10 Leading Trends for Real Estate in 2009

Wishing all of you a prosperous New Year! (we can use it...). Please also check out 10 Leading Trends for Social Media in 2009 at Media Transparent.

1) 2009 is the Year of the Mortgage.

Historically low interest rates artificially pushed down to stabilize the economy will be a once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity. With economists predicting the 10-year bond rates (which generally correlate with mortgage rates) starting to rise in 2009, expect a wave of refinancing and a return of home buyers/investors wanting to lock down that low rate.

When? Once the market is comfortable that a bottom has finally been reached; and that is hard to predict. (According to bond market strategist Tony Crescenzi, new home inventories are plunging).
2) 2009 is the Year of the Economy

In the first half of 2009, the new Obama administration will focus solely on righting the economy with stimulus packages and an artificially low interest rate environment. This recession is global, and it seems that the Central Banks around the world will work in concord with similar stimulus policies. The global economic coordination is unprecedented in history and we'll see by summer whether this all works.

3) Consumers Will Demand Online Presence

Consumers demand online presence for retailers, travel, cars... everything. Those who aren't providing that presence (note Sears.com below) are being dragged down by their recession-induced low margin / high leverage bricks and mortar business model. The analogy to real estate brokerages is clear.

Consumers understand real estate agents need to leverage the Internet to market their properties. They will trust agents who can demonstrate this by how they market themselves online... that includes easy access to Web 2.0 conversation via a variety of social media. How can any agent today believe they can ignore the Internet ?

4)  Consumers Won't Buy Based on Week-Old News

Just as the internet has made the morning newspaper a digest of old news, Twitter and other micro-blogging applications are changing news digestion through minute-by-minute citizen broadcasting of breaking news and events. For the user, this amplification of news content is not data overload because the news is filtered via RSS feeds, special search criteria, or simply site visits. The example of following news on personal stock portfolios on Marketwatch.com is easily extended to following Twitter/Feedfuze feeds (like Homescopes, see #8 below) on local housing markets. Who is willing to purchase GM stock without checking the news? Who will buy a home during this period of economic instability based on month old NAR reports?

Frankly, it's the real estate agents' job to monitor their housing market on a daily basis and that's a major value proposition. The next five trends focus on how real estate agents can actively demonstrate their grasp of the market to their client base.

5) The Focus of News Will be Distribution over Creation

Before the Internet and citizen journalism, mainstream media owned the content it created (news, music and movies) and charged a lot for the consumption of that content. The social media now produces a lot of the online content and is disrupting the media industries by pushing the price for content consumption towards zero. Online news sources are now positioning themselves to be the most comprehensive "news re-sources" and in 2009 will start steering their readership to authoritative sources who may or may not be their own journalists. Among citizen journalists, real estate bloggers and Twitterers will benefit from the exposure.

6) Discovery is the Killer App

Yelp on iPhone does it well. Go to any unknown city, and review site Yelp uses the iPhone GPS to find a well reviewed nearby restaurant or map the nearest gas stand within seconds. The best new applications of 2009 will create discovery opportunities. Discovery is best facilitated by: 1) referrals from the social media, and 2) breaking news of actionable content, 3) new contextual search capabilities that deliver higher relevancy results than a typical search engine.

For real estate professionals, getting a massive hyperlocal consumer population to "discover" you in a relevant way will be a key lead generation driver. See #7 and #8.

7) The Question: "What I am doing on Facebook?" is Finally Answered.

Facebook Connect, and its social network cousins Google Friend Connect, and the still obscure MySpace ID will facilitate the portability of social networks, or the "social graph". This will be one of the most powerful applications towards creating a social media business model in 2009, but is hard to explain to social media newbies. What does it mean?

Through Facebook Connect, consumers log into other sites using their Facebook login details. Once inside the site, users can discuss or post their activities in real time to their Facebook network. The effect is to bring in their network of friends into the hosting site. For real estate sites, allowing consumers to log in through their Facebook ID becomes a viral invitation for developing conversations around real estate, and an opportunity to add new Facebook friends (and potential clients) from Facebook networks.

Remember, on Facebook and other social networks, strangers who want to "friend" you may want to hire you. Don't try to be exclusive or put them off (unless they are truly repulsive).

8) Revolutionary Do-it-yourself Real Estate Marketing

Real estate agents who really understand the power of blogging and social media marketing are frustrated with how little support or education they receive from brokerage management. Some even try to hinder Web 2.0 activity. Screw that.

Agents can now set up their own marketing systems based on providing "breaking news" coverage of their local or regional housing markets (Domus Consulting is working with agents, organizations, and brokerages to show them how). Homescopes is a working example of agents devoted to chronicling breaking news on the Northern California market, and it's unique because the agents come from a variety of brokerages and are united in their commitment to creating an informational site like no other. New Homescopes-like sites are in planning stages across the US, as well as overseas. In addition, these new sites may grow into valuable online assets.

9) Social Capital is the New SEO

Developing a strong online reputation that the social media can point to is far more credible than a search engine referral. In fact, the more social capital one owns, the better the search rank anyway.

What is Social Capital? In most practical terms, it's the measure of how powerful your social network is in referring business to you. As any social networking strategist will tell you, the best way to build social capital is to "link" and develop relationships with the social "hubs" - people that are also well connected.

Twinfluence, a Twitter analytical application, demonstrates how powerful Twitter's reach can be:
  • Reach is measured as the sum of the number of followers plus the number of second degree followers.
  • Social Capital is calculated by dividing the reach (6,960,480) by the # of followers (7,325), which estimates that each follower averages 915 followers themselves.
Twitter is a highly viral application that builds social capital quickly because Tweets are distributed and shared frequently, even up to the minute, compared to other media. Most Twitterers can confirm how often top Twitterer names appear because their second degree followers are conversing with or referring to them.

Quibblers will say what's the use of 7,000,000 strangers within reach? Answer - this is consistent and ubiquitous viral branding. That's why real estate agents advertised in local newspapers pre-internet... to be known.
10a) The Re-Positioning of Blogging

One year ago, blogging about real estate was the best way to create an individual online presence. After a year of seeing a majority of agents try and fail to maintain a blog on Active Rain and other platforms, we recognize the challenges of blogging - writing often and learning the new technologies - is quite disconnected from the business of transacting real estate. At Domus Consulting Group, we've developed effective, easy to use social media marketing systems that are receiving good reviews.
For those up to the challenge, blogging still remains by far the best way to centralize the marketing message.

Conclusion: blogging is now only a component of an online marketing strategy.

10b) The End of the Blogging Platform Standard

For real estate bloggers in particular, Wordpress seemed to be the platform of choice for building a blog. Yes, Wordpress seems to be one of the most flexible and free options, but the blog is now only a part of a more complete social media strategy. New blog platforms developed for real estate professionals are now good alternatives: Active Rain and HomeGain are developing comprehensive blog-based marketing packages, Real Estate Tomato, Realivent and Bloodhound have customized the Wordpress platform for real estate. (With AR, Tomato and Realivent, one can also own the blog domain name, a key consideration in a blog setup). One can also maintain blogs at Trulia, Zolve and other myriad social networks.

Conclusion: the blog platform has become commoditized.

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What did you think of this article?

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  • 1/1/2009 10:00 AM Louis Cammarosano wrote:
    "The End of Blogging platform"?

    I think this would be more aptly entitled "The End of the Stand Alone Blogging Platform"

    In 2007-2008 blogging was touted as a killer business application. In reality it is not -its just one marketing device. Rare is the realtor who gets all their business from blogging.

    Similarly, twitter in 2008 began being touted as another fabulous marketing device.

    What we have done at HomeGain is to bolt together a blog for agents along with a place for them to display their profiles and listings in an advertising free environment. We have tied this platform in with our instant home valuation tool where agents can also receive old fashion lead form requests to supplement listing inquiries, blog comments, visits to their web sites and emails that they may get from our product.

    Finally we improved the front end and back end lead capture and lead management tools.

    We are looking into how we can best add micro blogging to our platform too.

    I would hope that 2009 is the year when agents realize that they need a variety of marketing outlets to be successful (and that you can find a great all in one solution at homegain!)
    Reply to this
    1. 1/1/2009 11:24 AM Pat Kitano wrote:
      Correct Louis, I missed a word in editing: "Blogging Platform Standard". Same meaning though. All the tools - blogging, Twitter, automated home valuation - need to be used in combination to be effective and I think you are pursuing the correct strategy with HomeGain's AgentView.

      Reply to this

  • 1/2/2009 1:43 AM Hawaii real estate guy wrote:
    #3 on your list in #1 in my book for my brokerage in 2009. While other real estate companies are struggling to pay their $10,000/mo rent and only spending $1,000/mo on their website and online marketing - I'm doing the exact opposite. $1,000/mo on my office space and $10,000 online. People are online and I'm just following where the buyers are at.
    Reply to this

  • 1/2/2009 12:26 PM Dru Bloomfield wrote:

    You are always opening my eyes to the future. I can validate that it's a challenge to be productive agent who blogs regularly and Twitters profusely. I can also validate that it's well worth my time, for so many reasons, more than just cultivating and closing new business.

    Today, I especially thank you for sharing the info about Feedfuze. It's great to get an answer for one of my 2009 objectives, on the second day of the year!
    Reply to this

  • 1/3/2009 4:11 PM Matthew Hardy wrote:
    Good post - another reason Pat gets paid the big bucks.

    What I'm really looking for is a blogging platform fully integrated into a CRM solution with hooks (APIs) to every major social networking site. Anyone else?
    Reply to this
    1. 1/4/2009 12:08 PM Pat Kitano wrote:
      Hi Matthew, I just noticed a CRM company trying to do that: http://blog.insideview.com/

      Reply to this

  • 1/4/2009 4:13 PM Matthew Hardy wrote:
    Thanks Pat. This model is on the right track. Their biggest downside is no published API. They offer integration with large, corporate-type hosted solutions, but nothing real estate specific.

    Their target market is corporate salespeople. They use "agents" (basically search criteria) that search a claimed 20,000 external data sources, but the prime sources include paid services like D&B and Hoovers. The aggregated data display primarily keeps watch over a given contact's involvement at their corporation, with a primary-level switch for "include company name" in all searches.

    I agree with this article by Dennis Howlett. What they're offering shouldn't cost very much because it's more a feature than a product. What's amazing is that it took $8.4 million to build it.

    For real estate, we're building this kind of capability - but with search focused on contacts as both individuals and as property buyers and sellers. Plans are to include this in our interface redesign slated for first quarter release.

    Getting a picture of a person's social presence on the internet is easy with a simple search. After that, quick access means a saved link. Beyond that, an API is useful when you know what intelligence to apply to the data (most apps only rejigger the display).
    Reply to this

  • 1/4/2009 4:17 PM Matthew Hardy wrote:
    ... article by Dennis Howlett:

    Reply to this

  • 1/6/2009 10:05 AM dean graziano wrote:
    Great post! I agree that it is important for real estate professionals to harness the power of the internet marketing tactics to increase their net worth.
    Reply to this

  • 1/7/2009 3:35 PM Realty.com wrote:
    GREAT article...very thorough and on point. It certainly gives a bit of hope for the new year!
    Reply to this

  • 1/7/2009 5:02 PM Rick in Phoenix wrote:
    Pat, I loved the article. It is really eye opening for Realtors that have not gotten on the technology band wagon.

    Creating your own hosted blog and doing your own SEO is another marketing hat or skill set that Realtors really need to grasp to be competitive online. It is either that, or have deep pockets for your SEO firm.
    Reply to this

  • 3/17/2009 10:19 PM Mark wrote:
    I liked your innovative idea of 'Do it yourself' marketing strategy for real estate agents. They have been busy in their daily work and not able to maintain their professional blogs at different blogosphere. Recently I have noted that the Agents have started providing assistance in various forums and picking up some business out of it. Apart from adding 'breaking news' they can provide some snapshots of estate to be sold, with rates. Because something attractive has to be done to impress buyers in this slowdown market condition.
    Reply to this

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