I'm just like the monkeys – I have the ability to make tools!

Not long ago, we were “hired” by a couple to help them with their purchase of a home. This alone could be the story, as I have written in the past about how so few buyers go to the extent that sellers do in interviewing and selecting their representation. This couple gets big props from me for taking the time to evaluate their choices, for even recognizing that they do have choices, rather than finding me on a street corner with a complimentary notepad pinned to my collar.

At our first meeting, the couple asked how we would be keeping track of the homes they would be looking at over time, and how we might be helping them to organize the information.  This, too, could have been the story. The first rule of being a good buyer’s or seller’s agent is to listen to the client. Each will have different needs and different priorities; customer satisfaction comes with being able to understand the things that are important to each individual and deliver. I have seen agents who continue to email their clients even though each time the client contacts them, it is by making a phone call. In a co-listing appointment not that long ago, I watched a seller say that his highest priority was a fast sale, and then I watched the agent argue for a higher price to “test the market.” Are you listening?

So, our buyers were telling us two things. They were communicating their expectation that the home search process would be perhaps long and would involve many homes, too many to keep track of on their own. They were also expressing their expectation that we have a system in place to assist with the organization of information on the various homes they would be shown. I assured them that we could deliver, but (plug your ears, John and Molly) I wasn’t quite sure at the time how I would (plug your ears, Fluffy) skin this cat.

Our MLS system includes a Client Gateway feature which allows an agent to save “favorites,” and the buyer with their unique password can visit these listings and even make comments on each. I have never been a big fan. First, this feature is very limiting – The only information which can be provided here is the Multiple Listing page. There is so much more information from which a buyer could benefit in a one-stop shop: Floor plans, supplemental photos taken by them or their agent during the showing, and school information to name a few. Second, our MLS system is being replaced in the next couple of weeks (to better serve us), so anything I create today will be nuked by the end of the month.

My solution was elegant in its simplicity and, while I will probably find out that there are agents out there doing much the same thing, this was new to me. I created a simple blog to keep track of their showings:

  • I created a subdomain within our San Diego Home Blog. Our hosting plan allows for ten of these at no additional charge. If I ever need more than ten at one time, I will have bigger problems than my hosting limitations, like finding time to shower.
  • I used a lazy, default template so I didn’t have to think too hard. We weren’t going for style points here, but instead for efficiency.
  • I downloaded two simple plug-ins. The first was a plug-in which makes the blog private. Only people who I have registered can see the site. There are many plug-ins available, and the one I used worked beautifully.
  • The second plug-in I used was for the photo gallery. I picked a very basic photo gallery which is easy to deploy and navigate, and includes both thumbnails and full-size photos. The entire gallery is located on one page, but photos of each home are tucked neatly into their own folders.
  • Each home viewed has its own “post.” Within this post, I wrote a brief overview (no homeowners fees, Mello Roos, 3-car garage). I also linked to the slide show, the MLS sheet, and the floor plan. Where the latter is concerned, we are lucky. Our arsenal of local floor plans has grown over the years so that if you are looking at a home in Scripps Ranch, we probably have a copy of the floor plan.
  • As a footnote for the more geek-inclined, I linked to an uploaded PDF file of the MLS sheet. Because I am too cheap to purchase the full-blown Adobe software, I use a free program which allows me to create a PDF file of virtually any file or screen by using the “print” command.

I am quite impressed with myself! Steve, as is so often the case, was initially not as impressed. His take was that this was duplicative in that all of the information I am providing on the private blog is already available at various online locations. “Various” is the operative, however. One of the biggest problems I see for home buyers using online resources is the potential for confusion and information overload. Aggregating the information at one location will save your back button a lot of wear and tear.

I would show you an example of the end product, but its a private site. However, if you hire us to help you buy a home, you can have one too. 🙂

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