Author Archive

My Zillow Addiction

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m happy to share that my husband and I had our offer on a house accepted just last night. I think now I’ll finally be able to start the long road of recovery from my Zillow addiction.

In the old days of real estate, you chose a realtor, went to their office, and they let you look through photos of listings that were currently available. Or, you knew a house was for sale because you drove by and saw the sign stuck in the front yard. You were dependent on realtors for letting you know what was going on, and they could control the flow of information. You also depended on them to tell you what nearby houses sold for, and what the house you’re interested in sold for last, and when.

These days, anyone with an internet connection can find out this information. My site of choice is Zillow, but there are multiple MLS-aggregator sites, including Redfin, Trulia, and I found my realtor on Zillow after reading reviews on the site. I’ve never even been to my realtor’s office. In fact, the first time I met him was at the first house he showed us.

I was able to start my research on homes over a year before we were ready to buy. I was able to very easily get an idea of how expensive homes were in certain areas, and what kinds of homes were available without even stepping foot in one. By the time we actually were ready to look at homes, I was a very educated and savvy buyer. This helped me immensely, and it’s probably why we didn’t feel overwhelmed by the whole process, and why we were certain this was the home for us after just 3 days of looking at homes.

What does this mean for the future of realtors? You’re always going to have consumers who are not going to do this sort of extensive research. They’ll want to have the realtor do that for them. Will realtors become a sort of concierge service that consumers will pay for by the hour, rather than as a percentage of the home cost? I could certainly see the increased access to information creating more opportunities for sellers to choose the For Sale By Owner route. (Note: Sellers pay realtors as a percentage of the sale price, usually 2.5-3% to each the selling and buying agent.) In the past, it was extremely necessary to have a realtor, but now, while helpful, it’s not a necessity.

Our realtor was a gem, and I don’t know if anything would have gone as smoothly as it did without him. But then again, if we were the ones paying him 2.5% of the purchase price, maybe we’d feel differently. Who knows — by the time we’re selling this house (you know, when we’re 95, and only then because the yard work is too much) realtors could be obsolete, all because of Zillow.


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Getting blocked on Twitter just got more embarrassing

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I came across something in my Facebook newsfeed today about how now it’s super obvious when someone on Twitter blocks you. On the one hand, if you’re blocking someone, you probably don’t care if they know you’re blocking them. And, if your tweets aren’t private to begin with, what’s the point in blocking anyone? I guess the real question is: do you really have any chance of controlling privacy in a medium which is meant to be public?

Some people have private Tweets, but it’s super easy to RT private tweets and broadcast them to the whole world, while attributing that message to the original Tweeter. So what’s the point in blocking anyone or trying to control who sees your tweets? If you’re saying something that can’t be shared publicly, it’s probably better to tweet nothing at all…

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The #1 Email Newsletter Mistake

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been added to an email newsletter list and never asked for it. OK, so all of you. Some marketing department somewhere is bragging about how many potential customers they’ve added to their client list, and meanwhile you’re getting annoyed at daily emails.

Unsolicited emails are called spam. If you never opted in to an email list, you are being spammed. It doesn’t matter if the emails are coming from an African prince or a store you can find in every mall in America – if you didn’t ask for it, it’s spam.

I’m one of those people who is OK with getting emails from companies I buy from regularly. I want to hear about the sale this month at Ann Taylor Loft. And that’s why when they asked for my email address at the register, I said, sure, add me to your list. But I never asked Victoria’s Secret to put me on their list, and so I’m annoyed that I’m getting emails every day about how I can make my bust appear 5 cup sizes larger.

So if you’re starting an email newsletter, have your list members opt in. Better yet, have a double opt-in. A double opt-in means they sign up, and then they have to click a confirmation link when they get an email about opting in.

Even if you have a double opt-in, people will forget and mark you as spam. I send an email newsletter out to about 4,000 people once a month. Every month, without fail, 2-3 people (usually with a Yahoo email address, why is that?) mark my email as spam. These people don’t understand what spam is. They think if they don’t want it anymore, this is how they get off the list. If I were a real spammer, this would not get them off my list. Because I am not a spammer, I have a prominent “Unsubscribe” link that unsubscribes they from the list immediately.

What it all comes down to is you don’t want to be sending your message to people who don’t want to receive it. If someone wants to unsubscribe from my list, yes, I’m sad, but I’m not going to keep sending messages to them against their wishes. That’s counterproductive because I only want to send to people who are receptive to my message. And, if they’re just going to be getting mad about getting an email from me, something tells me they’re not going to want to buy anything from me.

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