Category Archives: Blogger Interviews

Blogger Spotlight: Michael Price

Just a few days ago, I published a post commemorating the third anniversary of lenderama as a blog. Originally, my blog used the same simple template that Mike Price uses today. Fancy graphics, widgets, and even multimedia are cool additions to a blog. But as Mike proves, blogging is more about what you say, than how fancy it looks.

Hi Michael, as the head of video intensive company, one might expect your blog to be multi media intensive. Instead, you concentrate primarily on the written word. I’ll ask you more about multi media next, but first, what is the biggest advantage to good old text as a medium for blogging?

Speed, flexibility, easier to compose, edit, absorb, consume….you name it. Video blogging is fine if you’re showing other people and places, sitting alone in front of camera lens as a means of communicating just doesn’t make any sense to me. I think people prefer the tried and true methods of the message and replacing it with another medium just for the sake of being able to do it seems like a waste of time and resources to me. We will be doing some cool new video blogging based content in the coming months, but I can promise you I wouldn’t subject my readers to a video of me after I just kwaffed my first cup of joe in the a.m. It is not a pretty sight.

There’s now doubt that audio and video content is becoming more and more viable as a way for real estate agent to showcase their listings on over the Internet. Please tell us a little bit about how your company helps agents do that.

I”ve spent quite a few years working on marketing and software tools for the industry, a great deal of that concentrated on listing enhancements like virtual tours etc. I realized before the whole web 2.0 thing came around that syndicating content on the web would allow forward thinking agents to expose listings and communities in a much more proactive way by using things like RSS and Podcasting. When it comes to video, I also realized that it will be a long time before agents will be able to a acquire the skills to produce their own presentations or be able to afford to hire professional videographers to do it for them. We created a way to use an agent’s exisiting collateral material, photos, narrative text, keywords etc, to create a polished video presentation with a professional voice over and professional music score. By converting these slide shows to a video format, we can use advanced syndication tools to distribute them across a huge network of portals and sites within and outside of the traditional realms of content distribution for real estate content. We do it at an extremely affordable rate that opens up the realm of advanced new media marketing to any agent, on any budget. $49 one time set up, $29 per listing or neighborhood tour and that includes a professional narrator and music.

What do you imagine the future holds for multi media opportunities for agents marketing on the Internet.

The industry is finally coming to the realization that their roles as advertisers and marketers now include that of publishers and producers. Publishing content via blogs, syndicated video and audio talk shows, video based community tours, listing presentations, tetstimonials, social networks…you name it, the real estate industry will be a participant one way or another in this new interactive stream of communication both b2c and b2b. It’s executing on a balance between traditional media and new media that will become the most important job description in the brokerage of the immediate future.

Like myself, you are a volunteer for RE Base Camp. I know that you also attend many real estate tech conferences. What can a face to face meeting with other technology focused real estate professionals provide, that can’t be captured on the Internet.

You can’t really tell how much beer someone can handle over the web. Some people seem to be able to drink and type really well. Kidding aside, when it comes to business, nothing replaces the ability to shake a hand and look someone in the eye. Human interaction. Thank God nothing can ever change or replace it. So it goes with the real estate industry, you can not disintermediate the need for humans to connect on emotional levels that can only be done through a physical presence. Besides, you really can’t tell how strikingly handsome I am by looking at my photo 🙂

I listed to your comments on a podcast over at Zebra Talk, and one of your comments paralleled my own opinion that RE.net is not proportionally represented by mortgage professionals. Do you have an opinion as to why the disparity exists, and any idea of how to close the gap?

I think it’s just been the natural progression of the industries, the trade associations etc. The mortgage industry seems to have always lagged when it comes to the more visible of technologies like the web and web marketing. That’s obviously starting to change and every participant in the process is looking for a new way, angle, edge, anything to be able to reach today’s consumer. I’ve always thought that the MBA and NAR should get together in the play yard more often. On local levels I think the trust factor is one element, I’m not in the trenches every day with agents or mortgage brokers, but I speak to people every day that are. It seems to me that developing the right networking relationships based on trust and good service would go a long way, but from what I hear from my friends, there seems to be such a lack of trust, that long lasting and mutually benefcial realtionships are few and far between. On a side note, I did talk to Joel at Inman about this issue and I think they are in agreement that more content regarding the mortgage industry for the upcoming event is in order.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Does somebody other Greg Swann write a blog? Kidding aside, as far as blogs I read on a regular basis, the usual suspects, Jay, Kris, Jim Duncan, Joel, Chico (the zebra), Kevin, Curbed, Inman, Teresa B., most of the bloggers at Agent Genius. I know I’m leaving some people out, If I did, call me I will be happy to issue a full mikes_link_bait_shop.com refund, I want only satisfied customers.

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Ask yourself why you’re starting a blog. If the only answers you can think of are

A. Because everybody told me I need one.
B. Search Engines Love Blogs
C. Leads. Leads. Leads.

Don’t bother. Seriously don’t waste the bandwidth, starving Realtors elsewhere will gladly put your wasted bandwidth to good use. If you’re still serious about the effort set up a feed reader and put these blogs in it.

Copyblogger
At Home In Scottsdale
The Harper Team
The Housechick Blog
State of Mind Real Estate

Follow them for a couple of weeks to get an idea of the kind of effort you will need to put into a well done, consumer focused, hyper local, professional business communication and marketing tool. The first blog will help you develop better marketing communication skills. The rest set the tone for the kind of content that will eventually help you garner business from the effort. Ask the authors of any of those blogs and they will tell you, it didn’t happen overnight and the leads don’t just come streaming in, but the business does eventually come and the quality of the leads they do receive are head and shoulders above most any other effort they engage in.

Blogger Spotlight: Robert Ashby

Lenderama is the fastest blog on RE.net. By that, I mean we have the fastest contributors. More than half of us own sports cars. I own an insanely fast snowmobile, another owns one of the quickest motorcycles money can buy. One contributor actually races her supercharged and super-light car at the track. And then there’s Robert Ashby, who flies jets.

Hi Robert. How did you come to the decision to start blogging?

I was bored. No, in all seriousness, I felt that blogging was the new way to provide education to the masses and since hardly anyone knew about mortgage planning and many concepts surrounding mortgages, I decided to start blogging about them. I actually started by simply using some articles I wrote previously, posting them to my ActiveRain site. I felt AR was the best avenue back then, but felt compelled to “break away” last summer, starting up Florida Mortgage Report. Other blogs I work on allow different avenues with which to provide input.

You blog at Agent Genius, Lenderama, and a couple of your own blogs. Much of your content is read by other professionals. Your competitors even. What is the advantage to blogging to your peers?

I have competition? I never really think of it that way as there is plenty to go around and I only cover Florida anyway. I have fun providing my insights and opinions; even to those people may consider my competitors. If they can use the information to their benefit, more power to them.

As for other professionals, I want them to know the information and help them. Hopefully, real estate agents, financial planners, etc. will want to work with me and take a moment to contact me to set up a time to discuss working together. I do not actively seek new relationships, hint, hint. If relationships develop, great. If not, oh well.

As a part time pilot, you’re constantly on the road. what tools do you use to connect and communicate on the Internet while away from home?

Well, actually I am a full time pilot, though I try to only fly weekends. Occasionally, I am stuck flying all day during the week, but that is not the norm. I am switching aircraft to try to minimize the “downtime” created from me being airborne even more. As for tools, I do not know where to begin as it is virtually a fully automated office at this point.

It starts with the office call that is answered by the computer if no one gets to it first. The message is recorded to the hard drive and a copy sent via email to me, so I get the message no matter what country I am in. Of course there is an online application as well. Other tools include the ability to electronically send docs, sign them, and even get them to the lender. The entire process from application to underwriting can be completed in hours versus days and it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, just need to be able to access the Internet (and now we are getting that on the airplane – no, I won’t be blogging while flying, but I may be blogging from the plane from the back).

Much of the commentary you share through blogging concerns the mortgage market. What are some of the tools you use to gather and evaluate what’s happening in the market every day?

I get my information from everywhere. I have feeds from Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, NY Times, MarketWatch, Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, and many more. I also use feeds from other bloggers and link back to them if I use their post. I watch the bond market through Mortgage Market Guide, but don’t listen much to their commentary anymore as I like piecing it together myself. I also have CNBC on in a background window on my computer, which I can maximize if I hear something of interest.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Of course I am biased towards Lenderama and Agent Genius since they allow me to contribute there. I do like Bloodhound Blog as well. I have feeds from way too many to list, but most of those interviewed here are on my list (or soon will be). My biggest problem is finding time to visit and comment since between news and blog feeds, I get over 1,000 posts a day that I view (and that is outside my “client time”), which brings up a point I would like to make. Fellow bloggers, if nothing else, that should stress the importance of your headlines since if it doesn’t catch the eye, it gets deleted before it even gets looked at.

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Be yourself. I have always mentioned that blogging should be an extension of you. Your posts should follow along the lines of if the person you are targeting is in the office and you are having a conversation with them. There are times when you can deviate from that, but remember that your readers want to know if they want to do business with you, so your blog should demonstrate your level of knowledge, expertise and personality. If you blog well, your readers will be sold on your services before they even contact you.

Blogger Spotlight: Owen Raun

Owen Raun is EXACTLY why I started RBF. My blog, lenderama, turns three years old today. I have more blogging experience than 99% of RE.net, and yet, it doesn’t really matter.

I thought about making RBF an expert site, where I told my audience all about how to blog. That might work, but my own experience has been that while many of RE.nets experts have good advice, it’s not the only way to skin a cat. So instead, this blog’s platform is to get perspectives from every corner of RE.net. Even someone new to the game can have something innovative to offer. That’s the case with Owen. He’s teaching me all about how to use audio on the web.

Hi Owen. How did you come to the decision to start blogging?

There are two reasons.

I listen to a ton of podcasts but none of them discussed the mortgage industry from a b2b perspective.

The second is that I am fortunate enough to be on the Lender Advisory Council with Lendingtree.com and have learned a great deal sharing “best practices” with other lenders. I wanted to expand that sharing of information to a larger, more diverse audience.

If I remember correctly, you attended Inman Bloggers Connect right about the same time you started your blog. From the perspective of someone who was just getting started, what was your impression of the conference?

Correct, first one was Aug 07. Its a great place to get ideas, look at what is “new” and meet people that are genuinely interested in sharing ideas and helping each other. I also like the two – four person panels and the way they pack a lot of information into a short time.

One thing that impressed me about your first blog, was that it is driven by podcasts. What sort of tools do you use to audio blog?

We use Talkshoe.com to record the conversation. It’s pretty simple, just need a phone line. Once the call is recorded Michael Price with mlbroadcast.com converts them to an mp3 and distributes the final version to iTunes and other podcast directories. I like podcasts because they are easy to download to my iPod and listen to on the way to work or other places that I might find myself untoggled from a computer. Using iTunes makes it very easy to keep up with new things to listen to..

While the numbers are growing, mortgage blogging has not been nearly as popular as real estate blogging. Why do you think that is?

Part of the reason for this might be that the mortgage business is still a bit more technologically behind the curve than other industries. Also, the number of people in the mortgage business has shrunk considerably in 2007, so fewer people to participate in the blogosphere..

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Leadcritic.com, coffeeforclosers.org, bettercloser.com are some lead generation related sites, lenderama.com and themortgagereports.com for mortgage – Mlpodcast.com/blog and GeekEstate for tech, then many others. Podcasts include twit (this week in tech), IT conversations, Business Week podcast and all the NPR business, story of the day, and economy shows.

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Be patient. Blogging is sort of like any other advertising medium. You might be working really hard expecting immediate results when in fact the results might be several months out. Blogging is sort of like direct mail, you can put it out there, think no one is paying attention to it, then out of the blue you get a comment, email, or phone call from someone wanting to do business with you.

The second piece of advice is to blog about subjects that are interesting, relevant, and new. Blog about things that know one else is blogging about . The chances of getting attention for a different view, opinion or approach are more likely to get you noticed than repeating what everyone else is saying.

Blogger Spotlight; Mike Mueller

Mike is a great blogger. Want proof? I liked his work so much, I asked him to blog on my own baby, lenderama. Mikes a great loan originator, and as you will see, has been at the forefront of the mortgage industry in communicating with his clients over the internet.

Hi Mike. How did you come to the decision to start Mike’s Mortgage Minute?

I have to go way back to the 90’s. I had been financing racks of servers and modems for internet service providers. I was manually writing html (on notepad) to update individual web pages on a daily basis. In 2000 I remember finding a small little start up called Pyra Labs. They used .php to update web pages. I tried it out, liked the idea, and even donated money towards a new server they needed. Starting in 2001 I was updating my mortgage news page on a daily basis. Much of what I did at that time was cut and pasting of various newsletter articles and not my original material. Soon I started interjecting my own opinions. There was no clear start to my blogging, instead I somewhat slouched into it.

Officially, I was a real estate blogger in 2001.

Your blogs are all about advice. I want to focus on just one of them for this question though. The Foreclosure Report doles out advice for consumers who are facing foreclosure. With a readership in distress, how much more thought do you put into making sure the advice you give is in the absolute best interest of the reader?

The Foreclosure Report was an idea I came up with to harness the SEO that blogging provides. I wanted to deliver honest unbiased information to those that needed it most, the homeowner in trouble. We in the business see cases of gross misrepresentation, outright lies, and fraud, probably on a daily basis. It was never meant to be in my voice. Instead I envisioned the voices of many. I saw the opportunity to have some of the most ethical, knowledgeable, and giving people on the internet offer up that advice.

I had 30+ real estate professionals lined up to contribute. Unfortunately most all of them did not actively participate. Today, I pick and choose what is posted. If I find an article I like, I ask the writer if I can repost it. I give them full credit and direct links back to their article. I work today more like an editor for this blog. On one hand I think the blog failed in that I have just a couple of contributor posts written specifically for the blog.

Then again I have to remember who it was created for and why. Case in point: recently someone typed “what can i do to delay the sale of my home in forclosure” into Google (misspellings and all). Obviously, this is a homeowner in trouble. Out of 136,000 pages, The Foreclosure Report shows up 6th. Thanks to the long tail, they hit the website and I hope they got the correct information. Looking at many of the other sites listed on that same page, you can see how easy it is to get the wrong information. To that end, it’s a success.

The blog provides three important things to the consumer.

1.The latest contact information for over 50 lender loss mitigation departments,

2.It shines the spotlight on various foreclosure and mortgage fraud and scams,

3.And most importantly provides what I saw as something that was vital yet missing on the internet – honest, ethical, unbiased information to the homeowner in trouble.

You take on a lot of complicated topics, reverse mortgages, REO’s, and foreclosures. Yet, the content comes out in very practical terms that a regular Joe can understand. Did this just come naturally, or what sort of path led you to establishing your “voice”.

Why thank you. I want to think this comes naturally, but I can source it back to college days. I’m a visual learner. In studying, I had to visualize complex concepts in order to get them to stick in my brain. I guess I do the same to my readers.

This is kind of a fun question that I like to ask of my contributors. Why do you blog on Lenderama? The same could be asked of why you blog on Active Rain?

Much like the ‘Mountain”, I blog on Lenderama, because I can.

Seriously – I love the ability to be able to write directly to the industry professional.

I can’t do that on any other site. Recently I wrote How the Appraiser determines a stable market

That post was important to me, important to other originators (I hope) but had little or no value to a consumer or homeowner.

ActiveRain is a real estate clubhouse. I have met some really great contacts across the country there. Yesterday I need to send a referral to someone looking to buy in Florida. In seconds I pulled up AR and found the person I know and trust to send a referral to. I also use ActiveRain for some of my posts that I think should reach a wider audience. I also help to moderate the Active Rain Newbies. We silently help those new to blogging find their way and get started.

Your blog is linked to some television appearances. Was this opportunity a result of your blogging efforts?

Not directly, although I think blogging certainly added to my professional credibility. I look at television and radio the same way as I do blogging. It’s an excellent way to reach out to many people. I like to think people can see through what is B.S. and what is real. I’d like to do more television work in the future.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Ooh, I like this question! For the thinkers I like Calculated Risk, Brian Brady, Greg Swann and Traderbill.

I also like to read the twisted bubble bloggers like patrick.net and HousingPanic, not that I think they are right or wrong, but it’s great seeing into a vastly different perspective.

For the sharpening the saw stuff, I like Seth, My Name is Scott, Mark Cuban, and the Duct Tape Marketing Blog.

For keeping me on top of my game, I like The Mortgage Cicerone, The Mortgage Porter, Dan Green, and Morgan Brown.

Guilty pleasures. I have a couple. I’d say Athol but everyone likes Athol and I don’t want to give him any more traction ; ) Besides the one and only picture I sent him of a bad MLS photo – he misspelled my name! How about bad banana blog, or growabrain? Ok, I do read Athol, daily. But if anyone asks, I’ll deny it.

I read most everything inside my feed reader. RSS is my friend!

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Let me step up on the soapbox.

Step one – read blogs. Read and read and read some more!

Learn to effectively use a feed reader.

There are three reasons you are likely to hear about as to why to start blogging:

1.SEO or more accurately Search Engine Ranking. That’s the hook that draws you in.
2.Networking. Sites like ActiveRain can give you a warm sense of belonging.
3.And what I think is the most important reason, “Sticky-Ness”.
3a. Nobody will tell you this but by blogging you will become smarter. Bloggers gain knowledge and clarity of thought simply by blogging.

Now throw away reasons 1 and 2.

They are unimportant and will lead you down the path to the Dark Side.

Don’t try to game the system. That too, is the Dark Side.

Your readers are smarter than you think and will see right through it.

I believe strongly in reason number 3 and 3a. Be honest and write about what interests you.

My parting statement? Give me the full RSS Feed including pictures. Don’t give me a partial feed. Don’t exclude the pictures. Make it easy for me to read and I will. Make me jump through hoops and I’ll have to decide if your really worth it.