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How social media is changing real estate sales

Those of us who have been in real estate sales for a while remember a time before the Internet. We would wait with anticipation for the weekly delivery of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) book to see what homes were new to the market. The book was huge, but other than word of mouth, it was the only way to find out what was new.

Then along came the Internet and the MLS went digital. In the early days, listings only had one photo – usually a grainy black and white exterior – but it was extremely helpful because agents no longer had to wait for the book to arrive, and we saved a tree or two by abandoning the printed version.

Real estate agents have long embraced technology. We fell in love with mobile phones and fax machines when they were introduced; we no longer had to use pay phones or grab someone in the office to ride downtown with us to get an offer signed. The pace of our business is greatly accelerated, thanks in large measure to the technology we employ. Many of the advances come in the form of timesaving tools. The MLS and most real estate websites now feature multiple color photos for each property, as well as detailed descriptions and often video. This enables the potential buyer to take a virtual tour from the comfort of his or her own home. In fact, with Google Earth a potential buyer can view the exterior of the home, “drive” up and down the street, see neighboring buildings, and determine what conveniences are nearby.

Agents now routinely market listings on multiple websites, often building custom sites for each property. The listings are picked up by many other websites – Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow to name a few. This exposure and access to information has revolutionized the way we market homes and the way the public finds not only a house to buy but even a real estate agent for representation.

But there is more: Welcome to the age of social media! Clearly, social media is playing a bigger role in all of our lives, so it’s important that agents engage in it as well. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and other social media channels consume big blocks of time, particularly here in San Francisco. Real estate agents are trying to determine the best channels to use and how we can be engaging, helpful and informative without being intrusive or pushy.

Hill and Co. Real Estate has a wonderful blog (www.sfdentro.com) with daily posts about SF’s people, neighborhoods, attractions, and events. I have a business Facebook page all about real estate. I have a Twitter account, I’m on LinkedIn as well as other sites, and I belong to a couple of real estate Facebook groups. This has been very helpful in gauging current trends in the market all over the country.

We’ve come a long way since I entered the business. It’s a brave new world, but social media and the Internet are obviously here to stay. It is important that real estate agents embrace these new tools, as we have past technologies, and leverage them effectively on behalf of our clients. We know that 85 percent of homebuyers begin their search for homes online. Our hope is that we will provide the information and tools needed for their preliminary online search, engage and inform them through social media, and represent them in the real world transaction once they are ready.

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Stephanie Saunders Ahlberg has been a real estate agent for over 30 years and joined Hill & Co. in 1983, where she has consistently been among the top 10 salespeople. She can be reached at www.realtyinsanfrancisco.com.

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