A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

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I just finished reading an article in the Houston Association of Realtors magazine about how business on the internet is changing. We are moving away from providing a good towards providing a service, which is what all real estate professionals have always done. There was a word in the article which disturbed me though; it was the term “control”. Having a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, I peer into word usage a lot. What struck me was the fact that the word “control” has been used before by this association when discussing how the industry and its practitioners should deal with the internet.

I am an advocate in an individual stepping up to direct (or if you prefer control) their life. Taking matters in hand helps shape the outcome to an end which would be more preferable to you. I say this to show that I do not have a problem with the idea of control, but the Association used this term in respect to controlling information on the internet. The idea was that the real estate industry should control how real estate is presented, and how industry professionals, mainly Realtors, are perceived (primarily through the idea of ranking a service). Recent articles in newspapers and magazines have pointed out that businesses are changing their image on the internet from advertising their product to providing information. Some one surfing the web will be looking for information on a certain topic, find it on a firm’s site, and then maybe use that firm’s product. Before I knew about this trend, I created my own site using this principle. I did this, because it is the way I was already using the internet, so I thought it logical for my own site.

For me, there are too many blogs, websites, or other forums on the internet to control. Suggestions like being able to delete negative posts on a ranking service (so all rankings are positive), or preventing negative information about the industry seems counter productive. One could spend time constant patrolling for the negative, and never produce positive information yourself. Look at the blogs from Realtors on my blogroll. These are professionals who have taken control of their image, while also providing the consumer with a need. I can post an opinion on their blog, which may counter their own, but they can respond by reinforcing their argument. As for negative opinions about me, I try to go for the heart of the criticism to see if I do have to improve on some aspect of my performance, or if it is just sour grapes. I like to think that some one surfing the internet is intelligent enough to distinguish between a real complaint and a rant with no basis. Along these lines, I feel that they should also look at praise with a skeptical eye. Was that favorable ranking and comment posted by their brother-in-law?

I also had an internal debate about posts from my blog showing up on other sites. I write my blog with the sincere hope that I am assisting people, but we should all keep in mind that I am in business, and this blog is also meant to promote my service. In the end, I decided that I would allow the comments to be displayed showing where my posts have ended up. Maybe those sites would give different perspectives to topics that I am dealing with, which could help the reader. This really is the idea behind the new business model. Eventually, my sharing of knowledge should bring business my way. Perhaps the more open I am to allowing my work to be shared freely, the more will come back to me.

I have been exploring other real estate sites, and I am really confused by the lack of Realtor involvement. If we real estate professionals want a positive message out there, we should be posting comments on blogs and forums to make our voices heard. We should create blogs and sites to let our message sing. And we should evaluate the negative to see how we can better aid the consumer, because is that not what our job is about? The Association here in Houston has done good work with its own site, but advice and comments about control should be left behind. Realtors (and even us lowly home inspectors) should direct our own image in the fashion of our clients, by responding with our own message.

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