The idea that a real estate agent should start a neighborhood group or website in their community has been popular since the late 1990s. When I first started selling real estate, there were neighborhood websites that agents could buy and then sponsor a neighborhood.

The neighborhood websites depended on agents and neighbors contributing fresh content. Local businesses could advertise on them, and the local real estate agents would supposedly prosper as the neighborhood expert.

The sites were set up so that the agent’s face would show up on every page, and of course there was a page with a real estate search with homes for sale. I have never heard of any agent actually succeeding with one of these sites, but I suppose it could happen for that rare agent who has the skills to get neighborhood participation.

I have been active in neighborhood groups in my community all of my life not because I am a real estate agent but because it is the right thing to do. I am here to tell you that getting people to contribute any kind of content to a neighborhood website is even harder than selling real estate.

Getting content for a neighborhood website and getting traffic to it is a full-time job. We tend to become neighborhood experts if we sell real estate in a neighborhood for many years, but that does not require leadership ability or administrative skills like starting a neighborhood group or site on the Internet or any place else does.

The world is not waiting for a real estate agent to take charge and mobilize the neighborhood. It happens without our involvement or participation.

Today, neighborhood groups have migrated to blogs, and Facebook pages and groups.

I currently belong to four neighborhood groups on Facebook and follow several neighborhood-related Facebook pages. Some of the groups have been around for decades and none of them were started on Facebook. I did not start any of the pages, but I contribute to them and promote them. Do a search on Facebook and look for a neighborhood group or page in your area, join today, and be a good neighbor.

There doesn’t seem to be a need for more groups in my neighborhood. If there were, I would be happy to let a more qualified individual start one so that I have time to sell real estate. There isn’t anything wrong with participating in existing groups or helping someone else, especially if the real goal is to get your name out there and sell real estate.

In fact, finding an existing group — online or off — that needs volunteers is an easy way to get involved in the community and meet people. A real estate agent could use his or her Facebook skills to help a local neighborhood group with a Facebook page or group, or simply contribute relevant information and maybe a photograph or two.

Getting content from our neighbors is even more challenging than selling real estate after the housing crash to people with no money and a low credit rating. Even getting their attention can be darn near impossible. Who wants to be that guy or gal that is recruiting neighbors to share their news on a new neighborhood website, especially if the goal is to sell real estate?

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in most neighborhoods. The local Meals on Wheels program is always looking for volunteers. There are nonprofit organizations that focus on housing issues and neighborhood development that would love to have a real estate agent as a volunteer.

If you have the necessary skills and the time and there is a need, go ahead and start a neighborhood group or page on the Internet. Being there first is powerful and it is likely to generate business.

If you are like most real estate agents and do not have the time or the skills, you can still become a trusted local resource and contribute to an exiting page or group. But if your idea of contributing involves promoting your next open house or your listings, don’t bother.

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