Wendy Cole is editor and content director of REALTOR® Magazine. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go Wide With the Web
Foreclosure specialist Jim Mazziotti of Exit Realty in Bend, Ore., uses Internet broadcasting and video blogging to grab buyers' attention and boost his recruiting power.
August 1, 2010
Broker-Owner, Exit Realty Bend, Bend, Ore.
Years in business: 16; Obtained real estate license in 1994, opened brokerage in 2006.
2009 gross sales: $28 million on 148 transaction sides
2008 gross sales: $8.7 million on 43 transaction sides
Number of offices: 1
Number of agents: 24
The way I got started in real estate was kind of a fluke. In the 1990s I was living in Oelwein, Iowa, and working in my family’s retail music business selling instruments. My wife and I were planning a vacation but we had to cancel it suddenly because she had to work. I wanted to do something productive with my "time off" so I decided to take a real estate class.
I got my license soon after, and two years later I opened an office in the same space where we had the music store. One day we were selling instruments, the next it was real estate.
The Trail to Oregon
The real estate business was doing well in Iowa, but the average sales price was only $50,000 and we had to sell a heck of a lot of houses to make a living. My wife and I were ready to make a move, and we decided on Bend, Ore. It was a leap of faith, but we wanted to do it before we got too old. We moved in 2002. Initially, I worked as an agent at a resort selling everything from cabins to luxury homes. I then got involved in commercial sales to diversify my knowledge. I opened my Exit franchise in 2006.
What appealed to me most was the residual income for brokers for sponsoring new agents. We receive 10 percent of commission income generated by those agents’ transactions. It provides an income stream for life.
Focus on Foreclosures
Working with REOs has saved us during this horrid time. The Exit Realty franchise held a webinar for brokers and salespeople in early 2008 about working with bank-owned properties. Three of my salespeople and I participated, and it changed everything for us. We now work with about 20 banks. Many of them chose us because they liked that we market foreclosures in more innovative ways than other brokerages.
For example, I ran an open house for 56 hours last year for one of our REO properties and broadcast it live on the Internet. The goal was to bring people through our virtual doorstep in a way that had never been done before. In addition to talking about the features of the house, we had various speakers come in during the open house to talk about everything from mortgage lending to home inspections.
The Web's Wide Reach
About 2,000 people from around the country and as far away as Australia watched at least some of our 56-hour open house webcast and 200 people actually came there in person. It had a "Truman Show" quality to it. People watched me sleep on camera if they wanted to. We got three offers on the property and one was accepted, but the buyer’s financing fell through and the bank later gave the listing to another brokerage. But the real value was team building for our salespeople.
Twelve of our salespeople participated by doing a broadcast of 15 to 30 minutes at three different times during the open house. It also turned out to be a good recruiting tool. Two new practitioners joined the company after noticing us because of the open house. This year, I’m planning to host a 56-hour block party focused on one of our REO properties and broadcast it on Ustream.
We do a regular weekly broadcast on Ustream called the Central Oregon Real Estate Hour. The show features local and national real estate news as well as details on our listings. It’s low-tech in the sense that I hold up listing photos to the webcam and talk about them. But I think the homespun look works out well. Our show has helped our site average 7,000 hits a month, which is about twice what we were getting before we did the show. I also customize a foreclosure map for all potential buyers who are interested in distressed properties and talk about this on my video blog at YouTube. (Click here to see Exit Realty's YouTube page.)
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