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Interview: Brian Wilson of the Zolve Real Estate Network

Many real estate agents understand establishing an online presence is more important than ever. But not only an online presence…you want to generate some business! That’s why the social network(s) you choose for your real estate business should have strong referral tools built in. One such system is Zolve.com. Recently I cornered Brian Wilson, founder of Zolve, and asked him some questions. Read the interview below.

Q. In your words, what is Zolve?

A. Zolve is a business exchange platform for industry professionals built to simplify the inefficient, time consuming process of referral tracking, its paperwork and locating like minded professionals to work with. It is a marketplace of real estate professionals where people can objectively evaluate and select a local expert in their market.


Q. How do you see Zolve benefiting real estate professionals?

A. Several ways. First and foremost, Zolve’s platform completely systematizes the entire referral process so it can be executed and tracked online. Secondly, the Zolve network will be comprised of members with online profiles and consumer ratings that simplify the process of choosing referral partners. Of high importance, it helps real estate professional to “be found online” which is no small challenge. There needs to be some reasonable alternatives to every web-based real estate professional in a market all competing for the first 10 search results on the search engine. Zolve provides a technology economy of scales that allows members to be found in an objective marketplace.

Q. How do you see Zolve streamlining the referral process?

A. Zolve provides binding referral contracts in an easy to use “referral wizard.” I can send a digital referral agreement in a few minutes and the member on the other end will get an email alert which will allow him/her to accept, decline or discuss it. Once a referral in place, the receiving member is automatically prompted for regular progress reports and all communications between the cooperating members are stored in a permanent transaction log. Zolve also provides members with a host of exclusive online social and marketing tools to handle inbound and outbound referrals and interview requests.

Q. How will Zolve differ from ActiveRain and other social networks?

A. Zolve is a platform built to process referral transactions. That’s its primary function – to serve as a business tool. All of its social features are designed to support the business center within the platform. Active Rain and other social networks work completely the other way. Their business tools are designed to support the social network. We have designed this network so the time spent on it results in business and is thus productive time. Every decision we make in continuing to evolve Zolve and add features answers the question, “How can we directly help the agent on the street grow his/her business?”

Q. What social tools does Zolve provide real estate professionals?

A. They are considerable. To begin with, Zolve is also an online community – a group of like-minded professionals gathered for mutual benefit. Zolve members create a virtual sphere of influence comprised of other members with whom they have or would like to do business. Each receives a personal blog that allows them to leverage their expertise and local market knowledge. We have built this blog and are continuing to improve this blog so that it can be used as a truly consumer-facing tool. In fact, we are currently developing an option that members can have their profile look one way to non-logged in viewers and differently to fellow members. Thus, the agent who has a static website that is not producing business for them could use their Zolve profile both as a network profile page to interact with other professionals and as their consumer facing website/blog. This will enable them to focus their marketing investment and time into one online brand rather than managing several. Zolve also provides a rating and feedback system that will serve to police the activities as it does on eBay, creating an accountability system that helps ensure that the customer willg et the best possible service.

Q. How can a real estate professional expand their sphere through Zolve?

A. They very same way professionals expand their sphere through a network like LinkedIn. At its core, Zolve provides its members with a new source of business by granting members access to inbound referrals from across the country and globe and connecting them with a community of reliable practitioners to whom they can confidently refer business. A big difference in Zolve is that our members grow their sphere visually. We created a Google Map mashup for each of our members that shows visually where they are connected. With one click of a mouse, they can look beyond their own sphere of influence and view their “sphere network” which shows their network’s sphere of influence as well. Thus, a member with 15 members in his/her sphere can now be connected within one degree of association to thousands of people worldwide, graphically.

Q. Is Zolve only for Real Estate agents? Who else should join?

A. Zolve is absolutely not just for agents. We have members who practice in many real estate service areas and actively encourage them to participate in the platform.

If I am real estate professional like a lender or inspector and I generate most of my business by building relationships with REALTORS®, I want to be on a referral network where top professionals from markets across the country are building out their networks.

If I am selling vacation property in St. Thomas, I want to be on a network where real estate professionals who have clients with 1031 funds or 2nd home aspirations can find me as a trusted, proven professional off-shore.

If I am a real estate technology provider, I want to be on a network where real estate professionals who are willing to pay for an online service are actively trying to build their online brand. I could probably fill a need that they are experiencing.

I want Zolve to become the answer to this problem… if my mom in Bloomington, Indiana wants to refinance her home and asks me for help, I would love to be able to go to Zolve and screen the 5-6 lenders on the network for that market and be able to read 3-5 customer and real estate professional feedbacks on each of them to determine who would be the best fit and take the best care of my mom. I would like the fact that the person that we choose for the job would know that when the refinance closes, my mom as the customer and me as the referring member will both rate him/her on objective criteria that will “stick” to him forever. This is a layer of accountability that does not currently exist. As it is now, if this lender takes advantage of mom or does a terrible job, he has lost nothing in terms of future business since I am an out of state REALTOR® who never sends referrals to his market anyway. Zolve solves that problem.

Q. How should an interested party get started?

A. Go right to Zolve.com and sign up for a 30-day free trial. If you like it, then on day 31, you will be charged $34.95 for the whole year. At this membership you can do everything on Zolve to include sending referrals, except receiving referrals. To accept a referral on Zolve, you must upgrade to our regular membership rate of $40 per month or save 20% by prepaying the year.

Q. Why join now?

A. I think for those early adapters who understand the need to use systems to save time, save money, and expose themselves to new opportunities during a slow market, then Zolve can be an important component of their business. Zolve is a solution that enables its users to take part in a global real estate market that they would otherwise never get exposed to. For the cost of one business lunch, you can be found online by real estate professionals across the country looking to do business with someone in your market.

For those who tend to procrastinate, I say put off your procrastinations. Get started now. Build your profile and send some referrals whether they be customers across state lines or to the lender you are already using in your market. The advantage is that you and your network can begin earning valuable ratings & feedback that will translate into business you would have not otherwise have in the future. Take advantage of our offers to elevate your current network online and to build a new book of business.

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Meet the Bloggers at NAR

Technology for Real Estate heads to Vegas! If you are planning to attend the NAR Expo in Las Vegas, be sure to stop by Booth #3444 and “Meet the Bloggers”! Damon Pace from Incredible Agent will be hosting an event to spotlight some recognizable real estate bloggers in an informal question and answer format. I’m thrilled to be on the schedule for Thursday at 4pm. So please join us! For more information visit Mike’s Corner.

Where: IncredibleAgent.Com Booth #3444 NAR Expo, Sands Convention Center Las Vegas

When: Wed 11 / 13 and Thursday 11 / 14

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RSS and Pipes are the Future of Real Estate Content

Lately I have been hearing a lot of talk about a technology called Yahoo Pipes, and what it can do to streamline RSS feeds. So today we are going to demystify RSS and Pipes for your benefit!

Let’s Talk RSS
To start, you must be noticing it gets harder and harder each day to keep up on all the great content accross the web. You likely know that Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an easy way to keep up with this ever changing content. Rather than going out to each of your favorite sites one by one to see if they have new and appealing content for you, RSS is designed to bring the content of the sites you subscribe to right to your desktop via a Feed Reader. So rather than individually visiting 25 blogs in a row…simply open your reader and browse all content from one location. Your content comes to you!

Yahoo Pipes Technology Explained
Ok, now that you understand RSS let’s talk about Pipes. The term originally comes from UNIX and means roughly the output from each process is chained together creating a new output. Think of aggregation. You can say that pipes are the natural evolution of the RSS feed. Think about the current state of the blogosphere. Today you write a post on ActiveRain, tomorrow on Zolve, then Trulia and of course there is that guest post you recently did on another blog favorite. Plus this whole time you have been posting on your own blog. So how do you take all this content and mash it up into one feed for your readers? Introducing Yahoo Pipes.

Yahoo Pipes will aggregate and mashup content from around the web using RSS, data sorts, filters and translation. (Did I mention that no programming is required?) So in the example I mentioned above, the pipe you create could be a mashup of all your posts in one place—filtered by your name.

Let’s Build a Pipe
To get started, go to Yahoo Pipes and register for your free account. Once you have logged in, click the “Create a Pipe” button. You’ll notice the canvas appears. Start by simply dragging the module titled “Fetch Feed” from the library pane on the left side onto your working canvas. One by one enter the feeds that you would like to combine. Click the “+” sign to the left of URL to add another feed. Repeat the steps as necessary. Now drag out modules from the library such as “Sort” and “Filter”. Make sure you connect each module by its connecters. Once you have customized your pipe, click the save button and name the feed. Now click properties and give your feed a description and tags. Congratulations! Now save and publish your feed.


See an example of a pipe here. This is a combination of NikNik’s posts here at MyTechOpinion and the HelpMyAgent blog. See tutorials here.

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Add PDF Conversion to Your Real Estate Technology Arsenal

The PDF (Portable Document Format) has long been the document standard for the Internet age. PDF files are small in size, are platform independent (can be opened on Windows, Apple, Linux, Unix), don’t require expensive software to view, and are non-editable duplication of the original files.

PDF files are the perfect format for many of your real estate document needs. Can’t email a Microsoft Publisher file because the file size is too large or the recipient doesn’t have Publisher, convert the file to the PDF format and the problem is solved. Need to email a Microsoft Word document to a client, but you don’t want any verbage to be changed, convert it to PDF and send it with confidence.

There are many ways that you can incorporate PDF files into your real estate business without shelling out hundreds of dollars for a full version of Adobe Acrobat.

  • Zipform (Winforms) has the capability to convert forms into PDF. Real estate agents can then email the forms, confident that they can be opened by the client and can’t be modified before being signed.
  • Microsoft Office 2007 provides a “Save as PDF” feature for those download a free add-in. Instantly convert Word docs, Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint slides into PDF files.
    The very popular Paragon MLS system offers PDF conversion of listing reports with a simple click. This allows for MLS reports to be inserted into listing presentations in a cleaner manner.
  • Many free PDF distillers are available on the market. These programs create a pseudo-printer on your computer. Anything that can be printed can be converted to PDF by printing to that pseudo-printer. This is great for converting web pages into PDF. Take a look at Cute PDF and PrimoPDF for this functionality.
  • Adobe, the creator of the PDF standard, has added an online PDF conversion service.

Once you have gotten a taste of how much value the use of PDF files can add to your real estate business, you may long for more control over your PDF files and additional functionality. There are numerous PDF editing tools on the market that ranges from $50 to several hundred. Most products offer feature comparisons between their product and competitor’s products. This allows you to purchase only the functionality that you will use.

  • ScanSoft by Nuance provides multiple PDF solutions to fit nearly any real estate agents PDF technology needs. Features they offer include: password protection of PDF files, the ability to merge multiple documents into a single PDF, delete, add and reorder of document pages, and PDf form creation.
  • For those looking for the Cadillac of PDF creation and editing tools, you need to go to the source, Adobe. The Adobe Acrobat 8 product line provides the ultimate feature set for working with PDF files with an emphasis on collaboration tools.

If you are currently utilizing the power of PDF technology to benefit your real estate business, please share your experience with us. What tools do you like? How are you using PDF files in the daily running of your real estate business?

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Center for Realtor Technology Talks Tech

Today over at Inman, Jessica Swesey has interviewed Keith Garner of the Center for Realtor Technology. As you know, the Center for Realtor Technology is a part of the National Association of Realtors. Listen to Keith’s view on real estate technology and a few new technical applications that have become available.

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Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Your Real Estate Technology

I’m often asked about new real estate technology, but I’m rarely (if ever) asked what to do with the old technology left behind. And if you are technological enthusiast as I am, then you may be upgrading your computer and other electronic devices as often as the seasons change. So, what do you do with your old technology? My kids love adopting my old Blackberries, MP3 players and computers. But eventually even they outgrow these devices…and I’m left with quite a pile of “e-waste”.

What is e-waste?
E-waste is electronic waste that includes computers, mobile phones, entertainment electronics like TVs and VCRs, fax machines, copiers, and any other tech items that have been discarded by their original users.

How does e-waste affect our environment?
The United States generates more e-waste than any other nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Electronic waste represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste. E-waste is of concern largely due to the toxicity and carcinogenicity of some of the substances if processed improperly. Toxic substances in electronic waste may include lead, mercury, and cadmium. Carcinogenic substances in electronic waste may include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These toxic chemicals can leach into the land over time impacting nearby communities and the environment. Incineration of e-waste releases heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury into the air and ashes. Mercury released into the atmosphere can bioaccumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish – the major route of exposure for the general public. And sadly, the exportation of e-waste to poor countries is devastating to say the least. To learn more about e-waste exportation visit Greenpeace and watch this video.

So how can real estate professionals help?

  1. Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle
    Many of these electronic products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled. You can reduce your generation of e-waste through smart procurement and good maintenance. Reuse still functioning electronics by donating or selling them to others that can use them. And recycle electronic items that cannot be repaired. You would be surprised how many local organizations will actually take your electronics for FREE if you just open your phonebook or do a little digging! In California, you can find a local organization that reuses or recycles electronics by searching the Electronic Product Management Directory (EPMD).
  2. Support Green Technology
    Some large companies like Fujitsu have developed technologies to eliminate toxic chemicals by developing lead-free products. Additionally, Sony and Waste Management have partnered recently to launch the “Sony Take Back Recycling Program” to help customers safely recycle all Sony electronics, and even non-Sony products for a market-rate fee. Visit the Sony Electronics Blog to learn more.
  3. Support E-Waste Legislation
    The United States Congress is considering a number of electronic waste bills including the National Computer Recycling Act introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA). However, this bill has continually stalled. In the meantime, several states have passed their own laws regarding electronic waste management. California was the first state to enact such legislation, followed by Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota. More recently, legislatures in Oregon and Texas passed their own laws.
  4. Blog About It
    If you have a blog you have a great opportunity to inform others. This post was inspired by Blog Action Day! But you don’t have to wait until Earth Day to write about environmental issues facing your community and real ways you can help and improve your local sustainability.

Online Resources:

Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry
eWaste.com: Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery
Greener Computing
Make Me Sustainable

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Cyberhomes PDF Report Aids Real Estate Agents with Local Market Statistics

There has been a lot of buzz on the Street about Cyberhomes recent partnership with AOL. If you have not heard, Cyberhomes is now AOL’s exclusive provider of home valuation and listing content. However that’s not what this post is all about. For some time now Cyberhomes has been offering it’s free PDF Report to Real Estate agents and consumers alike. This report is packed with useful statistics for important pricing and buying decisions. For example, the 18 page PDF reports contains zip-code level information such as buy/sell indicator, building starts, rental vacancy, local unemployment, median and average home prices, sales count by price range, local school and neighborhood info, etc. This report can be customized by using the refine value tool. (i.e. custom comps, home upgrades, subject property adjustments.)

If you would like to check out the Cyberhomes PDF report, simply visit Cyberhomes and search a property. Once you see the neighborhood mashup, click the link titled Detail Page on the balloon. Make any refinements first, and then click PDF Report.

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Blackberry Adds Wi-Fi; Saving Real Estate Agents Money

At first glance, the addition of Wi-Fi technology on a mobile phone doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Wi-Fi has been in laptops for years and Blackberries already use cell phone signals to provide Internet access.

Why would a real estate agent care about Wi-Fi on a Blackberry? Does free, unlimited Wi-Fi calling interest you?

When connected to a Wi-Fi signal, both the Blackberry Curve 8320 and Blackberry 8820 can use Internet based calling systems that allow you to talk without using voice or data minutes. This can mean a real savings to real estate agents.

Think of all of the times that you use your cell phone at home, the office or at a local coffee shop. Most likely, all of these places have a Wi-Fi signal that you can access. In fact, many cities are adding Wi-Fi signals that would allow for free calling throughout the city.

With Wi-Fi capable phones, real estate agents will be able to purchase less expensive cell phone plans. There is the potential to save hundreds of dollars each year.