Every week, we ask a Houston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top three stories from the week before.
This week, we talked with Dianne Moore, the managing broker for United Real Estate – Houston.
Houston Agent (HA): Our coverage of the franchise change by Gary Greene, Realtors and its merger with Century 21 Outstanding Homes garnered a great deal of attention from our readers. Can you speak to what the expansion process is like for brokerages?
Dianne Moore (DM): United Real Estate’s main sister company, United Country Real Estate, has been around since 1925, and they’re focus has always been on rural properties, country homes, specialty properties, second homes and vacation properties. And so for us, the next logical step was going in to the major metropolitan areas around the nation, which first we started in Dallas, and then we branched into Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and quite a few others in the next five years.
United Real Estate has done quite a bit of research trying to determine what the agents in metropolitan markets are looking for, along with what the expectations of the consumer for big cities are and, of course, how those are different from specialty properties. So it’s a different way of accomplishing goals, but the goals themselves are the same for everybody – for the seller, you’re trying to get the best price in the least amount of time, and for the buyer you’re trying to get the best deal possible; so the bottom line core is still the same. And for the agents, we are providing considerable value and services for a very small dollar, which in turn helps the agents grow their business faster, easier and more robustly!
HA: Houston’s home sales seem to keep increasing. What’s your perspective on Houston’s real estate industry?
DM: Our market grows has always been much more consistent and modest, so while other parts of the nation were soaring through the roof during the boom, we were the little engine that could; we would just keep chugging along in a positive direction. And so, we had, comparatively, not as far to fall, while those markets that soared through the roof had much further to fall to bring back some kind of a relative balance to the market place.
For us, the challenges are getting back to core practices for the agents – how we communicate, how we market, how we provide our services. We have needed to get back to basics, like how to get new business, maintain old business and so on.
HA: And while working on that process of maintaining old business and finding new business, how does technology, such as SEO, play a role?
DM: Internet marketing and technology have actually been some of my personal specialties since I started in the business in 1997, so I definitely understand the needs of increasing that percentage of marketing dollars and time and effort toward the Internet. SEO is very critical, and United Real Estate really has some incredible minds on that. We’ve got at least 20 people in our marketing department who help to maintain and check all of our websites and the agents’ websites; they make sure that we have the best optimization for the search engines through things like keywords, cross-linking and making sure that the material is current, unique and perpetually changing, so it is always fresh.
Obviously, SEO is important, but you also have to do a lot more than just having one website and focusing on SEO. We have people that are focused on helping us with our content, but I also know, as many people do, that social media in varying degrees is very critical as well. Without beating people over the head with business, you should present business in a personal, friendly platform. Like on Facebook, what you can’t do is over-pitch the business side of things. People will get upset with you! I tell my agents to follow a “Soft Marketing” technique instead, such as strategically checking-in at a real estate related function.