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The APR Brand – You Tell Us!

October 24, 2012

At Alain Pinel Realtors, we hold our brand and our image to the highest standards. We believe that quality is the universal language. We don’t just project that image, but deliver on the promises that our image suggests – delivering only the best training, technology, and tools to our agents and ensuring they provide their clients with the most professional and distinguished customer service.
But what is the APR image? What is the APR brand? We asked the managers of all our offices recently to describe what they believe is the APR brand and values in three sentences or less. Below is a tag cloud of their results:


What does the Alain Pinel Realtors brand / image mean to you?
To see our past ad campaigns, see The Gallery on

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

ALERT: Google Yourself

October 17, 2012

Do you Google yourself?

For many of you (hopefully), the answer is of course.

If the answer is no – do it right now. What comes up? Does your LinkedIn? does your website? Does a negative review on Yelp come up?
In a previous entry, I talked about reputation and Yelp. However, Yelp is not the only place we show up. You need to be on top of everything that’s being said about you online. You need to know what photos are out there. You need to know if after Googling your name, someone is going to want to work with you.
I’m 26 years old. I grew up surrounded by the internet – so for me I Google everything:

  • In college, I Google’d my professors before signing up for classes.
  • I Google new restaurants before I eat anywhere (and if I can’t find a menu online, I’m disappointed).
  • I Google festivals and events before I decide if I want to go to them.
  • I Google’d TV’s before I chose one.
  • I Google’d dentists before choosing one.

This is normal. It is the new normal – and you better believe that your clients are Googling you. If they Google all these silly things before deciding what park to go to or what camera to purchase, when it comes to buying a home – an incredibly important event in life – they will be Googling their potential Realtors® before deciding on one.
Google provides an awesome tool that searches your name FOR you and helps you manage your online reputation. It’s called Google Alerts. You can set them up here:

What Google Alerts allows you to do is set up search words that Google will then search for you and email you the new results. You can choose what type of content you want it to search, how often to search, how many results you’d like to know about and what email you’d like the results to be sent to.
Name show up in the paper? You get an email alert. New review on Yelp? You get an email alert.
I use it everyday – I have multiple Google Alerts set up: for my name, for Alain Pinel Realtors, for my old employer, for my old boss, for my siblings, and more. This way, I’m always on top of the latest stuff that’s hitting the internet about me, my professional connections, and my family. It is the easiest way to begin proactively monitoring your online reputation.

Every PERSON, not just Realtors®, should have a Google Alert set up for their name or their business name.

If you don’t have it set up already GO NOW and do it. It takes seconds.

It isn’t fool-proof – you should still actively be Google yourself to see how different content about you is ranking in search results. Also, some site (personal profiles on Facebook, for example), block search engines from accessing them. However, setting up Google Alerts is the first step in beginning to have more control and awareness of your online reputation.

About Author:
Andrew Violante is the Social Media and Communications Coordinator at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees social media strategy and implementation for the brokerage. 

Industry Insights Legal Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Illegal E-Mails From Your Smartphone?

October 10, 2012

Does your signature on your smartphone look like the one above? Or perhaps it said “Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID.” As a real estate agent, you’re constantly on the move. The concept of an  “office” has taken on a lot more meaning – it’s no longer just the desk you go to sometimes. With the right tools, the “office” is wherever we are – and we’re sending more and more emails from our smartphones. But does a Realtors® need to reference their DRE number in their mobile email signature? After all, it is almost universally added to our email signatures when we’re sending from out computers or laptops.
Let’s look at the DRE rules. As of July 2009, your DRE license number must be on all solicitation materials intended as a first point of contact with consumers. Under the section 2773 regulations this includes:

  • Business cards
  • Stationary
  • Websites owned, controlled, and/or maintained by the soliciting real estate license
  • Promotional and advertising flyers, brochures, email and regular mail, leaflets, and any other marketing or promotional materials designed to solicit the creation of a professional relationship between the licensee and a consumer, or intended to induce a consumer to contact the licensee about any licensed services.
The disclosure rule excludes advertisements in electronic media (such as radio, TV, streaming video, etc.), print advertisement in a newspaper or periodical, and “For Sale” signs placed on or around a property,

So … what does that mean about emails sent from mobile devices? The law is ambiguous – it truly depends on what type of email you’re sending. Are you reaching out to someone for the first time or just dealing with a past client? The truth is though that some email you could be sending from your mobile phone could require it. As with most legal issues – we fall on the side of caution – why wouldn’t you include it in your mobile email signature? We send plenty of emails both from our mobile devices and from our desktop computers that don’t require our DRE# in our signature – but we still list it. We do this because we know it only takes one email that requires it that is missing DRE number to have a problem.
Realtors® almost always have robust email signatures – sometimes too robust. Maybe it’s time you think about what the signature on your mobile phone says about you. Would you rather tell people what type of device you’re on – or perhaps add some branding and your DRE license number?

Do you have a question about best practices?* Send us an email ( and we will try to answer it in a future entry.
*This is not meant to serve as official legal advice – please consult an attorney for legal advice pertaining to your individual situation.
Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

10 Common Mistakes REALTORS® Make on Social Media

September 28, 2012

No matter what social media site you choose to be one, some commonalities exist among them. Social media is exactly what it sounds like – and the social aspects of varying media is the important part. It is about the relationships and communities that are created and exist in the online sphere. It’s not uncommon that REALTORS® jump on these networks without fully understanding them. While there are many different ideas about how to present yourself on these networks, here are 10 common mistakes I often see real estate agents making on social media.
10 Common Mistakes of Real Estate Agents on Social Media

  1. Joined Because Everyone Else Did – If your hearts not into it, people can tell.
  2. Stop Posting – If you sign up for a bunch of accounts, but never use them, it looks bad. People will not interact with you if you are not providing any value. If your account isn’t active or current, why do you have it?
  3. Just Talk About Real Estate – No one on these networks is as interested in real estate as you are. Chances are your interests are larger than just real estate. Why not talk about those?
  4. Post Listings Directly – If you’re just posting a link to your newest listing or a brief bit of ad copy, it is not very engaging.
  5. Advertise – Like above, not only is it not engaging to see advertising, but it’s annoying. The majority of people did not connect with you to see advertisements. Always think about why other people are on these networks – think about what they might be interested in.
  6. Not Being Genuine – Most of these networks are fairly personal. They want to connect with you. If you aren’t giving people a sense of who you are and that you are a real person, they likely will become disinterested. Also, if everything is always “fabulous!” or “amazing!” people see through it.
  7. Overshare – There is a fine line of what to share on social media. Hint: Anything you wouldn’t be ok with a stranger knowing, probably shouldn’t be on there. While we have privacy controls, it’s a good habit to ask yourself that before posting. Also, refrain from talking about your clients in a negative way – even if you’re just commenting on a fellow agents post.
  8. Expect Immediate Return – Social media is not an instant lead generator. It’s the ultimate drip campaign and can help you connect deeper with existing clients. You’re building relationships and networking – these don’t happen overnight. If you’re only thinking about ROI, you’re not doing it right.
  9. Take on Too Much – Just because there’s a hot new social network, does not mean you have to be on it right away. If you take on too much, you’ll end up doing them all wrong. Pick one and focus on getting it right first.
  10. Don’t Engage – This is social media. It’s just as much about the pull as the push. If you aren’t out there interacting with people and instead just throwing random stuff on your page – it won’t work. Even if you have great content, people are on here to interact with others. If you aren’t engaging with your connections while on social media, you’re missing a huge part of it.

As with all rules, there of course are exceptions. The thing about social media is cookie-cutter is boring – it doesn’t engage people. While these are what I think are common problems, others might not see it that way. It would be counter intuitive to tell someone exactly how to be on social media – it’s all about each individual finding their voice, their niche, and their comfort level. However, if you aren’t really sure what you’re doing and you aren’t familiar with the culture of the social media network you’re on – chances are, the above are mistakes.

About Author:
Andrew Violante is the Social Media and Communications Coordinator at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees social media strategy and implementation for the brokerage. 

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Quality QR Codes – Are You Doing It Right?

September 25, 2012

When QR (quick response) codes started popping up everywhere, marketers deemed them the next big thing. As with any new technology, the real estate industry was not far behind trying to think of creative ways to use them. From property signs, print ads, and business cards, QR codes are showing up on all different types of real estate marketing pieces. However, too often, they are done improperly – preventing them from being an effective tool. Here we’ll look at several things to consider when using QR codes:

1. Where does the QR code link to?
If you’re asking someone to scan a QR code, they will be using a mobile device. One of the most common mistakes is sending a consumer to a non-mobile friendly site. This makes absolutely no sense and will likely frustrate any consumer who has taken the time to scan your QR code. If you can’t read the site on a mobile device, you are wasting a consumers time. Additionally, what information is a user looking for? Likely, if they’re on a mobile and scanning a code, it’s because they want certain information right then. It doesn’t make sense to link to your homepage on a flyer for a home – it’s likely they want more information about that property right then. QR codes are beneficial to quickly display additional information that the consumer wants right then. Don’t make them navigate a non-mobile friendly homepage – that’s not a motivating incentive to scan a QR code.
2. Where have you placed your QR code?
You’re asking a consumer to pull out their phone, scan a code, and access something right away. This is incredibly important. First, make sure your QR code is scanable. Too often, you see QR codes in places that make it difficult to scan. I’ve seen QR codes on shopping bags – which rarely lay flat enough to scan. I’ve seen QR codes on billboard along busy highways – it is not only difficult, but unsafe, to pull out a phone and try to scan a QR code while flying down the freeway. Also, one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen REALTORS® make – they place them on internet communication – on their website and in their email signatures. This makes absolutely no sense. If a consumer is already online, what, if any reason, would they want to pull out their phone and transition to a mobile interface. Unless the QR code has a specific mobile action attached to it (e.g., adds contact info to your phone or is a link to download a mobile app), there is almost no reason ever to place a QR code online.
3. Have you educated your consumer?
Just because you know what a QR code is and does, does not necessarily mean your consumers do. Have you given them a reason to scan your code? You need to have a certain call to action that provides an incentive for a consumer. Does scanning the code show them a slideshow with more information? Does it download your mobile app? You need to clearly communicate to the consumer what additional information they will get by scanning your code. If you are not providing more information than what is already in front of them, there is no reason to scan. Also, for the less tech-savvy, do you still provide a way for them to access the additional information? Or are you cutting off that whole audience? Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to put a tiny URL by a QR code – so even if you aren’t mobile-savvy, you can still get the information you want.
4. Make sure your code works. Scan it.
This is pretty straight forward.
While QR codes might be considered by some as “cutting-edge” or a “must-have” in and increasingly mobile world, you always have to think of an individuals motives and the user experience. Before ever placing a QR code in your marketing – ask yourself if it makes sense. Would you scan it? Would you be happy as a consumer with what you see? If you aren’t – then don’t put it. Any benefit of looking like you’re on top of the marketing trends is immediately discounted if you aren’t using them in proper and creative ways.

About Author:
Andrew Violante is the Social Media and Communications Coordinator at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees social media strategy and implementation for the brokerage. 

Business Planning Insights Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Online Reputation and Yelp

September 19, 2012

In an industry that is built on individuals and relationships – reputation matters. How your potential clients view you, how other agents view you, and how your sphere views you all play a role in determining your success as a Realtor®. In today’s world, with the technology and resources that are available, your reputation extends beyond what is said among friends – it extends to the public on the internet. Sources say between 75-90% of consumers check online reviews before purchases. If consumers are looking for reviews before deciding what brand of camera to buy – there is no doubt they’re looking online before they make a decision about who will represent them in such a large life event like buying a home.  It is crucial that every REALTOR® knows how they look and what is being said about themselves online. Potential clients and past clients are reviewing and viewing reviews of you on Yelp whether you know or like it.
We’ll be talking about online reputation quite a bit on here, but this entry will focus on Yelp – a go to site for restaurant reviews, that increasingly is being used to review professional services. Here are some tips about how to manage your presence on Yelp:

  • Make sure you have a business profile there – this way, you’re in control of the non-review data that is there. This ensure accuracy of contact information. In addition, it makes a designated place where clients can review your services.
  • Make sure it displays your name – not just your brokerage. Too often agents post only their brokers name – and end up with reviews about completely different agents than intended!
  • Let your clients know you’re on Yelp -if they’re active, you won’t even need to ask for a review.
  • Do NOT mass solicit reviews – Yelp has pretty strict filters to weed out solicited reviews that don’t appear genuine.
  • It’s ok to have non-5 star reviews! The digital consumer is increasingly skeptical of reviews, and if the review doesn’t seem genuine and is filled with flowery praise, they won’t believe it.
How do I deal with negative reviews?
Often people dismiss Yelp as just a place where people go to complain. While sometimes it may seem this way, this is not the case – the majority of reviews on Yelp are positive. However, negative comments happen.
  • Don’t panic! Calm down. This is part of being a business.
  • Even if you believe it to be false, reviews are highly subjective and hard to prove false. Yelp rarely removes reviews and sets a high bar for what qualifies as a violation of their content guidelines. Only report a review if there is a clear violation – misleading information, misunderstandings and unfavorable reviews are not a violation.
  • If you feel it necessary, you can respond to a review – publicly or privately and try to resolve any misunderstanding. Empathize with the consumer, offer solutions, or reaffirm your dedication to the best customer service.
  • Legal action, or threats of, are can have very serious consequences and often escalates the situation. They rarely end with either party being happy.
  • Learn from it – why did this client walk away with a bad experience? Why do they believe they had a bad experience? What can you do to strive for better customer service?
  • Let it go and move on.

The best way to increase positive reviews on Yelp is to produce positive experiences for your clients. Overtime, negative reviews will be pushed down the page and or treated as less useful and reliable. What customer service is about is having your happy clients walk away with as much passion as the people who have a less than perfect experience – strive for this.
Yelp has frequently asked questions from business owners here that deal with common issues about reviews, Yelp’s filters, and best practices.

About Author:
Andrew Violante is the Social Media and Communications Coordinator at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees social media strategy and implementation for the brokerage. 

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Inman Connect Takeaways: Mobile Apps and Tools

September 6, 2012

On August 1st-3rd, I was fortunate to attend the Inman News Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco. The 3-day conference highlighted where real estate and technology connects – from social media and marketing, to mobile apps and websites, and listing syndication and big data – it covered some of the largest topics and trends within the industry. The main conference featured notable speakers, including: Caterina Fake, Founder and CEO of Findery (and co-founder of Flickr); Joe Fernandez, cofounder and CEO of Klout; Adi Tatarko, co-founder and CEO of Houzz, and many more. While the Alain Pinel Realtors attendees and I took away more information than can be shared in one post, we did compile a partial list of some of the notable tools and apps that are worth checking out if you don’t already know about them:
Real Estate / Home Tools for You & Clients

  • Open Home Pro (iPad) – beautiful listing and open house management program – keep track of leads from open houses, automatically follow up and organize, export data to excel or CRM.
  • Route4Me (iPhone, iPad, Android) – enter multiple addresses and routes most efficient route, great for open house tours.
  • HomeSnap by Sawbuck (iPhone, Android soon) – snap a photo of a home and find out more about it (integrates with real-time MLS data in most places) and how much they think it is worth (from Sawbuck).
  • BrightNest (web) – Web-based service that helps homeowners by providing customized tips to care for their home.
  • (browser, app coming soon) – apartment rental search, create a renter resume.

Business / Self-Organization Tools

  • Drop-Box (all platforms) – Cloud storage system, synchs files and changes across all platforms, accessible anywhere. Can also share and collaborate on files. 2gb in storage free.
  • Google Drive (all platforms) – Similar to Drop-Box, store, edit, share files that synch across platforms. 5gb in storage free.
  • Evernote (all platforms) – Make and organize “notes” – can be text, full webpage, a photograph, voice memo, more. Share folders with anyone – great for collaboration. Synch across platforms and access anywhere.
  • Wunderlist (all platforms) – Free easy to use task-manager, with reminders, organize, and share. Access anywhere.
  • Twist (iPhone) – Start a “twist” and it will notify people automatically of your ETA to your appointments.


  • Videolicious (iPhone) – Easy do-it-yourself video creation (good for property videos!)
  • Blazing Tours (iPhone, Android) – Shoot and edit video home tours with this do-it-yourself app – add music, text, voiceovers, photos all from phone


  • (web-based, iPhone app) – analyzes your social connections on many social networks and determines your “klout score” – a measure of social influence – including what topics you are influential about


  • Hunch Mobile by (iPhone, browser) Free – gives recommendations about restaurants, movies, things to do, tv shows, more based on you “tastes” – gets smarter over time.
  • Uber (iPhone, Android) – On-demand requests for private driver, automatically charge card on file, and emails receipt. Classy, convenient, reliable experience available in most cities.

Have you tried any of these? Let us know your experiences –

About Author:
Andrew Violante is the Social Media and Communications Coordinator at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees social media strategy and implementation for the brokerage. 

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Welcome to the Alain Pinel Realtors Insight Blog!

September 4, 2012

Welcome! Today we are proud to announce our new APR Insight Blog – an agent and industry blog that will be an invaluable resource.

We have transferred some old content from our previous blog – but our best is still to come. The new blog will covers a much wider variety of content. Check back often or subscribe via RSS or email to get the latest!