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Technology is Changing the Role of the Real Estate Agent

Technology is Changing the Role of the Real Estate Agent

103692870-GettyImages-486060175.1910x1000It may be hard to conceptualize, especially for first-time home buyers or those yet to embark on buying their first home, but 15 years ago, the real estate market was a different beast, information wise. When records used to be buried in file folders, it put buyers in a much different place than they are today, able to access detailed property records on their smartphones within minutes.

“Before, you spent a lot of time doing information gathering, and collecting, and response,” says Jeremy Wacksman, Chief Marketing Officer at Zillow. “The internet really opened the doors. Agents are freed up to help get the deals done. But now they have to be agent, negotiator, price setter, and a community resource.”

Wacksman sees technology shifting the role of real estate agent from an information arbiter to a local market expert and service provider (“It’s not about the data; everyone has the data now”), while brokers need to better leverage technology to help their team become responsive, active experts for their clients.

While there’s always been some frustration over the work of certain agents, demands have only become more pronounced when ever-present technology lets everyone do their own research. Many in the industry feel success is about reacting to evolving client expectations, and adapting as technology changes the buyer-agent relationship.

“Clients today are much more knowledgeable,” says Tamir Poleg, CEO and founder of Real, an app that allows agents to ditch the conventional brokerage model. “They do online research, know what they’re looking for, and know the neighborhood. I understand the frustration people have working with agents who can’t provide the services they expect, then collect a hefty check. They key is for agents to be more responsive, understand better what the client wants, and justify the money that they’re getting.”

download (1)The availability of data, an established market norm for years, requires agents to be on their best games, says Michael McGrew, treasurer at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and CEO/Chairman of McGrew Real Estate on Lawrence Kansas. Consumer’s ability to educate themselves is a net positive, he says, but there’s still an important role for agents, especially when it’s time for financing.

“It’s one thing to go online and get curious,” he says. “It’s another thing to look at financing options. People realize they can learn the alphabet and language, but they aren’t necessarily fluent.”

While technology is disrupting numerous industries the idea of making a massive, infrequent, and consequential purchase such as buying a home without the help of a trained agent still scares many buyers, according to Wacksman. If recent stats showing the dearth of for sale by owners transactions is any indication—according to NAR stats, 87% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker, a share that has steadily increased from 69 percent in 2001—it’ll be a long time before the human element is taken out of real estate. But that doesn’t mean tech isn’t changing how that relationship works.

McGrew feels technological automation and standardization aren’t necessarily right for the real estate industry, when every property is unique, but feels there’s a lot of room to integrate new technology into the buying and selling process (“all of us in this business have to be committed to making it work better.”) The National Association of Realtors is a big investor in Second Century Ventures, a company that funds startups in the real estate industry.

Wacksman believes new technologies, such as video and VR tours, as well as programs such as DotLoop (an e-signing service Zillow acquired for $105 million last year that takes much of the paperwork of real estate transactions online), will streamline the process even further. Technology-and-Real-EstatePoleg believes the as tech takes away barriers to information, the real issue is responsiveness and service. Technology will continue to provide more access to information, and agents and brokers need to continually be more responsive with clients. He envisions a time when bots become a tool to constantly respond to buyer request for updates and information.

“It you look at 2000 compared to today, the percentage of people using real estate agents is increasing,” says Poleg. “If someone said a robot could do your surgery, would you do it? Technology can replace a lot of things in a lot of industries, but real estate agent isn’t necessarily one of them.”

 

Sights and Bites: What to Eat While Touring Maui, Hawaii

Sights and Bites: What to Eat While Touring Maui, Hawaii

F3RK60 Mama’s Fish House Restaurant. Ho’okipa Beach Park. Maui. Famous Mamas Fish House with palms and beach in Maui Hawaii. Definitely

 Mama’s Fish House Restaurant. Ho’okipa Beach Park. Maui. Famous Mamas Fish House with palms and beach in Maui Hawaii.

Central Maui

Most trips to Maui start here, at the Kahului Airport, but visitors often rush through this area on the way to their oceanside accommodations. There are many things to discover in Central Maui, like the lush, green valley in Iao Valley State Park, shows and exhibits at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, historical tours at the Sugar Museum, or charming small-town shops in Wailuku.

Classic food option: The plate lunch is a Hawaiian staple meal, consisting of a portion of meat accompanied by sticky rice and macaroni salad. Da Kitchen in Kahului features plate lunches with huge portions of local favorites like loco moco, chicken katsu, and kalua pork. After browsing the shops of Wailuku, you can stop for lunch at Stillwell’s Bakery & Café. Enjoy some soup and a sandwich with the locals while being tempted by the desserts. Anything behind the display-case glass is good, but don’t leave without trying one of their famous cream horns.

Trendy food option: One of the best values on the island is lunch at the Leis Family Class Act restaurant. As part of the UH Maui College Maui Culinary Academy, the restaurant is run by students under the direction of chef instructors. On Wednesdays and Fridays, when school is in session, you can get a four-course meal on par with the finest restaurants on Maui for a fraction of the price. The menus have themes, like Asian, French, and Moroccan, that rotate throughout the year. Plus, it is BYOB, so you can bring a bottle of wine to round out the meal.

Unexpected food option: You might not expect to find the best shrimp on Maui at the side of the road, but locals and knowledgeable tourists line up at the Geste Shrimp Truck at the Kahului Harbor for their shrimp plates. The shrimp comes in a variety of preparations and is served with a generous helping of rice and crab-macaroni salad. If you like heat, the spicy pineapple shrimp plate is a perfect combination of zest and tropical goodness. You can sample all sorts of local fare every Saturday at the Maui Swap Meet at the University of Hawaii Maui College, where food vendors are joined by booth vendors selling all sorts of Maui crafts and gifts. Make a beeline for the Donut Dynamite stand before they run out of their Lilikoi Cream-Filled Malasadas. Be sure to taste some of the unique tropical varieties of Jeff’s Jams and Jellies before deciding which ones to take home. The swap meet is also the perfect place to pick up some of the freshest fruits and vegetables on the island.

South Maui

The South Maui coast, lined with picturesque beaches, is one of the sunnier and drier parts of the island. You will find some of the finest restaurants and resorts in Wailea, as well as some spectacular golf courses. Maalaea Harbor offers the chance for up close exploration of marine life at the Maui Ocean Center and is a starting point for whale-watching tours or snorkeling trips with crystal clear views at the Molokini crater. The winding ocean road to La Perouse Bay takes you to several great beaches and snorkeling sites and ends up at the edge of Maui’s last lava flow.

Classic food option: You will find “shave ice” in many locations on the island, but Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice in Kihei stands above the rest with its thinly shaven ice and mouthwatering flavors made with natural, local ingredients. You choose up to three flavors or try one of their favorite combos like Sunset Beach (guava, mango, and passion orange). You can even get your shave ice on top of ice cream or haupia (coconut pudding). If you are looking for a good breakfast, the Kihei Caffe near Kalama Park serves up some of the best on the island. This is a great spot to try the Hawaiian breakfast classic, loco moco, a beef patty on white rice, covered in gravy and topped with eggs. If your tastes lean toward the sweet, the French toast can be topped with island goodies and comes with a delicious coconut syrup.

Picture of pastries at Stillwell's in Maui, Hawaii
Stillwell’s dessert cabinet houses delectably sweet treats.

Photograph by Andrew Coleman

Trendy food option: Ka’ana Kitchen in the Andaz resort in Wailea features locally grown Maui ingredients in every dish. Enjoy the watermelon salad and the ahi tataki, then take a short stroll to the popular Ulua Beach. Monkeypod is up the hill from the ocean resorts of Wailea and offers a casual atmosphere and great food, along with an impressive wine list and 36 beers on tap. They have nightly specials of their wood-oven pizzas, but it is hard to resist the Bourgeois, with lobster and wild mushrooms and a white garlic sauce. Be sure to save room for their famous cream pies.

Unexpected food option: It would be easy to miss Coconut’s Fish Café if it weren’t for the crowds. Don’t let the line scare you—staff members at the order counter move fast, and the famous fish tacos with 17 different ingredients are well worth the wait. Despite being inauspiciously located in a strip mall next to a grocery store, Cuatro in Kihei offers an upscale dining experience in a cozy atmosphere. It’s BYOB, so you can grab a bottle of wine to enjoy with their award-winning spicy tuna nachos with truffle aioli and cilantro pesto.

West Maui

West Maui, with the historic town of Lahaina, was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Today, this area is bustling with resorts, shops, and restaurants, and it is the epicenter for a host of oceangoing activities. You can explore the rich history of the area along Front Street in Lahaina or head out on the water for whale-watching or a day trip to the island of Lanai. Kaanapali and Kapalua offer world-class resorts and golf courses, as well as scenic coastal views with great hiking options.

Classic food option: Merriman’s is the quintessential elegant Hawaiian restaurant set on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The views attract diners for pupus and drinks in the large seating area that extends to the ocean from the main restaurant. Happy hour runs from 3 p.mdownload. until 5 p.m., but you won’t want to leave before seeing the sunset. The focus of the menu is regional Hawaiian cuisine featuring local ingredients. On Wednesdays, catch an early meal here and then head to the nearby Napili Kai Beach Resort for a slack-key show from the masters of Hawaiian music. For a more casual meal, Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina offers authentic local food in an open-air setting at a reasonable price. You can find tasty dishes featuring elements of the many cultures of Hawaii accompanied by two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.

Trendy food option: Pacific’O in Lahaina was early to the farm-to-table movement and was the first restaurant on the island to establish its own farm: O’o Farm in Upcountry Maui. The beachside location is the perfect place to have a drink just before sunset. The Pacific Rim menu has local fish delivered daily accented by local ingredients (there are meat and vegetarian options as well). The beautifully presented coconut mahimahi and hapa tempura with ono (wahoo) and ahi (tuna) are as beautiful as they are delicious. Star Noodle, located at the edge of an industrial park, serves a variety of noodle dishes and shared plates, each with a gourmet twist on a local favorite. This is a great place to order several different plates and share. Make sure to stray beyond the noodles and try some of the other dishes like the steamed pork buns or Vietnamese crepes.

Unexpected food option: Poke, a staple of Hawaiian cuisine, consists of bite-size chunks of raw fish seasoned with everything, spicy and savory, and when you find good poke, you keep going back! For this reason, it is a delightful surprise that a grocery store in Lahaina offers some of the best poke on Maui. The poke at Foodland Farms in Lahaina is well known for its selection and taste. The friendly staff offers generous tastings so you can decide if you want to go with something traditional or try some of their more exotic flavors like the sweet chili jalapeño. Although Maui is best known for its seafood, there is a long history of cattle ranching on the island. Teddy’s Bigger Burgers at the Lahaina Gateway shopping center uses 100 percent ground chuck for its award-winning burgers. Everything is prepared to order, so sit back and enjoy the wait.

Haleakala and Upcountry

There would be no Maui without volcanoes, and Haleakala and the surrounding area offer a unique alternative to the sun-soaked beaches below. Most visitors to this part of the island head to the top of the volcano for views of the island and the otherworldly cinder-cone crater. The high elevations around Haleakala are the agricultural center of the island and offer plenty of other things for visitors to discover, including botanical gardens and visitor-friendly farms and ranches. Make sure to pack a few extra layers since the temperature is often cooler at the top!

Classic food option: The Ulupalakua Ranch Store is one of the best places for lunch in Upcountry. The farm has been in operation since the 19th century. Inside the store is a small deli where you can order grilled sandwiches with meat from the ranch. Popular menu items include the elk burger, the Maui Cattle Company beef burger, or the Kalua pig served on a torta roll. You won’t find anything fresher and all of the meats are free of hormones and artificial ingredients. If you are wondering where to stop for breakfast after watching the sun rise from atop Haleakala, the Kula Lodge has a menu that matches its terrific views. The macadamia nut pancakes with coconut and maple syrups are a perfect way to warm up after the sunrise visit.

Picture of tacos in Coconut's Tacos in Maui, Hawaii
A coveted plate at Coconut’s Tacos looks ready to be devoured.

Photograph by Andrew Coleman

Trendy food option: You will find the cheeses from the Surfing Goat Dairy in stores and on menus all over Maui, but a visit to the farm is the best way to understand what makes this cheese so special and delicious. Take a tour to learn all about the operation and feed and milk the goats. The highlight here, in addition to seeing the goats stand on a surfboard in their grazing area, is the ability to taste a variety of the award-winning cheeses. After finding your favorites, you can purchase some to go for a beach picnic later on. If spirits are more your speed, the nearby Ocean Organic Vodka runs tours and tastings at its farm and distillery. Make sure to look up from your drink to enjoy the sweeping views of the valley below.

Unexpected food option: Yes, Maui has a winery. MauiWine, formerly Tedeschi Vineyards, was established back in 1974. While waiting for their first grapes to grow, they experimented with pineapple and released a Maui Blanc pineapple wine a few years later. They now produce a variety of wines made from grapes, pineapples, passion fruit, and other fruits. You can sample the wines in the tasting room, housed in the former guest cottage of King David Kalakaua. Back down in Kula, stop at the Alii Kula Lavender Farm for their gourmet picnic lunch tour. After touring the farm and learning about the 45 different varieties of lavender and how they can be used in different products and foods, enjoy a delicious lunch including lavender-infused dessert. You can pick up other lavender delectables in the gift shop, including spices, teas, and even dark chocolate. Follow your lunch with a tour of the Kula Botanical Gardens to experience a tropical paradise on the slopes of the volcano.

The Road to Hana

The east coast of Maui is lined with lush rain forest, dramatic ocean vistas, and countless waterfalls. The Road to Hana is the scenic drive that winds its way through this wild part of the island. Its more than 600 hairpin turns and 50-plus one-lane bridges take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Maui. Hana itself is a small town rooted in Hawaiian traditions. Just beyond Hana, you’ll find the easternmost end of Haleakala National Park, including the Pools of Oheo and the Pipiwai Trail hike to Waimoku Falls.

Classic food option: You’ll pass Mama’s Fish House at the outset of the Road to Hana, and at some point you will want to stop in. Mama’s is not just a meal, it is an experience. The grounds, dotted with palm trees, overlook the North Shore. Although you can’t see the sun set from this side of the island, it is worth getting here before dark, as the sky becomes illuminated as the sun goes down and the view from Mama’s is the perfect backdrop for your Hawaiian vacation photos. If you get there early, start with one of their tropical drinks in the bar. The menu lists the names of the local fishermen who brought in the seafood that day. Everything on the menu is excellent, but some of the classics include the Tahitian ceviche with lime and coconut, the macadamia-nut-crusted mahimahi stuffed with crab and lobster, and the Polynesian black pearl dessert. Even the almond-scented towel at the end of the meal is a treat. For a more casual lunch or dinner, stop by the Paia Fish Market in Paia. Locals and tourists share the communal bench seating to enjoy the popular fish sandwich and other fresh offerings.

Trendy food option: Most visitors will do the Road to Hana as a day trip, and there are limited choices for food along the route. A good option is to stop in the town of Paia in the morning and pick up a picnic lunch for later in the day. Mana Foods is the best natural-food store on Maui and offers a great variety of picnic options. The Hana Bay Picnic Co. and Kuau Store are other options for stocking up on food and drinks before the long drive.

Unexpected food option: There isn’t much of a restaurant scene along the Road to Hana, but there are many markets selling fruits and baked goods. If you can, hold out for Aunty Sandy’s on the Keanae Peninsula. She has been running this stand for 30 years, and the banana bread is the best you will find along the route (and maybe anywhere).

The Positive Side of a Negative Review

The Positive Side of a Negative Review

Reviews play a key role in a buyer’s selection process. A total of 70% of Americans look at reviews before they make a purchase, according to an American Lifestyles report. Those customers are looking at all types of reviews─even the negative ones. (You probably do the same.)

In fact, buyers who seek out negative reviews are 67% more likely to convert to a purchase than the average consumer, according to a Revoo study. Those highly engaged buyers stay on pages longer and view nearly 4X as many products as the average visitor because they’re conducting extensive research.

Why Bad Reviews Can Be Good

The thought of getting negative reviews makes many businesses nervous. However, negative reviews can be a good thing.

Critical reviews generate interest in your company. For example, we know that G2 Crowd users click on the less-than-positive reviews two-and-a-half times more frequently than positive ones. (Full disclosure: I’m the CMO at G2 Crowd.)

You might think that’s not the kind of attention you want to share. However, 68% of people trust a company’s reviews more when they see bad ones mixed in with the good. That expresses the reality of most products─not every product is good for everyone. And it provides your company the opportunity to evaluate your perceived weaknesses and address them.

Critical reviews can provide valuable insight. When reviews are attributed and authentic, they help you build trust and engagement with your prospects. A recent Harris study found that 18% of people became loyal repeat customers after they received a brand’s response to their negative feedback.

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The perception is that brands that engage with customers after negative feedback are attempting to work with their customers and address the issue. A lot of the time those issues are actually a communication breakdown and are easily fixed.

A sincere response can win over more than just existing clients. People were 186% more likely to buy a product after they saw a brand respond to a customer who misused or misunderstood the product, according to Bazaarvoice. Those same new customers were 92% more likely to buy after seeing the company offer to refund, upgrade, or exchange the product.

The following tips can help you use negative reviews to create happy, engaged customers.

  • Respond. Read all reviews, even bad ones. Give yourself time to digest the information and investigate the issue or feedback. It’s ideal to reply within 48 hours. Be polite, and try your best to provide information to help resolve the issue.
  • Thank the customer. For every customer that complains, 26 don’t. Negative feedback is like a free consultation. Whether your customer is irritated about subpar customer service or a clunky software interface, his or her comment gives you an unbiased glimpse into what’s not working, and that’s worth a thank you.
  • Apologize. Even if you don’t think you or your team did anything wrong, tell all displeased customers you’re sorry that they’re unhappy. Avoid canned statements, and respond directly to details in customer posts.
  • Make it right. Offer to fix or replace a defective product, demonstrate how to use the product correctly, or give the customer a chance to connect an individual or team. If you’ve made changes because of an ongoing issue, such as fixing a bug in your software, give specifics.
  • Follow up. Check in with customers by phone or email to see how everything’s going and try to get ahead of any issues in the first place. Send satisfied customers a link to review their purchases. With your gentle encouragement, the customer most likely will engage with your sincere and appropriate efforts.

Bad reviews might be upsetting, but think of them as real insight into what is working and not working. And when an individual is engaging with your negative review, he or she is more likely to be a motivated buyer.

Remember that not all products are one size fits all. That’s what makes us all (and our products) unique. When you and your team respond thoughtfully and appropriately to critical feedback, your company ultimately wins the day.

Now that you understand how negative reviews influence the purchasing process, you may be more concerned that your product does not have a balance of good and bad reviews. The solution to that problem is simple… Begin encouraging your customers to review your product on third-party review sites. It’s the evolution of the purchasing process. Embrace transparency and reap the benefits.

June Is National Home Ownership Month

June Is National Home Ownership Month

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Some Highlights:

  • Paying rent is not a good investment, but owning is a great way to start building family wealth.
  • Not only does homeownership allow you to provide your children with great education, but you can also decide whether or not your child grows up with a pet.
  • Owning a home provides you with tax benefits while also providing you with more living space to move around in.
How backlinks are important for Real Estate Sites

How backlinks are important for Real Estate Sites

Backlinks are one of the most effective tools used by SEO marketers to increase a webpage’s rank in search engine results. It helps your business’s blog or website to stand out from the rest when potential customers are searching for information and services which you can readily provide.

So what are backlinks?

realtor SEO google real esate

Realtors and SEO

Backlinks are inbound links (to pages from your company’s website) from a blog, webpage or a document other than your own. When users click on the link they are directed to your site.

Search engines like Google use backlinks to determine a webpage’s popularity and page rank. The more your site has, the higher your company’s name will appear in search results.

Why are backlinks important for realtors?

Unlike other sectors, realtors create relationships with clients based on trust and having valuable information. Working in real estate requires establishing your brand with good quality references. Backlinks are your references on the Internet.

Before search engines were used, backlinks were the primary mode of web navigation. And although we now have services like Google, Bing and Yahoo, people still tend to rely on other people and sites for information and references.

 

People who visit real estate websites are looking for quality information which they can trust. If your site has been referred to on other media, then potential clients will be more inclined to build a relationship with you.

When your company’s name and link appears on a other blog or website other than your name, that means your site has good, valuable content and is considered worthy by others. Popular posts which are shared and linked to on the web are also considered worthy by search engines like Google and help boost the webpage in search results. 

Google only increases the page rank of a business’s webpage it it is backlinked on quality sites. The search engine company favours sites which other people on the Internet are talking about and referencing to your. If your business and services are mentioned in a relevant context it is considered worthy. On the other hand if your business is linked in unauthoritative sites, it could hurt your page rank.