Farming For Real Estate – How To Effectively Use A Blog To Market To Your Farm In Real Estate

If you have been farming an area with traditional methods you have probably been trying to service an area of two to three hundred homes. You probably send direct mail pieces several times a year, offering a free home evaluation or other marketing offer. Maybe you even go door to door a few times of year. Most of the people are either not at home or do not answer the door and you leave your card or notepad on their front steps.

Welcome to the new millennium. Farming can now be done using technology that will enable you to reach thousands of homes more easily and efficiently than you could reach just a few hundred previously. One of the very best ways to do this is by starting a farming blog.

A blog is a website that lets you write, or post, as often as you wish, and deliver your message to anyone who has either subscribed to the blog’s feed or who visits the website. With the click of your mouse your message can be in front of the homeowners in your farm at a time that is convenient for them to read what you have written in your post.

It is relatively simple to start a blog. They are available for free from some places or for a fee of less than five dollars each month from others. The blogs that have a monthly or annual fee will generally offer more choices and features than the free blog services. It is up to you and you should experiment with the ones you are considering.

You will want to give your blog a name that has meaning to the people who live in your farm area. Do not use your name unless everyone in the area knows you. It is better to use a name that is relevant to the neighborhood. My farming blog is called Plum Canyon Neighbors. When people receive an email message with this subject line they know that it is important information from me about happenings in their area.

Give blogging a chance as a way to market to your farm. You will find that it is so easy and effective you will be glad that you started one.

The New Economy Real Estate Model – A Soft Sell Concept

As far back as the 1970’s Sears envisioned a kiosk in their stores where a customer could buy stock and even real estate. It was a bold look at the future from one of the world’s largest retailers. All they had to do was to get the consumer to come to their stores to do business. This was quite a challenge thrown down to both Wall Street and Main Street USA. Most of us probably never heard or remember this strategy, and it never got off the ground. People just did not equate Sears with stock or real estate; they were a department store.

In fairness to Sears, the technologies and conveniences did not exist to enable the plan. Sears may have also thought themselves too big to fail. That theme does seem to be a constant.

Hmm, it appears that history does indeed repeat itself, and perhaps at shorter and shorter intervals. It may be ironic that by speeding up processes and the rate at which things can change, the lessons of history are lost at a quicker rate. Did that make sense? If it did, you may be thinking a bit like me – you’ve been cautioned.

In the 1980’s the successful real estate agent became more independent and needed fewer and fewer services from the brokerage firm. As they claimed a higher and higher portion of the brokerage fee, margins for the real estate brokerage began to shrink. Some phenomenally high interest rates had a similar impact on the mortgage banking industry. Unless buyers had no choice, they did not take on these inflated mortgages. The mortgage industry literally shrunk along with their profit margins. We all know that real estate cycles; it goes up and it goes down. The curve is rarely smooth, and is punctuated by sharp turns in one direction or another. Most features of the real estate industry react quickly to the conditions in the market that affect it. Now we have the background for the next attempt to create a commodities market from the real estate process.

In 1974, the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA), as amended, was passed. It opened the door for consolidations within the industry. To foster competition, companies were regulated to prevent abuses in the industry and to keep prices to the consumer lower. It was almost ironic that the very act that was passed to prevent abuses, in a way opened the door. I don’t know that it has empirically been demonstrated that RESPA actually lowered costs or prevented abuses. With HUD as a watchdog, there was little real enforcement, and although fines were levied, industry practices ultimately were left to the states to manage. It took decades to sort it out, and Wall Street only a few months to make it yesterday’s issue.

The point for mentioning RESPA was that it allowed what was called “controlled business entities,” a term later changed to “affiliated business entities.” The home builder and the real estate brokerage could now have a captive mortgage and title business. The theory was that this would somehow create efficiencies and economies lowering the cost and improve service to the consumer. It didn’t. With all of this vertical integration, each one of the independently managed businesses was caught in the same financial wringer.

What was not taken into consideration was the pro-cyclical nature of the model. When one business was down so were the others. The upside was champagne and roses, but the downside left little room for beer and carnations. There were other oversights as well. Not understanding the risk models for businesses outside of their core competencies was seldom given the focus it deserved. Few also embraced managing the business with the same zeal they had for their core model.

The result was that many of these affiliated arrangements have failed, and the industry model for how transactions are managed remains much the same as it has since the post WWII era. Certainly technology has improved systems, but not nearly to the extent that it could. The competitive natures of the individual sectors of the real estate business keep the technologies proprietary and therefore parochial. A 21st Century model for the industry will come from somewhere outside of the core real estate industry. Next came a far a more organized and systematic attempt to create a commodity market in the real estate arena.

The boldest strategy to commoditize the residential real estate market came from a company called National Realty Trust (NRT). NRT has gone through a number of name changes. In the mid to late 1990s NRT was known as Cendant (CD). The CEO of Cendant, Henry Silverman was a Wall Street visionary who understood commodities. He was big in the rental car business (Avis) and in hospitality with a string of motel franchises. Mr. Silverman viewed the real estate as a commodity that could be franchised and methodically went about acquiring national real estate marks such as Coldwell Banker (Residential), Century 21, ERA and Sotheby’s. Subsequently they also acquired established regional real estate companies. They were and remain the largest single group of real estate companies in the industry.

Cendant experienced an accounting scandal in the last decade and lost its impetus. It never quite recovered from the scandal, and the company divided its assets into four groups. The real estate companies were sold to the Apollo Management Group. Apollo has been beset by the soft real estate market and a suit filed by Carl Icahn over a debt exchange plan. With the continuing financial and legal problems, they stumble along with business as usual. They are not in a position to lead the real estate industry into the 21st Century. This strategy involved getting in upstream in the transaction by “owning” the gatekeeper function. It required enormous amounts of capital, and technology was evolving to provide a far more efficient less capital intensive platform to emerge. The Internet makes anyone with the vision and the concept to be a potential player.

Allow me to introduce Soft Sell Solutions LLC, a creative concept for the 21st Century model for real estate. Forged with decades of experience and inside industry knowledge, the concept is supportable by existing technology, demonstrated consumer practice and buy in. The vision and passion to deliver a seamlessly integrated system stands ready to tie the disparate process together.

The third article in this series Who Controls the Real Estate Process sets the stage for a 21st Century approach.

Who Controls the Real Estate Process?

Let's narrow that definition down a bit by taking a look at the components. Real Estate markets usually segment into commercial, industrial, new home construction, residential resale, leasing, vacation destinations and time share. These broad categories identify specific market segments with each having a unique group of participants. Conceptually, when we talk about the real estate market in the broadest sense, it includes all of these and other uniquely identifiable business models that support and enable the process.

Parallel business models that take part in the process are: Mortgage & Financing, Title and Escrow services and a broad category of additional providers called Ancillary Services. Ancillary Services include: homeowner insurance products, flood insurance, tax certification, home owners warranty (HOW), legal services and documentation, home improvement and repair, painting, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) landscaping, appliances, property and mechanical inspection, municipal utility districts (MUDS), home owners associations, notice to the public – I'm running out of breath. You get the idea. Improved real estate is a complex animal, and there are many participants that comprise the process by which real estate is bought, sold, financed, transferred and ultimately occupied.

In looking for the "who" or "what" that exercises control of the industry; we should consider the role of government regulatory or quasi-governmental entities. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack were created to stimulate and control the flow of mortgage financing dollars and to provide stability within the mortgage industry. Oops! Ginny Mae guarantees the timely repayment to the investor on loans that it guarantees. These guarantees are provided through Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) or pools of loans that contain VA and FHA originated mortgages. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides regulatory oversight, and the Treasury provides an occasional bail out. This group of entities is introduced because they have certain powers and influence over technical, legal and procedural aspects of the industry. They do not control the "how" things are done within the process. The private sector determines "how" things are done.

Any control or "ownership" of this market then will exist within the private sector. Identifying the "who" (forgive me Dr. Seuss) can be done intuitively. The components of the broad real estate industry fit more or less into four primary areas. Let's call them:

1. New Construction

Commercial

Industrial

Single Family Residential

Multifamily

Pre-fabricated Structures

2. Resale

Existing Buildings

Existing Homes

Other

3. Mortgage and Financing

Construction Financing

Mortgage Financing

Refinancing

4. Title, Escrow and Ancillary Services

Title Insurance Companies

Title Insurance and Escrow Agents

Legal and Documentation

Recordation or Registration

All Ancillary Services

These four categories are industries or business models within the real estate game. The major companies that operate within these categories would have insight and knowledge as to how to connect the dots and to accomplish the transaction. Each of them, in turn, exercises certain control or influence over their part of the process. There are multiple large players in each of these arenas, and they compete aggressively. There exists no such thing as an industry accepted solution that defines "how" the component business models integrate, but there should be. The level of redundancies and inefficiencies keep the process paper bound, disparate and errors are often time consuming to correct. The labor intensity of the process alone makes it more expensive and requires more management. A seamlessly integrated solution can change all that, and as a byproduct can achieve what others cannot – a commoditization of the real estate market.

The terms "transaction coordination," "transaction facilitation," and "transaction integration" were coined along with an effort to streamline and to integrate this process. This was an ill fated attempt to gain some level of control over the process. Working to gain an edge, each player offers partial solutions toward an industry standard. These solutions are often tied to their specific software architecture with bridges that invite their customers and agents to participate. They are not comprehensive, do not reach a large enough cross section of the market, and they do not provide an acceptable global solution.

Homebuilders are focused on competing with other home builders; realtors compete with other realtors; mortgage lenders compete with other mortgage lenders and competition is intense between the title and escrow providers. Should one player come up with a solution that improves the process, they would want it to be proprietary. Competitors would be reluctant to adopt it, and would not constitute a solution.

Fannie, Freddie, Ginny, HUD and any governmental entity has a different mission. A concept age visionary will be the one to combine the attributes that provide a more global solution, and in the doing of it, ownership of the thread and commoditization of real estate can be created. The right platform will benefit all participants. The idea is to facilitate the process to the level that its use will be natural, almost viral. By not using it, you are opting out. Soft Sell has the concept, vision, and the knowledge to create this platform.

With the right development partner, this platform and solution can be brought to market in real time. As the real estate and financial markets make a sustained recovery, Soft Sells solution would be in place to provide the structure for revolutionary change. As a side note, Fannie, Freddie and virtually every large bank has a portfolio of short sales and foreclosures that will continue to grow. It will be several years before these are recycled. Soft Sell would be an ideal platform for managing these assets through the process.

Colors for Real Estate Marketing

I would like to think that colors are what make the world fun. It is the essence of life and gives substance to a picture. Without it the scenery can be quite dull and lifeless. The same applies when marketing real estate.

Colors can give your service an identity. They can project a specific character or an aura that gives people an idea about your service or company.

We are all admirers of colors. You'll have to think twice if you want to establish your brand when marketing real estate. This can be a game setter when marketing homes.

The most important to remember when thinking about colors is that everyone likes blue. If you can't decide what to use, start with blue. Blue is also the most used color for corporate branding because it represents authority.

A good color combination for Blue is Orange. While Dark Orange can mean dull, the light (pumpkin) color can mean trendy. The websites Homes and ActiveRain should give you an idea of ​​how Orange can blend well with Blue.

Another real estate color favorite is Green. The most common meaning for this color is nature and peace. You can take a look at Zillow and Trulia's logo if you want to see how a touch of Green can complement your brand.

So far I have discussed colors from listing websites but what about Realtors? If you're interested how realtors' brand their services, read below and enjoy.

While DukeRealty favors Black and Green, KellerWilliams and ReMax seems to favor Red. This color (Red) is most commonly associated with love. It can also mean excitement and goes well with White and / or Black.

Have you noticed that Keller Williams was using White to blend with Red? In case you're wondering, the color White usually means purity and balance.

If we look at Pulte Homes' logo we would notice the color Gray to complement their Blue text. Gray is an alternative of Silver that signifies a helping hand. It can also mean prosperity which is a good idea for a home.

Yellow is considered to represent brightness and optimism. It's not a real estate favorite but it does grab people attention. You might consider Yellow if you want people to turn their heads and take a look at your real estate brand.

Still can't decide which colors to use? How about checking Colliers International's logo to see how they made, Blue, White, Yellow, and Red work.