When I first started out in real estate, buyers and sellers hired real estate agents primarily because agents held the keys the information vault. Knowledge is power, and because agents had exclusive access to the MLS and other sources of information, consumers had to hire agents in order to buy or sell a home.

The Internet has changed all that, providing consumers with a self-serve information kiosk that's open 24/7. At any time of the day or night, consumers can visit Realtor.com and other real estate focused sites to learn the basics of buying and selling a home, search for properties online, use mortgage calculators to determine how much house they can afford, and so on. In other words, they can obtain some of the information they used to get from a real estate professional.

Because of this, the model for buying or selling a home has been completely flipped on its head. In the past, consumers had to hire an agent to gain access to information. Now, in their search for information, they are likely to discover the agent they want and ultimately hire. To thrive in today's marketplace, you have to be the agent who offers the most relevant and robust collection of information, and you must make that information as easy to find and accessable as possible, both online and off:

  • Create and maintain at least one website for yourself or your agent team. Visit RalphRoberts.com for a sample website.
  • Create and maintain at least one blog for yourself or your agent team. I have several blogs, including FlippingFrenzy.com, which is devoted to informing the public about real estate and mortgage fraud. I also have established a presence on ActiveRain and MySpace.
  • Use stealth websites to offer consumers information via email about neighborhoods and properties in your farm area. (A stealth website is one that is separate from your main website and is used to draw Internet traffic from people who perform searches for information about properties in your farm area.) You can use a stealth website to capture prospective client's email addresses.
  • Create a drip email campaign. A drip email campaign automatically sends a series of email messages over the course of several days, weeks, or months, to keep in touch with prospective clients without having to work too hard at it. The client will contact you when he or she is willing to buy or sell a property.
  • Host free workshops in your area. You can host the workshops at community centers, local libraries, churches, and so on. Consider offering workshops on how to buy a home, how to sell a home, how to obtain financing, how to buy or sell in a slow market, and what to do when you are facing foreclosure. You may even want to consider presenting workshops to local real estate investor and landlord groups.

Remember, information is power. Empower your clients and prospective clients in your area with the knowledge that you have gathered over the course of your real estate career, and you will quickly establish yourself as the resident expert on real estate. You gain credibility, which leads to trust, which generates additional leads and business. It may even open a host of new opportunities you had never imagined.

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