Archive for March, 2008

Yun meets with Virginia REALTOR bloggers: Story on Thursday

lawrence yun national association realtors NAR

If you’re like Tony, you’re curious about what Lawrence Yun had to say to five blogging Virginia REALTORS. We have photos to share right now, but we are giving our bloggers until Thursday to write about their perspectives on the meeting with Dr. Yun and publish them to their blogs and VARbuzz.

In the meantime, you can check out photos from the meeting and expect that Thursday we’ll have five very thoughtful opinions about the man behind NAR’s housing forecasts. One post will be right here on VARbuzz, and we’ll have links to the posts of the four other contributing bloggers.

It’s time to crown the king of real estate blogs. The final pairing of competitors in the VARbuzz Real Estate Blog Brawl pits #2 seed FosterCityBlog.com vs. #4 seed TheXBroker.com.

FosterCityBlog.com is the work of Jim Minkey, a REALTOR with RE/MAX Today, specializing in Foster City and San Carlos real estate. Jim has implored his readership for several rounds to get out and vote for him, and it has certainly paid off. He has knocked out some very formidable opponents along the way, including two Virginia bloggers with what you might consider home court advantage. His victories over RealDiaBlog.com, MyTucsonBlog.com and VaRealEstateTalk.com have all come on a wide margin.

Jeff Corbett, The X Broker, a mortgage expert and former real estate broker from Texas is the challenger. Along the way, Jeff has put the beat down on BlueRoof, #1 seed RealEstateZebra.com, and #2 seed MyCharlottesvilleBlog.com. As you can see, he hasn’t been intimidated by Virginia real estate blogs, with two of his last three victories coming at the expense of two talented agents in the Charlottesville area. Jeff also hasn’t been afraid to mobilize his readers, and while his margin of victory has been slimmer, the results are the same.

So, now it’s a battle of two titans. Cast your vote by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 31. The winner will be announced on April Fools Day.


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When did the fun die?

Fun Die


Are we having fun yet? I usually like to try and guess the answer to my own rhetorical questions, but in this case I have no idea what percentage of Realtors would say that they enjoy their career. It could be 50/50, I suppose. Why do I ask? As an instructor, I get to see agents when they first get into the business and they are excited and having fun. The freedom, the new toys, the healthy income, all the lunches from vendors, Realtor Balls and awards make it a very fun job. However, it seems that over time, some folks become less excited and less friendly toward the industry.

We’ve all met them unfortunately, the folks who just seem to be negative all the time. It seems that there is almost nothing that can be done to make these folks happy.

Here’s the thing… This is a tough industry. Practitioners give and give of themselves to their clients, while balancing shrinking income and meeting the needs of their families. The often times unrealistic demands of the consumer and constant need to reinvent themselves is a difficult task to achieve.

There are always things to consider when interacting with another, and at times these folks who may seem difficult are simply subject to the many demands of the industry. I’ve found that there are very few people who truly have malice intent to another and even fewer who realize that their negativity affects you so heavily. My belief system encourages me to forgive those who offend me seventy times seven per day. I’m not real good with math, but that’s a lot!

I have a difficult time being upbeat and happy all the time and the current market conditions aren’t helping. However, this is still a fun job and maybe all of us would benefit by addressing it as a new beginning each day. I’ve heard it said that you are most greatly influenced by those who you surround yourself with.

Try learning something new each day, look for opportunities to do something new and, start each day as if you are in your first year. Also, try to understand where that other person is really coming from. At the core of our Code of Ethics, is the belief that we should do unto others, as we would have done to us. That Golden Rule has been a cornerstone of most religions since the beginning of recorded history.

Above all, make sure you’re having fun and let others know!

VAR’s new and improved Commonwealth Online newsletter

This morning, a new and improved Commonwealth Online newsletter should have arrived in your e-mail inbox. As of last month, we have a new layout, features segmented for brokers and rookies, and a lot more content. We’ve stopped sending monthly Rookie Report and Broker Digest e-mail newsletters in favor of this targeting strategy within Commonwealth Online. If you’re a broker, you’ll see both Broker News and Rookie News in the header and have access to both segments of content. If you’re a rookie, you won’t see Broker News.

Virginia REALTORS: if it didn’t arrive, I encourage you to contact your local association to ensure that we have your correct e-mail address on file and check your spam filter. You also may have opted out of VAR e-mails at some point. Feel free to contact me directly at (804) 249-5715 or Ben [at] VARealtor [dot] com if you’d like to get back on the list.

Alternatively, we’ll make it a point to post a link to the newsletter here on VARbuzz each month. Click here for the March 2008 edition. Inside the current edition, you’ll find links to a fascinating debate right here on VARbuzz about single agent dual agency, a story uncovering which three Virginia cities were ranked in two Forbes top 10 lists of the best metropolitan areas in the country to do business in, and a recap of VAR’s 2008 legislative accomplishments.

We’d love to hear your feedback about our new format. Please leave a comment here or contact us offline.

Why Blog?

When I started blogging five months ago, I did so in hopes of:

  1. creating an opportunity to more fully engage with my current and past clients,
  2. creating an open platform for commentary and discussion of our local real estate market, and
  3. becoming a trusted adviser on all things real estate in the Central Shenandoah Valley.

As a result of pursing the goals above, I hoped that in the long-term (perhaps after a year or so) I would see:

  1. an increase in traffic to my web site
  2. an increased sphere of influence
  3. an increase in sales

Focusing, for a moment, solely on the web site traffic — here’s what I’m finding after just five months . . .

Web Site Traffic As Related To Blogging

You’ll see that I had experienced relatively unchanged levels of traffic to my web site for seven straight months — until I began blogging. Furthermore, the increased traffic since I started blogging has been astonishing — certainly beyond my expectations.

A few disclaimers, explanations and miscellaneous thoughts:

  • I have a combined web site and blog — and the traffic trend line above is for the traffic to that combined site. Interestingly, the traffic increases have existed not solely in the blog section of my web site, but in the searching section (and others) as well.
  • When I began last November, there weren’t any other Realtors in my marketplace blogging. There are several more now, but I imagine being the first one out the gate may have contributed to my growth.
  • I have learn a lot from fellow Realtor bloggers around Virginia and beyond about how to promote my blog — commenting on other local blogs, highlighting it in offline printed marketing materials, etc.
  • In addition to increased traffic, I have certainly seen an increase in my sphere of influence — I have established many new relationships with people in my local market area.
  • I have not yet seen an increase in sales as a result of my blogging activity — but given all the increases in traffic and the increase in my sphere of influence, I imagine that will happen in the coming months or year.

Are you thinking about starting a blog? While I’m certainly not yet an expert on blogging, you are welcome to contact me — I’d be happy to share some of what has worked well and not worked so well for me over the past five months.

Final Four time! VARbuzz Real Estate Blog Brawl frenzy

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve narrowed the field to four, and it seems the home court advantage for the Virginians has expired. The three remaining Virginia real estate blogs were knocked out in the round of eight, but the show must go on. Below, you’ll find the last four competitors. Voting for this round closes at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26. Vote now!


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Pardon my ignorance

But how/why is this acceptable?

From a great post by Jillayne Schlicke at RCG about potential RESPA reform.

Sections 8 and 9 of RESPA say we are not to give or receive an item of value in exchange for a referral of a federally related loan. We = any person that earns a fee on the sale or refinance of a one-to-4 family, owner occupied, federally-related loan. Realtors and mortgage lending workers have tremendous power to influence the direction of business for third-party vendors to companies such as title insurance, escrow, home inspectors, home warranty, hazard insurance, private mortgage insurance, appraisers, attorneys, and so forth. For example, title insurance companies do not chose to spend their advertising dollars on general public promotions because a title company can have a much stronger effect on market share by focusing on the people who are in a direct position to refer lots of business: Mortgage lenders and Realtors.

Naturally, there are exceptions:

Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting (1) the payment of a fee… (2) the payment to any person of a bona fide salary or compensation or other payment for goods or facilities actually furnished or for services actually performed, (3) payments pursuant to cooperative brokerage and referral arrangements or agreements between real estate agents and brokers, (4) affiliated business arrangements so long as (A) a disclosure is made of the existence of such an arrangement to the person being referred and, in connection with such referral, such person is provided a written estimate of the charge or range of charges generally made by the provider to which the person is referred.

However, this possible arrangement is codified in the Virginia Association of Realtors‘ standard Contract to Purchase.

BROKERS: LICENSEE STATUS: (a) Listing Company and Selling Company may from time to time engage in general insurance, title insurance, mortgage loan, real estate settlement, home warranty and other real estate-related businesses and services, from which they may receive compensation during the course of this transaction, in addition to real estate brokerage fees. The parties acknowledge that Listing Company and Selling Company are retained for their real estate brokerage expertise, and neither has been retained as an attorney, tax advisor, appraiser, title advisor, home inspector, engineer, surveyor or other professional service provider.

Consumers (and Realtors) should question everything. Why this product? Mr. Realtor – why are you recommending your “in-house” lender?

What am I missing here? Are these types of entanglements kosher/ethical/”ok so long as I get my cut?” Has the real estate business become so intertwined and commingled with the various, disparate yet related, services that these types of arrangements are in fact, good for the consumer?

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best route driving directions realtorsUpdated: IdealRoute is out of beta, free for anyone to use!

Got listings to show this weekend? Want to show them in the most time-efficient and fuel-efficient way possible? With gas above $3 a gallon and a personal life to tend to, we know you do!

Check out this new mapping service from VAR. We think Virginia REALTORS® are going to love this!

VAR’s new free service computes the most efficient route between three or more properties. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to www.IdealRoute.com
  • Type or paste addresses into the text box below the map one by one, clicking “Add!” after each
  • Click on “Calculate Fastest Roundtrip”

The service automatically computes the optimal route between the properties and gives you complementary turn-by-turn directions to all locations using Google Maps.

There’s a short video tutorial near the bottom of the page that you can watch for more detailed instructions.

A few MLS systems in Virginia already offer a similar service integrated into the MLS, but the majority in Virginia do not. This free service will enable REALTORS® from all around the Commonwealth conserve gas and save time. Just as important to your clients, you’ll never have to return to a neighborhood you were just in because you didn’t realize another listing was just around the corner.

This service is in out of public beta, so but please report any bugs you find. We’d also love to hear your suggestions on what name we should give to this service. And even if you’re not fortunate enough to live in Virginia, this service will work in other states!

Online BloggerCon registration is now open

Thanks to the Dulles Area Association of REALTORS® (DAAR) we are pleased to announce that the second Virginia Real Estate BloggerCon, a full day of peer-to-peer learning with your fellow real estate bloggers, will be held in Leesburg, Virginia on Friday, April 4, 2008. Bring your laptop, connect to DAAR’s free WiFi hotspot, and learn from tech-savvy REALTORS® just like you who run their businesses with a technology flair. The event is FREE, but we are requesting a $10 donation to Habitat for Humanity to be paid when you register.

Date: Friday, April 4, 2008
Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Dulles Area Association of REALTORS® (DAAR)
Street: 803 Sycolin Road, Ste. 222 in Leesburg, VA

In true unconference form, the agenda will be set at the beginning of the day by the participants, but some prospective topics are…Keith_Garner200pxwideKeith_Garner200pxwide

  • Stupid blog tricks (set up roundtables for WordPress, Typepad, Blogger and Active Rain blogging platforms, and learn from your peers about how to trick out your blog)
  • Widgets that work (from Plugoo to Vyew, Meebo to Wufoo and every crazy Web 2.0 company name in between, what widgets deliver real value?)
  • How to write for SEO and not come across like a robot
  • Book reports (Wikinomics, Here Comes Everybody, Freakonomics, whatever’s hot on your reading list)
  • Legal, ethical and regulatory implications for REALTORS® using social media
  • Integrating other social networking sites (Linkedin, Facebook, etc.) into your blogging efforts

Plus, I am very excited to announce that Keith Garner, Managing Director of NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology (CRT), will prepare a presentation and join us for lunch. As CRT’s managing director, Keith is at the epicenter of NAR’s member-facing technology efforts, including RETS. Of special note to the blogging crowd, he is one of two people at NAR responsible for instituting the Blogger’s Lounge at NAR’s mid-year and annual meetings.

As a reminder, seating for this event is EXTREMELY limited. There is space for 30, and there are only 21… make that 20 15 12 seats left! Register now!

A Richmond-area real estate networking group that started as a targeted opportunity for younger real estate agents to jump start their professional networking has evolved into something much bigger. Rapport has metamorphosed into a broad cross-section of real estate professionals from all corners of the industry: commercial, residential, lending, legal, associations, rookies and veterans alike. In less than a year of existence, Rapport is establishing itself as Richmond’s real estate social scene. In fact, it is not uncommon for Rapport to pull over 100 attendees for their parties, helping the Richmond area real estate community to come together. Their next event is being held tomorrow, Thursday, March 20 at 4:30 p.m. Visit Rapport’s website for details.

VAR staff and Rapport volunteers are discussing how VAR, with its statewide reach and Rapport, with its ability to quickly ramp up a critical mass of interested locations and attendees, might be able to replicate this success in other parts of the state. If you or your local association is interested in learning more, please leave a comment here or contact Ben Martin at (804) 264-5033.