Getting leads

What homebuyers want: responsiveness, responsiveness, responsiveness

We came across this article today, and while the message may be obvious, it can’t be overstated.

When looking for a house, potential buyers wanted an agent who:

  • Replied quickly to questions, and
  • Was present to show a house.

That’s it. If these demands weren’t met, buyers went to the bullpen.

The takeaway is: buyers don’t shop for agents — they shop for homes.
So, what does this mean to you?  It’s actually pretty simple:
  1. Provide buyers a good, local home search with meaningful data they want, so they keep coming back.
  2. When a buyer contacts you, either by phone or email:  respond IMMEDIATELY (if not sooner).

This may sound like common sense, but believe it or not, a big chunk of your competition doesn’t do a very good job at either or both of those things.

Wait, is that your phone ringing?…   😉

Charlotte real estate market, Getting leads, Tech trends

eValuator: real, accurate property values of Charlotte area homes

If you listen to listing agents these days, there is a common complaint about their competition – namely that they “puff” the value of a home during a listing presentation in order to get the listing.  Usually the home goes on the market at too high a price, and over time the seller either has to reduce the price, or ends up getting sticker shock when someone makes what they consider to be a very low offer.

And it’s easy to see how this happens — where is a seller to go in order to get an unbiased value for their home?  Most people turn to Zillow, but as great as that site is, it doesn’t tend to be very accurate in many cases.

We live, eat and breathe real estate technology, and after hearing our clients tell us these stories over & over, we thought to ourselves:

Why can’t there be a place for a seller to go to get a good, accurate “ballpark” value of their home, like they would for their car with the “Kelley Blue Book” website?

And so, eValuator was born.

We wrote a highly advanced, proprietary “formula” that scans the market and ranks comparable sales for a given property.  Based on those rankings, we produce a value range for a home, and a best guess at an actual price.  Click the screenshot below for a full view:

But that’s not all — with your special administrative login, you can actually create your own custom reports where you choose the comps and rank them yourself.  You can then email the report to your client!

Check out a sample report here to see how it looks.

We are very excited about this product, and our continued commitment to bring you smart, cutting-edge, local real estate technology.

Getting leads, Tech trends

Create content for readers, not for Google

We always like to share good ideas, and this article is full of them!  It includes 10 “no-nonsense” ways you can improve your search engine rankings.  It’s full of good info, but 1 paragraph stood out:

With Google recently making moves to punish “over-optimized” sites, you have to recognize that fact that a site built just to rank runs the risk of being penalized and losing all of its traffic.

Many tech consultants will focus purely on “tricks” to get you ranked for the short term, when the reality is that the path to long-term success is GOOD, ORIGINAL CONTENT that readers find useful.

Search engine optimization is a lot like weight loss.  Yes, there are crash-diets that can take weight off.  But study after study has shown that the only way to take weight off & keep it off is permanent lifestyle change.  But most weight loss companies aren’t going to tell you “eat a little less, move around a little more.” It’s the same concept.

So, get blogging!

Getting leads

Google’s ‘Penguin’ update wreaks havoc on rankings

We’ve been hearing from some of our clients that they noticed their Google rankings changing recently, and this might be why:  Google Penguin Update.

In a nutshell, Google is trying to do a better job assigning rank due to real content as opposed to the oodles of sites you see out there that are purely for rankings and contain very little useful content.  This particular update mostly involves the type & quality of inbound links a site has.

As we’ve said before, the single most important thing you can do to get rankings is remember the cardinal rule: CONTENT IS KING.  Paying an SEO consultant is, at best, a short-term solution — like buying a man a fish rather than teaching him how to fish.  There are many great SEO folks out there, but they’d tell you the same thing.  Content, content, content.

Again, there are no shortcuts.  And there is no substitute to writing good, original content that your potential clients would find useful.


Tech trends

Be wary of tech-less tech firms

Recent events reminded us how important is to ask any technology firm or consultant one simple question:

Do you have in-house developers?

It seems odd — you probably wouldn’t ask your automobile service department if it had in-house mechanics. But we are finding it to be entirely too common in technology.

Two recent events illustrate this need:

  • One of our competitors, a national firm offering IDX service (one of the better ones, actually) was exploited by hackers.  Data was compromised, including buyer/seller leads.
  • Several of our clients reported that their WordPress sites (hosted in various places) were hacked in a variety of ways — including redirecting all inbound traffic to foreign sites.

Picture it.  You have one or more of these products, are compromised, and you need resolution.  You call your tech consultant.  But that person isn’t actually “technical” — they can’t look at code and deduce/fix a problem.  Sometimes they have a freelance developer they can ask for help, but that person doesn’t have a vested interest in the product, only in working a bunch of hours to bill the consultant (and eventually, you).

In the past several years, technology has changed to the point that non-technical people can do things like set up a website, create/edit content, and install “plug-ins” that add cool functionality.  And this technology is great!   But beneath all of that point-and-click stuff is code — and when the doo-doo hits the fan, it takes a coder to fix it.

To be clear – there are many, many great tech firms out there.  We have collaborated with several really good ones over the years.  We just do “data,” so it’s very common that we work with designers, developers, copywriters, etc, whom our clients have hired.  The message here is to be wary and ask questions before you commit time and money to a consultant.

Getting leads, Tech trends

The secret of high successful agents

Recently, we reminded you that the #1 rule of websites is that content is king. We will now take it 1 step further and share the secret of our most successful clients (the ones who get tons of Internet leads).

This is a secret so big that most web/marketing experts will almost certainly not mention it in casual conversation.


Wait for it…

The agents who get the most good Internet leads are the ones who work the hardest to post good content about their cities and neighborhoods.

Yep. The secret is there is no secret — it’s just a bunch of hard work.

We’ve been in the IDX business for almost 7 years, and we’ve seen countless approaches to getting Internet leads. We are obviously in a very different climate today than in 2005. There are fewer agents, but competition is stiffer to capture willing & able buyers. But the principle remains the same — those who work the hardest to post good content frequently will (usually) be the ones to get the leads.

If a web or marketing consultant tells you that simply by spending $X, you will be vaulted to the top of Google forever, be very, very skeptical. Our clients who get the most leads do all their own SEO work by posting good content frequently — in a variety of places.

Don’t be intimidated. If you’re one of our IDX clients, remember, we want you to be successful. Feel free to message or tweet us anytime for advice. We are happy to point you in the right direction!

Tech trends

The cold, hard facts on IDX & SEO

There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there about what IDX gives you the best search engine benefits.  The fact is, it’s a trick question, and we’ll explain why.

There are basically 2 types of IDX products on the market now:

  1. A service hosted/maintained separately from your “regular” website.  In other words, the provider harvests the MLS data and “hosts” a search site where your clients can search for homes.
  2. An “integrated” IDX that plugs directly into your website and grabs MLS data behind the scenes from an external provider and “imports” it to your website.
So you’re thinking to yourself, “well, #2 is better, because it’s integrated!”  Maybe.  The upside to an integrated system is that your site has a bunch of extra content (property listings) without having to send users to a separate site to search.  However, the drawback is that in order for these to work on ANY website, the interface & functionality has to be somewhat limited so it can be “plugged” into any website.  In other words, it’ll display listings, but it probably won’t have a ton of other features like neighborhood valuation & such.  The other downside to an integrated system is more “moving parts.”  You’ve got your site, your IDX provider’s system/data, and the MLS data.  If 1 of these fails, the whole system is down.

Conversely, a “separate” IDX site means users click away from your site to search, and it means all that listing data is technically not “on your site.”  But the upside is, if your site goes down, the IDX would still be fine.  Also, because it’s a separate system, it can be designed more freely, to have a lot more features.

Okay, so where are we going with this?

An IDX & your site’s SEO are 2 totally separate things.  You want a property search that entices buyers with cool features & keeps them coming back.  But you also want good SEO so you GET buyers!    The fact is, no IDX, in and of itself, will vault you to page 1 in Google.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being honest.

The agents who get the best search results are the ones who do the best job intertwining listing data (from IDX) with good, original content of their own.  And this is possible with a simple approach:

  1. Find an IDX that has good LOCAL features and information.  It’s fine if it’s on a separate site, because a good IDX provider should be able to install it on a “subdomain” on your regular domain.  In other words, if your website is at “,” your search can be at “” or “”  Google recognizes it as being your content because the main domain is the same.  Bear in mind, in order to do this, you will have to make a simple change at your domain registrar (i.e. GoDaddy,, etc).
  2. Many IDX providers these days, even ones that host it separately, offer solutions to allow you to also pull listing data directly into your site.  One such solution is a WordPress plugin, which are fairly common these days.  It’s not necessarily a full-blown “property search,” but it’s an easy way to pull listing data into your site, which is the main goal for SEO.

But don’t take our word for it.  In writing this post, we consulted with SEO and Cognitive Semantic Structuring expert Oliver Hoffmann, who owns his own SEO company: First Fold SEO. We’ve known Oliver for a few years, and we’ve seen him deliver results for several of our clients.  And Oliver would tell you that the takeaway from this blog entry is simple, and stated above – no IDX, in and of itself, will vault you to page 1 in Google.


Charlotte real estate market

Tell your sellers: STAGE the home!

I was always very skeptical of home staging. My attitude has always been that if it’s priced right, it will sell. And rather than pay a couple thousand in staging fees, I’ll just be really aggressive with my price. And that was a reasonable attitude… in 2007.

Take this example.

Last year, I had a really nice, renovated SouthPark-area home with a tenant who agreed to cooperate in helping me sell the home. I paid for some landscaping and minor repairs, and then put it on the market at $340k — a very attractive price for the area. We had plenty of showings, but no offers, and eventually withdrew it from the market.

Fast forward 1 year later. This time, the tenant’s lease ended, so they moved out, and I listened to my agent’s advice to stage the home (at least a couple of the “challenging” rooms). Same house, same price, 1 year later (when there are actually statistically fewer homes selling). And guess what? We had 3 offers in the first 2 days on the market.

Certainly, I was impressed, but I’m a numbers guy. There must be some explanation for this.

Price breakdown for Uptown Charlotte

This is a graph of “sold” prices in Uptown Charlotte. Look at the difference between 2007 and 2010.
The $250k-$500k segment has shrunk considerably, and this “pie” represents fewer buyers overall as well. In the meantime, inventory is still pretty high, so the result is you have, relatively, very few willing and able buyers looking in certain price points.

So, it naturally follows that because there are so few buyers, you’ve got to have a near-flawless product, which means: clean, staged, smelling like fresh-baked cookies. Even if your seller is pricing their home aggressively, that isn’t enough these days (compared to 2007, when eventually there’d be a buyer).

So, take it from me, a seasoned real estate investor and former staging skeptic. It’s not even so much a difference of making “X” more dollars on the sale — it’s a matter of whether you’ll find a buyer at all!

Getting leads, Tech trends

The #1 rule of real estate websites (that most people forget)

You know those smooth-talking consultants who wanted to charge you thousands of dollars to “get you to the top of Google?” There’s one very important message that it seems they often fail to deliver:


I cannot understate how often we run into folks who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about attracting visitors, but little to no time worrying about capturing/closing them.  SEO is important, for sure, but is it more important than content?

If you don’t have a property search that gives buyers a multitude of search options, along with metrics such as neighborhood values, distance to amenities, and comparable sales, then they will look elsewhere for that information, no matter how great your search engine placement is. And if your website is just a keyword-packed bunch of blog posts without content that is useful to your audience, you are similarly missing the boat.

Today’s buyers and sellers want information, and lots of it.  The agent that gets their business is not necessarily the one who is #1 in Google, but the one who does the best job of balancing being “found” and presenting great information and data to potential clients.  I would bet that if you looked at a list of the top producing agents in your area, a decent percentage of them are not at the top of Google!

We’ve been in the real estate technology business for 6 years, and the common thread among our most successful clients is a rabid commitment to producing good content.  In fact, the ones who sell the most are, in my cases, not even receiving the most leads!  They just do a great job with the leads they do get, and are diligent about continuing to add content to their sites and direct traffic to their property search, where they can capture leads.

SEO is important, but nothing beats good content. Ever.

Charlotte real estate market

2010 state of the market: stable prices but scarce buyers

2010 is almost “in the books” and the general theme for the year is stable prices but scarce buyers.  Overall activity is slightly up from 2009, but prices are up about 5% on average.  Here are the numbers from the entire Carolina MLS:

(Note: all charts in this report refer to the market “peak” in 2007 and include both single-family homes and condos)

The higher price ranges bounced back a bit from 2009 even though number of overall sales was stagnant.  So if you were working with a buyer who could buy (as opposed to the glut of “tire kickers” out there these days), chances are they spent a bit more than in 2009.
The “Haves” & the “Have Nots”
Not every area saw similar numbers.  Some areas actually saw fewer sales and/or lower prices from 2009.  The trend seems to be worst for the pricier areas that are not in the most desired school districts.  For example, Area 6-1 (parts of Dilworth, Sedgefield):
The $250-$500k segment was absolutely hammered compared to the peak in 2007, and that also happens to be the average price point of the area.  So, even though the $500k-$1M segment saw some growth, the average price actually went down about 2% (and activity also went down).
Compare this to Area 5-1 (Myers Park, Dilworth) that is in the more desirable school districts:
In this area, activity was up over 40% and prices by 20%!  The $500k-$1M range isn’t close to what it was in 2007 but the over $1M range bounced back nicely from 2009.
Just for fun (or not), here’s Uptown:
Activity was up slightly (though still down a whopping 70% from the market peak), but prices were actually down about 6%.  The main culprit here seems to be both the $250-500k and the $500k-$1M ranges, which were strong at the peak, but now down signficantly.
What lies ahead?
It’s tough to say what’s in store for 2011.  Based on the trends, it would seem safe to assume that just as 2010 was a little better than 2009, 2011 will be a little better than 2010.  The question is how many willing & able buyers have (thus far) chosen not to buy.  With 2009 looking more & more like the true “bottom” in terms of price, it seems reasonable to assume that some of those “scared” buyers will hit the ground in 2011.
In general, it appears that homes in “established” areas with desirable school districts stand to do the best, while previously “hot” areas that experienced a fast rise in value (i.e. Midwood, parts of Dilworth) are a tougher sell because those buyers haven’t come back in full force yet and inventory is high.
If there are any specific areas for which you’d like these stats, we have them easily available!  Just drop us a line!