Saul Klein, a pioneer in online real estate and self-proclaimed "Internet Evangelist," will discuss new strategies for multiple listing services at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City, which runs from Jan. 13-15, 2010.
Klein is CEO of both InternetCrusade in Southern California and Point2 Technologies in Saskatoon, Canada, and he splits time between both companies (and locations). He has maintained his real estate broker’s license for more than 32 years, and in 1993 served as president of the San Diego Association of Realtors.
He responded to a set of questions posed by Inman News:
What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2010?
There will be a slow recovery, beginning in the fourth quarter, with certain areas recovering sooner than others based on demographics and local economic conditions.
What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?
Generate the income you need to survive. During the 1980s recession I developed my property management business when sales were lagging. I also developed an international division at my company.
Determine what is selling and working in your market. List, but list smart. Do not take overpriced listings. Maximize all aspects of marketing. Take advantage of any free marketing you can. Create a comprehensive overall marketing plan and a marketing plan for each listing.
This is how you earn your keep, separating you from your competition. Anyone can list a property — it takes marketing skills and marketing plans to sell a property in this market. Syndicate your listings to as many Web sites as possible for maximum exposure, and let your sellers know that you are doing this.
Remember that "distribution trumps destination" and that a listing is a marketing asset that will bring you leads if you give it enough exposure. That is how for-sale signs work, that is how classified ads work, and that is how the Internet works. There is a buyer for everything somewhere in the world. Your job is to find them and drive to transaction and closing.
Contact with people creates opportunity, so be in touch with as many people as you can in person and on the Web. Develop your strategy for marketing properties to Gen X and Gen Y consumers. Retool, take classes, learn how to use the technology you own, and become an e-PRO.
Create a business plan (be as specific as possible), a marketing plan (with both an Internet component and a conventional component … be found), and a technology plan that integrates the technology required to achieve the goals and objectives of your business plan. Become a more effective manager of your time.
Time is the one thing most people will tell you that they do not have enough of. Develop a specific Web site plan and a social media plan.
What made you get into real estate?
When I was a young naval officer on active duty in San Diego in 1974, I was introduced to residential real estate by a sailor who was preparing to get out of the Navy and was selling homes.
I went out and looked at homes as a prospective buyer and I loved the concept of working with people, driving around with them, and helping them acquire the most important asset of their life. My father and mother always purchased a home when my dad was transferred from one part of the country to another, and they always made a profit.
I liked the idea of being rewarded in proportion to my efforts and the ability to control my calendar. Prior to my separation from the Navy at the completion of my obligation, I obtained a real estate sales license and began selling homes part time on the weekends. …CONTINUED
When I got out of the Navy I started selling full time. After working for another broker in sales and then management, I obtained my broker’s license (1977) and teamed up with another agent. We opened our own company with the idea that we could attract an international clientele, which we were successful in doing at just the right moment in the economy in 1979.
What made you join your current company?
At InternetCrusade I saw the need to create online communities in the real estate space in 1995 and had the opportunity to work with the National Association of Realtors to convey the importance of the Internet and technology.
NAR gave me an opportunity to take the message of a new age to associations, brokers and agents. I signed the first MLSs to contracts with Realtor.com and created one of the first online real estate communities, RealTalk.
This led to the creation of RealTown and the offering of Internet services such as e-mail, domains and Web sites to the industry. In 2001, InternetCrusade signed a long-term contract with NAR to create and deliver NAR’s online technology certification program, e-PRO, and most recently, NAR’s Web 2.0 and Social Media online course.
In January 2008 I took the position as CEO of Point2 Technologies because I see Point2 as a vehicle to use all of my knowledge and expertise gained from 35 years in the industry and my involvement with technology and education to move the industry in a direction I truly believe will benefit brokers, agents, organized real estate and consumers.
What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?
In running the real estate business, it was creating the steady flow of customers, year after year … recruiting, training and retaining agents.
At InternetCrusade, it has been the marketing of e-PRO to the Realtor community. We have enrolled more than 50,000 Realtors and graduated more than 40,000, but it has been a challenge and is now even more challenging in the down market.
The best way to inform brokers and agents of the value of e-PRO is face to face. This required traveling to associations across the country, and as a result I have personally visited (in many cases on numerous occasions) more than 800 local associations of Realtors.
With our community projects, such as RealTown, it has always been a challenge to explain what we do: our vision of the power of online community. The capital required to expand has also always been a challenge.
At Point2, the biggest challenge is the commute to Saskatoon twice a month. Also explaining that listing syndication is not Internet Data Exchange — that it is better and that it is the "now" thing in the marketing of real estate, benefiting buyers, sellers, brokers and agents.
Also, there are challenges in the effort to inform the industry about the opportunities that await those willing to cast off old ideas and paradigms in a changed and changing world.
What new features are in the pipeline?
A new user interface, public-facing listing Web sites for associations and MLSs, and a self-authoring platform for online courses and in-house training are among the new features in the works.
What lesson did you learn in the last year?
What seems impossible is often possible. At Point2, we have gone from two months to integrate an MLS to one day. …CONTINUED
What would your second career choice be and why?
Why only two careers?
In a couple months I will be 61. I have had the good fortune to have a number of related and successful careers. I served in the U.S. Navy from 1972-76 and got into real estate prior to a medical separation in 1976.
I built a brokerage that included property management, which grew into a securities and financial planning practice, which expanded to a tax practice.
I am still a certified financial planner … with no clients (I sold the practice in 2003), and I like it that way. Also in 1979 I began teaching real estate courses and time management and motivational courses. I love teaching.
Technology in the real estate industry has been my career choice since 1995. I attended the first Real Estate Connect in the woods in Northern California many years ago. With my partners John Reilly and Mike Barnett, we have built InternetCrusade, which was awarded the NAR e-PRO contract in 2001.
We built the first online domain transfer application in 1998 and began creating online communities in the real estate vertical in 1996. The current community project is RealTown. At InternetCrusade we believe that the Internet is a miracle and RealTown is a big part of fulfilling my vision of what the Web can and will be. We were blogging and teaching people to blog before blogging was a word.
The CEO position at Point2 is a fantastic experience and opportunity. I have been with the company more than two years now, and we have changed strategies and we are moving in some very exciting directions. Working at Point2 is allowing me to take further advantage of the expertise, skills and relationships I have developed over my entire working life, and to further fulfill my vision of the Internet, and for the Web, people and real estate — which is the central asset of most people’s lives.
What I began as the first national advocate for placing listing information on the Web, which I did for NAR and Realtor.com in the mid-1990s, as the vice president of field marketing for the Realtors Information Network, and then as national sales manager for listing acquisition for Realtor.com (a position that was later broken into four regional positions), I am now taking to a new level with Point2.
My next career choice will be to do more writing, and spending more time with my wife gardening and doing the things we enjoy doing together. I guess what I am saying is that for me, I have enjoyed all of the career changes. I am very fortunate. They have all been real estate industry-related, and I have worked hard to give back to the industry every step of the way by volunteering and providing tools for associations at no cost for many years.
What is the biggest problem in the real estate market today, and how would you fix it?
"Biggest" is a loaded question. There are many issues today: the credit markets, the economy, professional standards, education, government intervention, and lack of a true data standard, to name a few.
How to fix it? Advocacy and technology.
What do you most enjoy about working in the real estate industry?
People. My industry work today is serving the industry with technology. I also enjoy industry volunteer work and have been active at all levels of organized real estate since 1988.
When I was selling and investing, I loved real estate, the physical property, the potential … writing and presenting offers was always a thrill. Being in control of my own calendar was also a lure for me. …CONTINUED
Tell us something we don’t already know about you …
I was born and attended elementary school in Honolulu and speak fluent pidgin.
I took my first computer course in July 1968, and played "Star Trek" on the Dartmouth/Princeton Time Sharing Computer system in 1970-72.
I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972 and served for five years in the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer, in an era when "when ships were made of wood and men were made of steel."
I majored in management. Serving as a midshipman from the summer of 1968 to the summer of 1972 means I missed "most" of the hippie and anti-war events of my generation.
It is not so much that I missed them, but spending those years in an institutional and highly disciplined environment limited their effect on me, or at least produced a different effect than many of my contemporaries outside of the academy.
I served aboard the USS Mount Vernon (LSD 39) as repair officer and deployed to the Western Pacific from September 1973 to March 1974. I was on station in the Gulf of Siam, preparing to evacuate Phnom Penh from mid-January 1973 to mid-February 1974.
I joined the commissioning crew of USS Elliot (DD967) as a plank owner. The Elliot was the fifth of a new class of ships (Spruance Class Destroyers) that were the first U.S. naval vessels to have a sophisticated computer center and computerized functionality, from the bridge to the engine room. I served as navigator and personnel officer.
The first computer game I played was on the "Intellivision" system and my first computer was an Apple 2, with no hard drive and 48 kilobytes (yes kilobytes!) of memory. The first computer I owned with a hard drive was a Kay Pro with a 5-megabyte hard drive … who can fill 5 megs?!
I raised two daughters from my wife’s first marriage (the oldest is 41 years old this month, the youngest is 34) and we have a 13-year-old granddaughter.
My wife Janie and I have been together since 1976 and married since 1981, and living in the same house the entire time. She is the big reason I have been able to do the things I have done.
She has worked with me in all of our businesses since 1979 and has been the office manager and "heart and soul" of InternetCrusade since we opened our first office.
She has put up with my travel schedule and all of the interruptions in our life together over the years. She is a "rock" and I could not have done it without her. She is one of my heroes.
We have owned a Five Bay coin-operated carwash in San Diego with two of my good friends from high school for 30 years. It is the best real estate investment we ever made.
Our dog is a little 8-pound Bolognese named Harley. I love history.
Despite my travel schedule, I try to run three miles every day, and have been doing so for more than 30 years. It’s a great way to see the country.
Hear Saul Klein speak during the "For Those Who Think Big: Charter an Alternate Strategy for Your MLS" session at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City, which runs from Jan. 13-15, 2010.
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