How to Sell a House in Southern Calfornia: Make a Movie

The New York Times

By Debra Kamin // Nov. 12, 2019, 1:53 a.m. ET

Shooting a music video to showcase, then sell, a home in West Hollywood, Calif. Production budgets for these films can range from $3,500 to $70,000.Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

Raj Qsar is eyeing the sky nervously. It’s early afternoon in Corona Del Mar, Calif., and his six-man camera crew is on the clock only until sunset. But clouds are rolling in fast over this wealthy Southern California neighborhood, and the next scene on today’s docket — a glamorous drive down the Pacific Coast Highway followed by a beachfront double date — is now feeling tricky.

On other film sets, the producer and director might huddle and order a break, or call it a wrap until tomorrow. But Mr. Qsar isn’t a director — he’s a real estate agent. And the star of his film is not a good-looking young actor (although there are four of those on set), but rather, a $1.7 million Orange County home. This short and sudsy film, he hopes, in which two young couples drink wine, play board games and wander through sleek, neat rooms, will do the trick to attract a buyer.

“Telling stories and creating connections with people takes more than just photos,” said Mr. Qsar, who heads a luxury brokerage called The Boutique Real Estate Group. “For us now, it’s all about the power of video.”

Video marketing is not new territory for home sales — wide-angle walk-throughs of staged living rooms and sweeping drone footage of leafy neighborhoods have become common tools in real estate agents’ kits. But cinematic mini-films, complete with paid actors, lighting crews and full-fledged story boards, are something new.

Mr. Qsar began dabbling in cinematic videos in 2008, just two years after leaving his job as a pharmaceutical sales representative to jump into the Orange County housing boom. He came across a wedding videographer who was producing emotionally charged, story-driven films for brides and grooms, and, he says, a light bulb went on.

“I had an idea about telling the story the same way, but as the story of a house,” he said. “One of the things I always tell my clients when they walk through is, ‘Can you see yourself having Christmas dinner here or birthdays and bar mitzvahs here?’ I wanted to really pull out the emotional aspect.”

After putting the wedding videographer on his payroll and investing $20,000 of his own money in video equipment, he made a handful of short film promotions for homes in the $1 million to $2 million range in Orange County, including a four-bedroom Mediterranean-style estate in Villa Park.

On set in Corona del Mar, CA USA
The Boutique Real Estate Group

In that video, images of a young blond wife sitting at a piano and singing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” are spliced with images of a Porsche-driving husband arriving home from work. As he showers upstairs, the wife ushers in a flock of eager friends and children with balloons and sets up a surprise party by the pool. The song reaches its crescendo, the husband descends the stairs, and there’s his family, there’s a cake, and there’s a sweet, picture-perfect backyard celebration.

When that home sold, for $1.7 million, it set a record as the most expensive home sale ever in Villa Park.

“Once real estate agents started doing high-end video productions, putting in models and actors was a no-brainer,” said Jimm Fox, president of OMM Video Marketing, a Canadian agency that tracks trends in cinematic storytelling. “You’re not just selling an address, you’re selling a lifestyle. And to do that, you need humans.”

Production budgets for these films can range from $3,500 to $70,000. Often the real estate agent is picking up the tab, but in some cases, agents discuss their plans with sellers and agree to split the bill or have the costs added to their fees.

Mr. Fox said the trend for Hollywood-style videos kicked off around 2007 and was a natural progression from the lush but empty footage of staged homes that preceded it.

“Real estate at the high end is always an aspirational sell,” he said. “You want to showcase a lifestyle. So you start shooting homes, and then you add models to make it more vibrant, and very soon you want to turn it into a story.”

The Australian production studio PlatinumHD claims to have been the first to produce these Hollywood-style real estate films. In 2011, the studio helped the trend spread internationally by producing a video for the Queensland-based property management firm Neo Property.

In it, a young woman clad only in a lacy bra and panties and bound to a chair inside a hyper-modern luxury home, makes an emergency call for help and is asked to describe where she is. As she describes the home’s chef’s kitchen and waterfront views, its in-house movie theater and its private elevator, a SWAT team descends to rescue her, led by none other than Neo Property’s real estate agents themselves.

Photo Credit: The Boutique Real Estate Group
446 Morning Canyon Rd, Corona del Mar, CA USA

The film, of course, is as much about the appeal of the model as the home. But by using sex, helicopters and shots of a gleaming red Corvette to sell the property, Neo made it quite clear: In this sort of marketing, peddling a fantasy can help close a deal.

Ben Bacal began adding actors to his listing videos in 2014. The Los Angeles-based agent, a former film student who also dabbles in internet companies and has more than $2 billion in sales to his name, is a fixture on the high-priced home circuit in Hollywood. He offers his clients a professionally produced video for every home he agrees to represent, and he estimates that in 40 percent of those cases, he includes actors and a story line.

Some are sweet: A home in Bel Air, which he listed in March 2016 for $48.5 million, shows a brother and sister channeling their best Ferris Bueller impressions, faking sickness in their custom bedrooms before dashing out to their backyard infinity pool with skyline views after their parents head off to work. (The home sold for $39 million in December 2016.)

Others are more slapstick, like the film for a home on Rising Glen Road in Los Angeles (the house where the actress Brittany Murphy died), in which an adorable corgi named Sherlock Bones inherits the mansion listed for $18.5 million and heads there to live his best canine life. (That home sold in 2017 for $14.5 million.)

In all of Mr. Bacal’s videos, plots are thin but visuals, and humor, are laid on thick. That’s intentional, he says.

“Instead of telling a long dramatic story, I like to pull characters through the house and do something that makes it voyeuristic, where you can see the property. Focusing too much on story takes away from the home,” he said in a phone call from Mykonos, Greece, where he was on vacation. “I’m not Quentin Tarantino.”

His greatest triumph to date is a home on Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills. Markus Persson, the Swedish video game programmer behind Minecraft, saw the short film that Mr. Bacal produced for the eight-bedroom, 15-bath home, showing two young women arriving in a Rolls-Royce and enjoying the home’s features, which include a candy room and a 24-seat theater. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were also reportedly interested in the property, which was priced at $85 million. Just seven days after seeing the film, Mr. Persson purchased it for $70 million.

Photo Credit: The Boutique Real Estate Group
Kerrigan Ranch, Yorba Linda, CA USA

Mr. Bacal credits his success to his ability to not just create compelling footage, but also to distribute it effectively.

He pours cash into boosting the films on YouTube, advertising them across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and promoting them in the right markets. In Mr. Persson’s case, Mr. Bacal had made the decision to promote the mansion not just in the United States but also in Sweden, a decision that paid off.

“It’s not just about creating a 90-second video. It’s also about knowing how to use video to effectively market that property. And that’s going to mean breaking it up into smaller components and using social media platforms to promote it,” said Mr. Fox, the Canadian marketing executive.

It makes sense that Hollywood-style promotional real estate is hitting a peak in Southern California, said Jonathan Miller, a New York City-based real estate appraiser and consultant. That’s because the high-end market from Los Angeles to San Diego is flush with inventory, creating longer marketing time, reduced foot traffic at open houses and greater competition between agents.

“In a market where there’s escalating supply but still anchored to another time, the sellers are trying to market much more creatively,” Mr. Miller said. In his mind, the sleeker and more expert-looking the video, the more likely it is that the seller is trying to justify a high price tag.

“When I see these videos, or something like a camel at an open house, that’s a clear sign of something that’s overpriced,” he said.

Mr. Qsar, the Orange County real estate agent, produces a video for every home that he represents, spending from $2,500 to the low six figures to produce them. He pays out of his own pocket. While he has had eight-figure listings, most of his sales are in the $1 million to $2 million range.

“Fifteen years ago, I never thought I’d be shooting films,” said Mr. Qsar. “I had a day job and just wanted to sell a couple houses and see what happened. But then I sold 10 and then 15 and 20, and then social media hit, and I thought, ‘O.K., how can I be different?’”

In the hypercompetitive world of Southern California real estate, he said, it’s worth it because his videos give him a definitive edge.

“Our listings are recognizable before they even hit the market, because people see them on social media,” he said. “So now, every time I get together with my team on a house, the first question we ask is, ‘What is the story going to be on this house?’”A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 16, 2019 in The New York Times International Edition. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


Bring your own pumpkin party

BRING YOUR OWN PUMPKIN
Please join us for a Pumpkin Painting & Carving Party! Free event! Fun for the whole family. Art supplies will be provided. Taco Cart & Soft Drinks provided.

The event is located at the Lakeview Field in Yorba Linda! Park in the Foxfield Neighborhood on the Corner of Lakeview Ave & Bastanchury Rd (Churchill Downs Dr or Temhurst Court) and walk towards the end of the cul-de-sac to the dirt path to access field.

Sunday, October 20th from 3-6 pm

Call or text Christina at 714-501-8585 for more info and details.

FACEBOOK EVENT INVITE

EMOTION EVOKING MARKETING with Raj Qsar

Marketing is all about story telling – Stories stir emotions in us, create connections, and motivate us to act. In real estate marketing, we must learn to listen to our clients, hear them, understand them, and push THEIR story out into the market place. We are telling their story, not ours. The practice of using “beautiful design to evoke emotion” is what helped launch Raj Qsar and The Boutique Real Estate Group into a massive success. Raj felt so strongly about the need for unique design work in his company that his first hire was a graphic designer. Today, Raj is expanding his company, developing his high end branding, continuing his extensive and wildly famous listing videos, and traveling the world speaking for Inman. Tune into this special episode to learn how important it is to market with intent, and to not only listen to what others are doing, but WATCH what they are doing.

Links mentioned in this episode:

#56: Sustaining High Performance – Alyssa Hellman

Summer Winds Listing Video – The Boutique RE Group 

On this episode, you’ll learn more on:

  • You can’t be the chief of “everything” officer – you need help
  • The benefits of being open to change and being and early adapter
  • When you have no money, you have no choice. You HAVE to hustle
  • Take the tools of others and make them your own to conquer your sphere
  • Why you need to care about what the people you care about, care about
Catch Raj Qsar & Kyle Malnati

Fun Things To Do in June

La Habra Movies in the Park   May 18-Oct. 12
Join the Recreation staff for an outdoor, family-friendly movie on Friday nights.  Participants should bring their own lawn chairs and blankets and can enjoy food vendors and the Bamboo Kids Club. Movies begin at dusk.
Time/Place: See website for schedule.
Contact: www.lahabracity.comNewport Beach Jazz Festival   June 1-3
A star–studded lineup of musicians, delectable food and drink selections, and dancing on the lawn. The festival kicks off on Friday night featuring Michael Lington with Kenny Lattimore at the Hyatt’s Back Bay Amphitheatre. On Saturday and Sunday, the festival heads to the Back Bay Golf Course for two jam-packed days filled with the finest smooth jazz, R&B, funk and soul!
Contact: https://festivals.hyattconcerts.comRare Vintage Air VW Show   June 2
Bring your VW to the Rare Vintage Air VW d’Elegance to kick off the Prado & Classic weekends. We have great raffle items from our sponsors. We are also having a 50/50 raffle. Grinderz will have great food, soft drinks and beer on site at a discount price.
Time/Place: 9am-3pm / Old World Village, Huntington Beach
Contact: www.rarevintageairvwclub.com

Family Fun & Wellness Fair   June 2
Free health screenings and checkups while enjoying good food, live music, and informative offerings from the exhibitors. Families will enjoy the various entertainments such as live music performances, face painting, prize giveaways, and more!
Time/Place: 9am-2pm / Pretend City, Irvine
Contact: 949-428-3900 / www.pretendcity.org/healthfair

San Diego Rail & Sail   June 2
We will motor coach to SJC to board an Amtrak train for a coastal ride to San Diego’s waterfront shops and restaurants at Seaport Village and the “Headquarters,” with time at leisure for lunch on your own. Choose to spend the afternoon exploring the USS Midway or enjoying a San Diego Harbor Cruise.
Time/Place: 8:30am-6pm / Norman P. Murray Community & Senior Center, Mission Viejo
Contact: 949-470-3062 / www.cityofmissionviejo.org

Be More Healthy Expo   June 2
Health and wellness related exhibitors will showcase their products and services to thousands of potential customers. Free admission! Open to the public.
Time/Place: 9am-3pm / Seal Beach Pier
Contact: www.sealbeachchamber.org

Mission Viejo Film Festival   June 2
Each screening will present films that meet the run-time guides for each category: “Short Films: High School”, “Short Films: College/Indie” and “Music Videos” The following five awards will be presented – the Mark Jennings Award, City of Hope Award, People’s Choice Award, The MV Award, and the Mayor’s Award.
Time/Place: 4-8pm / Saddleback Performing Arts – McKinney Theater
Contact: 949-470-3062 / www.missionviejofilmfestival.com

Corona del Mar Scenic 5K   June 2
Whether running the 5K course, participating in the 2-mile Celebration Walk, or simply cheering the kids on in the Youth and Dolphin Dash series, all registered participants are hosted to a complimentary restaurant row feast of local eateries. Don’t miss the festive post event party complete with live entertainment, unique sponsor and vendors, awards ceremony and more.
Time/Place: 6am / Ocean Blvd & Heliotrope Ave.
Contact: www.cdmchamber.com

Huntington Beach Concours Classic Car & Motorcycle Show   June 2-3
A fun event where car lovers and enthusiasts can come to enjoy themselves, while knowing that they are also helping a worthy cause, The Huntington Beach Library Children’s Resource Center. It is rated # 1 in California, please help us keep it that why by attending this year’s event.
Time/Place: Sat 9am-2pm, Sun 9am-4pm / Huntington Beach Central Park
Contact: 714-904-5034 / www.hbconcours.org

Dino Days   June 2-3
There will be fun for the entire family with a walking DINO tour of a life-size moving T-Rex, Velociraptors and a Dilophosaurus. Wristband includes dinosaur tour, arts and crafts, face painting, balloon artist and unlimited games.
Time/Place: 10am-2pm / Nature Park, Lake Forest
Contact: 949-273-6960 / www.lakeforestca.gov

Fantasea of Quilts, Quilt Show   June 2-3
Traditional and non-traditional style quilts will be on display. It brings together the “best of the best” in quiltmaking, with aisles of displays, retail exhibits and more. Opportunity quilt: Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows with Kaffe Fassett Fabrics, $1 per ticket or 6 for $5. $10 and parking is Free! Auction is at 1 pm on Saturday.
Time/Place: SOKA University, Alisa Viejo
Contact: 949-547-6961 / www.beachcitiesquilters.org

Lost & Found Vintage Flea Market   June 3
Unique, curated, and rare vintage finds! Not everyone knows this, but The LAB stands for “Little American Business” and that’s exactly who we are and what we strive to support.
Time/Place: 11am-4pm / The LAB Anti-Mall, Costa Mesa
Contact: www.thelab.com

Tustin Street Fair & Cook-Off   June 3
The event features a one-day Chili Cook-Off, salsa competitions, craft booths, non-profit food vendors, commercial vendors, entertainment, kids area, music, family friendly contests, wine & beer booths, family plaza and carnival attractions.
Time/Place: 10am-5pm / Old Town Tustin
Contact: 714-573-3326 / www.tustinchilicookoff.com

Celebration of the Arts   June 3
Dozens of artist’s exhibits and sales, including paintings, photography, ceramics, mosaics, jewelry, sculptures, wood carving, glass art, mixed media and cultural activities. This is a family friendly event offering free activities for all ages, sharing the creativity & talent of our community.
Time/Place: 11am-4pm / Thomas Lasorda Jr. Memorial Field House & Hurless Barton Park, Yorba Linda
Contact: 714-996-1960 / www.artsyl.org

Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auction   June 8-10
The auction event will provide the electric atmosphere of auction in the round auction block and also provide enthusiasts an outstanding destination to bring the whole family to experience their passion of classic cars.
Time/Place: 9am / Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort
Contact: www.russoandsteele.com

Laguna Niguel Summer Concerts   June 8-Aug. 10
Bring your family and friends to enjoy a night of music under the stars! Food and dessert will be available for purchase from gourmet food trucks.
Time/Place: Crown Valley Community Park, Laguna Niguel
Contact: 949-425-5100 / www.cityoflagunaniguel.org

Annual Pier Swim   June 9
Get yourself in shape, practice your stroke, learn the motions of the waves and you’ll be in good company when the pier swim arrives. Join or watch this annual tradition as groups of swimmers from 12 years old and up swim approximately 1/2 mile around the Huntington Beach Pier. $25 entry fee.
Time/Place: 7am / Huntington Beach Pier
Contact: 714-960-8870 / www.huntingtonbeachca.gov

Dana Point ArtFest   June 10
An outdoor, top-quality juried art and music event that brings artists and community together. A free community festival of fine art, live music, food, and more.
Time/Place: 10am-5pm / Dana Point Lantern District
Contact: www.dpartfest.com

Flag Day Retirement Ceremony   June 14
The City of Rancho Santa Margarita is proud to offer an opportunity for residents and guests of all ages to honor the American Flag with this observation and flag retirement ceremony. The ceremony is held to destroy properly – by burning – worn, damaged or otherwise unserviceable American Flags in a dignified manner in accordance with The United States Flag Code.
Time/Place: 7:45-8:30pm / Bell Tower, Rancho Santa Margarita City Hall
Contact: www.cityofrsm.org

Chili at the Beach   June 16
Chili Cook-Off and Salsa Tasting Contest. In addition there will be children’s activities with kid’s games and entertainment, all benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington Valley. Attendance is free with unlimited chili and salsa tasting tickets.
Time/Place: Main St & PCH, Huntington Beach
Contact: 714-536-8300 / www.hbdowntown.com

Summer of Mud Run   June 16
Celebrate summer by running (or come cheer on the runners!) the approximate +5k course beginning and ending at Irvine Lake. You will get wet and you will get muddy. Be sure to bring towels and a change of clothing.
Time/Place: 9am / Oak Canyon Park, Silverado
Contact: www.irvinelakemudrun.com

Fête de La Musique   June 16
Held in conjunction with “World Music Day” to celebrate the coming of summer each June. The festival is celebrated worldwide on, or near, the beginning of summer. LBSCA has crafted its Fête de la Musique to promote Laguna Beach performing arts through live music by singers and musicians.
Time/Place: 1-4pm / Downtown Laguna Beach
Contact: 949-492-0883 / www.lagunabeachsistercities.com

Summer Solstice Garden Gala   June 16
An evening “under the stars” with an evening of exquisite food, fine wines, & moonlight dancing in beautiful gardens. This annual event raises vital support for the living and historical collections of the Fullerton Arboretum.
Time/Place: Fullerton Arboretum, CSUF Campus
Contact: 714-278-4792 / www.fullertonarboretum.org

Newport Beach Art Exhibition   June 16
Artists, 18 years of age or older, may submit one or two original works of art to be displayed and judged. Entry fees are $30 for one entry and $40 for the maximum two entries. Categories include Painting: Watercolors and Painting: Oils and Acrylics, along with Photography and 3D Art.
Time/Place: 1-6pm / Newport Beach Civic Center
Contact: 949-717-3802 / www.newportbeachca.gov

Wags n Wine   June 17
Great Food, Terrific Wine, Silent & Live Auction, Opportunity Drawings, Live Entertainment, Dancing, Dog Adoptions, Pooch Pageant & More! Raising money for Waggin’ Trails – rescuing dogs (and other animals) from certain death in our shelters or bad living situations ensuring they get placed in a forever home.
Time/Place: 1-5pm / Paséa Hotel & Spa, Huntington Beach
Contact: 714-328-8661 / www.wagsnwine.com

Summerfest   June 21-24
Carnival rides, vendors, food booths and the famous FV Classic Car Show, great entertainment, and beer garden. Preview Night on Thursdaywhere all rides are $1.
Time/Place: Fountain Valley Recreation Center and Sports Park
Contact: 714-839-8611 / www.fvsummerfest.com

OC Pride 2018   June 23
OC Pride celebrates the 10th annual OC Pride LGBT Parade and Festival. This event celebrates OC’s LGBT community for the opportunity to gather and show their pride.
Time/Place: 9am-6pm / Downtown Santa Ana
Contact: 657-234-7802 / www.prideoc.com

Doheny Surf and Art Festival   June 23-24
A two-day celebration of the Southern California surfing lifestyle! Menehune Surf Contest, Surfers Vendor Village, 60’s Surf Contest, Tandem Exhibition, Surf Tricks Contest, Kona Beer Garden (with wine and spirits, too), Live Music, Polynesian Dancing, Great Food, Healthy Living Demonstrations, Surfer’s Art and Collectibles, Classic Longboard Exhibit, Classic Woody Car Show and MORE!
Time/Place: Doheny State Beach
Contact: www.dohenystatebeach.org

A Taste of Greece   June 29-Sept. 2
Art! Three stages of live music and entertainment! Cheap beer and wine! Outdoor eateries and cafes! Free hands-on art classes and daily art demonstrations such as glassblowing!
Time/Place: 10am-10pm / 935 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach
Contact: 949-494-3030 / www.sawdustartfestival.org

Christina El Moussa of ‘Flip or Flop’ puts Yorba Linda home up for sale at $2.9 million

christina-and-house-fi
The Mediterranean home has undergone $1.5 million in renovations and boasts a rock pool and spa with waterfalls, a slide, grotto and torches. There’s also a putting green.(Composite by Marilyn Kalfus, Orange County Register/SCNG; Inset: File photo; House: First Team/Christie’s International Real Estate)
PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

“Flip or Flop” star Christina El Moussa is selling a five-bedroom, nine-bathroom Yorba Linda home she shared with her ex, Tarek El Moussa, for $2.995 million.

The couple’s divorce was finalized in January 2018, and Tarek El Moussa bought a three-bedroom house in Costa Mesa on Feb. 21.

Built in 2004, the 6,366-square-foot, Mediterranean home on nearly a half acre hit the market this week.

The house has undergone $1.5 million in renovations, according to the listing, and boasts a rock pool and spa with waterfalls, a waterslide and grotto, as well as an outdoor kitchen, barbecue and beer tap. There’s also a putting green.

Inside are a soaring entry, two-story dining room, home theater and “tech center.” Italian Travertine, hardwood floors and stonework are among the interior touches.

The kitchen was designed with Carrara marble and has Thermador and Sub-Zero appliances.

In the master retreat are a fireplace, tub, walk-in closets and a seamless glass shower. A gym with a bathroom could be transformed back to two additional bedrooms. The property includes a casita.

Dean Lueck of First Team/Christie’s International Real Estate is the listing agent. Christina joined the firm in February.

Tarek El Moussa last month purchased a 3,010-square-foot house in Costa Mesa with a master suite opening to a deck and swimming pool. The turnkey home includes a great room with a two-story vaulted ceiling, a California room and clerestory windows. A steam shower and free-standing tub are part of the master suite.

Despite their split, the El Moussas have continued to shoot episodes for their popular HGTV show. They share custody of two young children.

Here’s a peek of the grand staircase at the Yorba Linda house:

Did you miss?

Tarek El Moussa of ‘Flip or Flop’ buys $2.28 million Costa Mesa home

tarek-and-exterior-fi_

Instagram Tips for 2018

Written by Raj Qsar

I have been spending a ton of time on Instagram, watching videos, tutorials and just “stage 5 stalking” some super creative accounts! Insta is NOT going away and I really feel like we need to master this ever-changing platform to be successful in 2018 and beyond.

Here are a few Insta Tips to keep in mind for 2018:

1. #Hashtags 📲 They are not going away. Posts with more than 11 hashtags do better than posts with less than 11. Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post. We think posting the hashtags in the first comment is the best & most aesthetic place to put them and not in the post description.

2. Post daily to your feed and use 10-20 stories/day. This should keep you in the newsfeed and the story feed all day long.

3. You can now follow hashtags! How cool is that? Ours is #tbreg

👉This can give you some major insight into who is using the same hashtags as you but can also gain more of a hyperlocal following or even search for hashtags in another language. 🇨🇳🇪🇸🇷🇺

4. Geotagging & tagging major/viral accounts also is a huge way to drive traffic to your account and collaborate with other grammers.

5. One of my favorites is the DM feature on Instagram. You can share your latest post with other Influential Instagram accounts and ask them to like, comment and share or repost with their followers.

6. Please please please make sure your profile is completely filled out!

7. A few cool apps to help you manage your page include VSCO (great filtering app), PLANN (great for watching analytics and keep up with hashtags & best times to post) and Photoshop Fix (for sizing and filtering your photos).

8. Stories, stories, stories…Instagram has added GIF’s, new fonts, filters, backgrounds and the ability to resize your photos. Its a ton of fun and a great way to learn & master the app and stay engaged.

9. Words matter. Be creative. Have a theme. And be consistent with Insta. Its a much more intimate platform and deserves your attention. Long caption? Short caption? Whatever you decide let it be you!

10. Who is stalking your account? Shoot me an email and I will show you who!! 😜

 

 

 

 

Connect with Raj here:

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.

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.

No End in Sight for Toll Brothers’ Luxe Push in OC

Toll Brothers Inc. is adding another high-end housing development to its Orange County portfolio.

Its latest addition, a 47-lot site in Yorba Linda, will likely be one of its highest-priced local communities, which is saying something for the Horsham, Pa.-based builder, whose local developments’ homes top $2 million.

The builder, whose market value is about $8 billion, recently reached a deal to buy the Stonecliff Estates development site in Yorba Linda, roughly 30 acres on the northwest corner of Lakeview Avenue and Bastanchury Road. It’s a little more than a mile northeast of the Richard Nixon Museum and Library.

The site was listed for sale a few months ago by Sal Provenza and Curt Crandall at the Irvine office of land brokerage WD Land.

It traded hands for about $44 million, a little under $1.5 million per acre, or nearly $940,000 per lot, among the highest per-lot prices for an OC housing development site not along the coast.

The land was technically bought by an undisclosed land banking firm that will sell the lots to Toll Brothers in phases, according to Provenza.

Stonecliff Estates has been in the works for nearly a decade and was sold by an entity listed in marketing documents as Bastanchury Holding Co. LP.

The sellers are affiliated with Kuwait Finance House, a large Islamic banking firm that was one of the initial equity investors in the development, according to Provenza. The property is believed to be its only OC land investment; it also has some commercial property holdings in the Los Angeles area, he said.

Toll Brothers, which bills itself as the country’s largest luxury homes builder, is no stranger to Yorba Linda (or OC, where it’s now selling at 16 different projects), and has built a few developments in the city over the past three years.

Its latest, the 119-unit Enclave project, is about a half-mile from the recently bought property. It opened last year with prices near $2 million, and was about half sold as of a few months ago, according to brokerage data.

Stonecliff Estates will likely have a higher price point, thanks to some of the largest lot sizes—about a half-acre, or a little more than 20,000 square feet—for a recent OC housing development.

Most of Toll Brothers’ other area luxe homes in Irvine and other parts of OC have lots in the 6,000- to 12,000-square-foot range. Its Alta Vista development in Irvine’s Orchard Hills community, for example, with some homes priced at nearly $3 million, has lots of about 11,000 square feet, according to WD Land.

Homes at Stonecliff Estates were envisioned to be a little more than 4,000 square feet to nearly 6,000 square feet on the half-acre lots under the prior ownership group’s proposed designs, which Toll will likely tweak.

A community opening should be in about nine months, according to WD Land’s Provenza, who previously worked on land acquisitions for Toll Brothers.

Record Year, Rents

Apartment construction in OC is projected to reach an all-time record this year, according to a new multifamily research report by the local office of Marcus & Millichap.

Nearly 7,500 units will be completed at large apartment projects across the county, a record level and one that will increase OC’s base of rentals by 3%, the report said.

The heavy development is having a slight impact on vacancy rates, which have ticked up to 4%. But that hasn’t slowed rental appreciation, which has also risen 4%. Average monthly rents now stand at $1,972.

Construction should keep pushing on into next year. There were nine apartment projects with more than 300 units under way in Anaheim and Irvine combined at the start of the fourth quarter, and two projects, each larger than 500 units, were going up in Huntington Beach, the report said.

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