3 Great Resources for Real Estate Agents

Occasionally in our online travels we find resources for real estate agents that turn out to be extremely handy. Here are three that I’ve found to be both useful and usable (because if we don’t actually end up using a tool it doesn’t matter how great it is, right?)

Teux Deux Online Planner

I’ve tried planners and more planners, online and off. When I first got into real estate over 16 years ago I used the wire binder At-a-Glance schedulers (and yet could somehow still, magically, remember an appointment scheduled five weeks prior even if it wasn’t written down).  No longer. 🙂 Since then it seems like every online planner I’ve tried was just not that user-friendly – either complicated with features I didn’t need, or just not the kind of thing I ended up using consistently, for whatever reason. Enter the Teux Deux planner, which is surprisingly simple, yet very effective – and I’ve been using it pretty much daily for around two years.


There’s a 30-day free trial, which is what I tried out after I first saw it, so I’ll let you check it out for yourself rather than go into a long spiel about it. Suffice to say it’s very user-friendly, and at $3 per month for a “skeptic” and $24 per year for a “believer”, I don’t think these guys are trying to gouge anybody.  (There’s an app for the iPhone, and since I switched to Android I’ve been using the web-based version on my phone.)


123notaryI found this free nationwide notary-finding service when I needed a courtesy signing at a client’s place of work and escrow’s regular mobile notaries were all booked up. It became handy again when some clients needed to sign while vacationing in another state and escrow couldn’t find any notaries nearby.  If you use it, just check first with your escrow service to make sure that the notary you choose is acceptable to them based on whatever standards or regulations that escrow may have. For the record, the one we’ve used twice via that service is not “123Notary.com Certified” and she has done a good job.

Pablo Image Creator

You know those images that everyone shares on Facebook and Twitter – the ones that have a cool photo along with a heading and a caption that make some kind of galvanizing statement, and that subsequently get shared about 12 million times? (Regardless of whether the statement is true or not, but that’s another blog post. Actually, that’s a book. But I digress.)


Anyway, the free Pablo Image Creator from the folks at Buffer lets you easily create your own image-message combinations that are correctly sized for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. (These are, of course, different sizes. 🙂 ) You can choose from over 600,000 free images, use different fonts, and try out various image filter styles. For real estate agents, this could be a quick and easy way to spruce up a blog post or website page, or to make a social media post stand out with a clear message.

I haven’t signed up for Buffer yet but it’s on my list in the next two weeks – it’s a service similar to Hootsuite, which lets you simultaneously post to multiple social media accounts. Hootsuite put me off when it looked like I had to enable access to all of my Contacts recently just to make a settings change, and I love Buffer’s “transparency” section where they basically tell you exactly where the money goes, and even mistakes that they’ve made. (To be clear, the Pablo Image Creator is their free tool that you can use without signing up for anything.)

What Are the Requirements for General Contractors In Your State?

For years when I saw that someone was a bonded General Contractor, I assumed that they had passed a set of construction-related professional standards set by the state  I think many consumers make the same assumption, but did you know that depending on where you live, this could be completely untrue?

In Washington state, for example, there are NO professional expertise-related requirements for someone to register as a General Contractor.  They do have to meet certain business and residency requirements, have liability insurance, and post a bond of $12,000 (as of December 2012), but here’s what the state of Washington says about the professional qualification part:

Links to pdf pamphlet for WA state general contractor application info.

Washington state General Contractor professional requirements as of December 2012.

Requirements vary widely from state to state.  California, for example, requires four years of experience, or some equivalent combination of technical education and work history.

Since being able to recommend trustworthy service providers is a valuable part of what a real estate agent brings to the table, it makes sense to be aware of contractor requirements in your state.  Here’s a link to a Contractor’s License Reference Site – you can click on the map to go to the database with information about contractor requirements in your state.

Why We Love Hostgator for Real Estate Website Hosting

Link to Hostgator for real estate website hosting.I got off the phone with a Hostgator tech support person a few days ago and vowed to write a post reminding real estate agents of why we recommend them for real estate website hosting.

Finding a place to host your real estate website or blog is one of the first things you’re confronted with as a new agent, or at least as soon as you’ve decided to get a serious online presence (for many agents that second part comes later on, but it shouldn’t).   After trying three other web hosting providers, here’s why we recommend Hostgator for real estate agents:

Good uptime and industry leader:  Hostgator has been around since 2002 and has a 99.9% uptime guarantee.

24/7 customer support, including by phone:  The phone support option is huge for real estate agents – I just don’t recommend using a web hosting provider that relies only on email or chat.  I know that might sound funny from someone who runs an online-based marketing service, but even being more techie than the average real estate professional, if one of my sites is down I want to hear the warm breath of an actual mammal on the other end of the phone as soon as possible.

Hostgator has good phone support etiquette:  Twice in the past two weeks I’ve had long calls with support as they investigated an issue (this is not typical, by the way, and one of these issues was due to a mistake on my part).  Both times I noticed that when you’re on hold they check back with you every couple of minutes, without fail.  There must be some kind of timer that notifies them to check in after a set period of time so that you never feel abandoned.

The support techs are helpful and don’t make you feel stupid:  Even though I’m pretty techie and can hold my own with some of the web-spiel, there have been times with other companies when I felt like the support department was sure I was a doofus.  (Numerous studies have concluded that this is not the case, I am happy to report.)  The Hostgator reps have always been polite and dedicated to resolving the issue I was calling about.

Hostgator has reasonable pricing:  This is not the most important criterion, since we all know that cheaper is not always better, but it’s nice that their pricing is very reasonable.

If you have any questions about real estate website hosting, drop us a line or leave a comment below.  And here’s the standard affiliate link disclosure:

Just so you know, the link(s) to any companies on this page may be our affiliate link, meaning we get a small share of any purchase price if you buy from them.  We think of it as a way for people to say “thank you” for our resources and the time we’ve spent with our toes curled into fists of frustration with the wrong providers, but if you prefer to not use our affiliate link you can always Google the company name and go directly to their site.  It’s all good!


For Real Estate Magnets, Try House of Magnets

As you start ramping up your real estate marketing now that 2012 is here, you might want to check out the House of Magnets website for ideas to complement your other projects.  They offer a good selection of magnets in the form of calendars, sport schedules, business card holders, and more – and their prices and order quantities are very reasonable.  Their turnaround time appears to be pretty fast, and you can even have something created with your own custom design if you’re feeling artsy.

I always advise agents to use more than one marketing mode in order to reach all of their clients, and those different tools can build upon each other as well.  Here at Tools For Real Estate we find that the agents using our real estate email newsletter service who have the best email open rates are often the ones who touch base with their clients in other ways as well, whether it’s through an occasional phone call or by supplementing with a gift like the magnets we’re mentioning here.

By the way, we’re not an affiliate of House of Magnets, just a fan based on what we know about them so far.  We’d love to hear your feedback if you end up using them.

Number-of-Days Calculator on TimeandDate.com

Here’s a handy tool you can use when you’re calculating deadlines in your real estate transactions.  It’s TimeandDate.com’s date calculator, which allows you to enter in a date, then choose a number of days, weeks, or months to add in order to come up with a final date.  Here’s an example of what it looks like:

They also have a tool for determining the number of days between two dates – click here for that calculator, or on the image above for the future date calculator.

(Of course, keep in mind that ultimately you’re responsible for determining timelines correctly, regardless of what the calculator comes up with. :))

MarketWatch Helps You Keep Track of Housing Reports

Do you sometimes lose track of when the various housing and economic reports are coming out?  It’s easy to do, but since newspapers start buzzing as soon as the Case-Shiller housing numbers or new unemployment figures are released, it’s good to know in advance what’s coming up.  That’s where MarketWatch.com’s economic calendar page comes in handy.  It shows you the time and date of  each upcoming economic report release, and provides the previous report’s data for comparison.  For example, coming up this week are the Cash-Shiller home price report for January, pending home sales data, and the unemployment rate for March 2011 – all numbers that are likely to affect the real estate market.

Agents, CNBC’s Realty Check is Worth Your Time

In the course of researching this month’s real estate email newsletter article I stumbled upon Diana Olick’s Realty Check column on the CNBC site, and I have to say I wish I’d found it long ago.  Each weekday she posts a short, well-researched blurb about some current real estate topic, from recently released housing reports to new legislation, and I found it to be an excellent source of up-to-the-minute real estate information.

One of the things I like about her writing is that she appears to have good insight into the issues and I think she tries to take a fair approach – she’s not out to spin the pros of real estate and at the same time she’s not someone who despises agents either – refreshing. 🙂  (I get so annoyed with people who act like they’re breaking barriers in the field of honesty, but if you read their stuff it turns out they’re as hopelessly biased as some of the industry ‘shills’ that they can’t stand.)

Anyway, are you tuning into something daily that keeps you on the frontlines of information that your clients may need you to know?  I understand that checking a bunch of blogs every morning can become onerous, but this is one little column that will take you about 90 seconds to read and will almost always impart something worth knowing.  I highly recommend that you give it a whirl.

A Mortgage Refinance Guide for Your Real Estate Clients

Are you getting questions about mortgage refinancing from your real estate clients?  I am, and I recently found a good consumer’s guide to home loan refinancing by the Federal Reserve Board.  One of the reasons I like it is that it  seems to clearly explain some mortgage topics that people commonly get confused about, including:

  • Comparing home loan refinance options
  • Understanding ‘no cost’ refinances
  • Calculating when you recoup the expense of refinancing a mortgage
  • Home mortgage prepayment penalties

There’s also a glossary of home loan refinance terms that’s highly useful.

The pamphlet dates from 2008 and is 29 pages, it opens up in just a few seconds via pdf – here’s the link at the Federal Citizen Information Center:

A Consumer’s Guide to Mortgage Refinancings

Best Real Estate Website Hosting and Domain Services – Irene’s Top Picks

Yesterday I had to call ValueWeb to help out a client who needed his domain name pointed to a different server.  During my over half an hour on hold (starting out as caller number 44 – the horror!)  I was reminded of how important it is to choose a reliable company for domain names and hosting.  Here are the companies I use:

Buying Domain Names

Go Daddy $7.49 .com sale 200x200Godaddy is where I buy all my domain names.  It’s easy to search for them, and at around $10 per year per domain name it’s a good deal.  More importantly, they make it easy for you to manage your own domains.

(Yesterday I was calling ValueWeb because we were not able to change the domain settings ourselves, and the request we submitted 4 days previously had not been carried out.  This cost me an additional 45 minutes on the phone.)  If the domain name had been held by GoDaddy I could have done it myself in about 2 minutes.

Tip:  You can often find discount codes for GoDaddy by simply Googling ‘GoDaddy coupon codes’, or if you just click on the graphic above you should get a domain name for $7.49.

Real Estate Website Hosting

I’ve tried a number of different companies, and I really like Hostgator.  They’re big, reliable, they have good pricing, and their technical support has always been able to help me without being snarky.

One of the main reasons I choose them?  They have phone support!  Many hosting companies these days only allow you to submit support tickets by email or online chat.  If you’re shopping around for website hosting as a real estate agent, I HIGHLY recommend you go with a service that allows you to also call in, like Hostgator.  Unless you’re in the top 5% to 7% of techie agents, you’ll end up wanting this option.

(For the record, I have one website hosted with GoDaddy and have never had a problem with them either.)

Tip:  When you’re setting up hosting you’re usually asked if you want Windows or Linux hosting.  Linux is usually a good default choice unless you know for sure your site runs on ASP.

And…  Hostgator often runs a special via a coupon code shown on their home page.

Great Real Estate Marketing Pop-By Idea

Looking for a nice way to reconnect with your real estate clients?  At this morning’s office meeting I heard from some agents who are popping by their clients’ homes to say hello and drop off a Hot/Cold thermal bag as a gift.  These bags keep items hot or cold for up to 3 hours, and are great for summer get-togethers and picnics.

Personally I’d be pleased if someone dropped one of these off on my doorstep – I don’t have any, and they look really handy.  You can currently get Hot/Cold thermal bags for just $2.38 each ($119 per case of 50) at the American Bag Company.