Category Archives: WA Realtors

Posts by Sam DeBord in Washington REALTORS® Magazine

Defensible Business Strategy for Uncertain Times

This article was originally published in RE Magazine:

Defensible strategy for real estateThe speed with which our world is changing seems to be quickening. Whether technological, political, or economic, the forces that surround the way we live our lives and run our businesses are shifting swiftly.

This environment can be exciting and frightening when trying to run a stable business with a predictable income stream. As real estate professionals, we know there is no such thing as a “normal” year or a “steady” revenue model. But building in some insurance can reduce uncertainty.

What can we focus on to secure the core of our businesses when new tools and models seem to attack our value proposition from all sides?

The answer is often clouded by the frenetic activity in industry media. Bots with artificial intelligence are answering buyer inquiries. Tech startups are buying properties sight unseen with automated valuations. Investment capital is funding companies who list properties with new and unheard of commission models.

They all miss the REALTOR’s most defensible and foundational asset: personal relationships.

The answer is obvious with a bit of reflection. There is no technology that will steal away your neighbor whom you helped replace her mailbox. There’s no texting service that will have a draw stronger than your monthly happy hour connections. A personal call and conversation with a friend-of-a-friend about his son’s recent graduation will always trump an automated purchase offer from the new “I buy ugly houses” guy.

There’s a reason we have coaches, classes, and conferences to remind us of these things. If every REALTOR heard it one time and focused on growing a sphere for the rest of his/her career, we’d all be building the strongest businesses possible. We are human, though—we get distracted. That’s easier to do today than ever.

Every chance we get to remind ourselves is a good time to re-focus our efforts on building human relationships.

So here’s just another reminder if you’re feeling unsettled about the future of your business: connect.

Call, email, get toe-to-toe.  Schedule it. Without a system, it won’t work. If it’s not repeatable, it’s not a plan. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a business.

It’s not flashy, but there’s also very little barrier to entry. Identify your system for connecting with more real people, and put it on your calendar. Find your wheelhouse. Whether it’s networking, chit-chatting, volunteering, cold-calling, praying, or happy-houring, put the value into your sphere that they give back to you.

For the REALTOR who is concerned with what politicians, technologists, disruptors, and the economic winds of change have in store for the real estate market, this is the path to some peace of mind. You can’t control which billionaire takes a stab at your livelihood next, but you can be sure you’re building up your interpersonal defenses. That’s concrete, it’s straightforward, and it provides some certainty in an uncertain occupation.

Your defensible business advantage is your people. Support them and they’ll do the same for you.

Sam DeBord is Managing Broker for Seattle Homes Group, President of Seattle King County REALTORS, VP of Strategic Growth for Coldwell Banker Danforth, and 2018 VP-Elect of Government Affairs for Washington REALTORS. His team sells houses and condos in Seattle and Bellevue.

3 Steps to Professional Quality Listing Videos From Your Smartphone

This article was originally published in WA Realtor Magazine:

Creating quality videos for your real estate listings can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.  While the technology continues to get better and the prices keep coming down, most of the time it’s not financially feasible to create a high-quality video for every listing you take.

That may all be changing very quickly.  New smart phone video stabilization capabilities are for the first time letting us put together a handful of tools right on our phones, and create property listing videos that look good enough to professionally represent our companies, and our clients, online.

Step 1: Get a professional introduction graphic and closing graphic.  To create a quality video with a strong call-to-action for agent contact, the company’s logo, branding colors, and contact information should come at the beginning and the end of each video.  You can get these created quickly and inexpensively by a local designer or an online vendor at Fiverr, 99designs, elance, etc.

Your introduction graphic should showcase your company’s name and logo.  Your closing graphic should emphasize your phone number and website.  Make sure they look attractive and the details are correct, as you’ll be using these with all of your videos going forward.

Step 2:  Download the Hyperlapse app from Instagram.  Here is the fun part, but this isn’t about being social-media savvy or playing with new time-lapse tricks.  The Hyperlapse app is free (only for iPhone so far), and it has the best video stabilization we’ve ever seen on a smartphone.  You can literally jog down the street, taking video with your phone in your hand, and Hyperlapse will stabilize the video image to an extent that it almost looks like you were walking a video camera on a dolly.  One review called it “a $15,000 video studio in a free app.”

Now, go to your listing, walk at a regular pace through home, and shoot a home tour.  Make sure the lighting is good when you start the video, as the phone’s light sensors will lock in at your video’s start point.  Narrate if you’d like to (it’s not necessary at this point), and feel free to break it up into multiple videos.  Each time you save a Hyperlapse video clip, simply move the speed slider down to 1X, and it will save a regular-speed video on your phone with great stabilization.  Take a number of clips.

Step 3: Download the Videolicious Pro app.  Videolicious has been around for a while.  It’s an oustanding app that allows you to select multiple images, videos, music, and voiceovers, and meld them all into a seamless video right from your phone.
What it had been missing, until now, was a way to create steady videos on the smartphone so that the finished product looked like a business-class video.  With your saved Hyperlapse videos, you now have the necessary content already loaded on your phone.

Get a subscription to the Pro level of Videolicious (about $5/mo) and you can have your own logo replace theirs on every video.  You’ll also get access to background music libraries for your videos.

Now, simply open the app up, select your intro graphic, your Hyperlapse video clips, and your closing graphic.  You can edit each video segment as short or as long as you’d like from within the app.  Save the combined video segments, add music, and produce the video.  Add a voiceover and personal video message if you’d like from the “Tell Your Story” feature.  You can then upload the video directly to YouTube from the app.

Here’s an unofficial feature tip that can make the production process much simpler:  Produce an entire listing video from multiple graphics and clips, and save it, but skip the “Tell Your Story” voice over function at first.   This way you can focus on the timing of the graphic and video clip transitions, without trying to speak over it at the same time. You’ll be saving a full listing video with no audio to your phone.

Then, start the process of creating a video all over again, but this time only select one clip–the full listing video that you just created.  Now, use the “Tell Your Story” function, and you can voice over the entire video at once without distraction.  You can add music at this point as well.  By splitting the process up into two video creations, you will have much smoother narrations for your videos.

(See the video in this Realtor Magazine article)

Sam DeBord is Managing Broker of The Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth.  He serves on the Board of Directors for WA REALTORS® and Seattle KingCounty REALTORS®, as well as writing for Realtor.com, Inman News, and the Seattle P-I.  You can find Sam and his team at SeattleHome.com.

Revving Up Your Real Estate Ride

This article was originally published in WA Realtor Magazine:

As REALTORS®, we spend more time in our cars than most professionals.  Our vehicles are our mobile offices, our client concierges, as well as our everyday “get the kids to school” buses.

At times we get so busy that we start to neglect the details on our “real estate rides”.  Anyone who has written a real estate contract or focused on branding their business knows that the details separate the average professionals from the great ones.

Your Vehicle is Your Business Suit–It’s Your Brand

Clients see us far more often in our cars than they do in our offices.  Every marketplace is different, but consumers make assumptions about our style and professionalism based on how we present ourselves.

In one market, a Ford F-150 pickup might be the most comfortable vehicle for the local consumer, while in another, a luxury sedan or SUV might fit into the neighborhood better.  The point is not necessarily how new or expensive the car is, but how it presents you as a professional and how your clients view it.

Show Your Clients You Value Their Time

We’re all busy.  Running between appointments and throwing three car seats into the trunk isn’t easy.  Sometimes we just don’t feel like we have the time to clear the dog crate out of the back of the car before picking up a client.  It’s tempting to think, “They’ll understand.  We’re all busy.”

A great speaker I  heard recently had a very blunt rebuttal.  Showing up unprepared for a client tells them that you don’t value their time.  You didn’t schedule in the extra 15 minutes to be presentable when you came to meet them.  This is your business meeting, and you wouldn’t show up in flip flops and a torn t-shirt.  Don’t let your car make that impression for you.

Plan Ahead, Feel More Confident

I know some REALTORS who buy the newest model of vehicle every year.  I envy them.  For the rest of us, it’s not difficult to be a little bit more prepared and present ourselves in a confident and professional manner every time.

First, have a system.  Get used to “leaving the office” 10 minutes early, and then making sure your car is prepared before driving off.

Have a case of bottled water in the trunk.  Don’t leave it there.  Bring a few up front for every client.  They won’t ask for it, and you probably won’t remember to offer it, if it’s not within reach.

Have a long list of showings?  Plug them all into your GPS before leaving if you’re not 100% comfortable with every location.  You can plan the entire route and never need to touch the GPS the rest of the day.

Buy a small dust-buster type of vacuum cleaner and keep it in the car.  Can’t remember to keep it charged?  Buy a small power-inverter for the car as well and plug it into the cigarette lighter.  You can charge it while you’re driving.

Do you sit in the same car after going to the gym?  Do your pets get transported in it from time to time, or do you take your kids to the Taco Bell drive-through?  Think your clients can’t smell it?  You’re wrong.

Have a set of leather wipes and use them religiously.  Get a can of non-offensive pet odor spray for the back of your vehicle.  Make your pet stay in the back of the vehicle–seriously.

Even if your vehicle is an older model, take the time to work on the details.  Saying “It’s old so it doesn’t look great anyway,” won’t change your clients’ opinions of your image.  Buy a quick headlight buff-out kit, and spend 20 minutes with it.  It will take 5 years off the car.  Get a full detail job a couple of times per year.  Buy some tire spray and shine it up.  Put in some new floor mats.

Revving up your ride will not only make your client’s physical experience better, it will make you feel better as you do your job.  External image may be a shallow way to judge a person’s value, but that’s the business we work in.  Just ask yourself how much value we put on the curb appeal of a home.  Get a system in place, plan ahead, and enjoy the extra confidence when you’re back out on the road.

Upgrade & Modernize Your Branding…$100 at a Time

This article was originally published in Washington Realtor Magazine:

“Fake it ’til you make it.” While not everyone loves the saying, the underlying message is one of value. For the small business that’s new to an industry or reinventing itself, finding ways to look like a top-tier outfit without the marketing budget to match is the key to presenting a consistently high-quality image to clients and maintaining a lean expense sheet.

Luckily for us, today there are a vast number of companies online offering products that allow us to brand, market, and differentiate without having to create our own marketing department. Presenting an outward image of a sophisticated real estate agent, team, or brokerage just takes the dedication to define a brand, and then work with vendors like the following to consistently propagate that brand across all of your marketing channels.

$100 (or Less) Image Upgrades

Your Domain Name: $12/yr

Your company website at johndoe.bigbrokerage.com isn’t doing you any credit. Get a real domain name ($12 at Google Apps for Business). You can register JohnDoe.com, DoeRealEstateTeam.com, BestCityHomes.com, or any other branded name at apps.google.com.

Company-Branded Email: $5/mo

No more emailing your clients from an @gmail.com or @aol.com address. While you’re registering your domain name on Google Apps, set up a branded (bestcityhomes.com) email address. Now, when you email your clients, you’ll still be working in the gmail interface, but they’ll see john@bestcityhomes.com in their inbox.

Logo: $20-$100

If you don’t have a logo yet, take your company name over to fiverr.com, and have a couple of designers give you some options. Tell them specifically what you’d like, and if you have a preferred color scheme. For about $20/each you can get some creative logos in a large-scale printable format. If you’re looking for even higher-end design options, try 99designs.com. Take the time to get this right. All of your further marketing themes will begin with your logo and color choices.

Company Website With Modern Design and IDX: $99

Now, get a website with a modern look and your own custom IDX/property search. Websitebox.com is one option. It’s $99, one time, with no ongoing fees. If you need phone support, pay the extra $99 for the first year. Pick a theme with a consistent color pattern to your brand/logo. Once you’ve branded the site with your new logo, you won’t be embarrassed to put your website on your business card any more. Bestcityhomes.com will look like you’re web savvy, and won’t cost you a dime going forward.

High-quality graphic business cards – $70 for 500

Most agents have a white business card with a little colored logo from their brokerage and black text. This is fine, but it’s not exactly promoting your personal brand. The difference in price for getting a full-color, glossy, front-and-back card with stunning logos and imagery is minimal. You can create your own cards at Vistaprint.com from the many templates they have, and upload background images of your local city, your logo, etc. If you want to go even further, go back to fiverr.com or 99designs.com and ask them to create a specific business card image for you. Don’t forget to put your website on your card. Both sides of you business card become a billboard for you brand, and are much less likely to get tossed in the trash.

Consistency – Free

Once you’ve found your branding niche, make sure you use it everywhere to reinforce your organization’s image. Postcards, letters, yard signs, and all of your online media can now all share a consistent color, logo, and theme. You’ll feel just a bit more confident when you hand out that business card, your budget won’t be stretched too far, and you clients will be impressed.