Category Archives: Real estate

Agent Headshots: 8 Do’s and Don’ts

The real estate agent headshot: it’s an absolute necessity in this industry. Your headshot is part of your personal branding, and people expect to see it everywhere—on business cards, your website, public benches and even billboards! Real estate is a face-to-face business, and potential clients want to see yours.

Selecting a real estate headshot can be a terrifying task. Real estate agents are all too frequently teased for having cheesy photos. But how often does someone come along with constructive advice? Not often enough.

Fortunately for you, this helpful list of DO’s and DON’Ts will make your next photo session a breeze:

DO

1. Update your photo. It’s important to keep your headshot current. You want your online prospects to recognize you when you finally meet them.

2. Choose a setting that reflects your brand. If you sell beachfront properties, having a tasteful seaside view in the background will reinforce your area of expertise. High-end residential homes? Try a lush garden location. Or, if al fresco photography isn’t your thing, consider a casual office setting or classic solid backdrop.

3. Wear something you feel comfortable in. Not a suit person? Then don’t wear a suit! Your awkwardness will come through in the photo. On a related note, wear something with sleeves. No one wants to look topless in their agent headshot.

4. Have a cropped version. Cropping allows you to almost completely eliminate any backgrounds or styling choices that may appear dated over time. Cropped photos are also handy to use on social media platforms.

DON’T


5. Use props.
Telephones, sold signs, glasses of wine…we’ve seen it all! Nothing says silly and unprofessional faster than an agent who feels the need to use a prop to catch your eye.

6. Abuse photo-editing tools. Of course we could all use a light touch-up from time to time, but proceed with caution. If you find yourself with a completely new hairline, glowing orange tan or blindingly white teeth, you’ve gone too far.

7. Strike a pose. You are not Madonna, nor are you a thespian. Prospects respond best to approachable headshots that indicate what their experience may be like if they choose to work with you. Select a natural sitting or standing position and act like yourself on your best day.

8. Include your spouse/children/pets… unless you’re some sort of husband and wife team that caters to millionaire tweens and their pampered pooches. Then by all means!

So there you have it: our take on taking really good headshots to use on your agent website and in your real estate marketing.

Keep in mind that there is an exception to every rule. If you have positioned yourself in a niche market, you may find a reason to do every don’t and avoid every do. The most important thing to remember is that your headshot is often your first impression—make it count!

Point2 offers lead generation and online marketing solutions for real estate agents and organizations worldwide.

For more information, visit www.Point2.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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15 Time-Saving Hacks for 2015

By Wendy Forsythe

Time is one thing we can’t get back. Once a minute has passed, it’s gone forever. Spending our minutes wisely will not only result in being more productive, it’ll also give us more freedom to focus on the broader spectrum of activities that bring us happiness and fulfillment.

Here are 15 time-saving hacks for the year ahead (in no particular order):

  • Upgrade your mobile device to the latest and greatest version. You carry it everywhere with you. You sleep with it. Invest in the latest device.
  • Use apps instead of websites. Apps are usually faster, provide a better user experience and are always available via that handy new smartphone you upgraded to.
  • Stop multitasking. Do and complete one thing at a time.
  • Use time blocking in your calendar. Block time not only for appointments and meetings, but prospecting and other business-critical activities. And don’t forget time for yourself. Exercise and emotional well-being need time as well.
  • Send shorter emails. If emails had character limits, we would all save enormous amounts of time.
  • Text more. It’s faster than email, and usually results in a faster reply.
  • Avoid voicemail tag by answering your phone. I know you can’t answer it every time it rings, but commit to answering it as often as possible.
  • Call people. It often takes less time than emailing them and then waiting for their reply.
  • Do the most important thing on your to-do list first every day. This time hack is an enormous energy saver. Once you’ve done the most important thing, the rest of your day will flow much more smoothly.
  • Have a to-do list and actually commit to doing the items on the list.
  • Check in on your social media accounts while you’re standing in line to pay for the groceries, get coffee, or buy lunch. Just a quick check-in a few times a day is all you need.
  • If you have to hold or attend meetings, limit them to 30 minutes. Most meetings don’t require the default 60 minutes typically allotted.
  • Set up filters on your email inbox. Use a filter to reduce the noise by sending newsletters, promotions and other noncritical emails that you can deal with later to a separate folder.
  • Wait in line less by doing more of your shopping online.
  • Learn more keyboard shortcuts.

Today we have to be equipped to work anywhere and everywhere. These time-saving hacks will help you stay focused on your overall goals.

Commit to making every minute count. Do you have any time-saving hacks?

Wendy Forsythe is the executive vice president and head of global operations at Carrington Real Estate Services.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

2015 Outlook: Constant Connectivity

By Seth Kaplan

Perhaps it’s just me, but I would be willing to bet that many of us within the real estate industry are having a hard time getting over the fact that it’s really 2015. The past seven years have been a very long road traveled for many, but yet, they’ve gone by in a flash. Mobile, largely regarded as the future seven years ago, is now the reality in which we all live. Feature phones are all but a thing of the past, not only because my mother has now adopted an iPhone, but smartphone penetration (over 72 percent as of March 2014) within developed markets is nearing maturity. So now that we all agree we’re living in a mobile world, where do we in the real estate industry go from here?

Now that almost all of us have converted to a smartphone, it’ll probably come as no surprise that all related sectors are booming: apps, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, social and music. Mobile-first media companies have even proven to be more valuable than some traditional media companies. For example, traditional media companies such as The New York Times, Gannett, Viacom and Comcast have a combined market value of only $180 billion compared to that of mobile-first companies such as Millennial Media, Pandora, Twitter and Facebook, which have a combined market value of over $239 billion. The use of mobile solutions is also disrupting many other large industries such as payments, banking and health and fitness—all of which are increasing rapidly and expected to continue to grow over the next three years.

Impacting all of this is the interconnectivity of additional devices that are now available to consumers, including wearables (watches and bands), smart TV’s and cars. With multiple screens, all of which keep us connected constantly, we’re becoming a new breed of consumer unlike anything any business has ever seen. Our expectation of what’s available to us—and when—is increasing dramatically. In addition, we’re coming to rely on this constant connectivity to shape how we make decisions. This can be seen in the daily increase in the use of health and fitness apps (up 62 percent from December 2013 – June 2014), which are helping to shape the eating and exercise decisions we make on a daily basis.

Consequently, the more connected we become—and the more we rely on this connectivity—the more information about us that’s captured and recorded. I certainly recognize why this is a scary proposition for many, but it could also prove advantageous for those who use it for good. Ultimately, constant connectivity combined with the information we can access is shaping the decisions we make, and the same can hold true for real estate purchases. 2015 will see a change in the traditional real estate search, one that combines constant connectivity with the vast amount of data available to help better shape the home-buying decision of today’s consumer. While mobile will certainly be a huge part of it, it will ultimately be driven by the demand of the consumer to have us help them shape their decision.

Seth Kaplan is president of MRE.

For more information, visit www.mobilerealestateid.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Cyber-Security Expert Offers 10 Tips to Safeguard Your Information

By Gary S. Miliefsky

We’ve all lost our identity at least three times, with more than 930 million records breached, lost or stolen to hackers and cyber criminals, says consumer advocacy non-profit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Why don’t we do all we can to stay safer online?

According to StaySafeOnline.org, more than a quarter of Americans say they lack the information necessary.

So, here it is – everything you need to know to enjoy the shopping experience without losing your privacy and identity or putting your children’s safety at risk:

  • Assume you’ve already been compromised. Whether it’s your baby monitor, your SmartTV, the Webcam on your laptop or apps you installed on your smartphone or tablet, your antivirus is not enough protection. It’s time to take those devices’ and apps’ privacy policies, and the permissions you grant them, much more seriously.
  • Change your passwords – all of them. Now. And do it as frequently as you can tolerate. Also, if you don’t want to change it often, then use any unique characters you can think of, such as a dollar sign ($) or exclamation mark (!), or replace an "oh" with a "zero" (0). This goes a long way in preventing attacks against your password.
  • Turn off wireless and geolocation services. Protect your smartphones and tablets by turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS, except when you need them. That way, if you are at a local coffee shop or in a shopping mall, no one can spy on you using nearby (proximity) hacking attacks and they can’t track where you were and where you are going on your GPS.
  • Assume most of your apps are creepware. Do you really need them? Delete all of the apps you aren’t using too often. Replace apps that ask for too many permissions and take advantage of too many of your privacy settings — like GPS, phone and sms logs, personal identity information – with similar apps that don’t.
  • Opt out of sharing your information. Opt out of every advertising network that you can. Visit the National Do Not Call Registry and register your smartphone and home phone numbers at www.donotcall.gov. If you use a Google email account and have an Android phone, even with your GPS off, it’s tracking your every move. (Log in to maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0 and see for yourself.) Go into your smartphone or tablet settings and turn this feature off. In your Android phone, go to Settings, then Location, select Google Location Reporting and set Location History to off. The same holds true for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iTunes. You need to find the location and privacy settings and turn off access under Settings, then Privacy then Location.
  • Your browser is a double agent – keep it clean. It is spying on you for advertisers unless you block and remove cookies and delete the cache frequently. In your web browser settings, delete your history, all cookies and passwords and the cache. You should do this frequently so you don’t leave personal information sitting around on your computer, smartphone or tablet.
  • Remove third-party Facebook plugins. Third-party plugins are mini applications designed to eavesdrop on your behavior in Facebook and possibly grab information about your habits within that social network. Some websites you visit will require you to log in using Facebook, and then you have to trust them to connect to your Facebook account. This is very risky. Read their privacy policy and make sure they are a legitimate business before you risk doing this.
  • Only shop on the websites of companies you already trust. If you don’t know where the merchant is located, don’t shop online there. If they don’t have a corporate address or are located in another country, it is risky for you and you may never see the goods you think you purchased. Also, if their shopping cart experience is not an HTTPS browser session, then everything you type in, your name, address and credit card information, is going over the internet unencrypted — in plain view.
  • Turn off geotagging – your photos are full of information. Twitter and Instagram as well as your iPhone will give away your location. Most people
don’t realize Twitter and Instagram both use geotagging for everything you send out. Geotagging stores the latitude and longitude of your tweet or image. Pictures you take on an iPhone usually store geotagging information, as well. The less information you give out about where you are located, the safer you are.
  • Don’t use cash or debit cards – use credit cards, wisely. Credit cards allow you to travel with less cash, and if you’re purchasing online, it’s safer to give your credit card than your debit card information. The same holds true when you visit your local retail outlet. The reason? If you experience identity theft, credit card laws allow you to keep all of your credit, with no responsibility during an investigation. With a debit card, your bank can tie up your money in the amount equivalent to the fraudulent transactions for up to 30 days.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

How Many Listing Photos Do You Need to Generate Leads?

At Point2, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to help our clients get the most out of their online marketing activities.

When it comes to marketing your listings online, we want to make sure you generate as many leads as possible, so we had our experts analyze the data from Point2 Homes to see how many listing photos you need in order to generate leads. Put this information to use in your own business to streamline your workflow and grow your business.

What is the optimal number of listing photos to generate leads?

A listing with 10 – 15 photos has the best chance of generating leads.

While too few photos (less than 10) will obviously not pique potential buyers’ interest, we also found that too many photos (more than 20) could potentially result in less leads as well. Why? Too many photos may answer a potential buyer’s questions, meaning there’s less incentive to contact the listing agent. Like any good sales pitch, you want to give enough information to interest people, but not so much that they don’t need to contact you.

How many listing views does it take to generate a lead?

It might depend on the number of listing photos you include. We looked at listings that had different numbers of listing photos, from zero to 80, to see how many views it took to result in one lead.

Listings with 10 – 15 photos get leads with the least amount of views required.

This reaffirms our findings from above: 10 – 15 listing photos is definitely the sweet spot for the average listing.

Is there such thing as too many listing photos?

By now, you’re probably wondering if having more than 15 listing photos is a bad thing that could negatively impact your views and leads. Our data shows this is not the case. But, at the same time, there’s no overwhelming positive impact from having more than, say, 20 photos.

Listings with up to 20 listing photos get just as much traffic as listings with 50 or more.

You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by keeping the number of listing photos you use to around 20. We’ve found that posting more photos doesn’t increase your probability of generating more traffic.

What’s your experience with posting listing photos? Have you noticed any trends that help or hinder your listings’ performance?

Source: Point 2. To learn more about online marketing and lead capture solutions for real estate agents, visit Point2.com or contact feedback@point2.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Top 15 Real Estate Apps to Blaze a Trail in 2015

By Patty McNease, Director of Marketing, Homes.com

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to nail down our plans for the new year. By now, real estate leaders have been in the throes of budget planning, evaluating expenses and trends, and strategizing to the hilt. During this process, we reflect on the successes and failures of the past year and determine tactics to operate more efficiently and economically to improve our bottom line. It’s also time to develop personal and business resolutions for 2015 that aim to streamline business processes and increase productivity. With that, there are a myriad of widgets and apps that can truly help real estate agents and brokers meet those resolutions.

During the 2014 National Association of Realtors Expo in New Orleans, Homes.com researched a number of apps and presented the top 15 that are sure to help agents and brokers optimize their marketing and productivity efforts. Below we have broken them down so that you can work smarter, not harder in 2015.

1. Pro HDR (iPhone/iPad | Android) – Listing photos are a significant component of marketing your properties. Snap pictures like a professional with the Pro HDR app that can turn property photos into high resolution masterpieces (up to 12 megapixels).

2. Storehouse (iPhone/iPad) – This free, award-winning app allows you to combine photos, videos and text into a beautiful story that you can share with your Storehouse community. A quick, easy and illustrious way to share a home’s story with potential buyers.

3. Phramed (iPhone/iPad) – A new photo collage app, Phramed allows users to arrange up to five photos, create a custom frame and share to your social networks. Another great app to showcase a property’s amenities!

4. GoPro App (iPhone/iPad | Android) – Get instant access to the GoPro channel and remote capabilities to all camera functions like previewing shots and sharing via social channels, text or email. For you DIY video aficionados, this one’s for you!

5. Nest Learning Thermostat (iPhone/iPad | Android) – This app is great for tech-savvy homeowners who can control their thermostat and receive notifications about emergencies like smoke, fire or carbon-monoxide risks right from their mobile device.

6. Pebble (iPhone/iPad | Android) – If you’re into wearable devices, the Pebble smartwatch app is a must-have. Customize your Pebble smartwatch with over 1,000 apps covering a wide-range of categories like notifications, fitness, daily use, tools and utilities, remotes, games and more!

7. IFTTT (iPhone/iPad | Android) – Rhymes with “gift,” this app, which stands for ‘If This Then That,’ automates services for small tasks between apps, or services. For example, if you make a status update on one social channel (a trigger), IFTTT will make sure that the action takes place on another app like reposting that update.

8. Carrot (iPhone/iPad) – Your virtual (and snarky) assistant has arrived! Carrot is a “to-do list with personality.” This talking app rewards you for completing tasks and berates you being a slacker. Real estate pros with resolutions to get things done next year will certainly appreciate this unique app!

9. Genius Scan (iPhone/iPad | Android) – Need a portable scanner? Look no further than the Genius Scan app that can scan your documents and export them as JPEG or multi-page PDF files right from your mobile device. This is perfect for agents and brokers who need to send time sensitive contracts, sales agreements or even hand-written notes on the go.

10. Waze (iPhone/iPad | Android) – Save precious driving time with the Waze app that gives you real-time traffic updates from drivers in your area. Get reports from your community about road closures, accidents, police traps and more from your mobile device and desktop computer.

11. Commute Time widget – Add value to your web site by embedding this commute time widget from Homes.com that allows your visitors to calculate a property’s distance from their office, school and other important locales.

12. Mailtracker (iPhone/iPad) – This app is like your secret agent for monitoring when and if people read your email messages. This tracking application monitors your email analytics so you can see when someone has opened your message, how many times the email was viewed, how long they viewed it, the recipient’s location information, and their device details.

13. Cloze (iPhone/iPad | Android) – Organize your social feeds and mail according to who matters most to you. This free app consolidates your relationships from social networks and email contacts, and tracks them by message, tweet, social post and job change so that you won’t miss an opportunity to connect with them and strengthen that relationship.

14. Dashlane (iPhone/iPad | Android) – This top-rated password manager is a must-have for improving your productivity. More than just a place to store your passwords, Dashlane offers additional room to save multiple logins, credit cards and other payment methods, receipts, and notes. It even includes an auto-fill feature for online forms so you don’t have to type in your personal information repeatedly. It’s sleek design, cloud syncing capability and alerts for potential security breaches also set it apart from the other players.

15. Slide Bureau (iPad) – Bring your content to life in eye-catching multi-media formats. Create listing presentations, property flyers, CMA reports and other marketing materials and share online as a slideshow, web page, PDF, JPEG or video from this easy-to-use iPad app.

BONUS: With all this talk about top-rated apps and the fact that buyers are using real estate apps during their property search, it’s only fitting that real estate professionals generate more exposure for themselves here as well. Make sure you have a new year’s resolution to beef up your mobile marketing strategy including a responsive design web site and mobile ads that target local buyers. Partner with Homes.com to enhance your mobile presence with a comprehensive suite of mobile marketing solutions!

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Professionalism Is the Key

By Marc Gould

When buyers are looking to hire an agent, what tops their list of criteria? According to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, not surprisingly, the answer is ‘honesty and integrity.’ And with statistics showing that over half of all business comes from either referrals or previous experience, good brokers know that professionalism is the key to growing their business. But how do you demonstrate and market your professionalism? How do you communicate your value proposition? Here are some ideas:

  • Follow your brand. Whether you’re an office of one or 500, you have a brand. The No. 1 role of a brand is to communicate your company’s values in a way that differentiates it from the competition. If you haven’t looked at your materials in a while, it might be time for a review. Ask yourself these questions: Are your materials conveying who you are as a broker, as a firm, as an organization? Have new opportunities presented themselves that might make a rebranding effort worthwhile? Review your business plan to make sure it’s speaking the same language as your brand.
  • Make sure your office is following you. You’ve spent significant time and money developing, testing and advertising your brand. Make sure your agents are taking advantage of that work by using the brokerage branding on their business cards, signs and other materials. Confirm that your office understands your brand strategy and uses the tools you provide to help convey that message.
  • Maintain a personal touch while leveraging technology. Customers want to be able to reach their agent, understand the transaction and know where they are in the process with ease. Take advantage of technology, whether it’s e-signature tools or the latest CRM software to help your agents provide state-of-the-art service. And make sure the human touch is there with follow-up phone calls or texts, customer satisfaction surveys and face-to-face interaction.
  • Communicate your value in your own way. Not everyone has to have a blog; not everyone has to tweet. If your real strength lies elsewhere, trying to fake it isn’t going to help you communicate your value. Understand that what you’re selling is knowledge, service and the value you and your firm bring to the deal over and above what the competition can provide. If that’s best presented through cold-calling, community involvement, or more traditional marketing channels, then don’t shy away from the tried and true.
  • Encourage lifelong learning through professional development such as designations and certifications. By committing to continued study, you and your agents are demonstrating a desire to provide a better class of service to clients. And the results bear this out: Surveys consistently show that agents with designations and certifications have higher incomes than those without. A great place to start is the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation. Not only will the training enhance the skills and knowledge of your office, an ABR® designation comes with membership to REBAC that provides specialized marketing tools and continuing education resources to leverage your skills down the road.

Professionalism is essential for growing your business. Understand yourself and what you’re good at, create a plan, work hard and be consistently customer-focused. Soon enough, you’ll be on the path to follow your colleagues in the REBAC Hall of Fame.

Marc Gould is vice president, Business Specialties, for the National Association of REALTORS® and executive director of REBAC.

For more information, visit www.REBAC.net.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Top 5 Tips to Win the Listing at Your Next Presentation

We recently polled ListHub Pro customers to learn how they prepare for listing presentations and what tips they would offer other agents to help them win the listing.

An overwhelming theme among the responses was the importance of preparation. Of those surveyed, 55 percent says they spend one to two hours preparing for listing presentations and 32 percent spent as much as six hours researching and preparing. According to the results of the survey, one of the first and most important steps in preparing for your listing presentation appointment is putting together a comprehensive listing presentation packet. ListHub Pro agents noted several items they found to be most beneficial to include in their packet.

Essential Items for a Listing Presentation Packet

  • Report containing new and recent activity in the MLS
  • Examples of print marketing materials (postcards, flyers, etc.)
  • eMarketing flyers with a list of all the websites where listings will be advertised
  • Examples of marketing reports that demonstrate the key performance indicators tracked during the home selling process
  • Information about the company or brokerage
  • References and information about the agent’s credentials and experience
  • Examples of technology the company uses to sell homes faster or more efficiently
  • Examples of contractual documents

High-Priority Agent Services

According to the 2013 NAR Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, there are four agent services where sellers place the highest priority. These services include, 1) helping the seller market the home to potential buyers, 2) pricing the home competitively, 3) finding a buyer for the home, and 4) selling the home within a specific timeframe. It’s important to keep these priorities top of mind and make sure you address each in your presentation to sellers.

The NAR study also found that reputation is one of the most important factors cited by sellers when choosing an agent. Including testimonials or a list of references within your listing presentation is a great ways to reinforce your reputation and create a sense of trust with the seller.

Importance of Online Marketing

  • 88 percent of those surveyed says showcasing their online marketing strategy to new clients is important/very important in helping them win more listings.
  • Nearly 60 percent says they use the ListHub eMarketing flyers or Seller Reports to showcase this strategy at listing presentations.

Finally, we present to you the list we gathered from our agent participants of the top tips to keep in mind for your next listing presentation. With these tips, you can impress your seller clients and WIN the listing.

Top 5 Tips to Win the Listing at Your Next Listing Presentation Appointment

1. Preparation. Spend time researching, preparing, and practicing your presentation so that you will be able to deliver it with confidence.
2. Competitive Edge. Demonstrate what you do differently than other agents. Everybody advertises online, but you should showcase what’s unique about your strategy including online activity reports, enhanced listings, full motion video tours, etc.
3. Technology. Express how you utilize new technology to serve your clients and sell their home faster. Provide demonstrations of key technology if possible.
4. Flexibility. Listen to the client’s needs first—they should be the one talking 70 percent of the time. The goal is to identify how you can best help the individual client, not to just run through an hour-long PowerPoint so make sure your presentation is tailored for each listing. Canned presentations will get stale!
5. Be Yourself! Include humor and personal experiences in your presentation. Clients want to work with agents they both like and trust.

One of the most important things to do after your listing presentation is follow up with the client. After delivering a listing presentation, 84 percent of agents followed up with the client within two days. 66 percent followed up with a personal phone call, 15 percent by email, and 6 percent by snail mail. Prompt follow up conveys to the client how responsive you would be as their agent—don’t miss this easy opportunity to win over clients with a simple phone call or email.

Interested in learning more about ListHub’s seller tools? Click here to learn more and then download a free eMarketing flyer for your next listing presentation appointment.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Making a List and Checking It Twice—Top Features Today’s Buyers Want

By Paige Tepping

For today’s buyers, finding that perfect home goes way beyond locating the ideal neighborhood that’s a stone’s throw from the office. With must-have lists that can range anywhere from a few items to those that are more than a mile long, real estate professionals certainly have their work cut out for them when it comes to finding buyers the home that’s just right.

While every buyer has their heart set on specific things they absolutely can’t live without, here are just a few of the features today’s buyers seek when looking for a place to call home.

Open Floor Plan.
Design wise, homes with an open floor plan are all the rage these days as buyers envision themselves spending quality time with family and friends without having to tear themselves away from the fun when it’s time to cook dinner or check on the children. A great way to ensure everyone’s involved in the same activity, open floor plans minimize the use of small spaces, creating a flow that extends throughout, a top priority for today’s buyers, according to Kathleen Daniels, a broker-owner in San Jose, Calif.

Ample Storage. “People tend to have a lot of ‘stuff’ they don’t want to part ways with,” says Daniels, who notes that storage space both inside and in the garage is crucial when it comes to keeping the home organized. From clothing to extra bedding and towels—and everything in between—sufficient storage is a must-have.

Flexible Living Spaces. Buying a new home to fit your current lifestyle every few years is not practical, but with flexible living spaces, homeowners can adapt their current digs to meet their changing lifestyle and needs. While a majority of today’s buyers may look at the dining room as wasted space, the addition of French doors can turn the area into a play room for the kids or even an office or extra bedroom for overnight guests. The possibilities are endless when it comes to reconfiguring your space so that it complements your lifestyle.

A Central Hub with Upgraded Features. As the heart of the home, the kitchen is one area that can’t be overlooked. As a central gathering spot for friends and family alike, today’s buyers are looking for top-notch kitchens that incorporate upgraded features and cabinetry, plenty of counter space and storage as well as a design in which every item is strategically placed. Even more appealing are large, open kitchens that incorporate granite countertops and energy efficient appliances, says Daniels.

Outdoor Living Space. A continuation of your indoor living space, buyers are all about the outdoor living space—whether it’s for entertaining or relaxing with a cup of coffee in the morning (or a glass of wine in the evening).

Energy Efficiency/Green Features. If there’s one thing today’s buyers are passionate about, it’s green living. From low-flow toilets and shower heads to programmable thermostats, Energy Star appliances and solar panels, green features aren’t going away anytime soon.

Technology Capabilities. As the industry trends toward smart homes that are equipped with lighting, heating and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely via phone or computer, it’s no surprise that technology integration is at the top of any must-have list.

We want to hear from you! What features are your buyers looking for these days?

View this original post on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Buyers Are Searching for Agents Online More than Ever: 3 Ways to Make Sure They Find You

By Patty McNease, Director of Marketing Homes.com

Not only are 90 percent of buyers searching online for their next home (NAR), but now according to a Google Consumer Survey, “two in three researched prospective agents extensively online prior to working with them.” These trends, coupled with the rise in mobile search and more Millennials making up a larger slice of the buyer demographic (Google Consumer Survey), make it imperative that real estate professionals invest heavily in their online reputation to connect with this audience.

Having a distinguished web presence is essential for real estate marketing today. This summer saw the highest amount of real estate searches online since 2008 (Google data). Eighty-nine percent of homebuyers search for homes via their mobile device, and 68 percent of them actually contacted a real estate professional based on their mobile search (NAR). Further, Millennials (18-34 year olds) are fully stepping into the housing arena and are twice as likely as 35–54-year-olds to purchase a home within the next year, and 83 percent reported that they will begin their formal search online more than six months in advance of the purchase (Google Consumer Survey).

Managing your reputation is at the heart of succeeding in any business, especially online. Consumers can’t work with you if they can’t find you or haven’t heard of you. Or worse, people have heard of you, but for the wrong reasons and choose someone else. Based on these trends, it’s clear that brokers and agents need to be more proactive when it comes to reputation management. Let’s explore three best practices to increase your online visibility so buyers will select you during their research.

1. Register your business on online business directories. Setup a profile on Yelp, Google, CitySearch and others with your contact information, web and social pages so that you’ll populate when buyers search for real estate in your local area. These sites also offer clients the opportunity to leave reviews and testimonials about their experience working with you which you can later promote within your marketing materials. Also, create a free agent profile on Homes.com to be included in the agent directory, and add your social channels and a video to increase your web presence even further.

2. Make sure your social media pages are firing on all cylinders. Stay active on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter to connect with buyers and sellers. Share relevant content with them – not just your listings and industry news, but material, especially photos and videos, that will present you as a local expert and genuine person who is passionate about your community.

Having a strong social presence and engaging in two-way conversations with your connections is a great way to network with others, especially when building relationships with millennials who spend three hours a day on social networking sites (Statista). Additionally, forty-eight percent of this age group spends more time watching videos than the average user (comScore). To that end, share videos that capture amenities that millennials value like the neighborhood, school district and high-speed internet-ready homes (Google Consumer Survey).

3. Provide helpful, educational content and resources. With fifty percent of all Millennials visiting real estate websites in July, including 36 percent who visited them on mobile devices (comScore Media-Metrix data), it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that many of them are first-time buyers. To that end, this would be a fitting opportunity to promote educational resources like a Home Buyer Guide or the First-Time Homebuyer Mortgage Checklist. Homes.com’s consumer resource library offers valuable tools that will guide buyers through the home buying process and leave you top of mind. Post quick tips on your social pages and write short blogs that first-timers can appreciate and highlights your expertise.

With two out of three buyers researching real estate professionals online, and most of them from mobile devices, you can’t afford to neglect your online reputation. Establish a strong online footprint and use innovative technology to help you keep up with it. Homes.com offers a comprehensive social media suite, Homes.com Social, which is specifically designed to help real estate professionals build an audience, increase engagement and protect your online reputation.

For more information on Homes.com advertising and marketing products, visit http://connect.homes.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.