How’s an agent to build a brand online these days?
Before the rise of online property portals, detractors of newspaper display advertising long echoed the same refrain: It’s expensive! It’s hard to measure! It’s expensive again! But in its heyday, a newspaper’s real estate section served two very important functions: It guaranteed properties advertised within its pages maximum exposure to active buyers, and it also helped establish the brand of leading real estate groups. But as online property advertising continues to erode the need for newspaper ads, it’s also taking with it the capacity to which an agent can leverage his current listings to win more business.
Property portals may be relatively inexpensive and they may also make it easy to measure how many people have viewed a property, but property portals still can’t replicate the impact of opening the real estate section of your local paper, and thumbing through page after page after page of an agent’s listings. And they’re unlikely to ever offer something even remotely close to the print experience — or at least, the Big Two portals aren’t anyway, given they’re owned by newspaper companies, which have a vested interest in keeping their print assets alive for as long as they can.
The internet has disrupted the entire real estate model
But even if newspapers were to close up their print real estate products tomorrow and turn their portals into a quasi digital magazine, replete with beautiful layouts of property advertisements interspersed with real estate editorial, as opposed to serving listings algorithmically, as they do now, it’ll do little to help agents build their brand online.
The internet has fundamentally changed the way people make any kind of decision. In the days of old, if you were buying a TV, you’d go down to your local electronics retailer and have a chat with the sales person; maybe you’d even go to a couple of retailers and get as much information as you could, before making a purchasing decision. Today, that’s no longer the case. The minute a buyer walks in the door of a retailer, they’ve made up their mind. There’s little the salesperson can tell them about that TV that the buyer doesn’t already know.
The same can be said for most homeowners. If they’re really motivated to sell, they’ve been researching the market for a while. By the time they contact an agent (or a couple of agents), they already have a fairly good idea of how much their home is worth, when they want to sell it, and how they want to sell it. They just want to know if you’re the right fit for their already predetermined plan. But we should back up a bit.
Where’s your next listing coming from?
Imagine a world without newspapers, without real estate shopfronts, without signboards and DL cards, because this is increasingly the world we are soon to be living in. As more industries move away from traditional marketing channels, more pressure will be put on the real estate industry to follow suit. A real estate agent sitting in front of a vendor, who also happens to be the CEO of a top blue chip company, is going to have a mighty hard time selling them on the merits of newspaper ads, signboards, and DL cards.
Not that such a scenario is ever likely to happen. A vendor like that would never call the old school agent stuck in 1995. He won’t even know that the agent exists, because without a robust online presence, the agent might as well pack up shop and call it a day. Just think for a moment about that way you look for any professional service, whether it’s a plumber, an accountant, a digital marketing agency.
I’m not even going to bother explaining the process to you, because the mere fact you’re reading this blog post is proof positive enough. We’re a digital marketing agency that specialises in developing online brands, through a combination of online advertising and content marketing. If you’re looking to take your agent marketing into the digital age, then look no further. To kick start your online presence contact our team. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
A real estate agent’s most valuable sales tool is their database, and selecting the right customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage and develop their database is critical. But until recently, when cloud technology revolutionised the software industry, a lot of agents were reluctant to spend the time and effort on a CRM that didn’t work the way they worked: mostly out of the office, during which time they could be in contact with a hundred or more buyers, and more than a couple potential new vendors.
Writing down names and contact details for buyers and vendors, and then entering them into your CRM later that day (or week), just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Fortunately, in the last few years, a number of CRMs have been introduced to the market that have been developed specifically for the real estate industry. So here’s our roundup of the best real estate CRMs, regardless of the agent.
Complete turnkey solutions for agents and agencies
Used by some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading real estate franchises, including McGrath, Ray White, LJ Hooker, First National, and so on, LockedOn is a complete turnkey solution to an agent’s entire sales and marketing needs, and includes features like:
one-click portal exporting to Australia’s leading real estate portals
SMS and email marketing
sales and marketing presentation templates.
Agentbox is another turnkey solution, used by a number larger independents across Australia, including REIA Chairman, John Cunningham’s agency, Cunninghams Property, and large franchises, like Belle Property. Agentbox also offers website design to ensure seamless integration between website and CRM. Agenbox’s features include:
property alerts for buyers
SMS and email marketing
brochures and window card design.
Rex is yet another turnkey solution, built for the Australian real estate marketplace, and with features that can be turned on and off as they’re needed. Rex also offers web design services, as their software works best with a Rex website. Rex’s features include:
financial and transaction management
reporting and analytics
Simple, no fuss CRM for agents
Fortuna’s basic CRM starts as a free software download, suitable for both Windows and Mac, which integrates with Dropbox for cloud access to your data when you’re on the go. Once you exceed your 50 record limit, you can then upgrade to a paid version. Fortuna was developed in the US and has been modified for the Australian marketplace, so there are elements of Fortuna that may not suit Australian agents. Fortuna’s features include:
email and SMS marketing
open home alerts – paid
PDF brochure design – paid
CreataCRM is an Australian, cloud-based CRM company that’s free if you choose to host the software yourself (in the cloud), otherwise, for a competitively-priced monthly fee, CreataCRM will host the software for you in the cloud. Although not specifically developed for the real estate industry, CreataCRM is developed for the Australian marketplace. CreateCRM’s features include:
email marketing design and automation
tablet and mobile view
sales activity and reporting
MS Office, MYOB, Xero, Quickbooks integration
quote and invoice generation
project and task management
VOIP CloudPBX integration
Virion’s top CRM tip
Ever since CRM systems moved into the cloud, and particularly now that most of them can be accessed through a smartphone or tablet app, the marketplace has been flooded with CRMs specifically targeting the real estate industry. So, while we’ve rounded up some of the best and most-functional CRMs that suit the Australian real estate industry, it’s by no means a complete list. There are plenty more out there.
If you’re searching for a CRM to suit your needs, as an agent or for your whole agency, it’s best to look at the features you value most and find a CRM that integrates with your existing infrastructure (like your website) as well as your existing internal processes and systems, your marketing agency, and so forth. Some agents may not need portal exporting or email marketing and brochure design, because they already use the Campaign Track software, for example, while others will.
We think most agents would agree that, while managing your database is important, it’s of far greater importance to get the listings first, which is something Virion excels at. If you’d like help building your online brand, by establishing yourself an authority in your local area, contact our team today. Alternatively, for the latest news, analysis and insights that’s shaping the real estate industry, continue reading our blog.
Zoning issues and gentrification have much to answer for
Australian media has long been focussing its commentary on the property market. In fact, most of the time, when our major metropolitan dailies aren’t serving up clickbait on their online mastheads, they’re writing about the real estate market in our major cities that usually consists of a mix of generally favourable pieces (“clearance rates hit record highs!”) and doom and gloom prophecies (“Aussie property bubble about to burst!”). This is even more so now with all the election-based talk about negative gearing.
But for all the talk, the way the media covers Australia’s rising housing prices is most typically only ever a thinly veiled attempt to either balance out the more favourable stories or lend weight to the doom and gloom ones, like the 60 Minutes segment that alleged the Australian housing bubble was going to burst like it did in the US in 2007 and throw Australia into a recession.
Why the property market crash just isn’t likely happen
However, let’s be straight — the Australian property market is nothing like America’s. We don’t have subprime mortgages, we don’t have an oversupply of housing (indeed quite to the contrary, as you will soon see), and there are fairly tough restrictions around the kind of predatory lending that goes on in America, which occurred thanks to two successive decades of extreme banking deregulation. (Not that Australia’s banking industry hasn’t been substantially deregulated in recent years, but at nowhere near the rate that it has been in the US.)
But it isn’t negative gearing alone that’s caused Australia’s property prices to reach the levels they have, especially in areas of Sydney, like the Northern Beaches, where the median house price is now $1.29 million, a figure well above the city average of a little under a million. No, the greatest contributing factor in Sydney’s rising house prices, especially on the northern beaches, is a combination of gentrification, population growth and government levies and taxes.
The factors affecting housing affordability are not unique to the northern beaches — they either have occurred or are currently occurring in other parts of Sydney too, namely the inner city, inner west and north west — but the northern beaches is representative of an overall gentrification of Sydney suburbs that’s putting pressure on housing affordability. And for the sake of this blog post, we decided to highlight this region of Sydney that’s gone from insular peninsular to millionaire’s row in less than a decade.
From insular peninsular to millionaire’s row
Take Balgowlah, for example. It used to be a sleeper suburb located within the Manly LGA. Between 2006 and 2011, house prices grew a modest 6.6 percent, which is impressive considering that period also coincided with the GFC that saw prices in other regions either decline or remain the same. Then, in the five years that followed 2011, house prices in Balgowlah grew a whopping 49 percent — seven times the rate of the previous five years.
By April 2016, the median house price had reached $1.89 million, an increase of 19 percent in just twelve months. Local real estate agents were keen to chalk this up to renewed confidence in the northern beaches property market, following 12 months of fairly unimpressive growth between 2011 and 2012, but that isn’t the real cause of the northern beaches’ escalating house prices.
A major driving force behind house prices on the northern beaches is population growth. Between 2006 and 2011 (the period covered by the most recent census), the Manly LGA population grew 14 percent, yet the total number of dwellings in the Manly LGA remain unchanged since 1991.
The houses are bigger, but that’s not necessarily better
In theory, then, walking the streets of Balgowlah in 2016 shouldn’t look any different to what it did in 1991. Only, that’s not the case. Building approvals in the Manly LGA have seen fairly steady growth since 2001. And aside from a spike in low density building approvals in 2007, which coincided with the area’s largest development of apartments in nearly two decades (the redevelopment of the Totem Shopping Centre by Stockland and the construction of a few hundred apartments above it) the majority of building work that has been carried out was to existing dwellings.
In the decade to 2011, as the number of two bedroom dwellings in the Manly LGA declined by 10 percent, the number of four bedroom dwellings increased by 38.5 percent, while the number of dwellings with five or more bedrooms nearly doubled. In Balgowlah, especially, there are fewer ‘average sized’ two-and-three bedroom houses, and far more four and five bedroom ones. This data confirms what’s been known anecdotally for a while: Balgowlah and the northern beaches has undergone the same gentrification that’s been seen in the inner city, inner west, and elsewhere in Sydney over the last two decades.
The Northern Beaches attracts cashed-up North Shore buyers
This brings us back to that ‘sleeper suburb’ reference we made earlier in this blog post. For years, residents of the Northern Beaches were always considered down at heel. It was where people lived when they couldn’t afford to live on Sydney’s more affluent North Shore. The Manly LGA region, in particular, was characterised by a lot of older-style two-and-three bedroom homes, built during the interwar years and not dissimilar to the homes you still find in San Francisco and parts of Southern California.
But all that started to change about a decade ago. Priced out of the Mosman property market, and in search of a better lifestyle, Balgowlah and the immediate localities of Seaforth and Clontarf – the ‘gateways to the north shore’, as they were, tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek, sometimes referred – started to look mighty attractive.
In 2006, the median house price in Mosman was $2.23 million; in Balgowlah, it was $1.19 million. A Mosman homeowner could trade in their average Mosman home and pick up a decent one in Balgowlah, with money still left over for a substantial renovation. And that’s exactly what they did. During the last decade, the two most common LGAs from which people migrated to the Manly LGA were Mosman and Ku-ring-gai – Sydney’s lower and upper north shore.
And as property prices continued to soar, the prohibitive cost of stamp duty has made it more appealing for homeowners to renovate an existing two or three bedroom home, rather than to trade up. In doing so, the variety of housing types have declined significantly. Your choice, if you can’t afford a $1.89 million house in Balgowlah, is to live in an apartment, of which the median price is now $942,000.
Councils need to look at rezoning, rather than new building
These trends have also been observed in other parts of Sydney that, due to their close proximity to the CBD, have become highly sought after. The concern, of course, is that as these areas become more and more gentrified, it will force other, lower-income households further afield, or possibly out of Sydney altogether. If that occurs, it poses a serious question as to the future survival of key services in these areas, especially in the retail, hospitality and healthcare industries, which are vital to the community.
Sydney is one the most sparsely developed cities in the world, due to its preoccupation with the Great Australian Dream. It’s an unfortunate reality, but Sydney is never going to become the next New York, where families raise children in gardenless apartments, and travel most places on foot, rather than by car. That much is clear when you look at ABS data of the number of dwellings approved in New South Wales, which shows construction of freestanding houses consistently outpaces the construction of any other dwelling type ever since 1985 (when data was first collected).
But a lot of this is to do with council zoning. Most suburbs around Sydney are zoned for low-density housing. That’s your freestanding house on your quarter acre block of land, just like the below house in Balgowlah, which recently sold for $4.3 million, and occupies almost 1,400sqm of land — nearly three times the land size of most new-home development packages (it’s even numbered 43-47). Homes like these are common. But if even just a small proportion of them had been rezoned for medium density housing in suburbs all over Sydney, it could have gone a long way to ease housing stress and, importantly, make housing more affordable.
At the moment, as Australia’s population grows — which really just means our two largest capital cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are growing, since that’s where the jobs and major services are — property prices will continue to rise unabated until, unable to spend money on much else besides their mortgage repayments, people will stop spending on other areas of the economy. But that won’t occur until long after Australia’s middle class disappears — unless state, local and federal governments do a lot more to address our housing problems. A good place to start is with medium density housing.
Virion specialises in producing well-researched, informative articles that cover every aspect of the real estate industry — from in-depth market analysis, the latest property news, tips, insights, and educational how-tos — as part of our content marketing services. We tailor our content specifically to our agents to establish them as an online authority in their area. Contact our team to find out how we can create content to establish your brand online.
Real estate agents in Australia are going through a rapidly changing environment for Internet and mobile technology that we have experienced first hand with our websites for real estate agents service and I recently spoke with some successful real estate agents in Sydney Lower North Shore about other areas where they use technology, the agent mentioned Open Homes. The technology I’m talking about is smart phone apps that enable agents to quickly and easily capture potential buyers details who arrive at open homes.
Open home mobile apps are important for agents and vendors
Open homes are the critical time where real estate agents are visibly doing work for vendors and it’s an important task that busy real estate agents need to manage very well if they have many home available for sale at any given time. With mobile phone usage exploding it’s little wonder we are using them to do everything these days – and spending less time sleeping!
From the conversations I had with Sydney based real estate agents the busy days are Wednesday and Saturday and the open home is usually the easy part. The hard work happens afterwards when all the follow-up calls are made and the agent filters the prospect list to those potential buyers who are serious about that property and that is when an open home app comes in. A great open home app should help agents in the following ways:
Shows the agent how many buyers have been to several of their open homes
Integrates with the agents CRM for contact management
Enables the agent to send automated marketing campaigns to buyers
An open home app is also invaluable to collect information that can later be presented to vendors to measure the results of the real estate agents marketing strategy and demonstrate the ROI of any money spent (including agents fees).
Our team explored some of the mobile apps and cloud-based services that are available, including US companies and below is a list of what appears popular:
Open Home Pro – seems to be the most talked about and used
AM Open House – part of a larger suite of apps for real estate
Open House Toolkit – Keeps track of questions and answers at sign in
Canvas – has a PDF designer
Why should Open House apps be cloud-based?
A good digital solution should have the capability of interacting with your current systems and when managing the visitors and follow-up to open homes the most important app is your CRM database because that is where most of your information is stored. The technically correct term for interact is “Integrate” and if you have a capable CRM you’ll be able to use the collected data (email addresses and mobile phone numbers) to keep in touch with all of the people who came to visit so that you remain front of mind.
Integrations are the most important aspect to explore when you’re looking into a cloud-based or smart phone app because it enables you to use multiple tools that are all connected together to share information without you having to retype it and retype. They also of course help you completely eliminate the need for printed forms and illegible writing!
The best example of integrations we came across was for AM Open Home. This organisation listed almost 2 dozen popular cloud based CRM’s that they integrate with. To give you another example, our sister company EzyLearn offers training for Xero, MYOB and soon Intuit Quickbooks and these popular accounting programs use to compete on features – they now compete on the number of integrations that work with their software in their app market place. Pure Internet based applications like Xero are able to focus on this aspect of their solution and they find that the companies that integrate with are actually passively promoting their software too.
Digital Agency for Real Estate Agents
virion is a digital agency that aims to help great real estate agents build a great digital profile (see 123ezy.com) and reputation and we advise our clients about the best tools, technology and approaches to use, regardless of platforms.
Social Media builds communities, but that can be hard
Everybody wants to be on social media because there is a fear of missing out, just like in many alleged stock market and property market bubbles that are going on in Australia (and China).
Every coach, adviser, website designer and online marketing expert is spruiking the benefits of getting onto social media to be discovered, but like most things you can’t just be there, you have to participate, otherwise you’re not really being social. In fact if you’re not putting in the right amount of effort, you might be seen as anti-social by sending people away from your Facebook page.
Do you want to be social or do you just want to shout?
If you’re the owner of a Facebook business page and want your page to be successful, actually add value and help build a community, then you’ll need a community manager and that can be a big expense and not practical for small businesses. Larger social media sites who have taken the time to hire a good community manager have mastered the purpose of social sites – they encourage members (call them likers, friends etc) to make comments as part of a group that adds value to the topics you’ve discussed. The best example I can think of is social groups for Mums and social groups for IT nerds (which is becoming most of us these days). When you go to one of these sites you learn some fantastic things you didn’t know and if they are really good (and genuine) you’ll feel like sharing your stories.
So if you still want to get onto social media with a Facebook page you can do things that people like and not have to spend too much time, effort and money, growing a community. You can share useful information and tell people about what YOU are doing that might interest them. Australians are VERY interested in real estate and they want to know what is going on in the market, what their own property is worth etc so you can add value and contribute using social media.
What to shout about!
There’s plenty to shout about if you want to share and be helpful, including:
Images of houses that are prepared beautifully for sale
Information about how many people are showing interest in open homes
Developments in the local area that affect house prices
Place to visit and have a great coffee, parks that cater well to those with kids
Social media sites like Instagram, Foursquare and Yelp all enable people to share images, videos, information and recommendations that other people are interested in and if you really want to participate in social media you’ll need to get on and connect with businesses you like and recommend and make comments about them.
The saddest thing to happen to social media
The saddest thing that I have seen at some Facebook pages is reposting, particularly if that’s all that happens. If you are a victim of reposting and don’t know it, you’ll notice it when everything you post (or repost) on your timeline just sends your visitors away to other sites. It’s OK to repost from time to time and particularly if you’ve just read something useful, but if someone is managing your Facebook page and they are just sending visitors away they are reducing the value of any other digital marketing you are doing.
There is another way – and it’s to create your own content (or have someone create it for you) and that’s what we do.
Content marketing can bring happiness and success to your social strategy
Content marketing is all the rage these days, but it’s actually been happening for many years under boring names like ‘business blogging’ and the humble ‘news’ section of websites. The great thing about content marketing is that if you do it right, you can link back to other great content you’ve created. Content marketing should be designed to provide useful information that your potential vendors are looking for; that they are searching for, and that they are interested in. If you do a great job then your readers will follow you and possibly even subscribe to your blog, newsletter, education series or whatever it happens to be.
Remember that not all of the people who read your website, blog or social media pages need you right now, but if they like what you write, they’ll want a way of being reminded of you for when they are ready to buy. That’s when they join your list or like your page.
If you just want to shout out on social media then do it using your own great content. That way you’ll be sending readers back to your own website – and not to someone else’s. You’ll then have more analytics to look at.
When a website is described as sticky it just means that visitors to the site stay their longer and click on more things. You probably do it because you find your friends, the things they do and the placed they go to interesting. Google and other systems that measure engagement of websites measure this using bounce rate, page views per visit and the time spent on the site each visit and that is something that we make our clients aware of in our quarterly digital strategy progress report for their website.
When you think about your own site, are their interesting places to visit? Are their stories about the people you work with, about your vendors or even about the buyers that others might find interesting? Some people have said to me that writing about real estate is boring but if you look at how popular ANY article that relates to real estate is in the press you’d soon find lots of things to write about and that is exactly what we do.
Content Marketing includes Words, Pictures and Videos
Content marketing is the buzz word in digital marketing these days but it has been popular for a long time. It’s commonly also referred to as blogging, business blogging or even newsletters (if you want to go back to more traditional terms). Content marketing refers to the writing on your wesbite but also to the images that you use (and how they are optimised for search engines) and the videos you create. The ultimate goal of all this content creation is to produce something that visitors to your real estate agent website want to see. If you tell a compelling story your visitors will come along on your journey.
Instagram is not as popular as Facebook
Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012 but it’s statistics don’t come close to those of it’s parent. Despite this Instagram is a good social media tool for real estate agents who want to appear as tech savvy and increase their content by taking photos and uploading them. Instagram is a tool that enables people to view great images and videos, like and share them and remain connected to people who they like so if you sell some great houses that you think people would like to know about its a good idea to give Instagram a go.
As a digital agency we can advise on all aspects of digital marketing and provide our clients with regular reports that demonstrate the statistics and analytics but focus on the goals and action points. If you’re a real estate agent and interested in 123ezy website for yourself take a look at our pricing but more importantly give us a call and ask us some questions, we’d love to help.
It’s been almost 12 months since Google made it official that they were going to prioritise mobile websites built on a responsive methodology for their Google Search results and you can see it in the results themselves – Mobile Friendly (if your reading the search results on your mobile phone that is).
Does it really matter? Absolutely! It matters because more and more searches are performed on a mobile phone or tablet and Google’s constant goal is to provide you with fantastic websites based on the keywords you use for your search. If Google takes you to a website on your mobile that you can hardly read because it’s too small, what will your opinion be of Google?
Mobile and Social
Let’s take that one step further. If you are searching for something from your mobile phone and you click on that website to learn more about what a company does the chances that you’ll want to call the company or get directions to them are higher when you do it from a mobile phone, right? That’s why it is a good idea to have a call now button on your website – so prospective customers can call you right there an then!
The reason we mention it in this post for real estate agent websites is that this makes it important to choose an underlying technology that is strong, reliable and capable but that also has a huge programmer base and the support of thousands of developers and millions of companies that use it – and that technology is WordPress.
This blog post from Google should act as a good indicator of the importance mobile is for their development team and the future of searching for things on the Internet.
What about site builders like Wix?
I was speaking with someone recently who discovered an online website builder that enables anybody to build their own website using a tool called Wix, and after exploring the solution I liked the way it worked and how easy it was to create and modify a website. When I did a bit of research however I discovered that the websites created on this platform are not responsive. Here’s the information I read on the Wix website. Does it mean you can’t build an effective website using Wix? No, but when you use a platform like WordPress that has professional content management features, capabilities for multiple users with different access profiles, thousands of developers and millions of businesses using it (sigh) it’s hard to go past.
Connecting with Social and the future
The social revolution has been and gone and is now part of every day Internet life so getting onto that bandwagon is very important. Even though some of the smartest investors, programs and business people don’t currently make money in social media (like Facebook, Twitter etc) these platforms are worth billions of dollars because they have a massive user base and VERY detailed information about every user. Connecting your content marketing to social media should be the first step in a social media strategy but exploring the advertising possibilities may blow your mind.
The technology leaders are currently exploring the capabilities of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality path so it will be very interesting to see how this applies to the real estate industry.
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