April 30, 2005
PAYing our clients for their opinions
The Real Estate Cafe is redesigning it's main web site and we'd like to invite our clients and others to comment on some DRAFT text. Would the following three keywords and positioning statements make you want to work with us rather than one of our competitors?
The Real Estate Cafe partners with it's do-it-yourself, tech savvy clients and rewards them with unrivaled commission rebates. You can also pay for our services "a la carte" on an hourly and flat fee.
Knowledge is power and The Real Estate Cafe teaches its clients how to "beat the system" through educational seminars, blogs on important topics like the real estate bubble, and peer-to-peer communication through it's unique "Tipping Policy" where we PAY YOU for your opinion!
April 22, 2005
Blogs and Citizen Journalism in Real Estate
One of The Real Estate Cafe's first posts was in February 2004 fifteen months before Business Week's cover story today, in response to a debate among blog gurus at Harvard about where blogs would strike next:
"Despite the setbacks to Howard Dean’s first-of-a-kind Internet operation, the current discussion around the Blogosphere seems to be centered on when and where the next major impact point will be, and not whether the Internet will be an important player from this point on in the American political panorama.
...there is a sea change in the air, and some of the bulwarks of conventional control of the information stream are crumbling under the relatively free-form innovations from the digital frontier."
The February 2004 post continued, "This is where blogs might find an entry point in the real estate industry. As you know Ralph Nader and Steve Brobeck of the Consumer Federation of America both called the real estate industry a cartel more than a decade ago. One of my visions is a network of home buyers who post reviews of open houses and report on local market trends from the consumers' perspective. As the air comes out of the real estate bubble and the industry slides into a multi-year downcycle, home buyers will become increasing cautious and hungry for this kind of 'citizen journalism.'"
Fifteen months later, it's no accident that one of the Business Week articles featured Curbed.com, the leading real estate blog in New York if not the nation, because "[it] dishes the dirt the brokers don't." Explaining the popularity of his blog, founder and former Massachusetts resident Lockhart Steele told BW, "People trust blog posts more because they sound like e-mails from a friend." Since it's founding in May 2004, Curbed.com's traffic has soared to over a million page view per month.
April 17, 2005
Are lizard brains driving "irrational exuberance" in real estate?
The brain is hardwired to expect patterns to repeat themselves, says Harvard Business School professor Terry Burnham author of Mean Markets & Lizard Brains: How to Profit from the New Science of Irrationality, which may explain why many smart people still want to buy homes at irrationally high prices. Publisher John Wiley & Sons writes:
"In contrast to old-school assumptions of cool-headed rationality, the new behavioral school embraces hot-blooded human irrationality as a core feature of both individuals and financial markets. The 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to scholars of this new scientific approach to irrationality. ...The human brain contains ancient structures that exert powerful and often unconscious influences on behavior. This "lizard brain" may have helped our ancestors eat and reproduce, but it wreaks havoc with our finances. Going far beyond cataloguing our financial foibles, Dr. Burnham applies this novel approach to all of today's most important financial topics: the stock market, the economy, real estate, bonds, mortgages, inflation, and savings. This broad and scholarly investigation provides an in-depth look at why manias, panics, and crashes happen, and why people are built to want to buy at irrationally high prices..."
How should smart home buyers protect themselves? Make every single financial decision rationally, not emotionally, says Burnham. Analyze your own behavior, find out where your emotional weaknesses are, and act in rational ways to counteract them. Most economists believe that people are rational but over the past 20 years they have found that is not the case. People make all kinds of mistakes, driven by emotional non-rational factors whether they are evaluating stocks, bonds, or housing.
When asked by The Motley Fool if he would buy, sell or hold real estate right now, Burnham said, "Real estate is not a bubble, but it is overpriced. ...the reason it has gotten there is that people have been fooled by low interest rates." Burnham's bottom line advice in the radio interview today: "Don't buy, I say "hold" as I do in the book." Chapter Nine, entitled "Live in Your Home; Make Your Money at Work" includes a seven page subchapter on the housing bubble. You can view the table of contents, index, and reader reviews on Amazon.com. I haven't read the book or the section on the housing bubble yet but am eager to do so.
What's your take -- is the irrational exuberance in the housing market being driven by our lizard brains or something else?
Will mobloggers pop the real estate bubble?
Yesterday's conference on Grassroots use of Technology at MIT has reenergized my interest in moblogging in real estate. Will the prevalence of iPods, smartphones, and digital video recorders create a new generation of house hunters turned citizen journalists? Not if the decade-long, lemming-like rush continues to cause home buyers to view each other as competitors, is my guess.
But if the housing market begins to slide as real estate bubble watchers caution, buyers may look to each other for information about what is really happening in the marketplace rather than traditional real esate agents / listing agents who are obligated to get the highest price for sellers and continue to fan the flames of "irrational exuberance."
How will those peer-to-peer exchanges occur? Will those amatuer roving real estate reporters begin to post their own comments in writing, audio clips, or video clips to the web? Those are the kinds of questions I would like to explore in this discussion of "Moblogging in Real Estate."
In addition, I'd like to use the forum to experiment with my own attempts to learn each of the means of communicating above. I am particularly interested in experimenting with Podcasts and Videoblogging, and seeing how VR images can be incorporated into blog posts to give real estate consumers richer information than otherwise possible from look-alike listing sites published by over a million real estate agents nationwide.
Here's one attempt at posting a VR movie in Quicktime. Does it load on your site and are you able to rotate the VR image with left or right with your mouse? Need to learn how to make my videos load online... anyone else in the real estate community -- or any home buyers or sellers -- experimenting with moblogging?
April 12, 2005
Extreme Househunting: 5,000 Click Club
The self-sufficiency and perseverance displayed by some of The Real Estate Cafe's clients is simply amazing! This particular client, an out of state buyer, has viewed over 5,000 pages of MLS listings via our self-service "virtual office website (VOW). Needless to say, that would be an exhausting and expensive task if one of our agents were doing the work. Instead, the buyer does their own work, making the process more efficient and less expensive for themselves.
One of our goals is to invite our clients, and blog readers, to share their perspectives on the housing market, neighborhoods, and "extreme househunting" techniques they have developed on their own. As comments come in, we'll share them here so check back often. If you are already one of our clients, call us at 617-661-4046 or email RECafe@mac.com to find out how you can earn commission rebates by posting comments to this blog. True to the metaphor of a cafe, we call it The Real Estate Cafe's "Tipping Policy."
Wouldn't you love to talk to another home buyer who has looked at 5,000 homes online? That's the kind of peer-to-peer conversation The Real Estate Cafe is hoping to host online and off in 2005 via this blog and our upcoming series of educational and networking events. Stay tuned for more information.
April 05, 2005
Studies are finding that artists are an increasingly important part of a town's economic infrastructure, and people are increasingly moving to these small communities for their creative energy.
What is the #1 art town? Santa Fe, NM but there are a number of other appealing towns in John Villani's book, The 100 Best Art Towns in America. New England has three towns on the list of best small art towns, with populations under 30,000:
Provincetown, MA (ranked 3rd overall, ahead of Toas, Northampton, & Aspen)
5 college town area in central Massachusetts
Villani says New London, NH and North Adams, MA look like rising stars in New England. Another trend to watch are members of the creative class who are living in two art towns, six months a year. An audio clip of WBUR's interview today is online at Here-Now.org, and watch Villani's web site, ArtTowns.com, now under construction following the April release of the 4th edition of his book.
Wonder why Cambridge, MA did not make the short list? Our support for the visual and performing arts are arguably world class, but it's hard to think of our fair city as a small town, even if our population is under 100,000.
What's your nomination for the best art towns -- or more specifically, BEST NEIGHBORHOODS -- in Greater Boston or New England? If you are passionate enough about that location, would you be willing to lead of tour of potential home buyers to that town, neighborhood, or building; or alternatively, act as an informal "virtual" guide?
If you are one of our clients, you can earn commission credits by posting to our blog. Call 617-661-4046 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on The Real Estate Cafe's "Tipping Policy."
Best of Breed: Mapping programs
Looking for a satellite view of a property you are considering buying, driving instructions to open house, or need a way to communicate the value of your property's location to potential buyers? Google's new mapping program is as easy to use as it is beautiful. Simply beautiful both in presentation and implementation. Screen redraws, at least on my DSL connection, are remarkably fast and users can generate a link to a particular location with a single click.
As you can see below, the URL can be quite long, but easily linked to your own web site or marketing flier.
Generating driving instructions is just as easy, and the ability to show a satellite view of driving in structions from one point to another -- for example a new home to one's workplace -- is quite impressive.
April 03, 2005
Educating & celebrating "do-it-yourself" clients in real estate
Over the past decade, The Real Estate Cafe has had the privilege of working with some extraordinary home buyers and sellers who are not afraid of doing parts of their own real estate transactions, and who do extraordinary things in their own personal and professional lives, too.
To launch our new "FSBOs on Steriods" seminars and to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we will profile a number of past "do-it-yourself" clients through a series of "Do'ers profiles." Some of our baby boomer clients and blog readers will remember the original "Dewar's profiles" from the 1970's, or it's recent revival. The Real Estate Cafe's current and past clients are notable, too: one recent Cambridge client is building a "do-it-yourself" air craft in his garage, and another friend is one of the nation's leading advocates for "do-it-yourself" funerals.
What's the "do-it-yourself" movement got to do with real estate? That story will unfold in subsequent blog postings. Stay tuned to learn how you can save thousands of dollars in your own real estate transactions by doing some of the work yourself, and hiring professional help "a la carte" from The Real Estate Cafe's menu of services. If you are thinking of selling your own home, visit our step-by-step guide online or attend one of our upcoming seminars to learn how you can save money and save lives by "doing-it-yourself."