I have to admit, as a rivaling mortgage blogger, Jeff Corbett and I don’t always see eye to eye. We both believe in transparent business practices, but our paths toward making it happen differ enough that we have had a few lively debates in the past. I have a great amount of respect for Jeff because I know he’s working to make the industry a better place, and even though we’ve disagreed on some matters, we’ve always shown respect for the each other’s opinion. Jeff’s blog is an excellent example of how to use this medium as a digital advocate.
Hi Jeff, I think it’s fair to The XBroker has ruffled a few feathers since it’s creation. Can you tell us what inspired you to create it?
~8 years running a mortgage and real estate brokerage…
Overpaying under qualified loan officers, teaching them everything I know only to have them go start their own businesses and take my next best LO’s to boot. I got to be a little bitter about this process, so I figured out a way to market my business airing the dirty laundry about my competition. It became so popular, that I began spending more time talking about how the industry worked rather than selling loans. Blogging was a solution for me to express my thoughts to a greater audience easier.
It’s actually a little deeper than that though…I’ve been working on a piece of technology that is similar to the automated pre-qualification engines many wholesale lenders use and offer via their web-site (only) to mortgage professionals, except it’s a consumer side application run by and through existing brokers/bankers…
What is “Technology Through Transparency?
Actually, it’s Transparency Through Technology…It’s a creed, if you will, of providing enabling technologies to real estate and mortgage professionals that allow them to shed the traditional industry practices of hiding revenues or running economically impractical business models behind shallow claims of need. What type of technologies? Ill get to that in a minute…First, I’m of a firm mindset that mortgage professionals need to disclose 100% of all costs and revenues to the consumer. The industry could eliminate alot of negative press, individual professionals would protect themselves from liability, and the bad apples would be forced from the basket if mortgage brokers and bankers were forced to uphold to similar disclosure issues that real estate professionals must adhere to. Will this happen via legislation and regulatory laws? Doubtful, best case being many years of Capital Hill testimony later. Introduce a piece of disruptive technology and the industry can change almost overnight.
As far as real estate professionals are concerned, the 6% commission split model, while transparent, is an exorbitant economic drain. It has maintained its place in the market because the professionals that serve it have been able to confine and control the information flow to and from the consumer. They essentially charge a huge premium for access to information and perform rather cursory duties that are not worth the advertised price. The advent of the mash-up, the genesis in real estate being Googles opening of their mapping API, has rapidly opening the vault doors of what was once highly guarded information. Peddling information at a high price during The Information Age is a losing proposition. The agent that increases communication flow, embraces technology as an efficiency tool, and opens access to property data can afford to charge much less yet make similar money. For all the pundits that bash Redfin, they’ve got it (the most) right: They’re a professional real estate outfit that uses new technologies to offer consumers (and their agents) a better experience at less cost. Their agents make less per property but sell more properties, and stand to make more money. I applaud them for being the first to throw it all on the table and play cards up…
How does blogging fit into your overall marketing plan? Or does it?
It is my main marketing plan, although it may not be apparent on my XBroker site since I don’t monetize it or heavily promote services I charge for. Blogging (for me) is a generic term for an evolved web-site that has the capacity to communicate and market for me across multiple channels, i.e. chat, text, voice, video, pictures, etc. Blogging, if done right, creates a highly unique and personal voice that resonates with other people. This isn’t possible using yesterdays static websites. Blogs are compelling, they can elicit emotion from consumers, take on a life and personality all their own, and are very organic/viral in nature. They’re alive!
Now you have a new project rolling out. What can you tell us about RealESpace & RealTyger?
Enough to wet the appetite. We are launching at the Inman Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, so I’m kinda muzzled until a few days before the conference.
RealTyger is an exclusive real estate and mortgage professional social network. A ‘By Invite Only’ community offered to the nations top-quality bloggers (What’s your address Todd?) The problem with social networking in general, especially in niche verticals like real estate and mortgage, is that they typically allow anyone to blog about most anything. Call it the MySpace phenomenon. What you get is copious amounts of fodder that is of little value to a consumer. By tightening the QC requirements, we can offer a much more rewarding and efficient experience to the consumer looking for some sage advice and at the same time offer our professionals a very potent lead generation platform, which segues nicely into RealESpace.
Boy has this concept evolved over the past 5 months, so much so I had to stop blogging about it for fear of looking misdirected. RealESpace will offer a custom blogging platform with additional tools to and for the real estate and mortgage tech savvy professional. It’s 100% web-enabled so a user may access their ‘backend office’ from any computer terminal with an IT connection. The user interface looks like a Desktop you would find on a PC or Mac, so it’s a single-pane interface that pops individual modules into windows, very intuitive to drive. Some of the built-in modules include: A feed reader, word processing and spread-sheet applications, complete email integration, a video listing application interface, a listing map-mash-up interface, a mortgage pre-qual module…OK Ill stop here, except to say, the ‘sites’ are also 100% white labeled, allowing the professional using our platform to maintain their existing personal or corporate brand identity and equity.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
I’ll keep it to real estate and mortgage:
The Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin blogs…Theyve got alot of dough…it’s interesting to watch where they spend it.
BloodHound Blog…mainly for Greg Swann’s posts, he pulls no punches and isn’t afraid to tell someone where they can stick it. He may be inappropriate at times, but who isn’t?
FoREM, Joel Burslem. So well written and timely.
RSS Pieces…Mary knows SEO with a trendy style. Very informative for anyone starting to blog.
TransparentRE, Pat Kitano…very well versed across many deep topics.
Growella by Dan Green…Great technical analysis of the mortgage market…Barry Habib better watch out.
and of course Lenderama…
What other web sites, blogs, tools, or people do you find most helpful in building your blog?
People come to your site for the content, not the flair. Less is more, so try and choose the simplest icons to display. Some of my favorites, which are unobtrusive on the eyes:
Mybloglog.com, I like to see who’s visiting my site, they offer a community aspect which drives traffic.
FeedBurner.com. RSS heaven. Good tracking tools
Flickr.com. There are other photo sharing tools, just my personal preference.
Technorati.com. Blog search engine that drives traffic.
del.ico.us . Great for bookmarking articles and sites you may want to read and opine upon later.
Meebo.com. Cool IM tool.
Stumbleupon. Favorite your own site and watch the links roll in. I like to Stumble, it serves my ADD well.
Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?
1) Start now and make a commitment to post at least 2x per week, fresh content is king and this arena is where the web and consumers are going…
2) Offer insight on your local market, neighborhoods, and sub-divisions even if you’re a mortgage pro, blog about local banks, area trends, etc. Blogging is a great arena to show off your knowledge and become viewed as a trusted source especially in your backyard…avoid posting about your listings…it’s bad blogging etiquette.
3) Engage commentors, oftentimes the comment threads can be more entertaining than the actual post.
– Thanks for the opportunity Todd…Lenderama was the very first mortgage blog I ever read 🙂