The tax credits kept my business humming. It took almost two months to get through the messy closings when it was all over. Now that the contract deadline for the tax credit has passed, all over business is a bit slow.
In fact, it feels like 2008 all over again — except this time I don’t have a clue where the homebuyers will come from. The pool has gotten smaller because of the foreclosures and the tighter lending standards.
There are sellers, but not as many as there were a couple of years ago, and more of them are distressed sellers.
If business is slow in your area, too, this might just be the perfect time to start a blog. It is a low-cost way to drum up some business — and there is business.
It isn’t too late. In fact, there are many opportunities for local blogs — especially those that focus on a neighborhood, housing style or particular demographic. This isn’t a new idea, but so few are actually doing it.
Sites like Facebook have not killed the blog. A good blog can function as a kind of hub for all online marketing and networking. The social sites bring more readers to the blog than ever before.
Starting a blog just got easier because WordPress 3.0 is here, and I have to say the new version is very easy to use and to customize. The whole idea behind it was to take some of the geek out so that the focus can be on content generation, which is where it belongs.
Last week I participated in a two-hour class for small-business owners, and each attendee left with a new blog for free. Most had the blog set up within an hour and needed very little help.
For a fee of $5 or $9 dollars, those blogs can be mapped to a custom domain name. As they grow they can easily be imported into a self-hosted WordPress blog.
The new default theme for WordPress, called "Twenty Ten," is easy to customize. A graphic can be dropped in to change the banner, and the background can be changed with a couple of mouse-clicks.
It is easy to make custom navigation that can be put on the sidebar or across the top. By using a combination of pages and top navigation, the blog can be made to look and work like a website.
The theme is clean, simple and user-friendly, and the built-in online help has improved. A little reading and the ability to follow simple instructions is all that is needed.
If more customization is needed there are some add-ons that can be purchased, but the new theme is versatile enough so that for most it isn’t necessary. It takes about a minute to set up a free WordPress account at WordPress.com.
It is content that keeps a blog going. For people who do not have a lot of time or energy to write, consider using photos — it can be as easy as snapping them with a smart phone and e-mailing them to the blog.
Mobile blogs can be an excellent marketing tool. You can take pictures during your travels around town or the neighborhood, and write a few words.
I did some searching around the Twin Cities area and there are few neighborhood blogs, yet people search for homes by neighborhood.
It wouldn’t be hard to dominate a neighborhood or a ZIP code on the Internet. Use Google to search your own community and see what you find.
It isn’t too late and this might just be the perfect time to start a blog and generate content so that it is all there for buyers and sellers when they start thinking about making a move. Short, focused articles of 300 to 500 words can do wonders.
Write about new business openings, parks, schools, road construction or most anything that is going on locally, and provide commentary about the local housing market or give advice to buyers and sellers.
When you have a little free time go to WordPress.com, read the instructions, and get started. If you need extra help try "WordPress for Dummies" by Lisa Sabin-Wilson, tune into WordPress TV, or join a local WordPress users group or attend a WordCamp. It isn’t so much about technology as it is about marketing and content.