James Kastner and his team of 4 other agents make up District Residential, an agent team that’s part of the Slate Properties brokerage. Prior to signing on with Slate, James spent 12 years in San Francisco where he founded a real estate marketing and consulting services company.
He sold the company and moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for one year, before, on a whim, choosing to relocate to Washington D.C.
When he started comparing the digital marketing capabilities between the coasts, he discovered a huge opportunity as the established D.C. brokerages weren’t marketing well at all. In fact, marketing largely consisted of offering a lock box and leaving black-and-white printouts from the MLS on the kitchen counter of the seller’s home.
Not only does James have a great website – check the site as it gives ‘the nod’ to the popular Netflix show, “House of Cards” – but he and his team go a step further by creating custom websites, including the floor plans, for every listing they manage. They also provide powerful brochures than have more in common with a sleek and stylized 12-page catalogue than they do a traditional real estate pamphlet.
His team also creates the furniture staging experience with high-quality furniture owned by the brokerage and even bring a housekeeper to ensure that everything looks polished and inviting by the time of the first open house. All of this happens in 7 days or less.
Where did all these efforts get him?
James went from $0 to $30 million in just over a year and a half. He even made the Washingtonian Magazine’s Top 100 list this year for best real estate agents. This list is based on both sales volume as well as personal reputation.
Building a Winning Team and Brand
When James came to D.C., he was heavily recruited by other brokerages, including Compass, which had recently moved into the area and started acquiring smaller brokerages while promising technology, apps, and marketing resources.
When he was deciding between Compass and Slate Properties, he quickly realized that Compass would own any branded content that they created on his behalf. This would lead to a situation in which he’d be creating a business around their brand, and if he didn’t want to have all that work go to waste, he’d be forced to stay with Compass for the balance of his career.
So, he opted instead for a boutique brokerage, Slate Properties, where he could create his own brand.
Excited, he now knew he needed an online presence equivalent to the large destination sites and digital brokerages, like Redfin and Compass.
His research led him to iHomefinder and MarketBoost.
There were several places where James could have gotten market stats and nice website graphics, but he needed to do more if he was going to compete against Compass. He needed something that would showcase him in a top-notch light and support his marketing activities.
MarketBoost gave him the ability to register clients for specific content and automatically send market reports, including recently sold homes, inventory levels in the area, and recent price changes. This way, clients who have already purchased can receive relevant content about their home and neighborhood.
This contrasts with the traditional “farming” method, in which agents will send direct mail to the same 500 people for 30 years. James knew, however, that everyone has different needs, and the lack of personalization could harm an agent’s personal brand.
MarketBoost also made it easier for James to define and create niche content. He doesn’t need to send a D.C. market update to everyone when he can send highly personalized content, instead. So, now, when they close on a home, the agent can stay top-of-mind with highly relevant market reports. In brief, MarketBoost provides the following:
- Automated report generation – MarketBoost gives James the ability to register clients for specific reports and automatically send them. This way, even people who have already bought a home can receive relevant content. That means he can focus his efforts on people ready to buy and sell and leave lead nurturing to MarketBoost.
- Custom market creation – Defining markets is tricky in D.C. For example, Capitol Hill is technically in Old City, but the actual boundaries aren’t well understood. MarketBoost maps neighborhoods, providing site visitors – even those relocating to the city – with a firm understanding of the local area.
- Niche marketing – James created nearly 50 markets. Each of these markets leaves consumers with the explicit feel that James and his team fully understand the local market. The site shows how quickly properties sell, if they sell over-ask, and how much inventory is on the market. James also adds a custom write-up for each of the 50 markets. This provides site visitors with a solid understanding of the local market – even though he’s only been selling locally for 3 years.
In just a year and a half, James took these tools and created a great team that is focused on long-term success and growth. MarketBoost empowered James and his team to take advantage of the huge opportunity that was open and waiting for him in Washington D.C.
We don’t have to sell you on the importance of adding strong visuals to your real estate listings. As real estate professionals, you know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and directly contributes to the emotional decision making process of making a home purchase.
Many of us spend hundreds of dollars on companies that can produce virtual tours, or empty our budgets on expensive professional equipment so we can showcase our listings. Not every home we list requires that kind of technological investment, but all of them will require engaging, attractive visuals.
The technology landscape has changed, and people no longer want to jump in the car and drive to see 10 random homes in a day. (Neither do we.) The modern consumer relies on the convenience of viewing homes online at their leisure. Your challenge as a real estate professional is to make your listings stand out from the rest without breaking the bank.
Well, thanks to Facebook’s new 360 feature, you can do that for free from your mobile device. You can give tours of exquisite home features, neighborhoods, yards, and so much more. And you can do it in minutes from your mobile device.
With Facebook 360 you can now place your perspective clients in the center of the action, ensuring there's something to see and experience at every angle.
Create a story with your photo that encourages your followers to explore your property the full 360 degrees.
See our Live Facebook Example (You may have to be logged into Facebook to view it properly)
If you need further convincing on how cool this feature is, check out the Facebook 360 post of Manhattan from Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook.
How to Create a Facebook 360 Image
There are several ways to create an effective Facebook 360 photo. You don’t even have to buy elaborate photography equipment. You can simply start shooting with the panoramic mode on your compatible mobile device.
However, we found that this option could be glitchy. Sometimes the photo would be recognized as a 360 image, and sometimes it would upload as flat, panoramic photo. To avoid this glitch on both Android and iPhone platforms, we recommend the following process:
Open the app on your mobile device and click the camera icon found in the bottom right corner.
Stand in the middle of the area that you want to capture. Point the camera at the center of the dot and pivot in a 360-degree circle.
Save the photo to your device by clicking the orange checkmark. Your image will be saved on your mobile device.
How to Upload Your Photo to Facebook
Now that you’ve captured the perfect image that will show off your latest listing, it’s time to make sure it is properly uploaded and displayed on your Facebook account.
Open Facebook (log into your administrator account)
Within the Facebook app, decide where you want to share your Facebook 360 photo. Will you share this tour on your personal page, agency page, or in a Facebook group? The good news is that Facebook will allow you do all the above. Share away! This is your chance to really showcase your property.
Go to the section to create a post as you would any other status update.
Upload your photo to Facebook. If Facebook recognizes the image as a 360-compatible image, it will display a globe symbol on the photo like the one below.
Tell your audience all about your photo tour, and voilà: you’ve created your first 360 image on Facebook.
Property Shooting Techniques
Anyone with a smartphone can start taking and promoting 360 photos on their Facebook account. You can make sure that your images stand out from the rest by using some of the following techniques:
- Start the shoot at the least eye-catching point – It’s possible that the first and last images won’t stitch up 100% correctly, which can be very noticeable. Make sure the high points of the picture come out perfectly by starting and stopping on less important points in the room.
- Move the camera slowly –Avoid blurry images at all costs. Take your time. I can’t stress this enough. Slow down. If you move too fast, your photos will not turn out right.
On a related note, if you’re in a place with a lot of high contrast, wait a few seconds for the brightness/contrast to auto adjusted before you move to the next orange circle.
- Pivot around the lens of the camera – You should not be the pivot point for this picture. The lens of the camera should be the center point and you should rotate the camera around that fixed point. It usually helps to put a mental marker on the ground and make sure that the lens always stays directly above it.
Also, note that your lens is not the center of the camera as the application might make you to think. The lens is usually located at top of your phone, so keep that in mind as you rotate around the pivot point.
- Use the undo feature when necessary – You can retake a shot that is not turning correctly or doesn’t look right. (You can only undo the last picture, though, so, if I haven’t said it enough: go slow!)
You’ve learned how to use to show off your new home listings. Sharing flat photos with your Facebook audience is a thing of the past -- the future revolves around interactive pics. Think beyond the photos typically used in your marketing and make your listings stand out from the competition.
Real estate agents are no longer the single, solitary gatekeepers of real estate information. Technological developments that empower buyers and sellers have forced significant changes on the industry. The agents and brokerages who adapt to this new, technology-rich paradigm will thrive and continue to continue to see success.
Real Estate Technology for Homebuyers and Agents
15 years ago, the real estate market was a different place. If a homebuyer wanted information on a home, an agent would have to dig it out of their files and walk them through the listing.
Now, things have changed. Buyers can find detailed real estate information with a quick search on their smartphones. Large, consumer portals like Zillow opened this door. They provided information and data comparisons for anyone to see, empowering consumers and changing the way real estate transactions happened.
The simple ability to search for homes at their leisure gave homebuyers more freedom and control than they’d previously had. And with that newfound freedom, buyers and sellers developed an expectation for this level of convenience and independence.
Technology has changed for agents and brokers, too. Now that homebuyers do much of the early explorations on their own, modern agents have found other ways to provide value. It involves using technology to connect with potential buyers, automatically nurture their leads, and build effective relationships.
It Starts on The Website
Even individual agents and smaller brokerages can offer the detailed MLS information through their websites to provide the experience that homebuyers expect. An IDX website allows agents to offer:
- A user-friendly property search with multiple search options
- Interactive map searches for those who prefer a visual approach to home discovery
- Property galleries where agents can feature new listings or recent price drops
- Automated systems to feature active listings through the MLS
These tools help agents and brokerages keep potential homebuyers on the website and interacting with the listings. But it can go even further, and you can more easily turn those visitors into valuable leads with proven lead capture features.
These real estate websites can make it easy for potential clients to save listings and searches and then sign up to receive email alerts when new listings match their criteria.
MarketBoost, then, allows agents to keep in touch with all these new contacts by sending automated listings content, starting drip email campaigns, and otherwise making sure they know about new open homes, new listings, prices changes, and other important market reports.
As the agent continues to update the website with the newest, most current information on the area, it will help establish them as the undisputed local expert.
In the modern market, the most successful agents are those who can use these types of website tools to turn real estate information into practical and actionable advice.
Investing in an Edge
As more brokerages start to adapt to this evolving marketplace, they have started investing more of their resources into the technology their agents use throughout the buying and selling process.
This has, in fact, become one way that brokerages are recruiting and retaining more agents. When it’s clear that they will have a range of tools for lead nurturing at their fingertips, they’ll know that they have the support of the brokerage.
Tools like MarketBoost and OmniPress give agents an edge over the competition. They make it easy to capture more leads and get detailed reports on what those potential homebuyers searched for, what they viewed, and what actions they took on your website.
This kind of technology can help save time and money while keeping in touch with all their leads and highlighting their expertise in the local markets.
Many brokerages immediately jumped on the technology bandwagon, but soon found that some of their tools and apps didn’t mesh with others. The most effective tools in this tech-rich market should easily integrate with the systems already in place at the brokerage.
iHomefinder’s solutions were designed to work effectively with a variety of third-party apps, from Top Producer and IXACT Contact to Follow Up Boss and FiveStreet. This way an agent can forward leads from the website to other systems the brokerage is using without any problems.
This kind of integration also gives agents the ability to add their leads’ IDX website activity to the CRM. They can then automatically add the leads in the CRM to the MarketBoost report subscriptions.
Agents will have the ability to manage lead aggregation and routing while automating email and web content for lead nurturing.
Technology and Accessibility
Agents who have fully adapted to the modern real estate market do more than make real estate data available to homebuyers. While real estate information is readily available, the most successful agents are those who can use it to address the concerns of their clients.
Homebuyers are more empowered than ever before. New technologies have opened the world of real estate to them, but not completely. The door may stand open, but it’s the modern real estate agent who will show them in and help them understand the potential of what they’ve discovered.
Technology isn’t just about gathering new leads and correlating data. It’s about finding new ways to become the trusted advisor on the important real estate decisions.
We're excited to announce iHomefinder's industry-leading IDX system for agents and brokers is available to members of Greater Augusta Association of Realtors® (Georgia and South Carolina).
Members can choose from iHomefinder's unique range of products to engage more leads and close more business:
- Add to existing websites with Optima + MarketBoost™ | Learn more >
- Get ready-to-use IDX websites with OmniPress + MarketBoost™ | Learn more >
- Empower entire brokerages with Broker Enterprise License | Learn more >
Contact us today to talk with a product specialist.
In 2005, Brian Barry, began working with Jason Crouch at All East Bay Properties. The company was just opening in Emeryville, California, right across the Bay from San Francisco, and Brian had the opportunity to work with them from the start, serving as the marketing and technology manager.
Now, with a team of only five, they are one of the top real estate offices in town, specializing in condominiums and rental properties.
In a typical year, they sell roughly 30 properties with a topline revenue of $20 million. They attribute their success to consistently drawing in new website visitors and repeat clients with their extensive local knowledge of the East Bay real estate market.
The Evolution of Brian’s Website Promotion
Brian’s team started by investing in social media marketing to complement their regular marketing techniques (such as sending postcards every 2-3 months and regular email marketing). Then, with his background in web design and some search engine optimization (SEO), Brian was able to help the agency rank first in the search results for the search query: “Emeryville real estate.”
Later, Google’s algorithm changed and their page dropped a few spots, so Brian began looking more into social media marketing. Brian was fairly new to social media, but he saw how it could add value to his real estate business.
Over the past few years, they have maintained a blog that is rich with infographics sourced, in part, from their local MLS. Each of these blog posts are heavily promoted on their social media channels.
Brian also created and launched a Facebook ad campaign. As a result, they have received more online exposure, facilitated online interactions, and further established themselves as a local real estate market leader. In fact, over the last few years, their Facebook followers have grown to 5,500.
Now, with solid website and social media traffic, he just needed something that would enhance his website with the same functionality as larger brokerages and destination sites. He chose iHomefinder and MarketBoost to provide these tools for his website.
Making the Move to iHomeFinder IDX’s MarketBoost
Brian and his team immediately improved their ability to manage their listings with iHomefinder’s responsive IDX. MarketBoost gave him an advantage in the area because it provided visitors with a wide range of information about sold and open property listings as well as price changes. They couldn’t provide visitors these services in the past, but this gave them a chance to develop deeper online engagement with their potential leads.
These tools turned his website into a significant source of leads, and the team capitalized on it by using the lead setting that requires registration after conducting two property searches. Brian can then offer those leads Market Reports via iHomefinder’s MarketBoost, which includes detailed information about the local market.
The All East Bay Properties’ team employs a unique method of reaching out to these potential clients by creating markets defined by the specific building rather than a geographic area. Clients love the hyper-local marketing and return to Brian’s website again and again as the detailed market reports provide insights not available from other brokerages.
Brian and his team created 12 markets, which will increase in the future. The current markets are all condominium complexes or rental properties where they have amassed a significant amount of local knowledge over the years.
With iHomefinder’s IDX on his website, Brian’s team was able to get more traffic to their site and generate more leads and repeat visitors.
Adding iHomefinder’s MarketBoost to their website provided significant value to the brokerage:
- Solidify their reputation and image as local real estate experts. Brian and his team have gained the trust of sellers, buyers, and landlords who turn to them to rent and manage their properties. With MarketBoost, they are well-positioned to build upon this trust by providing relevant content to their new and past clients.
- Provide a means to nurture leads. For years, sellers and buyers have leveraged the internet to gain market knowledge prior to engaging with real estate agents. Brian and his team leveraged the power of MarketBoost to ensure clients always received the desired information directly from them (instead of the big portals). This keeps them ‘Top-of-Mind’ when the client is ready to transact.
- Save valuable agent time. By providing insights from the local market to their potential clients, his agents can free up more of their time to interact with clients much closer to transacting.
Brian is very pleased with the detailed local market information available through MarketBoost. He has established All East Bay Properties as the local real estate experts, and this had led to their growth in both first-time clients and repeat customers.