Editor’s note: In the early days of the Web, not many people were adding content on their own. But that is quickly changing with more community-focused and social networking sites popping up and more people writing blogs. In this three-part report we explore how more people are adding their own real estate content and discussions onto the Internet, what they are talking about and what’s motivating them.

Editor’s note: In the early days of the Web, not many people were adding content on their own. But that is quickly changing with more community-focused and social networking sites popping up and more people writing blogs. In this three-part report we explore how more people are adding their own real estate content and discussions onto the Internet, what they are talking about and what’s motivating them. (Read Part 2 and Part 3.)

Jonathan Miller cracked open a blogging program in the summer of 2005 and launched two real estate-focused blogs, the Matrix and Soapbox. His main goal? He says there was no goal other than to prompt him to explore a new real estate topic each day.

“I didn’t start this thinking I’m going to make money,” said Miller, who is president and CEO of Miller Samuel, a Manhattan-based property appraisal firm. Instead he thought, “here’s a cool vehicle to present information that interests me and will interest people in related fields.”

Many real estate-focused blogs have sprung up in the last year — some by industry insiders and some by outsiders who are just interested in the topic. For many of these new blogs, the point has been not to make money but to open an important dialogue about real estate and economic issues.

While Miller says his company’s Web traffic has grown since launching the blogs, the greatest benefit for him has been sparking these real estate discussions.

“My voice is not to be the answer guy,” Miller said. “It’s more like, here’s all the pros and here’s all the cons,” presenting the information and letting people discuss and draw conclusions.

At the Matrix blog, Miller covers anything related to real estate economics, and in Soapbox he narrows the subject to property appraisal issues. He spends between one and a half hours and three hours per day blogging.

Recent posts at the Matrix included a look at consumer confidence indices, recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes and commentary, and backlash over the Supreme Court’s eminent domain ruling in Kelo v. City of New London.

“The hard part is figuring out the topic,” Miller said. Some blogs simply take text from a news story and display it on a Web site, which Miller says doesn’t interest him because that information can be found elsewhere.

“My goal is to cull information and make it logical,” he said. In one blog post, for example, Miller pulled together all the major newspapers’ interpretations of his fourth-quarter Manhattan market study to show how varied they were.

Miller also writes a weekly blog entry called “Three Cents Worth” for Curbed.com, a New York real estate-focused blog.

Many real estate blogs have ended up being marketing vehicles for available home listings, something that Miller thinks doesn’t work for this medium. “I don’t think that’s effective… you’re not going there to get listings, you’re going there to get informed,” he said.

Some people have asked Miller about advertising on his blogs and he said he may open that up at some point, but he didn’t start the blogs with revenue in mind.

“With the people who don’t get blogging, the first question is ‘how will you make money?'” he said. “I haven’t even thought about that.”

Adam Koval, a San Francisco-based business consultant, started a San Francisco real estate blog, SocketSite, in February 2005. His background in investment banking often led friends to call on him for unbiased insight into real estate purchases and Koval said the site grew out of those conversations.

“I think it’s healthy to have transparency of information, creating a place for different perspectives,” Koval said. “I try to present data and let people draw their own conclusions.”

Koval says his goal with SocketSite is to share his own perspective of real estate issues and to create a community where others can share theirs. His readers so far cover a wide spectrum, including Realtors and people who are trying to understand what’s happening in San Francisco real estate and architecture.

Koval many times writes entries that are answering reader questions he’s received. He also writes about what he considers to be misstatements of fact or highly skewed real estate information that’s being circulated.

Koval spends a couple of hours on average blogging each day or tracking down information needed for an entry.

“It’s definitely a work in progress,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to answer people’s questions and to provide an alternative perspective on what it really means and what is happening in the market.”

In Seattle, Dustin Luther created RainCityGuide.com almost a year ago as a way to help promote his wife Anna’s real estate business. He learned right away that successful blogs provide unique and relevant content that’s more than just putting a listing or news story up and calling it a blog.

“I realized that if you just blog your marketing brochures it’s not that interesting to people,” he said. “Then I started bringing on more people.”

RainCityGuide is focused on Seattle real estate and real estate technology issues and companies. There are 10 frequent contributors to the blog, including real estate lawyers, mortgage specialists, technology gurus and real estate sales agents.

“We’re trying to bring together a bunch of different opinions on where the Seattle real estate market is going,” Dustin Luther said.

Luther, who is a transportation engineer, said he sees blogs as a way real estate agents can demonstrate their local real estate expertise online. He said that agents’ blogs in the future could work in tandem with companies like Zillow that are already putting a lot of real estate information online.

“There’s a lot of room for more content… there’s going to be a lot of information and data on the Web (with these new companies) and real estate agents that do well with blogging will put context around that data,” Luther said.

RainCityGuide subjects range from shoptalk on the latest online real estate companies, tech issues like really bad real estate Web sites, and direct information about investing in Seattle real estate.

The site also has a search tool that can export any home search to an RSS feed, export any search to Google Earth, allow for searching by listing remarks (i.e., “Tudor” homes), and enable a free market analysis.

Another popular real estate blog is Property Grunt, which is maintained anonymously by “Grunt,” a self-described “soldier in the trenches of the Manhattan real estate war.”

Grunt asked to remain anonymous for this article. Although he says he’d not engaged in anything illegal or unethical and maintains a strict policy of not blogging about certain subjects, he prefers not to reveal his identity because his firm likely would be unhappy about his blogging habit.

Also, he feels that his views on real estate would be “extremely unpopular” among fellow brokers.

“Trends like discount brokerage and real estate online services are things that brokers tend to dislike because it is a threat to their bottom line,” Grunt wrote in an e-mail. “I just see it as just another evolution in the real estate industry and unlike my brethren I encourage that we embrace and adapt to it.”

Grunt’s readers range from real estate and finance professionals to ordinary apartment hunters and college students, he said, and they are mainly located in the New York area.

Grunt’s blog grew out of a notion he had that there were a lot of people making uneducated real estate decisions that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. “By no means do I declare myself an authority on the subject, but I feel my blog will at least be a starting point for someone’s due diligence. And I always urge people to treat real estate like a medical operation: always get a second, third and fourth opinion,” he said.

Grunt’s posts range from musings on local real estate developments to commentary on recent online real estate mergers.

The Property Grunt obviously wasn’t created to gain the Grunt Web traffic for his business since he remains anonymous. How then, does he measure its success?

“It is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. At the end of the day, the blogger has to answer the question, ‘Am I enjoying this? Is this worth the effort?’… In my case, I am not really thinking about success, just improving,” he said.


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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