Posts in Blog (page 41)

4 Things Every Real Estate Agent Should Know About SEO

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by SEO (search engine optimization). Good SEO is what helps a website rank on the first page of Google, for instance. You want good SEO. High quality content, good, easy to navigate design – these things are in your control, and they are crucial to the SEO of your real estate websites. So today, I’ve pulled together four things that every real estate agent should know about SEO.

1. Content is the cream that rises to the top. Content should answer a need. It should tell a story. It should solve a problem. Content should be applicable, usable, shareable. It should resonate with your users. As a real estate professional, you know your market. You know the buyers and sellers you want to attract as clients. What do they need? How can you give it to them? This applies to your agent and single property websites and to your social media efforts. Before you throw up your hands in defeat, know this: none of this means you have to have tons of content or writing on your sites. But it does mean that what you do say and post needs to be relevant. This is one area where using a dedicated service like RealEsateSites.com or Listings Unlimited can be a huge help – your website will start with tested, high quality content, keywords and built-in SEO. You can build on a solid foundation put together by experts.

2. SEO is steadiest on a tripod. To have a solid SEO strategy, you need to focus on three separate areas – content, links and social media. They are separate, but also incredibly interconnected. And they’re all important. Link exchange is a great way to get legitimate links from other websites pointing to your site. Links increase your site’s authority and, therefore, its visibility in the search engines. Link building can be arduous to the inexperienced, but is often built in to quality website services. Social media is the vehicle that can take your site to the next level, by giving it the exposure it needs to appear valuable to search engines. At the end of the day, link building and social media connectedness and moot, without great content. Your content is incredibly important and must focus with precision on your visitors’ needs and your call to action.

3. Social media puts the ‘S’ in SEO (well, not literally). Google, in particular, gives more and more credit to social media when it comes to ranking. Likes, shares, comments, @mentions, etc. have become an incredibly important part of strong SEO. You want to make it easy for people to share and like your content. This, in turn, makes it easy for other people to find your content. Built-in social networking tools will save you time and money when it comes to this critical aspect of your real estate site or single property website’s SEO.

4. You must know your brand before you can optimize it. SEO is step two, after good branding. And the connection between good branding and SEO has been made easier and stronger since Google release Google Authorship. Google Authorship connects your content to your Google author profile, and the search engine gives more credit to recognized authors’ content. This is by no means an overnight fix, but it is a very worthy recipient of your time and strategy, with regard to SEO.

How Facebook is Cornering the Property Market

Facebook has more than 1.31 billion active users. According to NAR (the National Association of Realtors), 90.5% of real estate agents and brokers use social media to some extent. In a study of traffic sources conducted by Properties Online, using Google Analytics, single property websites received the most referrals (50%!) from Facebook.

Changes to Craigslist in late 2013 mean that referral traffic from the site can no longer be measured. This gives Facebook a boost in ratings, so to speak. And the social networking giant is doing all it can to maintain its place at the top.

Twitter has been growing, but hasn’t had the impact on real estate professionals that Facebook has. Still, at more than 645 million users, the social media site is a significant force, with a lot of potential. One problem for real estate listings is that Twitter is home to A LOT of information. Tweets can easily get lost and end up unseen. But there is something to the platform – something that has had Facebook on alert for a long time.

You may have noticed the subtle integration of some of Twitter’s features into Facebook this year. Actually, just before the New Year, Facebook began by renaming its ‘subscribe’ and ‘hide all’ options with ‘follow’ and ‘unfollow.’ Facebook is using an algorithm—based on your usage—that then controls the content that appears in your newsfeed.

Another Twitter-ish update was the move to ranking link posts from publishers higher in the newsfeed. This seemingly small change led to big things for Facebook, with publisher content referral traffic from Facebook rising 50%, to account for over 15% of all social referrals. At the same time, mind you, Twitter referrals decreased four percent.

Now, as we know, Facebook is great for sharing photos and videos (and this is great for real estate professionals). But Facebook saw Twitter’s edge when it came to user-generated content and changed its algorithm to rank text-only status updates from users higher in the newsfeed. Their research showed them that users respond positively to these types of updates, and that they prompt more of the same. So, that that and run with it – share your thoughts about a listing, the market, anything of interest, with your Facebook followers.

Facebook may never replace Twitter when it comes to real-time news, but it doesn’t need to. And while a full-blown social media presence is great, if you can pull it off, you don’t need that, either. Facebook is a fantastic option for busy real estate professionals, and it’s gotten even better in 2014.

 

3 Ways You Can Invest in Real Estate

Almost 30 percent of U.S. home sales were all-cash purchases during 2013, according to Realty Trac. That means many would-be landlords hoping to buy a property to rent out for income lost out on sales to those who made cash offers. Having that much cash may seem like a roadblock, but there are creative ways to invest in real estate without becoming a landlord or raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here are my recommendations on 3 ways you can invest in real estate today.

Invest in REITS

Reap the financial rewards of being a landlord without dealing with tenant issues with a real estate investment trust (REIT). Sold like stocks, REITs are trusts that earn a rental income by buying and developing property. However, a REIT does not develop properties to turn around and resell them. Instead, they’re developed as part of an investment portfolio.

Unlike many forms of real estate investing, REITs must legally pay out 90 percent of their taxable income if they meet certain criteria. This means investors ultimately receive regular payments. REITs develop everything from apartment buildings to malls to cell towers to prisons and beyond.

REITs also level the playing field for those who want to get into real estate, but don’t have a ton of cash lying around. There’s no need to compete with wealthy investors or corporations buying up properties. REITs give you the opportunity to make small investments you can afford and still enjoy the perks.

Become a Private Lender

While REITs act more like a diverse portfolio of property investments, there are ways to invest directly into handpicked projects. Private lending allows individuals or companies to loan out money without the help of a bank . This technique usually works with a note and deed of trust to fund a real estate transaction. Investors typically earn up to 10 percent interest without ever dealing with rehabbing and reselling properties.

Private lenders get the benefit of earning income on their investment without the red tape and middleman of a bank. You can, however, find a third-party platform to help the process. A peer-lending site like Lending Club can connect you with those who need money for property or other assets. The site helps organize and facilitate the process and deal instead of trying to do it on your own.

Flip a House

House flipping was all the rage during the height of the last real estate bubble. It was relatively easy to get loans with little money down, enabling investors to come in and fix up properties to resell for a tidy profit. But despite the bursting real estate bubble, it’s still possible to flip a home and earn an income. According to a Realty Trac report, in the third quarter of 2013, house flipping actually increased 34 percent for homes worth $750,000 and more, 42 percent for homes priced between $1 and $2 million and 350 percent for those worth $2 to $5 million (over Q3 2012).

Need ideas on coming up with cash to support your private lending dreams? Look into creative funding techniques. If you’re entitled to a structured settlement, you could sell your future payments and use the money to reinvest in REITs, private lending or flipping a house.

What You Need to Know About Heartbleed

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Heartbleed in the last week. On April 7th, information about the OpenSSL vulnerability CVE-2014-0160, a.k.a. “Heartbleed”, became publicly available. I’m going to explain now what Heartbleed is, and what you need to know about Heartbleed as a real estate professional and a general user of the Internet.

The Heartbleed vulnerability affects OpenSSL, the encryption technology that powers and protects some 60% of the Internet. Even if that makes no sense to you, and you have never given it a single thought, I can promise you that you interact with OpenSSL on a daily basis, if you use the Internet. If you have two minutes and want a quick and very easy-to-understand lesson on OpenSSL and Heartbleed, watch this Mashable video: What is the Heartbleed Encryption Bug?

While we at Properties Online are confident none of our services and tools have been compromised or maliciously accessed due to Heartbleed, as we do not use OpenSSL, we find this an excellent lesson in Internet safety and a good reminder that passwords should be updated often.

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users,” says heartbleed.com.

While your Properties Online user accounts remain unaffected by Heartbleed, you are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly through many of the other websites and web services you use on a regular basis. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet. “Many online services use TLS to both to identify themselves to you and to protect your privacy and transactions. You might have networked appliances with logins secured by this buggy implementation of the TLS. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”

Not sure where to start? Check out Mashable’s HeartBleed Hit List for the passwords you need to change RIGHT NOW. You can also visit CNET for a list of sites that have been patched against Heartbleed.

So, just a quick recap and reminder: Your Properties Online accounts and passwords are SAFE. They were not compromised by Heartbleed. But changing and resetting our online passwords is a time-consuming task we all put off a little too long. We urge you to take this web crisis for the helpful reminder it is and do some password housekeeping.

–All the best from the team at Properties Online

Our Secrets: Tips You'd Love to Share with Sellers

5 Good Reasons to Use a Real Estate Agent

Unless you are a realtor or retired agent, it’s not a smart idea and may cost you in real dollars. Here are 5 good reasons to use a real estate agent.

As the real estate industry continues to move online, and as buyers and sellers have increasingly easy access to real estate data and information, more and more buyers and sellers may decide to go it alone, without the help of a real estate professional. But unless you are a realtor or a retired agent, it’s not generally a smart idea and may cost the home seller in real dollars. Here are 5 good reasons to use a real estate agent. Drumroll, please …

Split the check. Really, the major reason people choose to buy and sell homes without a professional comes down to money. They want to save on commission. But what if buyer AND seller are playing this game? The sale price of a home takes an agent’s commission into account. Comps on houses in your area are made on houses that overwhelmingly are sold by agent. But if they buyer is also going agent-free, they’ll likely offer down, because they know the agent’s fee isn’t necessary. Buyer and seller can’t collect the unpaid commission. Someone’s going to lose.

Don’t you already have a full time job? Selling or buying property can be extremely time intensive. There is a lot of research to begin, home viewing, deal making, negotiating, etc. Whether you work outside the home or not, unlike a professional realtor, I can bet you aren’t working the real estate circuit 40+ hours a week. A qualified agent has access to properties and agents you don’t, can track down and vet houses that meet your specifications, schedule appointments and play phone tag on your behalf. Selling without an agent is even more time consuming and a lot less fun. You have to solicit all the calls from potential buyers, someone weed out the looky-loos, answer questions, show viewers through your home, prep and stage, and more. What happens if the home doesn’t sell in a timely fashion? It starts to get a bad rep. Not worth it.

Did you captain the debate team in high school? Negotiating is tricky business. Sellers often have a lot of personal attachment and can’t see things outside of that bias. Buyers may not feel confident about speaking up when they see a potential issue. Or they may feel overly confident and do damage when they simply want to criticize what they see as hideous decorating techniques. Agents can represent your interests, leaving the parties with emotional involvement right out of the thick of things. Deals have gone dead over insults, real or imagined. Let your agent play the bad cop, if necessary. Let them schmooze, too.

It’s a trust thing. Your agent, if working under a conventional, full-service commission agreement, is bound by law to work in your best interests. Now that doesn’t mean all agents are created equal and all are equally trustworthy. But it does mean that you have recourse if something goes wrong. Your agent is responsible to his broker or professional association and to the state in which he is licensed. What’s more, your agent probably got your business based on referral. And he or she will count on you to do the same. This is further incentive, beyond the legal obligation, to put your needs first when it comes to buying or selling a home. On the other hand, if you buy from a FSBO and you’re without an agent, you have two people working for their own interests, with much less holding them to honesty and accountability. Hiring a lawyer later is much more expensive than securing a real estate agent at the start.

Sign on the dotted line. Speaking of lawyers, you may need one if you choose not to use an agent or broker. Contracts are vital, and they aren’t always easy to understand. What if you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale, for instance, and then find you aren’t approved for the mortgage? The seller could sue you, could keep your deposit, and could derail your home buying dream. Using an agent ensures you have someone on your side well versed in real estate contracts who can look out for any red flags or potential pit falls and make sure you have everything you need secured and in writing from the get-go.

Real estate isn’t a simple business. Do yourself a favor and rely on a professional. Happy house hunting and selling!

Agents, please feel free to send this on to your clients or share it on your own blogs and social media (with proper credit). And let me know any other reasons you suggest home buyers and sellers use a real estate professional!