Google Earth – Tweaked for Real Estate

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I revisited Google Earth like I have many times before, but this time I was looking at the tool through new eyes. I started to ask myself, ?How can Google Earth benefit the average real estate agent?? I continued playing around with the software, and then it hit me?Google Earth can help Realtors in a listing presentation with WOW factor! How you ask? Why not plot SOLD properties on the map. Google Earth enables you to easily zoom in and out looking at various levels of detail.

To start I must mention that the free version will not work. REALTORS must subscribe to Google Earth Pro. If you want to try this idea before you purchase, try Google?s 7-day free trial. Be aware the trial will only let you import 10 records at a time. Once you have downloaded Google Earth Pro, follow these steps to plot your Sold activity:

Stage 1 ? Import Data

  1. Begin by compiling a list of your sold properties. Use Microsoft Excel (or comparable software) to organize your data. In the Excel file include Address, City, State, Zip and Physical characteristics. (You may be able to export this from your MLS.) Also include a column with text reading ?Sold? or ?Sold by [YourName]? this column can be used to describe each potted point on the map.
  2. Once the file is created, save it as a CSV file.
  3. Open Google Earth Pro and select File and then Import.
  4. Locate the Excel file you created of your Sold properties and double click the item. The Data Import Wizard appears.
  5. Start by selecting the radio button for Delimited and then choose the delimiter. If you are using a CSV file, choose Comma. Select Next.
  6. Check the box titled This dataset does not contain latitude/longitude information, but street address. Select Next.
  7. Depending on how you entered your data, you now need to select the proper why your dataset is populated. For example if you put Address, City, State and Zip in their own columns choose the 2nd option title Addresses are broken into multiple fields.
  8. Next modify each dropdown to point the correct address fields. Select Next.
  9. Select Finish.

Stage 2 ? Style Templates

  1. A selection box will open asking you if you would like to Apply Style Template To The Features You Suggested. Select YES.
  2. First you are asked to Set Name field. I referenced this in Stage 1, step 1 above. This is the text that will be displayed on the map next to each marker. (i.e. Sold)
  3. Next select the Color tab. Select a color that represents your brand.
  4. Next select the Icon tab. Choose an icon that will display your sold data. I recommend the colored pushpins or your own custom logo. Choose a different icon than one provided by Google in there core layers. This will help to not confuse the interested party.
  5. Now select OK.
  6. Save the Google Earth template to your computer.

Now What? How can I leverage my map? Google Earth makes sharing this data very easy. To start you can simply load Google Earth Pro on your laptop and display this data during your listing presentation. Or you can creatively add this to your pre-listing package and deliver it by email to the seller before you meet. To email your Sold map click the ?M? on the toolbar. It will open the email window, you?ll notice two choices: 1) Graphic of snapshot view (.jpg) and 2) Snapshot of 3D View (.kml). *Note: If you email a .kml file, the recipient must have Google earth. However it can be the free version.

Other possible use: Create a Buyers Tour for your clients and let them review the properties the night before on Google earth. They can quickly eliminate properties that are not appealing based on location or proximity to busy areas. Google also makes it easy click and add layers such as Dining, Shopping, Transportation, Parks and Recreation and lots more. These markers will show up just like your plotted properties do. This will allow buyers to get a feel for where homes are located in proximity to local attractions. More WOW factor!


Podcasts Demystified – Part 2

Ok, so in ?Podcasts Demystified – Part 1? I talked about Podcasts and the brief history behind them. I also looked into how consumers find published Podcasts. So it seems logical that in Part 2 of this article I should look at how a Realtor would go about creating a Podcast?

Self Production
If you are on a tight budget, and would like to try producing your own Podcast you will need a few things. To start you’ll need a USB Headset Microphone, MP3 recorder, Web host & RSS Feed.

  1. Start by connecting your USB Headset microphone to your computer.
  2. Install a MP3 recorder. If you need one, try Audacity, a free software for recording and editing sounds. Use Audacity to record and save your message. Remember to make sure your audio adds value. For example, in Real Estate you may want to cover broad aspects of real estate and the economy, home buying and selling tips, and most importantly local market conditions.
  3. Upload your newly created MP3 to your Web host. (Try Podblaze if you need a free host)
  4. Now create a RSS feed. If you?re not sure how, try TD Scripts RSS Feed Generator or FeedForAll.

Professional Quality Production
To maximize the quality of your messaging I recommend the following route. One company that I?ve been watching is Real Pro Systems. They feature a product called ?The Agent Webcast? that enables real estate agents to have a high quality audio production for their website. Real Pro Systems provides questions that emphasize the agent and their market. The agent simply answers the questions they?ve received from Real Pro Systems over the phone. The call is recorded and converted into a high quality production that has the feel for a live radio show. Click here to listen to a demo of ?The Agent Webcast?.


Podcasts Demystified – Part 1

I?ve started hearing a little buzz around Podcasting in the business world and I thought it would make a great article. I should start by defining Podcast. They are best known as digital media available via the Internet and accessible by RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and Atom feeds. These digital media files are growing in popularity because they?re available for playback on any computer or MP3 or video player?at anytime you wish. Yes, convenience is one reason why I believe this technology will steadily gain momentum in future years. I learned from Wikipedia that Ben Hammersley, a columnist for The Guardian, initially coined the term Podcasting in February of 2004.

Podcasts do differ from your normal audio file in that Podcasts can be downloaded automatically using software that reads RSS and Atom feeds. These software tools are commonly known as Media Aggregators. A popular media aggregator is Juice Receiver, free software licensed under the GPL. Juice Receiver is platform-independent, so it works on Windows, Mac and Linux. It also works with all MP3 players. Using Juice Receiver simply subscribe to the feed(s) that interest you and it will download the Podcasts to your computer automatically.

What are the best options for finding Podcasts? Of course, Podcasts can be accessed by simply stumbling onto a website with them, but often users search via directories and search engines. Directories group Podcasts by subject, category, and often they search by metadata provided by the owner/creator of the Podcast. These directories have grown in popularity, there are hundreds available. However, I find these helpful:

The challenge with searching Podcasts is that many engines simply rely on metadata since the audio itself is not stored in text. Podzinger has a unique approach to this challenge. Podzinger uses cutting edge speech recognition technology to search and index the full audio just like the major search engines search text. Stay tuned, in Podcasts Demystified – Part 2 I will look at a few different options available for creating Podcasts.


Personal assistant for dollars a day: E.V.A.

I recently started using a new personal assistant service, and I?m blown away by its value. It?s no secret day-to-day business can generate countless tasks and action items. This is important stuff, but can easily distract us from the top goal which is income or income related activities?right? So what options do we have? Hiring someone to help can be costly. Let me introduce you to E.V.A. (Electronic Virtual Assistant). Simply speak to their system to add calendar events, client details, track expenses, log car mileage or even send emails. I know what you?re thinking ?Voice recognition does not work!? E.V.A. does not use voice-recognition. A real-live human transcriptionist reviews and enters your data as directed from you!

This all happens from their call center. You can communicate with E.V.A. by simply talking into your phone or by using ?E.V.A. Ear? which is an ordinary digital voice recorder that interfaces with E.V.A.?s Software. With this option you sync the ?E.V.A. Ear? with your PC and the E.V.A. software transmits that data to the U.S.-based transcribers for completion. Everything that E.V.A. adds to their system (i.e. Expenses, Mileage, Calendar Items, Client data etc.) can sync with Microsoft Outlook.

You may be asking yourself ?How?s the accuracy?? As I found it, E.V.A. is right-on. When they have a question, they ask before going forward. For example, I sent an email, and the transcriptionist did not understand a word I used. As a result, the email was simply sent to me for clarification. Once I did they sent it out. If you?re the type that wants to review everything, just let them know and you can review all emails before they are delivered.

OK, I know you curious about pricing. I was too! Pricing is similar to a cell phone plan. You can use minutes or get an unlimited plan. Take a look at pricing here.

Also there are many notable advocates (Steven Covey, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins) click here to read more.


Google Tools for Real Estate Professionals

I was ?Googling? (verb: to search Google) last night when I stumbled across a great page on none other than Google?s website. The page was titled ?Google Tools for Real Estate Professionals?. It?s devoted to Realtors trying to get the most out of Google?s far reach and innovative services. The page contains helpful links to:


Google’s new "Phone Call" feature!

Can this be true? I recently heard Pat Kitano talking about this new service. Sure enough, when I used Google Maps to search out a business I learned this is right on! Here?s how it works. Simply search for a business using Google Maps and be fairly descriptive. Search using business name and the corresponding city for best results. Then simply click the balloon on the map. You will notice a “call” link next to a business’s phone number. Click ?Call? and you will then be prompted to enter your number. Click ?Connect for Free? and then like magic the phone number you input will ring. Once you answer, you will here a ring. That ring is Google connecting you to the phone number and company you searched.

Because I was interested in what Google aims to do with your data I looked through the Privacy Policy. Google states that your information will only be used to place the call. Once the call is complete and Google has evaluated their service your phone number will be deleted from their servers.

Is this call free? Yes, Google picks up the cost of this call. However if you are on a cell phone your standard phone airtime rates apply.

Go Google?this is a great offering and will be sure to take off! Thanks for innovation GOOGLE!


Connect utility services and more from one Website.

WhiteFence is the self proclaimed ?leading online one-stop comparison shopping marketplace for consumers looking to compare and order essential home services.? In a nutshell, WhiteFence offers consumers the ability to connect most necessary home services. Whitefence positions itself to aid both the consumer who is moving and the consumer that simply wants to switch service providers.

I went to and entered my address and was pleasantly surprised by the easy access to the vendors I have selected if I was really changing services. Here are a few areas they provide assistance with:

Basic Services

  • Phone
  • Cable TV
  • Satellite TV
  • High-Speed Internet
  • Electricity
  • Change of Address
  • Newspaper Delivery
  • Natural Gas
  • Water and Sewage

Financial Services

  • Banking Services
  • Renters Insurance
  • Rent Payments

Moving Services

  • Mover Quotes
  • Packing Supplies
  • Auto Shipping
  • Self Storage

Because of the wealth of information at my finger tips, and the fact that switching services is such a headache, in my opinion WhiteFence is one to add to your bag of tricks!

Similiar Products: Connect Utilities, and MoveUtilities


Cyberhomes, The FNRES answer to home valuation

Well it?s official, last week FNRES (Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions) launched ?Cyberhomes? lead by Marty Frame, former chief information officer. Now Marty is the Sr. Vice President / Chief Information Officer for FNRES.

The new FNRES product ?Cyberhomes? is going to be the newest and hottest valuation tool on the Internet for a consumer. With Cyberhomes having access to IDM and Hansen Data it?s sure to dominate over tools such as Zillow, House Values and Real Estate ABC. For example, as I understand it, Cyberhomes has access to over 100 million property records compared to Zillow who has around 67 million. Cyberhomes will also be updating more than 575,000 new ownership records every month.

The valuation data derived from Cyberhomes is based on the AVM Fidelity has been refining for years, most recently know as ?Value Your Home.? With Cyberhomes valuation, the volume of data is amazing, but even better is how the consumer can include adjustments on things they know are positive or negative about the home, neighborhood, or even the community.

The tool also boasts upwards of 18 dynamic graphs detailing the property and its comparables, property in the neighborhood and key market fundamentals. I should also mention these graphs do not look like the Value Your Home graphs. They?ve reinvented the visuals, the graphs are now colorful and dynamic. Users can change the time period on the fly.

Like Zillow and others this tool will be free for the consumer. However, unlike its closest competitors Cyberhomes also promises to be a lead generation tool for REALTORS. Brokers will have the option of having their listings show up on the tool. This is much easier than Trulia who requires the broker to setup a live feed to communicate inventory. With these lead generation aspects, Cyberhomes promises to be REALTOR friendly.