Would You Judge A Real Estate Broker By His Blog?

The Washington Post reports that consumers are starting to judge real estate agents by their blogs. Almost 10% of real estate brokers are apparently blogging, a number that is likely to rise faster than that sketchy “up and coming” neighborhood you’ve heard about for years.

No longer must potential home buyers and sellers actually speak to real estate professionals to meet them. Instead, consumers are accessing agents’ ever-more-common blogs, social network pages or viral video campaigns — all of the burgeoning options that have been called Web 2.0 — to tap their expertise and get a sense of their personalities. Some meet agents who quickly feel like buddies; others go with discount brokers and don’t have any direct contact with their agent until they’re ready to put a bid on a house.

“In this type of environment the cream rises to the top,” said Jonathan Washburn, chief executive of ActiveRain, a popular real estate blogging site that boasts membership of more than 100,000 real estate professionals. Traditional advertising provides limited information, he said, but online, agents “get a chance to demonstrate their actual expertise by writing about things that are relevant to the consumer.”

Judging a realtor online takes the same amount of research as finding one offline. Don’t take assertions at face value, and give greater weight to content the realtor doesn’t necessarily control.

For instance, when she was in the market for a home two years ago, Fernandez found a potential agent through some online social networks, and then searched through her LinkedIn account for mutual contacts. She found two of the agent’s former clients and contacted them. They gave him rave reviews, and so she went ahead and worked with him.

If you’re sufficiently web savvy to judge someone’s character by their internet presence, you might want to jettison the broker altogether and find your house through the multiple listing service with Redfin.

Making Connections [The Washington Post]

Comments

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  1. MyLud says:

    While I can’t say a blog would lead me to use someone as my broker, I have definitely already excluded two based on their (awful) writings!

    Sorry, but if you can’t spell correctly, or even express your thoughts clearly, I don’t want you fighting for my largest investment.

  2. Sherryness says:

    Setting up and troubleshooting commercial blogs is what I do for a living (own my own company doing it) – and real estate agents are very well-reprented amongst my clients – second only to lawyers!

  3. purplesun says:

    It wouldn’t matter to me. I would hope that they spend at least as much time finding someone to buy my house as they do updating pictures on their Facebook page, though. :)

  4. StoneKitten says:

    Well I’ve judged a lot of real estate agents by their conduct of Zillow’s board.
    Wow the noxious behavior that some of them exhibit is stomach turning.
    In particular there is a total revolting pig who calls himself Az-Rob and is an Arizona agent.
    He actually said that women overreact and make a big deal out of sexual harrassment, when in reality ‘theyre asking for it’
    what a disgusting piece of dung.
    So yes I totally judge them on how they portray themselves online.

  5. Frapp says:

    Honestly, I believe that I would.

    We as consumers are effectively hiring the broker to aid in the purchasing process. Hiring much in the same way that a company would hire an applicant.

    Now, if the company doing the hiring can make a decision about an applicant based solely on a MySpace or Facebook image, I should have the same privilege in doing so hiring a professional.

  6. ShadowFalls says:

    If their blog perpetuates them as being an idiot, sure I would.

  7. Coles_Law says:

    This is one of the many cases where a good blog will only help them marginally, but a bad/offensive blog would knock them out of contention. Caveat scriptor-let the writer beware…

  8. bohemian says:

    This is awesome in a way. I stumbled across a doctors forum and it was very enlightening to see how some doctors think about patients. I think that same kind of unedited information about a real estate agent would be equally useful. Even more so if you know who it is when looking for one. It is difficult to cut through the BS show many realtors put on to find out if they are competent or not.

  9. balthisar says:

    @MyLud: I’m the opposite, based on experience. It takes a certain personality to make a sale. They may not be the most book smart, the most street smart, or even smarter than I am. But… they know how to sell. In fact, my experience with professional sales people (not real estate, I’ll admit), is that they’re NOT the brightest candles, but they’re the best at what they do. I can’t qualify it beyond that, because I’m smart I guess. They have this certain human quality that makes you want to buy from them, even if it’s not correct grammar and spelling.

    Thank GOD for the guy that sold my last house. Not smart in the way that I’d call smart, but, DAMN, good with people, and sold it before I had to make double mortgage payments.

  10. Yes, I would. If somebody has a blog or writes opinions online, I will judge them by what they say. You can tell a lot about a person by what they write about and how they do it.

    I disagree that “Writing about things that are relevant” automatically implies it’s just advertising. Of course it can be, but some people in a particular field actually care about informing others. I like to think that I can identify a adverblog pretty quickly and dock 15 points for being disingenuous. Post-moderated comments are typically a good sign, but it can be hard to tell if it’s actually full of shills.

    If you have some online cred, then it’s good for business. I wouldn’t let it replace a face-to-fact meeting, but if I read the realtor’s writings online and meeting them in person correlates with what I concluded online, then that’ll work in their favor.

  11. Saw a local real estate agent implode (at least in my view) recently on a local forum when a troll started prodding him. Rather than being professional and ignorning it, it got long and drawn out. Was entertaining as always to watch the resulting trainwreck on the forum, and was also educational, from the standpoint of I found out who not to work with when I was shopping for a house, and who to avoid in any potential future real estate transactions.

  12. InThrees says:

    Take a blog with a grain of salt. I worked for a time for a somewhat shady (*somewhat*) web hosting / web designing firm that specialized in real estate web presences.

    The number one thing I would tell people who were agent shopping, based on my experience there, is – you don’t know if the articles and posts on the blog were actually written by the agent. They may be well thought out and erudite explorations of various real-estate related subjects, but when you meet the agent it is cro-magnon time UP INS, ya feel me? =P

    Seriously though, background research is all well and good, but beware the gilt that is so easily applied these days. Nothing beats networking – friends or coworkers who bought houses, etc – talk to them.

  13. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    I actually judge agents on how posed their picture is. I like the typical standard “smiling” face shot. If they are “talking on the phone” or have their arms crossed or back-to-back with their partner agent or some typical over-posed crap, I think they are a fraud and I keep reading.

    Seriously, nothing aggravates me more than seeing a realtor’s photo with them talking on the phone. It just BOTHERS me.

    I’M SO BUSY CLOSING DEALS LEFT AND RIGHT I CAN’T STOP TO TAKE A PICTURE THAT’S HOW BUSY I AM — are ya?

  14. kellkell says:

    I know I would check out what this moron did
    [kentwoodcosucks.com]
    I mean seriously, why would you post that stuff on a professional blog?

  15. @kellkell: Well, now you know. Think about how much you wouldn’t know if he hadn’t posted them. Personally, I find that selection of posts moderately entertaining.

    But now that he’s purged those posts, you know that he’s putting on his pretty face. Phrases like “How to sell your house from the driver’s seat” set off my bullshit detectors. And when I got to the post about “Obam!a” written in the third person, I pretty much crossed his name off my list. Posting in the third person is unforgivable.

  16. heindrick says:

    Well, I’m going to put myself out there for you guys. I am in the real estate industry and have a “blog” of my own. Initially, I just wanted a website for web presence. But being interested in something more – I decided to launch a blog/website.

    For those in the industry or those who happen to have seen a few RE websites, there are just so many cookie cutter websites. Do a simple search for “Daily Rate Lock Advisory” in google and check out the sites that pop up ; all the same templates and information for different people & RE companies. This is great for web presence, but I think consumers could care less.

    In my mind, someone who will actually visit my website is looking for one of two things – credibility and information. A blog delivers unique content and information, but also shows a little bit of who you are.

    From a brokers standpoint, I will have to agree with an above comment that a bad/offensive blog stands a better chance of putting someone off whereas a good blog might only help marginally.

    But, distinguishing yourself from “competition” is the way I see it and blogging is a very unique way to do so in the RE industry.

  17. Sudonum says:

    “If you’re sufficiently web savvy to judge someone’s character by their internet presence, you might want to jettison the broker altogether and find your house through the multiple listing service with Redfin.”
    If you’re a buyer why wouldn’t you us an agent/broker? It cost you nothing. And if you think you’re going to save some money buying a FSBO, most of the ones I’ve seen, the seller is trying to get the savings from the commission for themselves.

  18. Triborough says:

    I thought all real estate brokers were gonifs, otherwise they wouldn’t be real estate brokers.

  19. laserjobs says:

    Redfin and Iggyshouse are the only places I will look now. Save a few percentage points on the commission plus I don’t have to deal with an agent telling me about all the features I can see with my own eyes.

  20. kellkell says:

    @ Michael Belisle I have to agree with you on the pretty face bit and the third person thing. So I guess it is good that he posted that because it’s out there and anyone looking now knows who they’re dealing with! ;)

  21. Sam Glover says:

    Pro tip: a lot of brokers are buying generic posts. For example, Google this one: “In Pictures : Mortgage Guidelines Get Tough For All Borrowe…

    Nine brokers bought the same post, which is actually pretty good, but does nothing to give consumers an idea of the brokers’ competence.

  22. bohemian says:

    @heindrick: Your right that a very good one might bring you a few clients. A bad one is going to do more damage. Having bought and sold three times as a potential client I am looking for someone who is competent and honest. We found lots of agents who were nothing but pretty faced sales monkeys and a few that were extremely questionable in their dealings. We ended up firing one when selling our first house and buying the second. When she tried to convince us to buy a house plagued by carpenter ants and a chronically flooding basement she was gone. The replacement agent did a good job but when we contacted her about helping us buy the third time she tried to sell us on a no doc arm mortgage through some guy she knew. We found someone else. So far the best agent has been one who has been working at this for 25 years, knows what she is doing and is brutally honest.

  23. mac-phisto says:

    @Sudonum: i was thinking the exact thing. as a buyer, i think contracting an agent can arguably be the most important decision you make when looking for a new home. it’s not any different from contracting counsel for a legal fight. a good real estate agent (like a good lawyer) will save you time, money & get you the results you want.

    & as a seller, i think the only thing worse than going fsbo is contracting a crappy listing agent. i’ve seen too many that do virtually nothing to sell a home & often rely on the easy sale by deeply discounting the property. what the hell – the difference between the commission on selling a home for $230,000 vs. $300,000 is only a couple grand. why work hard to sell it for what it’s worth when they can sit on their duff & watch it sell itself at 75% of its market value?

    for example, any discount on a property relists a property to the top of the mls (where every agent wants their listings), yet instead of minor discounts (~$10,000) over 6 months, i see agents all the time let a property sit for 4 months at $250,000 & then con the owner into dropping the price $40,000 when they get desperate for a sale.

    my advice – get some counseling on agent contracts before you sell your home. negotiate short-term (<3 mos.) to get your agent moving, write in a clause that reduces/eliminates their commission if you find a buyer (why pay them if you’re doing the work?) & make sure there aren’t any residual exclusivity agreements built in that give them a piece of the pie if you sell after the contract expires.

  24. Sudonum says:

    @mac-phisto:
    Full disclosure, my wife is an agent. That being said, the reason she became an agent is so we wouldn’t have to deal with idiot agents when buying or selling our own property (I’m a builder).

    She also represents other builders in the area, she never “promises” a sale. all she tells them (and shows them how) is that she will aggressively market their property, and she won’t take a listing from more than one builder in the same sub-division, as she feels that’s a conflict of interest.

    I agree with all of your post but one, it is not fair to an agent who brought you a client, to wait until the listing agreement expires and then contract with that client to purchase your house. I don’t know if that was the intent of your last paragraph or not, however most listing agreements (that I’ve seen, at least) do not include any residual agreements unless it is the example stated previously.

    Interview Realtors like you would for hiring any other professional. Ask for a Market Research Report, and a Marketing Plan. If the Realtor can’t or won’t provide you with either of these, keep looking.

  25. dragonvpm says:

    @balthisar: That certain personality should also be aware that their online presence is, in essence, them selling themselves to potential clients so if they can’t put forth a good effort to make themselves look god online, then I’d wonder just how good they are at selling.

    I wouldn’t discount a realtor for not having an online presence (yet), but someone who engages in crappy behavior online (trolling, flame wars, attacking people, etc…) would make me think twice about their professional abilities. If I had reasons to go to them (e.g. very positive word of mouth from people I knew and trusted) I might still give them a chance, but there’s a high probability that they’d be out of contention otherwise.

    @mac-phisto: Your comments on fsbo aren’t entirely accurate. I helped my folks save about 1/2 the realtor costs by listing some properties on MLS but making it clear that buyer’s agents were welcome. If you have some experience with the real estate market in your neck of the woods, you can do a good job selling something yourself, and in our case they were rental properties anyways so we were used to going in and showing them on a regular basis as needed. The showings would take a little longer, but it wasn’t a big deal.

    Ultimately, as with everything research and knowing what you’re getting into matter a lot. We had been through previous sales in the past so we were familiar with the documentation and legal issues and we knew what the properties were worth so we weren’t going to give them away if they didn’t sell right away. The scenarios you painted are really a function of people who don’t know what they’re doing and in that case anything they try to do is liable to end up a disaster (i.e. it amazes me how often people will research a new car for days or weeks but they might list a property after talking to an agent for 30 minutes).

  26. mac-phisto says:

    @Sudonum: no, i certainly wasn’t advocating screwing an agent by waiting out a contract, but i know an individual who was screwed by an exclusivity clause, which is why i mentioned it.

    @dragonvpm: ??? i wasn’t talking about fsbo – i was talking about educating yourself before getting an agent. i merely stated that i don’t think fsbo is a very good idea for most people. there were some other peeps who commented on fsbo – is your comment directed at them?

  27. Haltingpoint says:

    @balthisar: Next time you want to post, how about you focus on the point you are trying to make with your response and not take up half the post with mentions of how smart you are in comparison to sales people. Like you said, there are different types of intelligence, and just because they excel in one and you perhaps excel in another (although I’m always doubtful of those who toot their own horns) does not make one greater/better than the other.

    Now, on to the issue of these websites…As someone who frequents the affiliate marketing scene, I can tell you I’ve seen my fair share of content writing services out there and many advertise towards real estate folks. You’d be shocked at how many other blogs farm out their content as well. The primary reason they are doing this is to boost their rankings as more content with the right keywords can help with that.

    The secondary reason is to sell you on their services with the actual content itself. Its just a means to an end–they want to get in touch with you and getting you to their website is step 1. A good way to check is to google for specific phrases from the article and see if any duplicate content pops up. While not 100% accuratein spotting these people, it can raise some questions.

    Real estate is INCREDIBLY competitive in the affiliate marketing space so you have a lot of affiliates mixing in with the realtors as well and they might be doing this on behalf of one.

  28. dragonvpm says:

    @mac-phisto: Um… my comment was prompted by:

    i think the only thing worse than going fsbo is contracting a crappy listing agent

    At the point where someone is savvy enough to intelligently avoid working with a bad agent, they can probably do a decent job handling their own fsbo. A lot of it has to do with a person’s situation and the reasons behind selling a property and how realistic the person is wrt it’s actual value. I wouldn’t discount FSBOs, but I’d suggest doing things like paying for MLS listings and being willing to pay a buyer’s agents fees. After that a lot of it has to do with how much work someone is willing/able to put into a sale (e.g. in our case it was easy since we already showed rental properties fairly as needed so when we sold some it was just a longer showing).

    Also your suggestions for things to do with the contract (e.g. not having to pay a commission if you bring in a client etc…) would probably be hard to get anyone to agree to in most situations. Granted that opinion is based as someone who has experience with real estate in Texas, as always ymmv in your neck of the woods, but I can’t think of a single agent who’d go for that suggestion around here. If you insisted on that they’d probably walk away from the deal (no one wants to work for free or for very little).

  29. Sudonum says:

    @dragonvpm:
    mac-phisto Probably thought that you should have been responding to me since I made the comment that most FSBO’s that I’ve seen the seller is trying to save all of the commission for themselves. Your approach, to protect buyers agents, however, is a good one that has been successful in the past. It slipped my mind when I made my comment.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    @dragonvpm: texas is much different than my market (connecticut). i’ve heard that homes down there don’t change value much from year to year (or even decade to decade), so i can understand why an owner might seek to fsbo over paying 6%.

    here, fsbo is a joke. simply, it translates into “i consulted an agent & they told me i couldn’t get $450,000 for my house, so i fired them b/c they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.” then their house sits on the market for 2 years without even a bite & they don’t understand why. yes, people can sell their homes on their own, but it’s not a walk in the park. there’s a lot of work involved in making sure your home is priced to the type of buyer you’re looking for, listing/advertising where that target is searching for a home, knowing what minor improvements can make your house more sellable, etc.

    then there’s liability issues. i don’t know what it’s like in texas, but here, there’s a 4 page form where an owner has to disclose the presence of lead paint, asbestos, radon, mold, condition of the roof, appliances/utilities, etc. not knowing your legal responsibilities here can make you liable for a suit even after the sale (for example, it’s illegal to sell a home that knowingly has lead paint to a family with young children).

    & to wrap up, the suggestions i made concerning contracting a listing agent were all made to me by listing agents, so they’re perfectly valid. a good agent will realize that it doesn’t impact their commission at all provided that they do the necessary work to make your property sell. a bad agent will probably say no, but then wasn’t it my point to weed out the bad agents?

  31. mac-phisto says:

    @dragonvpm: it just dawned on me that i completely misrepresented the “find your own buyer” clause in this post, so let me attempt to explain it further.

    it’s not an “open season” clause – it’s usually restricted to one or a few parties that you know are interested in the house when you bring it to the agent to list. essentially, what you are saying is, “hey, these leads are mine, get your own”.

    to illustrate, let’s say you decide to sell your home. one of the first things that should cross your mind is all the people you know that might be interested (like your friend joe that came over last year & said, “dude, i love this house. if you ever want to sell it, give me a call”). ok, so you give joe a call, tell him the home is for sale, & ask if he is interested. he says he is, but he needs some time to think it over & work the numbers. so, in the meantime, you find a broker & list your house.

    your best bet is to write in the exclusion clause for joe b/c you found him as an interested party before listing. if you don’t, even if joe decides to buy the property, you will have to pay the agent (even though you found the buyer before listing).

    that’s a better representation of the clause – it’s NOT, “hey, fred knocked on my door & i showed him the house, so it’s my sale, not yours”. obviously, in that case, the listing agent is still due money b/c fred only knocked on the door since there was a sign in the front yard (provided by the agent) or he saw an ad in the real estate magazine (paid for by the agent), etc.

  32. PhoenixREGuy says:

    As a real estate broker, and one who blogs no less, about all I can say is THANKS for this post and all, well most… ;) of these comments.

    I struggle with the oft-cited number that 10% of real estate agents blog. There are 1.2 million or so Realtors, and more if you add in non-realtor agents. You guys can do the math. Trust me, there aren’t that many agents that blog.

    Or at least blog effectively.

    I blog for several reasons — I love to write, I love to share information, and yes — of course — I blog to get clients.

    And it works.

    It’s not easy. I’ve been slammed by agents and brokers for “being too open” and “giving away too much information”.

    What a load of crap. But it happens.

    Blogs are, IMHO, the single best way to display your expertise and personality on-line (assuming of course, that you have a personality).

    They are also, as a few mentioned, the single best way to commit career suicide.

    But if done well, with honesty and transparency (and a ton of work) a blog is a great way for an agent / broker to teach, learn, and procure clients.

  33. kellkell says:

    Well the moron’s genius managing broker has decided she didn’t want him to be alone!
    [kentwoodcosucks.com]