Instagram for Realtors



Instagram is a great tool for showcasing photos of your properties, work environment and the surrounding community. With 150 million users, you have the opportunity to vastly increase your potential client base. Like Pinterest, it is completely picture based, with text limited to hashtags and descriptions of your shots. So, first things first: if you’re going to post photos on Instagram, sharpen your photo-taking skills. Learn how to photograph a property, what to capture and what to avoid.

Why Instagram for Realtors? It allows you to engage with users on a more personal level. Here at HouseHunt, we have “Workout Wednesdays” and “Fashion Fridays” as themed photo days on our Instagram. Create fun, themed days of your own (or steal ours) in order to spotlight your office culture. Post those alongside photos of your properties and pics of community hot spots and you have yourself a very diverse, fun and informative social media platform. Still not convinced? Other advantages of using Instagram include the ability to create cover photo collages for Facebook, use filters to give your photos different effects and note the locations of your photos with Photo Map.

If you’ve never been on or used Instagram before, here is a quick introduction:

Instagram can be accessed online or downloaded as an application to your Android or iPhone. You can create an account for free and cancel it at any time. Once you log on, you can connect your account with other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. This allows you to follow people that you’ve already deemed “friends” or follow on one of the other sites. You can also browse through random pictures, like them (by double clicking or tapping) and follow other users using the explore tab on the application. Add hashtags (#keywords) to your photos to garner more views and come up in search results for people looking for that specific keyword. For example, if you post a listing photo of a modern, one story house in La Jolla, California, you could use the following hashtags: #home, #onestory, #modern, #design, #lajolla, #california, #beach.

As with most, if not all, social media sites, engaging with your followers and other users is essential. Follow your clients and other people or businesses you find interesting, like your followers’ photos, and leave meaningful comments on photos you genuinely enjoy. Engagement is a great way to stay in front of your clients. Once you’ve closed a deal, continue to like and comment on their pictures. This will keep you fresh in their minds, lead to referrals, and remind them you’ll be there for their next sale.

Last but not least, it’s important to catch the eye of your Instagram audience. Rather than always following the rule of thirds, try different framing techniques. Adopt interesting angles to make your photos more striking and use various filters to give them different effects. Create collages with multiple photos when you can’t decide on just one, and play with hashtags to see which ones garner your photos the most attention.

If you haven’t noticed yet, the team here at HouseHunt is a little obsessed with this platform—we’ve come to know it inside and out, which is why we’re so keen on sharing our experiences with Insta (yes, it has a nickname) on our blog for our readers. Did we miss anything? If so, please feel free to leave any more tips or recommendations below!

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San Francisco’s Holy Homes



Unusual homes are perfect for out-of-the-box buyers. Sometimes showing spaces that can be converted into one of a kind homes is just what a creative buyer is looking for. Whether it be an old barn, warehouse, fire tower, train car or grain silo, old buildings are finding new life as modern homes. One surge of such repurposing has been taking place in San Francisco, where you don’t just go to church on Sundays, you live there seven days a week.

If you’ve ever stepped into a church and marveled at the beautiful architecture and stunning amount of open space, chances are you believed this ethereal environment to be a privilege of houses of worship. However, these incredible spaces are no longer limited to prayer and religiosity. For years now, many developers in San Francisco have been turning Houses of God into, well, just houses.

There are at least twenty-one churches that have been sold in San Francisco County and two that are currently on the market. Although congregation members would prefer them to not be repurposed, many would like to see their churches in use rather than vacant. The San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission agrees. Former Commission President Charles Chase stated, “The adaptation of a building…that removes it from the vacant list [and] creates activity around and within a community or neighborhood is far more valuable than seeing a building lie vacant.”

Some churches that have already been converted into homes include Cole Valley’s former St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, now a three bedroom, two bathroom residence. There’s also Eureka Valley’s Caselli Street Church, now a two bedroom, two bathroom home.

One of the most notable conversions was done by developer Siamak Akhavan, who converted the 17,000 square foot, three-story Golden Gate Lutheran Church into a majestic three bedroom. Akhavan, owner of a retrofit engineering company, purchased the church back in 2007 for $2.1 million ($123.50/sq.ft.). After two years of major remodeling, the church went back on the market in early 2009 for a whopping $9.95 million ($585/sq.ft.). Unfortunately, there were no bites at that price and the property was delisted. But in 2010, the listing popped up again at the reduced asking price of $7.49 million—almost 25% down ($440.50/sq.ft.). Once again, the elaborate home did not find a buyer, and instead became the site for the Children’s Day School’s new middle school for $6.6 million ($388/sq.ft.).

Although Akhavan didn’t have the type of luck he’d hoped for with his first conversion, he decided to try again. The engineer purchased the Second Church of Christ Scientist just down Dolores Street in 2012 for $2.5 million ($119/sq.ft.). He plans to convert the 1915 neoclassical style, 21,000 square foot building into four residential units, three on the ground floor and one loft unit in the dome.

The only thing more daunting than transforming a religious space into a secular one may be the ‘Certificate of Appropriateness’ the Historic Preservation Commission makes developers submit. However, these real estate visionaries continue to jump through hoops in order to preserve beautiful, historic buildings and give buyers the chance to experience a home imbued with celestial ambiance.

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Agents: The “Next” Big Thing Is Already Here

Analysts are always trying to predict the next big trends in real estate. But in such a fickle marketplace, you may be better off making bets at a roulette table.

However, there seem to be a couple trends that have been growing for a while that most reputable players agree will only become more and more important. The thing about these trends, though—the reason they are such a safe bet—is that they’re not really new concepts at all.

The “next” big things in real estate are already the foundations of HouseHunt, and we’d like to share them with you.

Right now agents are being told that part of the shift to digital—which is imperative to survive in this market—includes having access to digital leads. HouseHunt is a lead generation company from start to finish, having provided digital leads since 1995 (back when people wondered if this Internet thing was here to stay). We have the most accurate listings database of any real estate company. Plus, our agents are set up with personal websites to make sure their names stay at the forefront of the minds of potential clients.

And with all that digital marketing, what do you do next? Follow up with potential clients. HouseHunt makes that easy with our TIM (Total Internet Marketing) system, providing personalized postcards, flyers and action plans. HouseHunt for agents is a lot like a gym membership: The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. We give you resources no one else can offer while you make yourself a more successful agent.

At a recent conference, executives from major online real estate services discussed the future of Internet services for homebuyers. They all agreed: Consumers are looking for a more personal touch to guide them to their next home. The idea was generally compared to a “Netflix Recommends” type of system, but for houses.

People want to be able to rate, rank and review a few comparable homes, and then be presented with something that’s right up their alley.

Here at HouseHunt, exclusivity is our hallmark. Every community has one sole agent who is an expert on everything about that area from school systems to traffic patterns. With this system, no agent has to share their leads (a common problem with other lead generation services). Also, home buyers get a personalized touch that no online algorithm can match.

Just like with movies, would you rather have a recommendation from a trusted friend who knows your taste or an automated system that insists you will like something called Megashark v. Giant Octopus? Our agents are able to provide clients with exactly what they’re looking for.

At HouseHunt, we agree with the analysts on the trends of future real estate. That’s because we know them not as trends, but as the foundations that have made us successful for the last seventeen years. So if you want to keep up with the trends, welcome to a company that’s been staying ahead of them.

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Pinterest for Realtors



So far we’ve covered how to flex your social media muscle on Facebook; now it’s time to turn the spotlight on Pinterest for Realtors. If you haven’t been on Pinterest yet, you’re missing out. Hours and hours of time can be lost scrolling through, repinning, sending and liking (pushing the cute, little heart button) a plethora of pictures. The site is all about the photographs, with text limited to short descriptions, hashtags and other’s repins and comments. This means you can take advantage of the visual appeal of the real estate business by posting pictures of your properties and garnering attention from 70 million potential clients.

Getting Started: The great thing about Pinterest is its simplicity. First, create your account. Make sure to include a short description, your verified website URL and links to your other social media platforms in your profile. Next, make boards for homes by neighborhood, city or type of home; then post pictures of properties within the appropriate board. You can also repin your own photos to more than one board. For example, if you want to post a picture of a two-story, colonial-style home that’s located in Brookline, Massachusetts, you can put the same photo under boards titled “Two-Story Homes for Sale,” “Colonial Style Homes for Sale,” “Brookline Homes for Sale” and “Massachusetts Homes for Sale.”

Following: Following people or businesses is the equivalent of adding a friend on Facebook. The people you follow will show up in your home feed; in turn, your pictures will show up in the home feed of those following you. Like engagement on Facebook, it’s important to follow clients, community boards and other brokers and agents in the area. Like, repin and comment on other people’s pins (photos); this will gain you more visibility on the site. Engagement also allows you to stay in front of your clients. Once you’ve closed a deal, continue to like and comment on past clients’ pins, especially if the photos are of their new home. This will not only get and keep your name out there, it will help you build a referral network and let them know you’ll be there for the next sale.

Posting: Post only the best photos of your properties and make sure they are high resolution. Pins in feeds are a width of 238 pixels with adjusted height, whereas expanded pins (when you click on an image to enlarge it) have a width of 735 pixels with adjusted height. Keep these specs in mind when digging though potential pictures. When writing descriptions, it’s a good idea to put a link to your website before or after the text. In fact, you can put a link to your site in the board descriptions as well. Beyond posting pictures of your listed properties, you should create boards dedicated to the neighborhoods you work in. Establish yourself as the community guru: create separate boards for community activities, popular restaurants, scenic drives and area parks, showcasing the appeal of the neighborhood and leading more people in the community you farm to your pins.

Please feel free to post any questions in the comments section, and happy Pinning!

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Park a Food Truck at Your Open House or Broker Preview


Food Truck

I know that if you search “food at open house” on Google you will find a slew of appetite-whetters to tantalize broker preview goers into showing your listing. Although homemade chocolate chip cookies are divine, taking them out of the oven right before you host a preview or open house (in order to achieve “maximum scent infusion,” according to HGTV) will only add to the stresses of preparing the property for an open house. So, in order to save yourself from the stress, mess and possible “It’s a bonfire scented plug-in” explanation associated with preparing treats in-house, why not call up a food truck?

Although this idea may seem a bit unconventional, there are multiple benefits to having the kitchen parked in the driveway.

First of all, having a food truck at your open house will draw a lot more attention than a simple “Open House Today!” sign. Not only will it be a nice change for agents left ravenous by finger sandwiches and tired of ladles of lemonade, passers-by and foodies drawn in by the truck may decide to take their purchases inside to have a look.

To increase your chances of having these eaters (and possible home buyers) stroll across your threshold, make sure to advertise that there are goodies from the food truck’s menu inside for free. These gratis delectables will not only lure in unsuspecting buyers, they will tantalize visiting agents’ tastebuds and may even entice them to further indulge by patronizing the friendly, local food truck after their visit or at a later date.

At the very least, those who visit will not soon forget your property—out-of-the-box means memorable. As a broker, you’ll be providing an unforgettable experience for agents, one that will make you stick out in their minds when they’re deciding which homes to show buyers. In the future, these same agents will remember your pioneering ways and want to do business with you again. The memorability of your setup will also help with referrals from those non-agents who stumbled across your open house. Who knows, word of mouth may even reach a seller who’s been looking for an agent with a creative approach.

To find food trucks in your area and to try them out before you book, check out Roaming Hunger.

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Turning Real Estate into Reel Estate


Reel Estate

There are definitely advantages to making videos of properties. Motion pictures can convey a lot more than still ones, allowing a viewer to move through a space rather than simply look at one. Real estate agents have been making videos of their listings for some time, but a new trend threatens to render low budget videos obsolete in favor of high end movie productions.

These new, high quality films feature story lines that run the gamut from a family celebrating a birthday at home to a woman held hostage in her own house awaiting rescue via helicopter. Forerunner Australia-based Neo Property began uploading their videos to YouTube in October of 2011. These short films are centered on the aforementioned scantily clad hostage of “15 Queen Anne Court,” the nude male model of “92 Savoy Drive” and the little person dressed in gangster garb in “The Sovereign Mile.”

Although these films take this new marketing technique to the extreme, they have certainly garnered agents Ian Adams and Adrian Jenkins a lot of attention. Neo Property claims to have over 1.6 million views of “15 Queen Anne Court” while “92 Savoy Drive” has almost 50,000.

American agents are following suit. However, these productions tend to focus more on family life than the bachelor/bachelorette lifestyle. One features a son in the army come home to surprise his father; another shows a family transforming their home into a hotel for wedding party guests. According to their website, Film House Real Estate mini-movies led to the featured homes selling “ten months faster than the average for seven-figure listings.”

But these movies aren’t just for selling homes. The Wall Street Journal reports that they are also useful as listing tools for agents competing in a market with a limited amount of listings.

The issue comes down to how much you are willing to spend to promote a property and, in turn, promote yourself. While some are ready to hand over up to $200,000 for a mini-feature, others may opt to stick to a more traditional, low budget video. Regardless of which route you take, you may want to seriously consider dabbling in this trend because one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Reel Estate is here to stay.

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Facebook for Realtors


Social Media is ubiquitous and, if you haven’t already, it’s time to start harnessing the potential it can have for your real estate business. Throughout this series, we’ll take a look at the different social media platforms and what they can do to bolster business for you. First up: Facebook for Realtors.

Getting Started: There are two types of Facebook pages you can have as an agent: personal or business. If you already have a personal profile rife with pictures of family, friends and opinions, start fresh with a business page. If you don’t have either, it’s up to you: a personal page is, alas, more personal, whereas a business page is more professional. One of the drawbacks of a business page is that you can’t add or message individual people; you can only contact other businesses. When it comes down to it, the approach you want to take and image you want to portray will dictate which you choose.

Setting Up: Make sure to take advantage of all of the options Facebook provides. Make your default picture a professional one of yourself and upload a picture of your favorite sold property for your cover photo. Fill out your “About” section as accurately as possible and include your office address, email, phone number and links to your website under “Contact Info.” Link your Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube and other social media profiles to your page.

Adding Friends: You will either add friends (if you chose a personal page) or ask people—in person, via email or via another website—to follow you (if you chose a business page). Add your past and current clients; this will allow their friends to see that they’ve recently “added” you or “liked” your page, which is great for potential leads. Facebook is also an awesome networking tool, so add or follow local brokers and agents. Good content on your page may lead these business connections to repost your material.

Posting: Keep in mind that Facebook has a light, friendly atmosphere, so make sure to post accordingly. Post photos and videos of your active properties and properties recently sold, tagging clients who are selling or who’ve recently purchased these properties. Enable locations for your posts so viewers can see exactly where you’re located and what community you’re serving. Don’t forget to post links to articles or websites that you find relevant to your business and the real estate industry (shameless plug: the HouseHunt blog!). This will not only guide viewers to useful resources, the sources you reference will see that you’ve sent people to their site and may return the favor. Lastly, community content is key. By posting fun, interesting information about the neighborhood you’re farming, community members will start using your page as a resource.

Engaging: In order to gain a following for your Facebook page, you need to engage with other relevant pages and people. Like and re-share other agents’ posts and comment on community events and local businesses you enjoy. Reposting others’ content will make those people more likely to repost something of yours, while those who read your comments will be more inclined to visit your page.

For more tips on Facebook for Realtors, take a look at some articles on social media practices here and here. For information on how to turn all of that Facebook interaction into transaction, check out this article.

Please feel free to post any questions in the comments section, and happy Facebooking!

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TIM Goes Mobile


At Starbuck’s, forgot to save a client’s email address and need to reach them ASAP? HouseHunt is proud to present our TIM mobile version. You can’t always be in front of your computer, but how often are you without your cell phone? With HouseHunt’s new TIM mobile site you can access your clients on the go.


Try It Here



As always, HouseHunt welcomes any and all feedback. For questions please call Customer Service at 888-832-2244.