Google Appointment Slots

Ever had to meet individually with a set of people in series? Me too. Have you found a way of doing it that wasn’t excruciatingly cumbersome?

Well, google may have just solved this problem for us. It’s a problem we know well.

Say we go to a real estate office to meet with 8 people. We’d like to meet with each person for 30mins. So in total we need to block out 4hrs. You email out to all the attendees the time frame, say between 12 & 4pm, in half hour sessions, and then you wait to hear back from everyone. Inevitably there will be conflicts and overlaps from the get go.

Everyone will email back to you at a different rate, no sooner has one slot filled, than another wishes to have that same slot, all before you have had time to update the latest available slots.

Introducing Google Appointment Slots

What google has done is added a new function called “Appointment Slots”. The way the process works is as follows:

  • Open your google calendar
  • Click Appointment Slots (shown as a New! feature)
  • Create a block of time or split this large block of time into slots of however long you want

  • then this calendar can either be embedded into your website, or you can create an appointment sign up page
  • then when someone visits their calendar its overlaid with the appointment slots, where their preferred slot can be chosen, which then updates the remaining available slots

Google says that this feature will rolled out within the next few days.


Good Riddance IE 6…

google no longer supporting ie6Today google announced that it is to abandon its support for ‘older browsers’. Google are saying that if you are using IE6 to access: gmail, google docs, calendar, sites etc, you’ll start to loose some functions within them from August 1st.

How many people will this affect? Statcounter think about 17% of google’s current users will be affected by this.

Why are google doing this?

In May 2006, PC World rated IE 6 the eighth worst tech product of all time. However, at the time with 90% of the browser market its probably true to say that there was a fair amount of complacency  at Microsoft. This is demonstrated by the face that it took them 5 years to come up with its replacement IE7!

The fundamental problem with IE6 is that it did not fully support CSS or cascading style sheets.

ie6 css style sheet

IE6 requires it's own CSS

Style sheets are a set of rules that dictate how your website appears on the browser. It controls things such as the position of all the sites elements, the typeface, the size and color of fonts, the roll over effects when your mouse hovers over a link etc. CSS is really the DNA of your website. When you have browser that doesn’t support them it leads to problems.

As a web designer, you are forced to essentially build one style sheet for all browsers IE7 & beyond, and one for IE6 which is essentially a series of hacks and work arounds to make your site behave correctly for those still using IE6. This was a major disservice from Microsoft to omit support for the most basic web design parameters.

Microsoft has also tried to get users to update to newer versions of IE, to some extent, but news that google is essentially going to start forcing their users to migrate to newer plaforms is only a good thing. IE6 has been broken for a long time, we’ll not miss it.

Download the latest version of Internet Explorer here*

Download the latest version of Firefox here*

Download google Chrome here*

*Uploading any software to your computer can exacerbate any existing problems or issues with your machine. We can take no responsibility to anything that happens to your computer during the installation of this software.


Google Chrome | Cloud Print

google chrome cloud printingIf you haven’t already swapped over to google’s chrome browser, here’s another reason to tempt you away from Internet Explorer (that you are probably using to read this).

Imagine you are reading an article on your iphone at an open house and would love to have it print out at home. Or perhaps you are in Starbucks need to print out an email for when you get home, no problem, google cloud print gives you access to your printers from wherever you are.

Much of this week’s browser news has been about the release of the latest  update from Firefox. Firefox account for 30% of the browser market, IE has 45% and google chrome weighs in 3rd at 14% (according to slashgear). Of all of them chrome is the fastest growing.

We’ve been using chrome really since it’s initial beta launch and we haven’t looked back. Like trying anything new, it did feel a little different at first as we weaned ourselves of IE but now, having to check our work in IE is almost a painful experience.

Chrome, is a stunningly good browser. Browsers are the canvas on which we paint our websites, so we are constantly flipping between them to ensure consistency of our websites across all platforms. Chrome is fast, customizable and intuitive.

The rate of new features and improvements that come with it are equally impressive.

My current favorite is Google Cloud Print. What this allows you to do, is print to your printer regardless of your location (as long you are signed into your google account and using Chrome).

google cloud print lets you print to your printer regardless of where you are and what you are trying to print from, iphone, ipad, your laptop in starbucks…

When you are at home or the office your printer is right there, however, how many times have you wanted to print something for later when you are out and about. Or from your phone. Or from your ipad which requires either an air print enabled printer or a $6 app?

How to set up google Cloud Print

Sign into your google account, gmail etc, google apps for business etc.

  1. Click the wrench icon at the top left
  2. Choose options
  3. Click under the hood, scroll down to google cloud print and click sign in to google cloud print.
  4. Sign in (again, I know, I know, but it’s google’s thang) and you should see a confirmation page.
  5. If you want edit down the list of printer to print to click Manage Print Settings, then click Printers  and from there you can delete any printers you don’t want to show up.

Here are the google support docs

National MLS

create a nationwide real estate mlsAs the comment I was writing  on the regarding “Getting Nationwide MLS Listing Data” was getting longer and longer I decided that perhaps a blog post maybe the better option.

For anyone who thought that creating their own Nationwide MLS system would be pretty straightforward, this article was a wake up call. There were 3 options for doing this and they ranged from the outlandishly expensive to the numbingly painful.

However, it certainly got me thinking about the MLS system as a whole and how each play with each other…or how they don’t.

In our real estate web design work, we are often coming up against both the inefficiencies and inequalities of the current system. The typical problem we are faced with, (though unlike the agents, only fleetingly) is where an agent has had to be a member of multiple MLSs.

Through no fault of their own, they just happen to play out their real estate careers along a MLS geographical fault line. This fragments their business, their listings and their IDX agreements.

We work with some agents who have to belong to 4 MLSs!

IDX Inefficiencies

This creates inefficiencies everywhere. Multiple places to input listings, multiple IDX agreements. Some MLSs allow co-mingling of their listings in IDX results among those from other MLSs, some do not.  However what the consumer wants is to see everything!

IDX Inequalities

There are also inequalities. An agent can be a member of two adjoining MLSs. One gives them access to the IDX feed, for $0/month, the other charges them $35/month. In addition to this, they also have to pay an IDX provider a fee to interpret this feed and display it in a digestible way.

This seems like an evolution that has resulted in something ludicrous.

Let us know what you think. Take our survey below.

Please share this with the agents you know.

New Logo?(QR code)

qrcode Ok, so I admit it, I love pixel graphics. I love bar codes too. I don’t what it is about them that is just graphically fascinating, the negative space perhaps? We’ve seen these newer QR codes on our UPS & FedEx packages that come to the office from time to time and really liked them, and now they seem to be coming the main stream.

Although they are very pleasing to my human eye, they are actually designed to be read by your mobile device (formerly known as a telephone). Your phone scans the image, like the bar code reader in the grocery store, and your phone’s browser will then take you a predetermined website address…such as your listing.

Recently, very recently, we have started hearing requests from real estate agents we work with about incorporating them into their marketing.

The suggestion is that you place this on your yard sign for example and folks scan it, and then are taken to your site.

All sounds good, although this is predicated upon your potential client having downloaded the app onto their “device formerly known as a telephone” so that they can read this and make sense out of it.

At the moment, this is something that the usual gang of tech-comfy-agents, want to do, who knows if it will hit mainstream.

For me though, this really reminds me of a device that we were sent during the dot-com madness. It was an additional mouse which sat your your desk, (which tragically looked like a mouse of the furry nature), and it was essentially a bar code reader. You would bring your bar codes to your desk, and then scan them to be taken to the company’s website. Having gone through the kitchen pantry shelves, the novelty wore off pretty fast.

For me, using the phone’s GPS location software to pin point you outside a home for sale is a much more likely avenue for the future, than this method.

Are your client’s asking you about this?

Moving To The Google Cloud

Using google apps for real estate agentsSo we’ve transitioned to the google cloud. It’s something we have been mulling over for a while…and trying to figure it out !

You see what we’ve done isn’t simply got a gmail account & then started using google docs for:

  • presentations
  • word type docs
  • excel type docs

We’ve actually moved our domain to their control.

Why? Well for a number of reasons. One of the main was because we wanted the benefit of cloud computing but didn’t want an @gmail address to be our main company email domain.

We want our suffix for our email. This means that when we send an email from our google apps gmail account (confused yet?) it actually comes from our domain. We are essentially signed into gmail and they are co-opting our domain to send our email for us.

Where To Sign Up For Google Apps

This has to be done by signing up here There is a fair amount of geeky stuff that has to be done, like changing the MX record (now there’s a joy) of your email accounts to point to google email servers. Ok so hat part wasn’t much fun, and I think this is probably where most people give up and figure that the option of the suffix is the lesser of two choices.

The Advantages of Using Google Apps For Real Estate Agents & Teams

So what’s the upside of all of this? Why go through this?

For us it’s all about collaboration. The dream of microsoft and Bill Gates, was a PC in every home, on every desk. That happened. The problem is that all this local storage of files and programs has become really annoying if we need access to them when we are not there. We can link desktop to desktop in a network but normally this is local too. If two people are working on a project files go back and forth like a tennis ball, from one local machine to another. What google apps allow us to do, is to position the files at the center of that collaboration where both can access them.

As an account administrator of my domain at google Apps, I can create an account for my team members. For each team member I can:

  • create a new email account and assign privileges to each account
  • have their own set of google docs which are sharable among team members, and they can see the ones others have shared
  • create their own calendar and also see shared company calendars

Team members can create shared folders. For each client we have a shared folder to place documents  team members have created or received.

It makes team work, work.

The real beauty is that all of this is available anytime from anywhere. Waiting for a client at Starbucks…you can access your entire office documents, programs, calender and email from one place.

Google has recently made some great improvements to the little things that were annoying in earlier versions. Up until recently for the google business apps user there wasn’t the option to create an email signature…crazy.

The google docs have also be come much more robust tools. Graphically speaking there have been some huge improvements to the aesthetic quality of their documents which no longer feel like the weak relative of their desktop cousins.

We’ve also transitioned from our trusty dedicated fax line to efax. As annoying as the $17/month fee is, it’s much better than the $40/month our local telephone company was charging us for a fax line. We also have the advantage of the faxed coming into our email inbox which can in turn be stored in the shared client file.

Google also handle our office phones through google voice too!

So what does all of this cost? $50/year/user account. Which I think is nothing for the benefits it offers our company..although it’s a wee bit annoying to still get the ads!

Technology = $$$ For Real Estate Agents

Hiring the right company to build the right website is very effective in generating more business

The National Association of Realtors 2010 member survey suggest that their agents are becoming more tech savvy, and for those who are increasing their spend on their websites are getting returns!

56% of agents are now using a smart phone daily compared to 42% in 2009,  of which 66% were agents who had been in the business 2 years or less, compared with 48% usage for those with careers 16 years or more.

Social media, (twitter, facebook, etc) and  personal networking in general rocketed up to 51% in 2010 compared with 35% from 2009.

10% of agents reported having a blog (i wondering what % are actively blogging :), 63% reported having a website, with a median of 3% of their business being reported coming from it.

Interestingly, agents who spent  $1000 or more to build & maintain on their site said that it generated 19% of their business.

Suggesting that simply ‘having  a website’ misses the mark by a long way. Agents who embrace the web and create a substantial and effective website site get significant returns.

Ipad Real Estate

Well they are here, and finally I was able to grab some time on one, albeit via my local apple store, rather than sitting on my couch.

So there has been much written about how the ipad will be a game changer for real estate agents. For that I am not so sure, but like most things apple do, it does change the game nonetheless.

It’s not so much what the ipad does, its more what my current laptop doesn’t, or how comparatively cumbersome my laptop now feels.

I think that the ipad is the best way to read the news online.

The scale of  it feels to me just like holding a magazine, without having to live with the discarded slab of paper until I finally get around to recyling it.

Since playing with one, it just seems silly to be reading the New York Times or the UK’s Guardian, newspaper on my laptop. Ergomically laptops have never fitted the lap at all. The landscape nature of the screen did not fit the portrait nature of the media. The opening of the screen, the constant adjustment of the screen angle as I settle down into my chair. When your done, you just put it down, no closing the lid, which now seems very outdated.

I am not so sure that its a device for doing, all this speak of using it to sign contracts and rewriting the rule book for real estate technology seems quite a reach. I do think though that its a cute device to show clients your presentation on, and you can certainly wow them with your comfort with technology.

Offline Vs Online Real Estate Marketing

"In the red corner, OFFLINE MARKETING, in the blue corner ONLINE MARKETING...

As we trawl the ever expanding sea of real estate marketing information we often see statements such as the title above.

We think this is to misunderstand marketing on a number of levels.

Firstly this statement is simply too adversarial. As if it’s binary, either, or.

Once you have your real estate website, and it has arrived at the first page of a search engine for key words it was designed for, (you did remember to do that bit right?), it can be easy for agents to think that they simply need to sit back and wait for the leads to come in. Hopefully that will happen.

However, these leads will only come in from those people who THINK to go to a search engine to look for this type of information online. We all know people who would not think of doing this as the informational-gathering-starting point. If you visit a home and they still have yellow-pages lying around, that may tell you something about where they look for information.

For those ‘offline people’, (hello  mum), they require offline marketing to tell them that this resource exists. Don’t ignore them.

Vanessa Fox, formerly of google and Zillow says that perhaps as much as 67% of all search comes from offline channels. That means the hard copy you are sending out.

The best results we see are when both offline and online marketing are engaged in an innovative, harmonious and collaborative way. I think if the question is rephrased to:

Traditional offline and online marketing


Innovative offline and online marketing

I think the distinction is clearer.

So what is, Innovative Offline Real Estate Marketing? Our friend Josh Wilton, Manager of Weichert Princeton, is really leading the charge in helping his agents re-imagine what offline marketing should be.

The age of the ‘static’ one dimensional direct mail piece is dead and never to return. By the time your ‘Just Listed’ card or ‘Just Sold’ card hits the neighborhood it is old news. The customer has already received 10 different auto-emails from competing agents and your card is an antique. Instead think of your direct mail as a commercial for your website. If you sending a ‘Just Listed’ card, have your website promoted more heavily than the house itself. For example one 1000 piece mailing that promoted a website generated 4100 ‘requests’ on that website within 10 days! You basically double the impact of your direct mail campaign. Josh Wilton, Weichert Princeton.

We couldn’t agree more.

The “Just Listed” is useful to two people, the agent, who is promoting themselves, and the seller who sees a glossy picture of their home, and doesn’t realize the agent is promoting themselves.

The problem is for other 998 recipients, they could care less about either. They are interested in

  1. what’s currently for sale in their town
  2. what sold
  3. their home’s value,

Did we just let the cat out of the bag?

If your mailing doesn’t address what your audience wants to read you might be better off not simply going through the motions.