Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Did anyone see this story in print yet?

DJ Homeowners Get Creative With Blogs In Making Sales Pitch

By Tara Siegel Bernard

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Despite the still-hot real estate market, some
homeowners are resorting to clever sales tactics to find the right buyer.

As national sales director of Ballentine Vineyards in Napa Valley, Mesha Provo knows the art of promotion. So when Provo, an avid gardener, decided to sell her home in El Sobrante, Calif., she wanted to showcase her masterpiece, from the arbor blanketed with wisteria down to individual blooms, with hopes of finding a horticulturally-inclined buyer. Since this would be hard to do through a traditional listing, she started a web log, or blog, detailing her garden's story through passionate postings and vibrant close-ups of her flowers, and eventually added pictures of the house.

The result? A gardener found her blog -- through a flyer put together by a traditional agent -- fell in love with the house, and ultimately paid $612,000 for it, or $43,000 more than the asking price.

"What the blog did was take a buyer, before he walked through my door, and sold him on my house," said the 53-year-old Provo, whose blog was located at gardenforsalehomeincluded.blogspot.com.

Though the Internet has already added a dimension to traditional real-estate listings -- with photos and floor-plan illustrations -- and provides another channel to list homes, blogging adds yet another scope, a way to tout intangibles in a more personal forum.

Take Alan Weinkrantz. "I was trying to tell a story about a home that had been well-cared for, well-maintained, has a lot of character and an interesting neighborhood," he said of his blog, which highlighted features beyond his Alamo Heights, Texas, home's four walls. Weinkrantz, who presides over his own public-relations firm, wrote about his great neighbors, the quality elementary school in walking distance, and the beauty of trying new wines on his porch.

However, right now, it appears that such blogs -- they're nearly 19 million overall, according to Technorati -- are best used as a complementary tool. Weinkrantz, who also posted a recent inspection report on his web log, recently sold his home through a traditional broker. He admits that it took an article in the local newspaper to bring any significant attention to his home diary, while Ms. Provo had her blog address on a flyer.

"The blog is a great low-cost, word-of-mouth marketing tool that can spread something," says Steve Rubel, a marketing strategist with CooperKatz & Co., a public relations firm in New York.

However, it's not always efficient, because it's not local. "You have to have many people, locally, talking about the blog" when dealing with a locally-driven business like real estate, says Rubel, who who focuses on setting up conversational marketing programs like blogs. "Right now, they are hard to find.This will have the greatest value when there are networks to find these blogs."

Real-estate brokers have also turned to these online chronicles for their own reasons, which range from drumming up business to creating a soap box where they can comment on the market, interest rates, or the mainstream media's take on the industry.

"Having a blog is an excellent way to get business," says John A. Keith, a
real-estate agent, primarily for buyers, with Coldwell Banker in Boston. He receives between 20 and 30 contacts a month through his blog, called Boston Real Estate Blog, resulting in about one paying client that he ultimately guides through closing. "That may not sound like much, but it is," he says, adding that it beats direct marketing and is "incredibly cheap" given the $8.95 a month

Lisa Maysonet, an agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York, said she received so many real-estate-related queries -- she can't even board the elevator in her own Manhattan building without fielding a few -- that she decided it would be effective to answer everybody's questions in a single forum.

"It almost grew out of a necessity," says Maysonet, whose blog is called City Vu at http://www.lmaysonet.com/cityvu/. "It's a way I can give them information without having to speak to everyone everyday."

It also positions you as an expert, she says, and enables her to draw on her 20 years of real estate experience and share her take with others. "It's like when you give out a business card," she explains, "You don't necessarily get a hit back (right away) but it's generating an intangible."

Setting up a blog -- whether it's for real estate, other business, or even
personal diarist purposes -- is easy to do. Google Inc. (GOOG) hosts a service called Blogger, www.blogger.com, which provides step-by-step instructions to create a web log free of charge. Six Apart Inc. offers a service at www.TypePad.com, which costs $4.95 per month for a basic weblog with one author. They also offer a service called Movable Type, which is geared for businesses, as well as other services (www.sixpapart.com).

Concludes Ms. Provo: "It's definitely the (wave of) the future."

-By Tara Siegel Bernard; Dow Jones Newswires


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I haven't see that, thanks for posting it. Keep it up.

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