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The Brand Challenge – Looking Back In My Blogging History



Looking Back In Time

We can’t change the past.

Last week, I announced my impending birthday celebration here at AgentGenius. Yesterday came and went without much hoo-ha, jubilee, or commemorative speeches. I’m okay with that as I spent the day thinking about something Ken Brand said in the comments. The Brand Challenge. Ken wrote the following:

It’d be interesting to hear what you thoughts are about your very first posts. How your style, structure, approach, etc. has evolved. I’m saying you should write a post about it, I’m saying it’s crazy to look back at what you wrote a year ago and think about how you’d write it now.

But we can learn from it.

Ken’s idea caught my attention and I thought it might be a good exercise. Of course, I write at three main blogs, so I wondered how I should go about choosing which one to talk about. Being a blogging overachiever, I decided to dissect all three. Each one served a different purpose as I started them, so I thought perhaps the different perspectives of each might give a little insight into the who, what, why, how of each blog. In some cases, I skipped the first post (and will note that as such) as they weren’t quite posts, but rather introductions.

AgentGenius – The Stigliano Chronicles

Will the real Matt Stigliano please stand up?

My first ever post on AgentGenius (written September 22, 2008). I was nervous as hell writing this one. I had been speaking with Lani and Benn about the possibility of writing, but when it came down to it, I felt out of place. I was a new blogger surrounded by names that people talk about when they’re trying to quote the experts (my use of the word, not theirs). I didn’t know what to say, how to say it, or even how to use WordPress all that well. My first few posts probably drove Lani nuts as I would call her often to ask her “How do I do this?” Even then, I know she would sneak in at night and correct some of my more glaring mistakes in layout and coding. I had a lot to learn.

The post itself remains one of my favorites. I wanted to layout the direction for The Stigliano Chronicles and introduce myself to the readers and writers here and I think I accomplished that.

What do I like about it?

Definition: The post defines me rather quickly. The guy who writes lengthy posts. The former rockstar turned Realtor®. The battle of trying to find some sort of personal branding. The new agent.

What don’t I like about it?

Drab: The post doesn’t scream “read me” in any sense of the words. Although Lani designed the excellent header graphic, it looks stale by itself. Later I would take to finding pictures to adapt and place the banner over them in an effort to beautify the look. Lack of links. Links aren’t just good for SEO power, they also help give some decoration to you blog. They look nice and stand out. They make people want to know why you chose the link.

ActiveRain – San Antonio’s Rockstar Real Estate Agent

An Open Letter to Buyers…

My second post on ActiveRain (written November 6, 2008). My idea in joining ActiveRain was to “cut my blogging teeth” so to speak. I had been blogging at AgentGenius for awhile, but my focus there was around new agents. ActiveRain was to be more about real estate. I had written a post on AgentGenius, “An Open Letter to New Agents…” and used this to build my second ActiveRain post. Same theory, different audience.

What do I like about it?

Concept: I like the theory of this post. I may actually revisit it soon in an attempt to bring back the idea, because I think it’s one that’s worth attention. One of my goals as an agent has been to speak to consumers from their viewpoint. I know it, because I’ve been there. I’ve been on the side of real estate where everything went wrong and the agent wasn’t so great and I wound up thinking that all agents behaved like this. I know differently now and I want the world to know.

What don’t I like about it?

Execution: The layout sucks (no justified text – ewwwww). There is nothing that makes me say “I wonder what this post is all about?” It reads like a rambling daydream with no clearly defined goals or ideas. I do tend to write somewhat rambling posts, but even for me this post is confusing. I wanted to squeeze everything into one paragraph and seem to randomly break each one into pieces so I wasn’t one continuous stream of words – but it didn’t work. – Your all access pass to San Antonio real estate.

One photo does not sell a home.

My second post on (written September 2, 2008, but not truly published until January 4, 2008 when I launched the site fully). This post was actually inspired by something I had read by Matt Wilkins. This was my first post in which I used someone else’s writing to inspire a post of my own, something I do quite often and find very useful in my blogging. By reading other bloggers, I constantly find inspiration for my blogs. Seeing their thoughts and then asking myself, “How does this apply to my local area and my readers?” It has proven to be invaluable to me as a practice (especially when I’m stuck for a topic).

What do I like about it?

Conviction: This was probably the first post that I had some very strong opinions of something relating to what I think about the state of real estate. I was frustrated when I saw the listing mentioned and how it was presented to potential buyers. I hated that the client wasn’t getting what they needed in order to help sell their home and what I thought could be done to help present it in the correct light. (Interesting note: This property still has not sold.)

What don’t I like about it?

SEO: I missed the opportunity to take full advantage of SEO in this post. I made vague references to our “local” MLS, but never defined what was local. The title was good, but with some quality keywords, could have had more impact. I was attempting to sell myself without saying “Pick me! Pick me!,” but I didn’t take advantage of my ability to be known as a “San Antonio real estate agent” or other key phrases and words. The content is good, but with keywords and some work, this post could have been noticed more by the search engines and with that – people searching for agents to list their homes in San Antonio.

The Brand Challenge

So who else will take The Brand Challenge and take a look into your past to see what you can learn? It’s simple, costs nothing, and if you take it as an opportunity to improve upon past success and correct past mistakes, you’ll benefit in the long run. Just by looking back, I’ve come up with three good post ideas that I think I will cover in the near future. I was also able to remind myself of the importance of SEO-minded thinking in my posts (without going overkill) and what compels me to read a post (and hopefully a consumer). Each on of these tidbits will provide valuable resources today and tomorrow as I continue on my blogging expedition.

photo courtesy of

P.S. I have stolen Ken’s last name for the exclusive use of the new term The Brand Challenge – by no means have I stolen his soul, wit, or way with words. Now that I am finished with it, I relinquish his namesake back to Ken for his own use. Thanks Ken!

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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  1. Lani Rosales

    September 23, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    The Brand Challenge, eh? My first post wasn’t even under my name, it was under a pen name because I’m not licensed and didn’t want my opinion to damage my husband’s brokerage where I worked. Now, I write and speak publicly without fear, boy it took a lot of years and effort to get here!! My tone has always been relatively informal, but the topics of the content I produce across the blogosphere have advanced substantially.

    Great project, I loved reading every minute of this!

  2. Matt Stigliano

    September 23, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    @LaniAR – You speak without fear? Preposterous! Your informal style combined with knowledge of the topic has always been a favorite of mine. When we first spoke about me doing AgentGenius, both you and Benn said to be myself and it has served me well. When reading posts by either of you, I can see why you encouraged me to do so. Having spoken to you on the phone on several occasions, when I read your posts, I hear them as if you were having a conversation with me. Okay, now that I sound weird and creepy…

    I’ll just say thanks.

  3. Paula Henry

    September 24, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Matt – I recently revisited my earlier posts at Active Rain and YUK! I had no idea what to do, what to say or how to say it. Yeah, and it reads like it.

    The process of blogging has been a long one for me, a never ending challenge; I love it, I hate it and in between there somewhere lies a balance I rarely find.

    You, though, have all the makings of a Realtor, blogging rockstar!

    Rock On!

  4. Ken Brand

    September 24, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thanks:-) It is interesting to me to reflect way back to when we began. For me, the beginning was difficult and like most things, experience, repetition and focus leads to “better”.

    Also, I think people have different approaches to what they write, and I know I wonder what process others use how they think. I most always double and triple think – over think about what I’m writing. Usually, when I finished and I hit publish, I’m happy with it….but I know what I think is funny or clever or clear is viewed as confusing or “duh” or whatever. I’m guilty of laughing at my own jokes too.

    I would say my biggest challenge is “over writing”. All the books, coaches, teachers say that you have edit the hell out it. Short and sweet! I have a hard time with that aspect.

    Time is another question for me. How long does the average (is there such a thing as average) writer spend writing a blog post? For me, some things on my personal blog can be quick and easy – 10/15 minutes, for the AG stuff, my average is around 4 or 5 hours. I start writing, then I edit, then I rewrite, then I delete everything, then I rewrite, etc. Then I try to let it sit for a day or so, then I reread it and edit, etc. I find myself tweaking down to a word. I might be driving along and pull over to write down a sentence or a thought or a word combination, then I’ll log on and change the original….then I get…you get the picture. I obsess – fear of looking stupid, being irrelevant, being ignored, etc. I remind my self that I can’t please everyone so I please myself and hit publish.

    One of the most huge benefits for me, swirls around the quote from Stephen King in his book titled “On Writing” – ‘Writing is refined thinking.” ~ Stephen King.

    Thanks for sharing Matt and Paula and Lani. I enjoy reading all the writers…I consider commenters writers too.


  5. Benn Rosales

    September 24, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Matt, when we brought you on, we knew it was a risk, however, the risk factor was like ‘1’, the pro factor was 99. Without sounding like a proud father of a great son, I’ll simply say, you’ve never disappointed us in the slightest, in fact, the same things we saw in you before you ever wrote a single post, our audience has seen in you virtually everywhere. We call the time we spend grooming writers behind the scene an investment, and this was one investment that paid off.

    Stay honest and true to you as you always have.

  6. Matt Thomson

    September 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Pretty interesting! I think I’ll take you up on this and take a look back. I’m coming up on my 2 year blogging anniversary, so this could be interesting!

  7. Matt Stigliano

    September 25, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Paula – It’s amazing to see what you wrote, how you wrote it, and try to remember why you wrote it. I think in the beginning I was trying too hard. Just looking to wow the world with my posts. I came to realize that not everything I write is “gold” and that writing for that purpose won’t quite get you the results you wanted.

    Ken – Short and sweet? What’s that? I’m very guilty of that as I am more than fond of pointing out. I admit there are times when I read something by you and say “Huh?” However, it’s one of the things I like about your writing. Occasionally I have to go back and re-read a line or two. But that’s part of what makes it more interesting. Seeing how you connect the dots and use words makes it more interesting to me. I’m sure there are people who don’t like it, much as I’m sure there are people that don’t like my writing – that will always be a fact of life though.

    Benn – I think you have every right to feel like a proud father. I looked up to the two of you when I discovered AgentGenius and having you take me on and help guide me is a big deal to me. And you two didn’t cut the rope and let me loose, you just gave me more rope. Both you and Lani have been there to advise and help me when I needed it. I am thankful for that. I’m still learning more and more everyday and wonder what I’ll be thinking/blogging about in 10 years from now. I do know that I will be 10 years from now.

    Matt – It was actually kind of fun. I can imagine it would be more fun if I was on two years…or five…or ten. Let me know how it goes!

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Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?



Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.



aging housing inventory

aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.



zillow move

zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub,, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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