Blogger Spotlight; Jim Duncan

When I first set about documenting all of the RE bloggers out there. Jim’s blog, Real Central VA, was one of the first I found. It’s appropriate that he be the first national bloggers interviewed here.

What inspired you to create Real Central VA?

I saw a void in the local media for a candid opinion about the real estate market. Also, I have always had opinions and an urge to share them. I was and editorial editor in college, and enjoyed shaking things up from time to time. The ability to influence others’ opinions through the presentation of fact and my own opinions is compelling. I really wanted to educate myself more; it turns out I’ve educated a lot of people along the way.

What’s the focus of your blog?

I focus on the real estate market in the Charlottesville, Virginia region, and on aspects of the real estate world that will impact buyers and sellers. Dual agency, disclosures of same, market statistics, client representation, smart technology implementation, a lot of local politics. More and more I realize the impact of politics on the real estate market on so many fronts – zoning, development rights, infrastructure, transportation, growth, green development – these are all facets that impact, frequently tacitly or passively – the Charlottesville real estate market. I’d much rather have a voice than not.

How does blogging fit into your overall marketing plan, or does it?

I never intended it to be a “marketing” tool, nor do I intend it to become a part. My blog just is – it’s an information and opinion resource for those who do or are planning to buy or sell real estate in the Charlottesville region, and for those who are neither, but are interested in Charlottesville’s growth.

In addition to Real Central VA, you also more recently started a localized blog named Real Crozet VA. What was your motivation behind operating as two separate blogs?

The Crozet blog was modeled quite a bit on Charlottesville’s original news blog – It is a blog purely and unselfishly for the town of Crozet, just to the west of Charlottesville. I recently added a “Search for Homes” tab, but haven’t noticed anyone using it. I toggle it on and off as the goal is absolutely not to market myself. Crozet has its own identity, is struggling with being a rapid growth and seemed to be lacking a voice. In a lot of ways it is similar to RealCentralvA, but for the fact that I am less overt about being a Realtor; there I’m just the author of the Crozet blog.

Since your blog was created in January of 2005, hundreds, if not thousands of other real estate blogs have come and gone. What has been the secret to maintaining your momentum?

It’s a bit odd looking back as a “veteran” there were so few in the beginning and so many more now. The growth has been astounding. Patience, persistence, dedication passion … the fact that I didn’t start my blog with the sole intent of generating business has helped. That purity and the passion which I have for what I do really are what has kept me going. That I generate business from the blog is somewhat secondary. It’s a bonus for doing something I love. What the business does do is helps me justify with my wife the sometimes vast amount of time – sometimes three, four hours a day – I spend reading and writing for the blog.

If there was anything you could change about your blog to make it better, what would it be?

I’d like to have another redesign, this time by someone who knows what they are doing to make it more visually appealing yet still simple, and easier for people to subscribe.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

There are so many. Here’s my OPML file of most of the real estate blogs I read.

FlexMLS’ blog – the innovative insights and perspective they provide is fantastic. I wish other MLS vendors would be this transparent.
A lot more “green” blogs than when I started.
About 100 Charlottesville blogs – including about 9 local real estate blogs, only one of which so far has proven to be consistently worth reading – Real Estate Zebra.
What web sites, blogs, tools, or people do you find most helpful in building your blog?

Here is a sample of some of the blogs I read – (OPML file)

Seth Godin
Read/Write web
A lot of tech blogs – TechMeme/TechCrunch, Consumerist, Lifehacker

Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?

Be prepared to work. Show your passion for what you do – provide something that no one else is, and stay true to your voice. Know that once you hit “Publish,” your words cannot be taken back. Ever. Don’t be selfish with your time and knowledge, especially with newer bloggers seeking advice. Participate in the real estate blogging community. When you contribute, they will give back ten-fold. The community is strong, and for that I will always be grateful.

Don’t get addicted to tracking your traffic. Do pay attention to what works and what doesn’t but don’t check your stats 20 times a day.

What’s the best part of blogging?
The education I receive through blogging; I am a much better Realtor because of the time I spend analyzing and writing about the local market. Also, quite candidly, being recognized locally as an expert in my field.

Any defining moments in your brief blogging career?

Two, really – The first was when I had my first closing that could be directly attributed to my blog (they came in through my blog email address) and two, when I added “blogger” to my title.

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