When Citi-Habitats agent Noah Rosenblatt started blogging about the real-estate market twenty months ago, his colleagues couldn’t fathom why he spent hours every day on his site, UrbanDigs.com. “They couldn’t believe it,” he remembers. They do now: At a real-estate seminar at the Marriott Marquis in January, a standing-room-only crowd of agents skipped seminars on mortgages and foreclosures to swarm a seminar on blogging, inundating Rosenblatt with questions. Sensing opportunity, they seemed eager to get online, and fast.
The broker blog differs substantially from the classic guy-in-his-basement Web diary because it does not come from an outside observer. Nor is it like that guy’s professionalized cousins, like Curbed.com, the witty and obsessive links-and-news site run by Lockhart Steele, or Brownstoner.com, known for its Brooklyn coverage. The broker blog is written by an agent with a vested interest in moving property or raising his profile. It looks like a conventional blog, but it’s got more in common with the market-report mass mailings brokers send to homeowners. “Why should others take the lead in educating consumers? asks Loho Realty’s Jacob Goldman, who’s launching a blog soon. “We should reclaim the [job] of disseminating information.”
A broker’s online presence has gone from useful to essential: 80 percent of buyers now start their property hunt online. “[Buyers are] younger, and they’re driven by tech,” Citi-Habitats’ Gary Malin says. Beth Olarsch, one of those younger buyers, says she’s reading a lot of blogs. “It made the process that much more transparent.” Tossing a site up is cheap, too. Elliman’s Douglas Heddings spends $500 a month maintaining his blog, TrueGotham.com, far less than the $32,000 per year he spent to mail out newsletters.
It’s also a good way to find clients. Rosenblatt has done four deals that started via UrbanDigs, and he’s been approached by more new business than he can take on. Nevertheless, he cautions against the blog-as-advertisement. “It’s self-defeating,” he says. (Rosenblatt takes a pleasingly tart tone toward brokers who play loose with ethics; Heddings exposes agents’ dirty tricks.) Olarsch agrees: “If they come across as too sales-y, that would be a turnoff.” Heddings, too, is worried about being swamped by newcomers but says he’s confident that readers will weed them out. “They take no b.s.,” he says.