Monday, July 31, 2006

The Internet and Realtors - Make Love, Not War

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how the Internet is changing real estate. Back when word processors first made work easier and more efficient, some people refused to give up their trusty electric typewriters. While the rest of the business world moved ahead, they were typing and retyping, struggling with carbon paper and correction tape.

It’s the same with the Internet. For years, real estate agents and brokers guarded listing information and doled it out after qualifying prospective buyers. When the Internet started to make information available, some agents saw it as a threat and resisted using the new technology. But Realtors who could see the potential of easy access to listing information, those are the agents who are growing and thriving. In fact, because consumers are now doing a lot of the work themselves, these Realtors can concentrate on building relationships, creative marketing, and becoming valued professionals who can help sellers and buyers through the complex process of getting to the settlement table.

Brad Inman moderated a panel at Inman News' Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco last week. Inman said, "This morning a guy said to me…'It's not that the Internet is going to get rid of Realtors, it’s going to get rid of Realtors that don't use the Internet.'"

I love this quote! In this market that is supposed to be going down, my listings are picking up. I use the Internet extensively with both my web site and my blog. My active use of technology, combined with the personalized service that I give, equals a full book of listings and people waiting for me to work with them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How To Sell Well in Any Market

I've recently been asked what works to sell listings in today's market. For me, it comes down to a few simple but powerful practices:

1. Start by giving - make it easy for anyone to get information. This means that my web site allows any visitor to search all listings - not just mine - without having to give personal information first. Buyers can see what's available in the areas they are interested in. But savvy sellers also use this to see what's going on in their neighborhood. And then I make it easy for a visitor to get in touch with me by email or phone.

2. Be available - having the listing agent available to take every phone call saves time and aggravation for everyone. The person who knows the property best can ask a potential buyer the questions like "What is the most important thing you're looking for in a house?" Of course the listing has all the features of the property, but only the personal conversation can find out what matters to each buyer. And this can only happen if the agent is available to answer questions and book appointments.

3. Use technology - a computer cannot list or sell a house, but it can streamline the process in many ways. Have a welcoming web site that is easy to navigate and keep it up to date. Give people useful tools that will make the process easy for them. I've created these:

Buyers4YourHome - this page on my site allows people to tell the world what they are looking for in a home. People email me what they want, I put it on the site, and potential sellers can scan for a match. This has been very successful.
My Listings - every one of my listings has a separate page that a buyer can download, print, and carry with them.
My Blog - here I talk about what's happening in the Baltimore market but also have conversation-starters like my recent contest. To help raise interest in a unique property, I ran a contest asking for visitors to come up with ideas of creative uses for the building, an historic church that had been used as a gallery. The response was great!

With these and other techniques, I consistently sell well in any market.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How Do You Drive Business to Your Door?

In the San Diego area there’s a new program called They will give you a prepaid gas card with anywhere from $5 to $200 on it for acting as a moving billboard. If you’re willing to put magnetic signs on your car you can get some relief at the pump.

I wouldn’t do it myself, but it got me thinking. What new and interesting techniques are other Realtors® using these days to find business? Do you have advertising on your car? Have you upgraded your web site? How has the changing market in your area changed what you do to get your clients' homes noticed?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

June Home Sales are Up and Down

I saw a chart the other day that was good news or bad news – you could look at it either way. Being the TypeE personality I am, I still see good opportunities for both buyers and sellers in the current real estate market.

Here’s what the statistics showed for Baltimore County single family homes in June 2006:
  • There were 1,678 new listings – that was down from May.
  • There were 1,002 sales and contingent contracts – also down from May
  • The total inventory of single family homes for sale was 3,288 – up from May
The number crunchers compared June 2006 to June 2005 and found that:

  • The total number of houses sold was down almost 17% from a year ago
  • The average sale price was $315,802 – up from a year ago when it was just over $301,000
  • The average days on the market was 42 – a year ago it was 32 days

Now that your head is swimming with numbers, here’s what I think it means: The market has stabilized. There is more of a balance between people wanting to sell and buyers looking for a new home. Good for sellers – there is still a strong market, as you can see since prices are still increasing. Good for buyers – they have a better chance of submitting a winning offer on the right house for them.

The trouble with statistics is that they are a snapshot at a single point in time. By the time you read real estate statistics, the market has already changed, and what applies in one market is not true in another. Your best bet is to find a Realtor® you trust and work with that professional to sell your home. You'll end up with more money in your pocket and the confidence that you got the best deal.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Baltimore's Art Extravaganza

Every summer the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts pulls together painters, photographers, crafts people, dancers, singers, sculptors, and artists of every kind for a weekend of total art immersion. And this is the weekend – Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23. Artscape is mostly outdoors, and all the events are free!

There will be theater performances from puppets and improve comedy to Shakespeare. Music runs the gamut from blues and jazz to zydeco and classical; with three stages, you’ll find something to like whether you prefer hip-hop or Latin rock.

Visual arts are everywhere from sidewalks and medians to indoor galleries. Fine crafts makers come from all over the country to participate in the Artists Market, while film, opera, dance, and fashion events offer something for everyone. This year, one talented young singer will win the Baltimore’s Billie Holiday Vocal Competition – the finals are on Sunday as part of the Artscape celebration.

There’s plenty for kids to do, too, from the family art park to street performances and a Family Performance Stage for singing, dancing, drumming, and story telling. You can’t have a festival without lots of choices for food and drink, of course, so bring your appetite.

The one thing you probably shouldn’t bring is your car – there are pay-to-park garages in the area but some streets will be closed off, and driving in the area could be tricky. A better bet is to drive to one of the Light Rail or Metro stations and ride from there. Artscape is right on the Light Rail line at the University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal stop, and the State Center Metro station is very close as well.

No matter how you get there, you’ll be amazed and delighted at the Artscape experience.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Here’s a story about how you never know when a casual conversation will turn into a wonderful connection. This blog started in San Antonio last January while I was at the CyberStar® Summit. For three days I immersed myself in high energy multi-tasking, surrounded by the best of the best in the real estate business.

On the flight back to Baltimore I was working on my tablet PC as usual, reading through my notes, and I started chatting with the woman in the next seat. (The tablet is a great conversation-starter – better than a dog, and you don’t have to clean up after it!) She said she was going to visit her sister-in-law who has a cleaning business in Maryland. Of course I asked her name, and in a city of several hundred thousand, of course I know her sister-in-law. We met several years ago through NAWBO, the women’s business organization. With the tablet’s note-taking feature, I was able to have my seat-mate write her name and email address right on the tablet’s screen.

Six months later I heard from her again. She’d been thinking about looking for a another house, and she said she would move if she could find a good agent. Did I know anyone? Of course! I was delighted to put her in touch with the CyberStar in San Antonio, Christina Whipple.

You just never know when the person next to you will turn into a new client for you or a connection for someone else. It’s all about being open to the possibility – and the fun – of a conversation with someone new.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Baltimore Loves Outdoor Movies

Summer means outdoor activities in Crab Town, and they don’t stop when the sun goes down. At 800 Key Highway, just down from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is the American Visionary Art Museum. It’s a destination in itself, but on two more Thursdays – July 13 and July 27 - they add films to the art already outside. From 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. the AVAM shows classic films and the price is right…Free! Bring a blanket and a picnic, and enjoy “Strictly Ballroom” on the 13th, and “West Side Story” on the 27th.

Looking for something with an Italian accent? Then head to High Street on Friday evenings at 7:00 p.m. where you’ll find The Little Italy Open-Air Film Festival. This annual Cinema al Fresco is hosted by The Little Italy Restaurant Association during July and August. Dinner and a free movie – sounds like a great Friday evening. Click here for the full schedule.

Feel like an old-fashioned drive-in movie? Head over to Eastern Avenue where, for 50 years, Bengies has been a fixture. They show triple features on Friday and Saturday nights, and boast the biggest movie screen on the East Coast. It’s a blast from the past for sure.

It looks like a wonderful weekend coming up – warm bright days and cool evenings. Get out and enjoy it!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Moving with Children

Families often choose to move to a new home during the summertime so their children can feel at home in the new place before school starts. It makes good sense to give kids the chance to settle in before taking on the challenges of a new school, no matter what their ages.

My very special clients, Keith and Kim Holmes, shared their tips for making the move easier on your children. Here are a few of their ideas:
  • Most important – LISTEN. Children will give you all kinds of signs. Take care to be in tune with their feelings, fears, and concerns.
  • Be sensitive to their wishes. You will have hour-on-hour of “new house” discussions, and there will be times when they just don’t want to be involved.
  • Make sure to involve them, especially in decisions that affect them. Let them choose carpet color and paint for their room. For younger children you can offer several choices you like and let them choose their favorite; older kids can have more latitude. Ask for their advice on things like a new mailbox or trashcans for the new house.
  • Give them a timetable to help them understand when the move will take place. When you know the date for sure, tell your kids, and circle it on a “new house” calendar. Then plan activities and events they can participate in leading up to the big day.
  • Take your child to the new house as often as possible before the move so it becomes a familiar place.
  • Always talk about the move in a positive way. Share information but be careful that you don’t overload your child with too much information. Help them see the fun in the move.
Selling your house and buying a new home is stressful even when it ‘s a wonderful move for everyone. Helping your children to be comfortable with the move will also take some of the stress off you.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

You Can’t be Bored in Baltimore

Summers in Baltimore are full of opportunities for indoor and outdoor fun. The season’s warming up, and this holiday weekend finds the city in full swing.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is the place to be for the next few days. Of course there are fantastic fireworks on Independence Day, but that’s just the culmination of a day-long celebration. Come enjoy the street performers and bands at the Harbor Place amphitheater, stroll around for tempting food choices, and find a great spot to watch the fireworks - orchestrated to music!

The Museum of Industry is well worth a stop, and another good vantage point for viewing the fireworks. They’ll have kids’ activities and you’ll learn about some of the fascinating firsts that Baltimore claims. And for something a bit different, head to Middle Branch Park for their Waterfront Jazz and Arts Festival.

Suppose you’d rather see fireworks out in the country? Then head to Oregon Ridge in Baltimore County for the annual Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts. Bring your picnic baskets and folding chairs to enjoy your favorite patriotic music and, of course, the 1812 Overture for the rocket’s red glare fireworks finale.

Get out and celebrate – it’s our country’s birthday!