Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting Lost -- and Found -- in a World Wide Web of Real Estate

We were fortunate to learn about the Internet quite early in online history compared to many of our competitors in the real estate business, and somewhat by accident. After hearing a speaker in 1996 talk about how the Internet was a bit like the Wild West, with incredible opportunities just waiting for adventurers, I remember coming home all excited about the possibilities, and we set out to find an internet expert who could help us find a good domain name and build a website to fit our lake property real estate niche.

Many people have asked us over the years about how we were able to get a name as good as It was essentially a stroke of luck, and it has been the driving force behind our business -- and our lives -- ever since.

Having a niche site with great content for so many years has been the key to obtaining powerful search results as well. Long before Google was even around, we had first page results on search sites like AltaVista, Lycos, Infoseek, Ask Jeeves and many others. And as those lovable search engines from the past have faded into darkness, we have been able to find the same success with the main search sites of today.

But new technologies and ideas have given rise to numerous methods of connecting with others and obtaining specific information. Obviously, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have created an entirely new array of ways for people to stay in touch and recommend products and services to others. They have also become somewhat effective tools to market all kinds of items, including real estate. Many agents have become experts at using the features associated with these unique sites to get more exposure for themselves, and their properties...but generally with limited success.

Directory sites like Craigslist,, and -- where you could find companies like ours under a category such as Waterfront Real Estate Specialists -- try to localize specific types of businesses or products for sale, and sometimes include ratings systems for visitors to find reviews and additional information. There are so many types of directories that it is pretty much impossible to really categorize even the sites themselves, but many of them can be used to either promote properties or a specific real estate company or agent.

And then, of course, there are niche sites like, and that offer specific products to a target audience. The real estate landscape is littered with these types of niche sites, whether you are looking to rent your property or sell it. And it is quite easy to find high traffic niche real estate sites that can get you plenty of page views in your specific category.

So as a prospective seller these days, you have nearly limitless options to market your own property through a plethora of websites that could potentially find you a buyer. Hopefully, if you decide to list your property with a licensed agent, they will use a variety of those same techniques to get some promising results as well. And if they do, you won't be the one forking out $25 here, or $75 there, to get on the best sites...because many of the free ones are generally free for a reason.

By letting the agents handle this piece of the puzzle you can save a fair amount of upfront money, since their marketing costs are probably included in the commission structure. But even more important, they are not doing this for the first time, and they most likely have a pretty good idea of which sites work better than others.

But there is one thing I can assure you of: If it were that easy to get homes sold in this day and age directly from just using multiple websites, every agent would be doing it -- and earning BIG commissions without much effort. And...they are not!

Being successful at real estate sales takes a number of skill sets beyond just the marketing of the property. It is true that the more exposure you can obtain -- especially to your target audience -- the better chance you have of landing your property in front of the right prospect. But negotiating, preparing the proper wording, understanding the competition, recognizing buyers' motivations, and holding things together up until closing are all even more important than the initial act of finding a buyer.

So, as this economy continues to bounce along on bottom, trying so hard to turn the corner back up again (at least that is the way I see it in the lakeshore market today), you will need every tool possible to not only create the best exposure to find that elusive buyer, but also the expertise to make sure you get to the closing table...and walk away from it without owning the property any longer. Because each step of the process can be a considerable struggle in the current marketplace, and your are going to want all the help you can get.

The Internet has created a sea change in all of our lives that will last at least as long as we all do. But harnessing its true power -- both in searching for products and in trying to market them -- can still be a bit of a secret. It is extremely easy to get lost out there in that Wacky World Wide Web...but not quite as easy to get found.

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