Overseas Property Blog feature on International Herald Tribune

Overseas Property Blog feature on International Herald Tribune

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On Friday the 19th of January, overseaspropertymall.com & bulgarianpropertyblog.blogspot.com were both featured in an article on the International Herald Tribune titled “Real estate goes beyond the Internet listing“.

The article written by Nancy Beth Jackson talked about how emerging and new web technologies (Web 2.0) are rapidly reshaping the real estate industry worldwide. She discussed about the vast amount of value added information and interactivity that blogs, opinion polls, podcasts, videos & forums offer against traditional online property listings on portals that shook the property industry back in the 90s.

These new platforms in my opinion are definitely new channels in the internet marketing mix that were not exactly fully emergent two years ago when I started researching the industry. Today, any serious player in international property should have a blog, participate in industry podcasts, practice reputation management through interacting in forums and have videos online that constitute interviews, virtual tours and general information. There is no doubt we are living in an information dependent era where people want more and more information from a diverse range sources ranging from their mobile phones or off the iPods.

This is the article:

When shopping for real estate across borders or across continents, how would you like to tap into the local news and gossip, have a virtual tour of the area and chat with potential neighbors before buying a ticket for a personal visit?

Just as Web listings transformed international real estate a decade ago, new Internet tools are making even more information available – and not just from real estate agents.

Increasing numbers of potential buyers and investors are exchanging information in online forums, downloading video and audio reports, tailoring Internet maps to their needs and reading blogs for news and opinion.

And what is in cyberspace today is only the beginning, says Mark Lesswing, chief technology officer and senior vice president of the Chicago- based National Association of Realtors, which recently entered its first international joint venture with its Mexican counterpart.

“What we’re going to see goes beyond listings,” he said. “We’ll see blogs take off, maps take off, research-driven things like trends in the market, more tools on social networks.”

Chatty online forums like those at Internationalliving.com, Yahoo and Google already have had effects on international real estate, but the blogging “gold rush” is just beginning, Joel Burslem, who blogs about the future of real estate marketing from Portland, Oregon, believes.

In the United States, blogs like Curbed.com, started by an under-30 New York journalist chronicling his own neighborhood, started attracting attention just three years ago, Now, real-estate-blogs.com provides a directory of dozens of blogs related to the real estate industry in the United States and Canada, and encourages visitors to vote for their favorites.

Web activity by international real estate professionals and laymen started picking up only last year. Sam Taliaferro, an American developer in Panama, now spends three hours a day on a half-dozen blogs that range from events in his highlands development to general investment trends and life in the country.

“I am reading anyway, and it only takes a few minutes to add commentary and post,” he said.

Links to his blogs can be found at Primapassport.com, a marketing organization that he founded in 2005 to encourage North American and European investment in Panama. Housed in one of the new towers in Panama City, Primapassport also publishes a glossy magazine, produces video commercials, conducts surveys and offers travel incentives, all available through the Web site.

Taliaferro is working with the National Association of Realtors in North America and with Overseas Property Professionals in Europe to expand his marketing and blogging activities throughout Central America and Mexico in the coming year.

Kunle Campbell started blogging from Oxford, England, almost two years ago while researching his master’s thesis at Warwick University.

Campbell’s study – carrying out an e-marketing strategy for Property Frontiers, an international real estate consultancy – led him to set up an international property blog, www.overseaspropertymall.com, a kind of “news diary,” to help himself understand market dynamics.

After graduation from Oxford, he began a more specialized blog — bulgarianproperptyblog.blogspot.com — because he had been bitten by the real estate bug.

“I was priced out of the U.K. and looking for a Bulgarian ski apartment as a first step on the property ladder, and also as an investment vehicle to jump-start my entry into the U.K. property market,” said Campbell, 26, who was born in Nigeria.

He found a place, but then decided it was not a good investment. Now he is looking for a French leaseback or an apartment in Berlin, but he remains bullish on Bulgarian real estate.

His blogs only recently started earning money, what he describes as “a pittance” from Google advertising, but he is redesigning them this month to make room for banner advertising. He also plans to include commentary from a real estate researcher.

Podcasting, a format that has skyrocketed in the past couple of years thanks to the popularity of Apple’s iPod, also are proving popular for information related to real estate.

“Podcasts are a huge medium at the moment for many media consumers who like to digest their information in other ways than reading,” said Felicity Quigley, property editor at Buy Association, www.buyassociation.co.uk/ property. The site was started in September as “an impartial buying guide,” featuring fact sheets, articles and surveys as well as podcasts.

“A podcast, being audio, is quite personal. You can do other things on our site whilst listening or take it away to listen at your convenience,” said Quigley, an Australian journalist who ventured into international real estate herself six years ago, buying and reselling a Florida condo to pay for her wedding.

“It’s about gaining your information the way you want it, when you want it, all to suit your needs, rather than the needs of the media provider,” she said.

Podcast topics range from Cyprus to South Africa and run for 30 to 45 minutes.

The host is Adrian Mills, a British broadcaster who owns property in Thailand and Dubai. He interviews international property experts, often agents or developers, but Quigley says topics are based on consumer demand rather than plugging advertisers.

The audio programs also are syndicated in an online network that includes Aol.co.uk, Tiscali.co.uk, Rightmore.co.uk and PropertyFinder.com.

Quigley says the site plans to add forums, blogs, competitions and polls in the next few months; video will be added during the summer.

Video has started appearing on professionally designed real estate Web sites, offering a kind of virtual walk- through, but many people around the world are excluded from making or from playing such videos by a lack of technical resources and English proficiency, according to Tony Grey, a former Microsoft group manager.

For some months now, he has been developing software to make narrated videos available in several languages and to expand a multi-lingual Web site called Forsalebylocals.com, which he bills as a “new real estate approach.”

“We are building a Web engine that can create personalized user experiences in multiple languages across dozens or hundreds of Web sites,” he said on a blog associated with the site.

The number of videos narrated in English, Portuguese and Spanish on Forsalebylocals has been increasing steadily since the Beta version of the site was started in October.

The downloadable videos often have a YouTube home-video quality to them, but the accompanying commentary lets visitors know about the neighborhoods, whether a house roof can support a second floor, what amenities are included and agent contact information. Few of the residential properties on the site cost more than $100,000 and some are priced as low as $20,000.

To date, most of the featured properties are in Bolivia, where Grey owns property, but the site is to expand to Costa Rica this month. Anyone with a miniDV tape can post interviews and narrated videos on the site, which does not charge for video titles, digitalization and conversion to Internet format.

“We’re not trying to be agents,” Grey said in a telephone interview. “It’s really about building community.”