Archive for February, 2008

Awakening the Power of the Wiki in Real Estate

February 28, 2008

Searching online using Google can be an arduous task.  Multiple websites contain comparable keywords but not deliver the result 100% of the time.  Time is depleted sorting through websites and blogs that may or not furnish you the information you desire.  The page ranking system that steers visitors to the pages based on content, keywords, reciprocal links, and other similar derivates.  Millions of pages are added to the web each day.  The need for specialized search engines, or wikis, will become abundantly treasured to the web surfer.

A wiki is a series of web pages that allows for its visitors to insert or amend content based on their expertise.  This style of online social collaboration will allow visitors to learn definitions, facts, and concepts by linking content together to create a virtual dictionary.  For example, a sentence may include the following: “A blog or web log is an online journal of entries that appear in reverse chronological order that deliver current information that happen in the media or of one’s own experience.”  The words that appear in bold when clicked on will open up a new page that defines each word.  Visit www.wikipedia.org for more examples.

Real estate education is driven by classroom attendance, online schools, and application of the material.  Let’s review the goals and objectives of the major bodies of real estate education and how the wiki can play a role in serving its clients and members:

1.      Pre-license schools.  A warm body registers for a pre-license course and is given the thick, 400-500 page textbook, to study and expected to pass both the state and national sections of the exam.  Content can be overwhelming to sort and analyze how advance real estate concepts relate to one another if the student must switch back and forth between chapters.  The national portion of the content refers to concepts in generalities since each state differs in laws on agency, taxes, and due process.  If pre-license schools could transfer textbook concepts to a wiki format students will save time, enhance the learning experience, and give the flexibility one needs to properly evaluate the material from multiple chapters.  One wiki would be needed for the national portion of the exam and another wiki or section would be needed for the state portion of the exam.

2.      State Association of REALTORS®.  Each state REALTOR® association possesses many operating agreements, procedures and policies it must maintain to comply with legislation, communication and professional development of its members.  Each association may have its own strategic action plan that determines which direction they want their association to follow.  There are also several committees that must interact with one another in order to meet deadlines, research group activities, and recap past events.  An assembly of online PDF documents is one way to deliver content whereas the wiki format is superior.  Use the wiki to highlight committees, policies, or procedure so visitors can quickly maneuver to obtain the information they are looking for.  Dedicated members will now be able to share information faster than ever before while preserving the integrity and communication of the association.

3.      Local Association of REALTORS®.  Local REALTOR® associations possess many procedures and policies that it must implement and follow to serve its members.  Each Multiple Listing Service has its own rules members must follow. Each municipality has distinct ordinances that affect the real estate transaction. Each association has unique rules involving membership deadlines, Board of Directors, and communication.  Smaller local REALTOR® associations do not have the staff to create, design, and maintain an operative website to communicate all of these items on a regular basis.  A wiki, on the other hand, would give members the opportunity to share this information and the changes as they happen.  A one stop shop for detailed answers will save the association time on the phone answering commonly asked questions, save money on postage of new notices, and deliver time sensitive information that has an impact on membership.

4.      State regulatory bodies.  A national wiki will not work since real estate is governed by the state.  Each state has its own rules concerning agency, taxation, due process, and license requirements. Each state may also have separate legislation on advertising rules, creating a business entity, broker-agent relationships, broker-client relationships, and how earnest money is handled.  The list goes on.  Commissions answer similar questions on a repeated basis.  Each commission may have their own website but if their resources are in PDF format or scattered then chances are someone will pick up the phone to call for to obtain the facts.  The wiki will simplify this data allowing the visitor to search for terms only relevant to their inquiry.

Here are some limitations of implementing and maintaining a real estate wiki:

1.      Content.  In order to generate content for a wiki, either one person or its visitors will have to write content and upload to the wiki.  To limit risk ONLY give registered users, those that have a distinct user name and password, the ability to add content or make changes.  The wiki host, will need to set up the parameters that define when and how content will be posted.  It is recommended for the wiki host approved changes or additions before posting to the wiki.

2.      Liability.  The one who sponsors or hosts the wiki will inevitably assume liability for the information that is posted.  Close monitoring for accuracy is extremely important.  Consult with legal counsel prior to developing a wiki to assess the risk involved.  Also, define what type of information is acceptable and rules for deciding how often to update the wiki.

3.      Fair Housing and Code of Ethics.  Complying with Fair Housing and Code of Ethics seems like a no-brainer but the host of the wiki should pay close attention to make sure there are no violations in their entries.  A person who is well versed in these areas should also play a role in maintaining the wiki.

4.      Misinterpretation of Data.  Content should be written so that specific answers, definitions, and facts are presented.  Steer away from opinions and legal interpretations as much as possible in the content.

The amount of information in the world is doubling every 72 hours.  Take action by speaking with your company, REALTOR® association, or real estate commission to see how you can serve your members by creating a wiki today.

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How to Blog With Video in Minutes

February 15, 2008

Most REALTORS® are afraid of technology because they will freeze when they see words like .jpeg, HTML, wiki and ping. Ping… what the heck is a ping? If you are in this category then don’t give up yet. Technology is changing our business very rapidly and the ones who adapt will be in it for the long haul. Secretaries need to be retrained every five years or will not have the same skill set in order to keep up with the work load of a fast paced environment. Real estate is no different. In most cases it is more competitive. Blogging is a new way to drive people to your real estate website, increase loyalty with consumers, and give the author the ability to create the tone and dialogue for its readers. Since a blog is a website journal that is written in reverse chronological order then the most recent post appear at the top. Bloggers are gaining more credibility as time passes on as long as the content is timely, useful, and recurs on a regular basis. Most bloggers rely on posting text and pictures to the site. Text is ancient history, pictures were last year, podcasting is today, and video is the future. Ready to be different. Use video.

 

Most think that you need some sort of background in computer science to create a video blog.  On the contrary it is extremely easy.  If you need help then just ask a fourth grader.  Below are the 11 steps to get started today.

 

Go to www.RealTownBlogs.com and create a user account.

  1. Read the entire FAQs page to begin setting up your blog (do not skip this, very important).
  2. Purchase a video camera for your laptop or PC. Logitech® Quick Cam Pro™ is available on their website www.Logitech.com, but you can buy them cheaper on www.Amazon.com.  This camera is great if you want to use Skype (www.Skype.com) to connect with the world too.
  3. Install the software that comes with the packaging and plug the camera into your laptop.
  4. Begin filming video of anyone and save the video as a file on your computer.  Important to create a separate file folder for your videos.
  5. Create a new account with YouTube at www.YouTube.com.  This is a free service to upload videos but be sure to read the terms of use to make sure that you follow their guidelines. 
  6. Upload the video you have created to YouTube and make any notes, tags, etc. so that people can find them easier on the video searches.
  7. Once the video has been uploaded, at the bottom of the screen you will see the sourcing code.  Use the left mouse button on the anywhere on the code and on your keyboard press CTRL-A to select all.  Next press CTRL-C on your keyboard to copy the code onto your clipboard.
  8. Go back to your blog on www.RealTownBlogs.com.  Add a new entry on the left side of the screen and a new menu will appear.  Be sure to follow the steps located on the FAQs page to know how the entry is organized.  
  9. Click the source button at the top of the Entry Editor and then press CTRL-V to paste the code from YouTube.
  10. Click the source button again and then proceed to format your entry with text, style, and color.

 

As more and more real estate professionals use personal websites and other internet marketing strategies the more they will have to differentiate themselves from the competition.  There is no doubt that video is the future of internet marketing.  The goal is to have people spend more time on your site and once they feel comfortable with you the more likely they will give you their business. For an example of the first video blog for the St. Louis Downtown Loft Market please visit www.StLouisLoftSource.com.