to corner Beverly Hills.)

Cost Efficiency Promotes a Shotgun Approach

Today in the office I was told by one of the owners that I need to have my business coming from multiple baskets. She meant to be working not just on the Internet. But as a co-worker pointed out, I am working out of multiple baskets by operating multiple websites with different audiences. My primary blog, three different retirement community sites, another for Scottsdale lofts … it’s a shotgun approach which may seem to be thoroughly unfocused but rather casts a fairly wide net.

That’s necessary because odds are against you retiring early by working just one small neighborhood. But if you’re able to add a transaction every month or two to your total in a hands-off manner … why not do it?

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As real estate trainer David Knox says, you don’t have to be good. You just have to be there. I’d like to think that I’m good but more to the point I’m there. And there. And there, too.

So can you.

It can take years to get well enough established in a neighborhood that the owners turn to you with their listings. But buyers are a different beast for one basic reason – you don’t matter. The homes do. Provide them with the homes and they’ll pick up the phone or click the submit button on your contact form. The first agent to talk to a prospective client often wins the business. Make sure you’re their first contact by being the source for what they really want – homes in a given area.

Time to Get Started

So what do you need to do?

Identify a neighborhood where homes are selling to some degree, a destination spot where people actively want to move and where the residents tell their friends about the great place in which they live. Find that neighborhood, get the domain name and start the blogsite. If you’re not that tech savvy, find someone who can do it for you.

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Either way, you’re looking at a fairly minimal investment of time and/or money that has the potential for significant return. All by putting an IDX feed in front of the buyers as they sit at their keyboards looking for their next home.

Is it something you can afford to ignore? You do so at your own peril. Because if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, someone else will and they’ll get the business that should have come to you.

That’s not ironic. That’s just sad.

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Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.



  1. Mark Eibner

    September 19, 2008 at 6:16 am

    we’re at it again How Long Does it Take to Own a Neighborhood? Far Less than You Might ..

  2. Mack

    September 19, 2008 at 7:32 am

    While I don’t have individual keyword rich sites for each of smaller communities that I service, I do have individual pages about each. These pages do rank fairly well on Google and are generating closed transactions. My question would be, Is it better to have individual targeted sites for each of these communities or by having them all under one domain will that domain be given a more authoritative stature with the search engines? The entire site is on a wordpress platform. Please let me know what you think.

  3. Lisa Heindel

    September 19, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Any suggestions for those of us who have a local board still in the Dark Ages that doesn’t allow individual agents to have an IDX feed on their site/blog?

  4. Jonathan Dalton

    September 19, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Mack – there are SEO folks who can give you a better answer than I. My hunch is the website will outperform the page. I have one site where I’ve tried the individual page approach under a larger umbrella and the results have been far less dramatic.

    Lisa – Wow. I honestly had forgotten that beast still existed. Best advice is to get involved in the process and work with like-minded people to get your board to pull their head out. Some brokers unfortunately still view the listings as their private playground and would rather treat the agents as serfs and not professionals.

  5. Chuck G

    September 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    JD — you hit it right on the head. Neighborhood-focused blogs are FAR more effective than shotgun-style regional ones. I picked two neighborhoods that I wanted to focus on, and started blogs on both. One gets quite a bit more traffic than the other, but I get positive comments from residents in both neighborhoods about their respective blogs.

    You might think that the laser focus you apply on a neighborhood will preclude you from getting business outside of your chosen area? Not true. In fact, it’s quite easy to “step outside” of your neighborhood to touch on topics that are relevant to surrounding areas too. (Think “downtown businesses” or “schools.”)

    Today’s buyers don’t need agents to find homes. The internet has taken over that role. They DO need neighborhood experts to advise them on which street is better than the next, and who the principal is at their local elementary school. Piloting a neighborhood blog is a big step to winning that position.

    Great call, JD!

  6. Daniel Bates

    September 19, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Something I have heard and found to be true is that the more focused your blogging efforts are (county, city, borough, neighborhood) the quicker the clients you get from the site will be to purchasing. It’s only common sense that if they’re to the point that they find your site for a search of a specific neighborhood that they have already narrowed down their shopping options quite a bit.

    I’m in a more rural area so I have a blog about a town of 450 and a town of 1500 (which you’ll note is much smaller than your recommended neighborhood). Similar to Mack, I have pages devoted to neighborhoods in those towns and write individual posts about local attractions with links to those neighborhoods. I follow exactly the same approach as you have outlined and it’s working fine for me. I’d also like to ad that marketing in this manner can seriously reduce your costs. (Tip: Produce a small flyer with your site and put it in local businesses in exchange for an article about them) I’ve got 60+ subscribers to my blog about the town of 450 (with probably 200 homes) in a year of casual blogging, so while my traffic probably can’t compete with most of your readers websites, my market penetration is unrivaled with next-to-nothing spent on advertising so far.

  7. Daniel Bates

    September 19, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    BTW – to answer your question – 2 week for me, when I launched, several of the neighborhoods I wrote about went straight to the top of Google for a search for their name. It took about a week to make the site and a week to get them listed.

  8. Artur | Phoenix Real Estate

    September 19, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    “But when you consider my total investment has been less than $50 … well, you can do the math.”

    What about the time you put in to create and maintain the site. That has a cost as well. I’m not trying to diminish the value of the idea but all costs need to be considered: if it’s not monetary then there’s an opportunity cost.

  9. Jonathan Dalton

    September 20, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Artur – time to maintain the site is maybe an hour a month and probably far, far less. I’m not using the site as a blog. It’s a website with a WordPress base and a strong IDX presence. I have to do almost nothing with it.

  10. Karen Goodman

    September 21, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    This is a great idea. I have a free Point 2 website that I haven’t been doing anything with. I can have 15 pages, can frame in an IDX, and can add any unique content that I want. Do you see any reason why it would be better to have it on WordPress? I already know the backoffice and can quickly edit through P2, and can buy a domain name and point it to the site. If WordPress will get me much better SEO, is ok or does it really need to be

    BTW, I think that this could still get you listings. I know a lot of people that are very interested in knowing the price, closing price, etc for every house in their subdivision. If you added a ‘What Did It Sell For’ page, and sent a postcard advertising the website address to the subdivision owners, I bet that they would use it every time there was a new listing in the subdivision to check it out. Even better if you included FSBO closed sale info on the sold page (which could easily be found in the tax records).

  11. Log Home Builders

    September 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    This is a really good idea and is basically like real estate investors who look at the upcoming building permits and so forth so they can make financial investment into something that will be developed. The same goes for the internet and I never thought of that.

  12. Kim Wood

    September 23, 2008 at 5:26 am

    Jonathan – I missed this when you posted – so I’m sorry for jumping in late….. Love this post to recap much of our conversation the other night 🙂 !!!! It is a great time to jump into HyperLocal blogging with neighborhoods – all you have to do is provide enough information and keep it up-to-date to become that neighborhood expert people will grow to turn to when they need information! (Buyers and Sellers)

    Your neighborhood blogs are very well done and what a great resource for the community!!! Who you gonna call? Jonathan!!!

  13. joe peffer

    September 24, 2008 at 11:30 am

    This is exactly the idea I had when I started in real estate five years ago. My problem has always been focusing on only one or two communities. Instead, I focus on Midtown Columbus’ historic urban neighborhoods which ends up being more or less everything inside the outerbelt.

    In the meantime, I don’t feel that I give any one or two neighborhoods enough special attention. Even after five years I’m surprised at how many agents don’t even begin to understand this — though I’ve yet to put it all together in a cohesive package that I’m happy with. I am working on it though and I’m looking forward to continued discussion in these areas.

    It’s quickly becoming easier for single agents and small brokerages to have the kind of internet presence that large local franchises have. Nice local sites Jonathan and nice job with your quick site Jay.

  14. Jonathan Dalton

    September 24, 2008 at 11:34 am

    The beautiful thing, in my opinion at least, is the site doesn’t have to be a blog and it doesn’t have to consume your existence to be effective. It just needs quality information in an easy to find format. Jay nailed it with his new site. And Vicki Moore’s new site, Linda Mar Homes is of the same mode … a strong IDX search, good local information and a very simple format.

    But like you said, Joe, very few agents seem to realize the power inherent in these local sites.

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