The Power of Zillow – The Power of Inventory

Hey!  Take a look at this:

That’s the first page of results of a search on Zillow for homes for sale in Chino Hills, CA.  Do you see the Help-U-Sell logo over on the right?  Yep.  It appears six times!  Six of the first nine listings are Patrick Wood’s!  Patrick is, of course, our franchisee in Chino Hills and he’s done about as good a job establishing the brand in his community as anyone this side of Don Taylor.  What do you think a consumer, looking for real estate in this town, who does what consumers today do (go to thinks when they see this?  The compounding effect is remarkable!  The logo to the side of the listing is one of the benefits of becoming a ‘Premiere Agent’ with Zillow.  Of course, the main reason Brokers and Agents upgrade to Premiere is to have their contact information appear next to the listings of non-Premiere agents, but that’s really of minor importance to Patrick.  He gets HUGE bang for the buck from the display of the logo because he has a ton of listings! This is always true in our business:  the broker with lots of listings gets lots of leads.

This is why most of Help-U-Sell marketing is directed to potential Sellers.  If we do a good job of building inventory with our superior offer to Sellers, we’ll have all the Buyer leads we could ever want.

I don’t hear it much anymore, but there was a time when I’d occasionally hear a broker complain that they weren’t getting any leads from their website.  My reply was always the same:  ‘How many listings do you have in inventory?’  I’d usually hear something like ‘three’ or ‘five’ or ‘I’m down to two.’  They didn’t have a website problem, they had an inventory problem.  Solve the inventory problem and the leads will flow.

I mentioned that Patrick Wood has done a superb job of establishing the Brand in Chino Hills.  I want to share something else from him.  It’s a little bit of community involvement, of giving back, that really works:

That’s Patrick’s son in one of the uniforms his dad bought for the team. Once again:  same logo, prominently displayed.

Now, some Help-U-Sell purists might question the prominence Patrick gives to his own name.  I mean, one of the beauties of Help-U-Sell is that it is a system that works.  Unlike ordinary real estate businesses, it is not dependent on personality for success.  When we go out to establish the brand, we establish Help-U-Sell, not any individual.  Yet here, Patrick is branding himself just as he is Help-U-Sell.  He’s done this for eight years and today he IS Help-U-Sell in Chino Hills.  Ken Kopcho in Santa Maria, CA has done something similar with his ‘Ken Sells’ identity and website.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  If there is a negative, it is that branding yourself probably diminishes the value of your business on the open market.  If you were trying to sell a business that was built as much around YOU as around your Brand, the assumption is that it would collapse when you walked away.  An established Brand – especially one like ours, that’s built on replicatable systems – should be in a much better position to survive an ownership change.


Tomorrow, Google’s new privacy policy goes into effect.  This is a logical change that probably won’t upset too many people (although some have been screaming about it for weeks).  What they’re going to do is pool all of your profile information from all Google owned products to create one master profile with all of your information in one place.  By pooling your profiles into one, they’ll have more comprehensive information about you and will be better able to serve up advertising that is apt to appeal to you.  In addition to the information you’ve provided to, say, Google+, YouTube, Blogger, etc., they will also pool your browsing history.  Again, it helps them know what advertising to serve you.

Don Gross of CNN had a pretty good piece about the change and you can read it here.  At the end of the article, he presents a handful of easy things you can to to improve your privacy in this new Google world.  I found it helpful enough to reproduce it here:

Here are a few tips on how to keep your data a little more private on some of Google’s most popular features.

Don’t sign in

This is the easiest and most effective tip.

Many of Google’s services — most notably search, YouTube and Maps — don’t require you to sign in to use them. If you’re not logged in, via Gmail or Google+, for example, Google doesn’t know who you are and can’t add data to your profile.

But to take a little more direct action …

Removing your Google search history

Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has compiled a step-by-step guide to deleting and disabling your Web History, which includes the searches you’ve done and sites you’ve visited.

It’s pretty quick and easy:

— Sign in to your Google account

— Go to

— Click “Remove all Web History”

— Click “OK”

As the EFF notes, deleting your history will not prevent Google from using the information internally. But it will limit the amount of time that it’s fully accessible. After 18 months, the data will become anonymous again and won’t be used as part of your profile.

Six tips to protect your search privacy (from the EFF)

Clearing your YouTube history

Similarly, users may want to remove their history on YouTube. That’s also pretty quick and easy.

— Sign in on Google’s main page

— Click on “YouTube” in the toolbar at the top of the page

— On the right of the page, click your user name and select “Video Manager”

— Click “History” on the left of the page and then “Clear Viewing History”

— Refresh the page and then click “Pause Viewing History”

— You can clear your searches on YouTube by going back and choosing “Clear Search History” and doing the same steps.

Clearing your browsing history on Google Chrome

— Click on the “wrench” icon at the far right of your toolbar

— Select “Tools”

— Select “Clear browsing data”

— In the dialogue box that appears, click the “clear browsing data” box (there are other options you may want to use as well)

— Select “Beginning of Time” to clear your entire browsing history

— Click “clear browsing history”

Gmail Chat

When you start a chat with someone, you can make the conversation “off the record.” Off-the-record chats will not be stored in your chat history or the history of the person with whom you’re talking. All chats with that person will remain off the record until you change the status. To go off the record:

— Click the “Actions” link at the top right of the chat window

— Scroll down to “Go off the record.” Both you and your chat partner will see that the chat has been taken off the record.

What are Google’s other products?

Obviously, anything with “Google” in its name counts. But the Web giant owns other products that might not be so obvious to some folks.

— Gmail. Yes, the “G” is for Google.

— YouTube. Google bought the Web’s leading video site in 2006

— Picasa. The online photo sharing site became Google’s in 2004

— Blogger. The blog publishing tool has been Google’s since 2003.

— FeedBurner. A management tool for bloggers and managing RSS feeds. Google bought it in 2007.

— Orkut. Google’s original social-networking site isn’t big in the U.S. But it’s one of the most popular sites in India and Brazil.

— Android. Yes, you probably know this. But just for the record, Google owns the most popular smartphone operating system.



Top Producers at the Help-U-Sell Success Summit

Four of our top five Brokers were in attendance at the Summit, Nov 14-16 in Anaheim this year.  I asked Jack Bailey to facilitate a panel discussion around what they’re doing to grow their businesses in this market.  Here are:

  • Patrick Wood – Help-U-Sell Prestige Properties – Chino Hills, CA
  • Richard Cricchio – Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties – Honolulu, HI
  • Karen Detwiler – Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty – Carlisle, PA
  • John Powell – Help-U-Sell Galleria Realty – Tucson, AZ

Because of time limitations on YouTube, there are four videos here, ranging in length from 12 – 14 minutes.  Sound improves about half way through the first segment, when we miked the group.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


The truth about the real estate business is there are not enough transactions to go around.  If you were to take the total number of closed sides each year and divide them equally between all of the real estate agents and brokers in the business . . . well, everyone would starve.

I remember years ago, when I moved my office from one part of town to another, all the other brokers were friendly.  They acted like they were glad to see me and said things like, ‘there’s plenty of business for everybody.’  Then, of course, they went home to stick pins their voodoo dolls and hope for my demise —  because there’s NOT enough business for everyone.  I knew it;  they knew it.  If I was going to make it I was going to have to get more than my share. . . and that meant I was going to have to take it away from them.

Getting more than your share . . . more listings, more buyers, more sales . . . that’s what Help-U-Sell is all about.  It’s  a strategy for getting more and ultimately for becoming a dominant force in your local marketplace.

More.  It’s basic business.  All businesses, from the corner grocery store to the Fortune 500 multi-national live and die by their ability to get more and do more.  In business school we learn there are two measures of success in business:  Market Share and Profitability.  Market Share is about getting more.  Profitability is about being efficient.

In days gone by, doing more usually meant having more people, more feet on the street, a bigger operation.  But people are expensive, and building market share by hiring more and more people usually results in low profitability.

That’s why businesses over the past 20 years have focused on downsizing and on automation and systems.  Nobody wants a pink slip, but let’s face it:  General Motors builds a much better, safer, more fuel efficient automobile today with far fewer people than it did 20 years ago.

Sadly, the evolution of business has had little impact on the ordinary real estate world, where success is usually defined as having more salespeople than your competitors.  The broker’s job is not to sell more and more real estate but rather to recruit more and more agents (who in theory will take care of all that selling).  With per agent productivity hovering somewhere below five deals a year and commission splits still in the stratosphere, you might recruit the entire population of, say, Washington State to be your salesforce and still not make a profit!

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Just as other businesses have evolved to where doing more is a function of fewer people using systems to manage an ever increasing flow of business, the real estate business can evolve.  With the Help-U-Sell consumer offering and operating system, you can get more and do more with fewer people and lower cost.

Last year, I stopped into Chino Hills, California and saw Patrick Wood.  He’s in an attractive 750 square foot Help-U-Sell office in a strip center.  It’s a small operation:  just him, his assistant, Val and a couple of buyer agents.  But, together, they routinely out produce whole offices of ordinary real estate agents.  While the competition is closing offices and consolidating, Pat and his team are focused on getting more, doing more and building a business worth having.

Help-U-Sell is simple.  It is a handful of carefully constructed systems that work together to produce a predictable result:  a successful business – one that does more than its share of transactions.  The systems are vastly different from what’s common in the ordinary real estate world, and the two simply don’t mix.  Evaluating your Help-U-Sell business on the criteria of your agent-oriented competitors is like trying to tell how tall you are by stepping on the scale.

It’s 2011.  It’s once again time to know who we are, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.  Simplify.  Focus on systems:  systems for generating leads, systems for capturing, incubating and managing those leads, systems for staffing, for listing and for managing transactions.  And remember:  it’s all about more.


There is an old Cajun saying that I dearly love:  ‘Be what you is; even if you’s old and ugly then be old and ugly, but be what you is.’  The bad grammar is intentional – that’s the way I heard it.

There are many messages in this little line, but this morning what I’m getting is:  know your strengths and structure your environment so that you can bring them into play as frequently as possible.

Traditional real estate has generally made a mess out of the salesperson’s job description.  Agents are expected to do it all — which means prospect, list, sell, process, coordinate, followup and on and on and on.  Truth is:  it’s a very rare individual who can do all of that well and all at once.  The sharpest quickly zero in on the jobs that result in more listings and more sales and build a team to take on the other functions.

Maybe you’re a great people person.  You’re personable, sharp and you know your business.  People like to be around you and it seems the more time you spend reaching out to people the more business you do.  Maybe technology baffles you.  You couldn’t put together a flyer if your life depended on it and you still haven’t learned how to get your email on your Blackberry.  Instead of looking over at the Wunderkinds of our industry with all of their devices and technical know-h0w and feeling like you just don’t measure up, find a way to focus on your strength.  In this very two dimensional example, the way is clearly to hire somebody to do the largely clerical job of managing your technology (and maybe more).  Really:  if you are the kind of people magnet I just described, it’s probably a waste of your time and a squandering your biggest asset to futz around trying to keep up with technology when you could pay somebody else to do it for you at $12 an hour.

I got a real lesson in this last week when John Powell and I dropped in on one of our top producing brokers, Patrick Wood, in Chino Hills, CA.  Pat’s been in the top five consistently and has closed 44 sides in the last 3 months.  He has among the largest market shares in his area and personally outperforms entire offices of traditional agents.  Getting a moment with Pat is not easy because his typical day is non-stop meetings, back-to-back , all day long.  He’s doing what he’s good at:  Pat is definitely a people person.  Sitting just outside his office door is his assistant, Valerie.  You know the instant you meet her that this person is supremely well organized.  Her work-space is neat and everything seems to have its place.  The morning we dropped by I commented on the stack of offers she had open before her.  ‘That’s 18 offers that came in on one of our REO listings, ‘ she said.  I bet she could easily tell you the essential details of the best 5 at the drop of a hat.

John and I had been with Pat for about 30 minutes when Valerie came to the door.  ‘Your 10:30 is here and don’t forget, you’ve got an 11 O’clock, too,’ she said.  The message was clear:  You need to wrap this up or you’re going to be running late all day . . . and frankly, nice as James and John are, neither of them is going to buy or sell real estate through you, so get a move on!

This kind of functional partnership is the stuff of greatness.  With the right help a good REALTOR can be huge.   On the other hand, it’s very hard to find a great REALTOR who has no help.

In the early 90s, I spent a couple of days with Ron Prechtl, one of the top agents to ever work in Granada Hills.  He was a people meeting machine and that’s mostly what he did:  meet people, let them know he was in the business and collect their contact information.  Every time he came into the office, he’d drop a handful of business cards and scraps of paper on which he’d recorded information on the people he’d met on his assistant’s desk.  ‘These go on the regular mailing list,’ he’d say and then, pulling a few out, ‘And these go on the hot list.’  His assistant had a pre arranged schedule of mailings for all of Ron’s various prospect lists and one of her most important tasks was to keep it going and keep it growing.

Ron was a pretty sharp guy; but I’ll bet if he had to organize and maintain a mailing list, produce, print and mail letters on a consistent basis and track the results . . . he’d have done less than half his normal production.

I’ll bet he never spent an hour and a half making a flyer . . . someone else did that while he was out meeting five more people.

In today’s real estate world, finding the time to do what you do best can be daunting.  If you’re in the business, you’re probably doing Short Sales.  The time and detail requirements for this type of business are so demanding that few are really good at it.  You could spend hours of your day cranking through this — again largely clerical — job or find someone to do it for you.  It doesn’t even have to be an individual on staff.  We recently heard a good presentation from the Loss Mitigation Network who will take on that job for you . . . for free.

Is our business changing?  Absolutely.  Are there more and more new tools, new technologies, new strategies flooding into the industry?  Without a doubt.  But people still deal with people and that’s where they usually make the decision to buy or sell:  with people.  Don’t let your learning curve keep you from doing the thing that has always made you successful:  meeting the people.  Even if you is old an ugly . . .

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