7 Web Design Tricks for Realtors to Get More Leads in 2018

by  | Feb 6, 2018

Via The Close

If you’ve had your website up and running for more than a few months, you’ve probably noticed something curious. You’re getting some traffic, but almost none of that traffic converts into actual leads…

What gives?

Well, to some extent this is the nature of online marketing; only a small fraction of the people who visit your site will convert. C’est la vie right?

Wrong. In 2018 there is an entire industry dedicated to using design and functionality to increase the number of conversions on your site. It’s called Conversion Rate Optimization. Or CRO for short. CRO uses data and analytics to determine design, copy, and layout changes.

Today we’re going to look at 7 clever ways to apply CRO oriented design to your personal website, landing pages, or single property sites.

1. Leverage Hick’s Law to Encourage Your Visitors to Engage

Named for British Psychologist William Edmund Hick, this law states that the more choices a consumer has, the longer it will take them to make a decision.

In a study on decision making in supermarkets, Hick set up two sample displays of jam. One had 24 flavors, and the other had only six flavors of jam.

The results showed that 60% of people stopped and sampled jam from the table with 24 flavors. However, only 6% ended up purchasing a jar of jam.

Meanwhile, only 40% of people stopped to sample jam from the table with six flavors, but an astonishing 30% ended up purchasing jam.

Applying Hick’s Law to Your Site Design

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via Hotjar

The takeaway here should be obvious. By narrowing the number of choices your visitors have, you can dramatically increase your conversion rate.

In order to do this effectively, you need to take the time to figure out exactly what it is you want your visitors to do on each page of your site. For a landing page this might be obvious. You want them to fill out a form and give you their contact info.

For other pages on your site, the answer might not be so obvious. For example, what is the main thing you want visitors to do on your homepage? Do you want them to read the latest from your blog? Check out your brand new listings? Schedule a listing appointment?

In order to get you thinking about this, it makes sense to check out the sites of some top producing Realtors for inspiration. To get you started, here is the main page for Los Angeles luxury brokers Williams & Williams:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks
Okay, I know. This is an extreme example from a team that has dozens of jaw dropping eight figure listings in Beverly Hills… Of course they’re going to encourage people to look at their listings first!

Let’s look at a site on the opposite end of the spectrum that still uses Hick’s Law. Check out the homepage for Placester’s free NAR websites:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks
The main choices here seem to be home search, and testimonials. Since these sites are all about generating buyer leads, this makes perfect sense.

For landing pages or home value sites, Hick’s Law is even clearer. In most cases you don’t even have the option to do anything besides enter your address and contact info.

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks
To learn more about applying Hick’s Law to your website design, check out Usabilla’s excellent write up here.

2. Use Heatmaps to Find Out What Your Visitors Really Want

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks
One of the trickiest things to do when designing your website or landing page is figuring out where your visitors are looking for information. Even if your layout and navigation seems obvious to you, it may not be obvious to all your visitors.

Luckily, there is a clever solution to this problem. Using heatmap software, you can track exactly where your site visitors are clicking and navigating. Here’s how it works:

Sign up for a service like Crazy Egg or Hotjar and add pages from your site that you want to track. After a month or so, the software will create a heatmap showing an average of where all users navigated and clicked.

How Heatmap Software works: Heatmaps

Areas where users click or navigate to often are represented in red, while areas they click or navigate less are in yellow, green, and finally blue.

Using this data, you can tweak your layout, copy, and site colors to both improve efficient navigation, and subtly encourage your visitors to take a specific action. Depending on what you’ve decided that action is, this can mean signing up for an email list, entering their address, or browsing properties.

Here are a few common mistakes that heatmap software might uncover, and how you can fix them:

Problem 
Your visitors are clicking on images or text that are not linked to anything

Solution 
Consider moving your navigation, or CTA to the area they are clicking, or link the images or text in that area to a landing page or other relevant page on your site.

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks
Image via Hotjar

Problem 
Visitors are navigating and clicking on too many areas of your page and ignoring what you want them to focus on

Solution 
Keep Hick’s Law in mind and simplify your page’s layout to encourage them to click where you want them to

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks
Image via Hotjar

How Heatmap Software Works: Scroll Depth

Another useful metric that heatmap software can measure for you is scroll depth. This is the average “depth” a visitor scrolls down your page.

The same color codes used with heatmaps are used for scroll depth. Red areas are where the majority of users scroll down to. Going from red to orange, to yellow, and finally to blue where almost no visitor scrolls to.

Here’s what a scroll depth chart looks like using Hotjar:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

As you can see, the percentage of site visitors who scroll down past “the fold” (the area of your website that is visible without scrolling) goes down dramatically toward the bottom of your site.

Scroll depth heatmaps can be a sobering wake up call for just how much of your website is never seen by your visitors. For example, on many pages, less than 10%(!!) of site visitors scroll down to the bottom of the page.

How to Use Scroll Depth data to Increase Conversions

The most common use for scroll depth data is for your blog posts. For example, if you have a post that’s more than say, 1,000 words, and less than 10% of your audience is getting to the end of the article, you need to make tweaks to get more people to finish the article.

Since longer articles do far better in search results than shorter articles, cutting down the length of your blog posts is not an ideal solution. Instead, break up the content of the article with images, graphs, and subheadings so people can skim the article.

People are busy and attention spans short. Letting your visitors skim an article and only read the subheading relevant to them will increase conversions.

3. Learn the “F” Pattern: Take Advantage of How People Scan Web Pages

According to eye tracking research by Nielsen Norman Group, people scan web pages and phone screens in an ‘F” pattern; they start at the top left then scan right, then down, then to the right again, then to the bottom of the article.

It ends up looking something like this on a heatmap:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via Instapage

While the “F” pattern is not the only way people scan article or webpages, it is the most common.

Here’s what a real estate homepage that utilizes the “F” pattern in its layout:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Screenshot: thebotiquere.com

Here’s another:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Screenshot: pearsonsmithrealty.com

…and another:

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via: labs.hawaiilife.com

Here’s how you can take advantage of the “F” pattern on a blog post. Note where they’re placing the “Watch Live” button.

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Screenshot via: inman.com

4. Make Sure Buttons and Text Boxes Are Easy to Use on Mobile

Is your website mobile friendly? If it’s not, there is a 100% chance you’re losing potential leads. According NAR’s 2017 Real Estate in a Digital Age Report 72% of home buyers used a mobile or tablet website or app in their home search. That’s a lot of lost leads…

Besides making sure the WordPress theme you’re using is responsive (aka works well on desktop and mobile) you need to pay special attention to buttons and text boxes.

In 2017, that means making your text boxes and buttons large enough even for people who are all thumbs to press. If you don’t, your leads may spend a few seconds trying in vain to get in touch with you then just give up.

Here are some of the buttons and text boxes you should pay special attention to on mobile:

  • Call now buttons
  • “Submit” buttons
  • Personal information text boxes
  • Page navigation buttons
  • Drop down menus for property searches

5. Pay Special Attention to the Color, Shape, & Copy on Your CTA Buttons

Believe it or not, even the buttons you use on your CTA’s can have a huge impact on your conversion rate. Subtle changes in color, shape, and copy on your buttons can mean more leads and more closed deals.

The only problem is that the digital marketing community just can’t seem to agree on what changes exactly lead to increased conversions. That said, there are still a few rules that most marketing and CRO experts can agree on:

  1. Orange, green, and blue buttons seem to convert the highest
  2. Buttons whose color contrasts well with the background color convert well
  3. They are actual buttons, not just text links!
  4. They use specific action words in their copy- “Get My Home Value” or “Download My Free PDF” will work better than “submit” or the dreaded “click here”
  5. They’re in a strategic place on the page- Think headline, short copy, text box, button. Also keep the “F” pattern in mind, as well as data from your heatmaps.

Here are some CTA button examples from Unbounce and Instapage that follow these principles well.

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via: Instapage
7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via: Instapage
7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via: Unbounce
7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Image via: Unbounce

6. Use A/B Testing to Find the Perfect Layout, Copy, & CTA for Conversion

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

Okay, now that you’ve got some new CRO inspired design ideas for your website, the next step is to test them on you site. After all, there is no secret formula for conversion. Some changes or combinations of changes may work better or worse depending on a huge number of variables.

In order to find out which changes lead to better conversion rates, you need to use what the industry calls A/B testing (also known as Split Testing). Here’s how it works.

Whenever you make an edit to your layout, buttons, CTA’s or any copy, record your conversion rate and compare it to your previous conversion rate. In order to get a more accurate measurement, it helps to switch back and forth between changes more than once.

Once You’ve identified a change that leads to a higher conversion rate, then keep it and make another small change to the site and runt the same A/B testing. After a few iterations of this, your site should be fully optimized for conversion.

A/B Testing Landing Pages

If you’re trying to optimize your landing pages, then A/B testing is pretty easy. Most landing page software (Unbounce, Instapage etc) have built in A/B testing functionality.

The best thing about A/B testing with landing page software is that they serve up different versions of your landing page to different users. This is important to rule out factors like the day of the week or season that might affect conversion rates.

A/B Testing Other Pages on Your Website

If you’re not using landing page software like Unbounce, A/B testing your website is a little trickier. If you’re using WordPress, you can simply run one version of your page, record your conversion rate, then run the second version and compare the two.

Crazy Egg also offers an A/B testing platform, but you’ll have to shell out for their software to use it. With plans starting at $29 per month, it probably won’t break the bank, but manual A/B testing using WordPress edits is free. You just have to be careful about the time periods you test.

7. Use Live Chat Buttons for Visitors Who Want Instant Answers

7 Clever CRO Web Design Tricks

There’s a funny paradox when it comes to lead generation. Some leads want to talk to you right away, but they don’t want to call you, and they don’t want to email… Short of sending a smoke signal, what else is there?

Enter the live chat button. Live chat buttons are small buttons that sit in the corner of your website and beckon your visitors to have their questions answered instantly. Of course some visitors will just waste your time, but some won’t…

While there are a lot of options on the market, the best live chat software will ping your phone and allow you to respond to live chat via text message. This way you can answer questions and ideally get them to call you while you’re on the go.

Real Estate Live Chat Options for 2018

Luckily, if you’re considering adding live chat to your website there are a ton of options on the market. ZendeskLiveChatPure Chat, and Ready Chat are all solid options.

AI Chat Bots

Amazingly, some companies even offer programmable AI chat bots to interact with your site visitors and answer basic questions. Personally, I would avoid these solutions for now, as many of your visitors will be offended that you pawned them off on a robot…

The Bottom Line

If there’s one thing you do to your website in 2018, using CRO strategies to optimize for better lead conversion should be it. Pay attention to Hick’s Law, use heatmap software to track visitors, make sure buttons are easy to use on mobile, design them well, use live chat, and remember to A/B test your changes.

Raj Qsar // Indie Broker Summit NY 18: Live Problem Solving II

Watch the Pros Work Through Roadblocks for the Inman Audience

By Inman

Feb 27

 

 

One of the many beneficial sessions at Inman Connect New York is “Live problem solving” at Indie Broker Summit, where the pros discuss audience issues and answer tech queries live onstage.

Listen in as Michelle Walker (broker-owner, STL Buy & Sell Realtors) Raj Qsar (principal/owner, The Boutique Real Estate Group) and Sarah Richardson (president, Tru Realty) lead the second indie broker live problem-solving session and answer questions like:

  • I’m giving agents all the tools they need, but they still can’t get it right. How can I get agents to adopt and take advantage of resources that are clearly beneficial to them?
  • If my agents are not using the tools we provide, should we take them off the table completely?

Listen in to hear the answers to these and more.

Watch more sessions from ICNY 18 here.

Tech Connect NY 18: Live Problem Solving with Raj Qsar & Laurie Davis

Watch the pros work through tech roadblocks for the Inman audience
By INMAN / Feb 22

One of the many beneficial sessions at Inman Connect New York is “Tech live problem-solving” at Tech Connect, where the pros discuss audience issues and answer tech queries live onstage.

Listen in as Laurie Davis (broker/owner, BHGRE Lifestyle Property Partners) and Raj Qsar (principal/owner, The Boutique Real Estate Group) answer questions like:

  • I’m becoming overwhelmed with social media. Do I hire a social media manager? And, assuming it’s a $30,000 role, how do I keep track of it?
  • What systems are best to use when managing a team?
  • I’ve never created a listing video … where do I start?

Listen in to hear the answers to these and more.

Watch more sessions from ICNY 18 here.

Raj Qsar at Inman NYC- The Boom Real Estate Podcast

Raj Qsar at Inman NYC // It’s time for Inman—it’s Inman time! In this episode, Raj Qsar is a blinding, brilliant light from heaven. He brings all of his energy and passion for video in real estate and just CRUSHES it. You’ll be inspired—just like we were—when you hear Raj talk about how he broke into the luxury market using video; the ROI of video in his business; and how much he can bench press. For real. He can bench press a lot.” -The Boom Real Estate Podcast Episode #34.

Check out the podcast here:

 

 

 

Real Estate Video Influencer Awards

RajVideoInfluencer

Congratulations to the top 10 agents and the five honorable mentions in home tours and listing videos! This was an extremely difficult category to judge with so many quality entries. While we saw many highly produced samples, we focused on the story that each video told and how well they were able to explain the amenities and characteristics of each home.

We took into consideration the human element first. If a video did not have the real estate agent, homeowner, or even actors to help bring the home to life, they were eliminated from the competition. Needless to say, slideshows need not apply.

What we ultimately came up with was a balanced list of videos that includes both highly produced videos and videos every agent can create. Check out the top agents in the Listing Video category and get inspired by their creations!

Who can tell the story of a home and why it’s so magical better than the person who specifically built the home, custom to his family’s wants and needs? We love this video because we can see and feel why this home is so important to the homeowner.

#1 Raj Qsar // Home Tour Video Award

Raj is no stranger to awards. In 2017, Raj was named The Real Estate Influencer of The Year by Inman News. In 2016, Raj was named to the prestigious Swanepoel Power 200 Honoring the Most Powerful 200 People in Residential Real Estate. On his YouTube channel, you can find a variety of interviews with him where he discusses how important it is for real estate agents to utilize video in their business. Raj truly captures the luxury and cinematic essence of his high-end listings, on top of leveraging unique storytelling within his highly produced listing videos.

The Boutique Real Estate Group

TheBoutiqueRE.com | YouTube | Facebook | Instagram

NurtureCon 2017 Online Conference

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I’m speaking at the #NurtureCon Online Conference- let’s hang out! This online conference starts October 23rd and runs through Friday October 27th. ‘ll be speaking on How to Make Real Estate Movies that Sell Houses. The event is definitely targeting real estate agents and brokers who want to up their game at lead nurturing, lead generating, branding, video and content, but it also extends to those working in any professional real estate capacity / admin, realtor spouses, team leads and real estate trainers.

Interested in joining me?

Get your free ticket here!!!

 

#SindeoSitDown Recap: Reeling in Buyers With Video

BY

In our latest #SindeoSitDown, Owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group and video guru, Raj Qsar, sat down with us to talk about how and why realtors everywhere should be leveraging video to grow their business.

So…what did we learn? For starters, if you’re not already using video to market your listings you should be! Listings that use video receive 4x as many leads as those without. Video has become the #1 ROI for money spent and returned for Raj and his team, as is the case for most realtors doing video successfully.

What kinds of things can you add to video to make them exciting and “sticky”?

  • Add a human element – Create videos that are about more than just the property. Feature pets, give the house a story, include actors that “live” in the home, find ways to make it feel real so viewers can relate.
  • Include the community – B-roll footage is key. Buyers aren’t just moving into a house, they’re moving into a community. So, show it to them! Shots of local businesses, parks, beaches, and amenities go a long way. Plus, this content is evergreen, meaning you can use it again and again.
  • Make it cool – There are so many hi-tech additions you can incorporate to put your video above the rest. Use hyperlapse, add filters, film aerial shots with a drone!

Create beautiful and effective listing videos that capture a buyer’s attention and keep clients coming back.

Don’t know where to start? Get inspired by some of Boutique Real Estate Group’s amazing videos. Check them out!

Missed the webinar? No problem! You can catch the entire thing by

CLICKING HERE.

05033-I-RajQsar_SSD_Brick_Facebook-shared

Reeling in Buyers with Real Estate Videos

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Did you know 85 percent of sellers want to work with an agent who uses video? And homes listed with video get 4x the inquiries of homes listed without it! Marketing your property with video has quickly become the largest and most effective way to reach your clients.

So what does this mean for you? If you’re not already leveraging video, you should be!

In this #SindeoSitDown, Founder/Owner and marketing extraordinaire, Raj Qsar, will explain how to think about listing videos a bit differently ad how to drive traffic to your listings.

Join us for this 15 minute #sindeositdown on Wednesday December 2nd at 10am.

REGISTER HERE:

Connect with Raj Here:

Watch Videos Here:

 

10 Stunning Real Estate Listing Videos from 2015

Each year, agents and brokers nationwide continue to raise the bar for the quality of real estate videos. Properties are showcased in ever more unique fashions. Homes for sale are better staged and styled to help buyers envision themselves living there. All in all, more effort is put into making these videos visual masterpieces — ones that compel agents’ audiences, earn them new leads, and nurture existing ones. In 2015, this real estate video trend continued, as countless great listing videos were created by industry pros across the country — including the 10 featured below.

Check out each of these stunning real estate listing videos from 2015 and discover what makes them great … and how to emulate them with your own real estate video marketing strategy.

1930 Providence Road, Charlotte, North Carolina — Savvy + Co Real Estate

Knowing your audience: That’s how you win over real estate buyer leads. In the case of this gorgeous residence in Charlotte, the agency representing the listing, Savvy + Co Real Estate, knew the outdoor space would appeal to those who like hosting get-togethers: family BBQs, swanky pool parties, and everything in between. Telling the story of planning such a gathering through the eyes of a would-be owner is a perfect way to exhibit what life could be like for potential buyers. Of course, this narrative is just a part of the promotional angle of the video — showing the owner stroll through the listing also gives viewers a crystal clear view of every facet of the home.

1972 Outpost Circle, Los Angeles, California — The Boutique Real Estate Group

Another real estate video that offers a glimpse of life for the homeowner through an actor comes from one of the best-of-the-best listing video producers, The Boutique Real Estate Group of Orange County, California. The production of this video is stellar: from the background music that spurs our homeowner to sway rhythmically throughout the residence to the overhead drone shots of the Hollywood Hills. While selling a high-end home in L.A. may seem like an easy gig, it still takes a lot to stand out in the luxury market, and BREG does an incredible job at showing off this particular property in a distinct light.

21 Hurlingham Drive, Conyer’s Farm, Greenwich, Connecticut — RUHM Luxury Marketing and Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Greenwich

RUHM Luxury Marketing is no stranger to making lists of the best real estate listing videos — and there’s a clear reason. The company goes above and beyond — spending who knows how much — to craft award-worthy videos that look like those an Oscar-winning director would shoot. For this listing video of the lavish Hurlingham estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, the video marketing agency went the extra mile to showcase not just the home, which looks beyond pristine, but also the expansive property surrounding the house itself, which includes the best nature has to offer and a picturesque farm. There’s also insights from the estate manager and even nearby residents. Admittedly, this is a home that’s aimed at the super-millionaire, but the real estate video still shines brightly and does an astounding job of convincing any viewer the residence would be right for them.

6454 Shinnwood Road, Wilmington, North Carolina

Aside from creating first-rate tips-and-tricks real estate videos to her home buyer and seller audience, Edwards does a wonderful job with her listing videos. From start to finish, you get the complete sense that she has her business in order. We see her chic branding at the very beginning of the clip and immediately know how to find her online when she shares her social media info. Then, we get to hear from her and the dedication she and her team put into learning the ins and outs of her new listing. Finally, we see every detail of the home as Edwards and Co. tour the property. Oh, and the drone footage of the stunning water out back certainly doesn’t hurt.

12958 Northside Road, Monticello, Prince Edward Island, Canada

No matter how amazing your real estate listing video looks, if no one knows how to get in touch with you, it probably won’t help you secure more leads and clients. Michael Poczynek of Prince Edward Islandunderstands this: He wisely incorporates every potential way in which his audience could contact him in the opening seconds of his videos and posts his phone numbers at the bottom of the screen throughout the clip. Add in the fact that he explains everything a prospective home buyer could ever dream of knowing about the Monticello home for sale, the ocean nearby, the surrounding community, and the intricate details of the property’s interior and exterior and you’ve got one extremely well-produced video. It’s little wonder as to why Poczynek has accrued hundreds of thousands of views on his YouTube channel.

4847 Rim Road, Santa Barbara, California

Ideally, your real estate videos will provide clarity regarding your listings, like an oral explanation of the properties’ dimensions and features or text overlays highlighting updates made to the residence. Sometimes, though, all you need to do is let the home for sale and the surrounding area speak for itself, as real estate cinematographer and drone photography specialist Douglas Thron does for this video he shot for a Southern California listing. In just four minutes, Thron was able to exhibit practically every major attribute of the community, including the stunning pier and cliffside area, and the home itself.

3168 Countryside Drive, Brampton, Ontario, Canada — Open House Television and Royal LePage Real Estate Services

Taking essentially the opposite approach from the previous video is the firm Royal LePage, which employed Open House Television to create an intricately detailed listing video that spends just as much time and effort explaining the ins and outs of the property — everything from the dimensions of the marble tiles in the foyer to the pre-finished Oak hardwood floors in the dining room. When it comes to promoting a home for sale, there’s no such thing as providing too much information to prospective buyers, so if you produce a script that’s 2,000 words long, don’t feel the need to shorten it for the sake of brevity. Instead, do what the real estate agency behind this recording does and let no home characteristics go unexplained.

7320 Popp Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana — Wieland Real Estate

If there was an award for “Best Real Estate Listing Video Staging,” this one from Indiana-based Wieland Real Estate would certainly get a nomination. The warm (literally and figuratively) and inviting living room, cozy home office, book-filled bedroom, and bright kitchen are just some of the many astounding rooms we pass through via this expertly crafted digital tour. Add in the elegant ballad strumming in the background and the perfect branding to close out the video (both the cameo from the agency’s head Troy Wieland and the prominent logo and call to action) and you’ve got yourself one phenomenally developed listing promotion.

333 22nd Street, Santa Monica, California — Christophe Choo

Mr. Choo has got this digital real estate marketing thing down pat. After explaining how he drives thousands upon thousands of visitors to his real estate website each month via his organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts at Inman Connect San Francisco, it became clear he’s one the premier online marketers in the industry. This listing video is just the icing on the cake: Having already mastered written content, Choo and his team headed to the world of video, where they’ve produced awe-inspiring clips like the one above that really make viewers feel like they’re invited guests into this multimillion-dollar Santa Monica manor. As the tour guide, Choo does a remarkable job of suavely describing each of the home’s biggest draws. Should you ever decide to get in front of the camera for your own real estate videos, use Choo as an agent to imitate.

1611 Mokulua Drive, Kailua, Hawaii — 360 Property Videos and Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties

It’s definitely difficult to screw up a real estate video in such a magnificent locale such as Hawaii, but even with the resplendent natural setting and a handsome high-end home to boot, it takes a lot of effort to pull of a video like this one for Honolulu-based agent Tracy Allen’s luxury listing. Those aspiring to live the seaside life with warm weather year-round and easy access to the beach, trails, and mountains are clearly the primary demographic this clip targets. And though this may be a limited audience, the production value of the video likely attracted a hefty number of prospective buyers.
Get help with your real estate video production for your YouTube channel in our detailed Academy post, which explains how to brand your account, the types of real estate videos to create, and much more.

What real estate marketing tools do you use to create listing and other videos? How do you come up with real estate marketing ideas for your videos? Share your ideation and production methods with us below!

Innovative Marketing: Raj Qsar Sells a Story, Not Just a Home

Via Zillow

On January 1, 2013, Raj Qsar launched his great experiment: a brokerage that eschews more traditional real estate methods in favor of a new and creative marketing approach. The Boutique Real Estate Group began its journey on that first day of 2013 with three agents, a creative director, a social media manager and an office manager — and it’s taking southern California real estate to a new level. The experiment worked.

Raj Qsar is the principal and owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group and a 10-year veteran of real estate sales and marketing. Raj shared his vision of the Boutique with me, and it’s a compelling story of the birth and growth of a real estate brokerage that tends to do things a little bit differently. It’s a story of success that provides insight into a free-thinking yet savvy group of professionals who, in Raj’s own words, have formed “a technology company that is super-passionate about creative design. And oh, by the way, sells real estate as well.”

I wanted to tell a story

Ask the people who know Raj and The Boutique to describe what sets them apart, and you are likely to hear “video.”

That seemed a good place to start my discussion with Raj, so I simply asked, “why video?”

Instead of the expected responses — “Video is the future!” or “Real estate is visual, it lends itself to video” — what I heard was, “I wanted to tell the homeowner’s story. A story not just about the home, but about the neighborhood and why they loved living there.”

Raj found a wedding videographer who took a narrative approach to his work: Instead of taking the standard pictures of bride, groom and wedding party, the videographer was telling the story of the couple. Believing that this style could translate to real estate, Raj contacted him and said, “I want you to tell a story. A story about a house.”

“What do you mean, a story about a house?”

This was in 2009, before video was a buzzword, before video was cool. Real estate “video” at that time typically consisted of a fancy slideshow: still images pieced together using zoom effects, with pleasant music playing in the background.

“That’s not video, that’s pictures stitched together to appear video-like. It’s fake video,” Raj told me.

Raj was at a listing presentation for an expired property. It had languished on the market for nine months with only five showings and no offers. Raj pitched the idea of a “real life” video to the sellers, one that would focus on why the sellers had lived in and loved this home for so many years. It would highlight not only the home, but also weave the community and local businesses into its story line. They loved the idea.

Raj walked away with the listing and a promise to create a new kind of video.

There was one problem: he had no idea how to do that. Passionate about creative design, Raj knew where to find the right people to pull this off. They storyboarded some ideas, professionally staged the home, took amazing photos, shot true video footage of the home and neighborhood, created an online marketing campaign, translated that campaign into multiple languages and set off to sell the property.

That was just the beginning.

“We are so OCD about every fine detail that we re-shot and re-edited the video several times, even going through multiple soundtracks and music choices before we went live.”

With the video complete, Raj delivered it to his sellers and asked them to share it with friends, family and neighbors. The home was in a small, tight-knit, gated neighborhood, and the owners shared the video with their Bunko group — which included about 70 of the neighborhood’s 100 homeowners.

Raj is proud of the fact that they took that listing and got an over-list price offer in two weeks.

But he’s prouder of the fact that the video was so well received that over the next three years, they listed 13 homes in that subdivision, setting price records almost every time.

The owners loved the video. They shared it with other homeowners who loved it. It was high quality, it was memorable, and it made the phone ring when people were looking to sell.

In case you think this reception of a property video was just dumb luck, there are other similar stories. A condo association played a video produced by Jeremy Lehman, The Boutique’s CTO, at their board meeting because it highlighted the neighborhood so well. A couple of the board members were considering selling their homes. Who do you think they called? The Boutique group has now listed 15 of those condos.

The video brokerage

Raj considers video a catapult to get in front of sellers. While a video may not sell a home directly, the quality and effort Raj’s brokerage puts into video sets them apart from the masses. It identifies them. They are now locally (and I would argue, nationally) thought of as “the video brokerage.”

As time marched on, Raj took video production in-house. He bought the equipment and brought in experts, lowering the production cost and allowing them to shoot videos on about half of their listings. If there is a story to tell, they will tell it in multiple formats, across multiple platforms, including video.

But Raj stresses that it’s not just video. When The Boutique takes a listing it usually spends about three weeks getting it ready before submitting it to the MLS.

At this point in the conversation, I stopped Raj and said, “Three weeks? Who takes three weeks to get a home in the MLS?”

“We do,” said Raj. They storyboard the property and neighborhood, professionally stage the home, hire select professional photographers, process and edit those photos, shoot and edit video, create a 90-day content calendar that maps out how the listing will be promoted on various social and listing syndication sites and discuss how will they share the home’s story. Then, and only then, is the property ready for the MLS and their marketing push.

The first hire

Ask most fledgling brokers or team leaders about their first hire and they will probably say they brought in a transaction coordinator, buyer’s agent or office manager. In fact, every person I’ve talked to who built their own team or brokerage started by hiring one of those people.

Until I talked to Raj, that is: His first hire was a creative director.

Their graphic designer on staff — on staff, not contracted out — is degreed. “It’s not like we are using the broker’s assistant’s cousin who just graduated from junior college to do our design work,” said Raj.

That attitude defines Raj and The Boutique. He wants the best, and only the best, for his brokerage, his agents and his clients.

This tenet is reflected in part by their technology standards: The Boutique is Apple-based, and all agents must be on Apple products. No agents design their own marketing material; it all goes through the in-house creative designer, and everything goes through the videographer. They have three preferred listing photographers, and those are the only three that agents can use. Before even going into the home, however, it is staged by their in-house stager. Why so much quality control? Raj said, “We make our agents do these things because we know they work, and they give our clients and agents the best chance of success.”

On lead generation

Pretty pictures are nice, but ultimately you need leads. I asked Raj about his strategies for lead generation and listing syndication.

Raj said they are on all of the major platforms: Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and Homes.com. “By far and away we’ve seen the most benefit from Zillow. The quality of leads and amount of leads that come in from Zillow is superior to the rest. Our rep makes a big difference too. He’s a partner with us.”

One of the first things The Boutique does when they get a new agent is have them sign up for the “pro” level on all the major search sites. This ensures agent buy-in and facilitates lead management and consistency.

“Speed of response to Internet leads is critical,” Raj informs us. “We used to route leads to agents on a round-robin basis. As we got more sophisticated, and realized that if you don’t reply to a lead in two minutes that you’ve lost it, we brought in an in-house lead incubator whose job is to qualify and curate contacts.” The Boutique generated 3,600 inbound leads in 2014 though portal advertising and in-house lead generation efforts. Staffing a lead incubator position has freed up Raj’s agents and shifted them from receiving brokerage leads to receiving appointments.

There is no Plan B

Talk to Raj for two minutes about real estate and you will see that he is a very passionate man with a strong focus on creative design. This comes through not only in his listings, but in his philosophy on running a brokerage.

“It’s all about the consumer and their experience. We are hired to sell a property, but a property isn’t just bricks and mortar and walls. Every home has a story and if we tell that story well, we can create an emotional response — and when a buyer is emotionally involved in the story, they are more likely to purchase.”

How does that vision scale? Can it scale? What are Raj’s future plans for The Boutique Real Estate Group?

“I’d like to open another five offices in southern California in the next five years,” Raj told me.

“What about expanding outside of SoCal?” I asked.

“I get those calls about once a month. Some big-box brokerage or franchise will approach me about expanding. We love what we do. We hustle, we sell a home and we reinvest than back into the business. We add to our knowledge and technology. I have no Plan B. This is what we love, this is what we do.”

Video marketing in action

The Boutique Real Estate Group is known as “the video brokerage,” so we’d be remiss if we didn’t include some sample videos.

“It’s not all about the price point,” Raj tells us. “Yes, we are focusing on the luxury market by providing luxury services to our agents and clients. These services are what truly set us apart. We respect where our industry has been but we are pushing the envelope and going in a whole new direction — and we are just getting started.”

Visit The Boutique’s YouTube Channel to see how they market their listings — and their brokerage.

Here is a recent listing video that exemplifies The Boutique’s philosophy of storytelling.

 

And here is a video for a magnificent luxury estate in Hawaii. The Boutique Real Estate Group was brought on as a co-lister for this property due to their skill and expertise in social media, video and creative design.

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