Buying a House is like Buying a Toilet

For most people buying and selling real estate isn’t a hobby.   It is something they need to do in order to fill a need or desire in their life.   Once they have made the purchase they move on to the next need or desire.   But a hobby, is totally different.

What Do you Mean a Hobby?

Let’s take one of my hobbies.   Photography, I love photography,   I buy photography books, I subscribe to photography magazines, (several)   I buy photo equipment (cameras, lots of cameras).   I love all things photography.   I can’t seem to get enough of it.   HDR, I love it.   HDR and Photo post processing software? Got several.   This is what I mean by a hobby.   It is something in which I have an ongoing and continued interest.

Buying a Toilet

Not a glamorous purchase, but at one time or another almost everyone has to buy one.   The last one I purchased involved internet searches, multiple trips to Home Depot and discussions with friends and relatives about any recommendations they might have.   I didn’t buy the cheapest and I didn’t buy the most expensive (Did you know there are toilets that cost as much as a Nikon DSLR?).

I finally decided on the Super Flush 3000.   Picked it up at Home Depot and one weekend I installed it.   Great success story, best toilet I’ve ever owned.   But, I haven’t searched on line or at Home Depot for a toilet since.   I don’t subscribe to any Toilet magazines either.   I made the purchase and moved on with my life.

Buying A House is like Buying a Toilet

First, what do we need, or what do we want.   Then lots of time on the internet searching and looking for homes that meet our criteria. Learning about the community and the various subdivisions and community activities.   All these things help us decided where we want the home to be located.   And once we make our purchase and move in our search is over till our needs or desires change.

What’s the Point?

The point is, your blog, is it a real estate blog about buying a house.   For most it isn’t a hobby to keep buying houses.   The implications for us as Real Estate Bloggers is this.   Don’t expect readers to be regular readers once they have made their purchase.   They read because they had a need.   Once that need is fulfilled so is the desire for information.

Is That All There Is?

Good question.   The answer, “It Depends”.   Figures.

“It depends on what?”

“It depends on the Focus of your Real Estate related blog.”

If the focus is “Getting Leads” and “Making Sales” then yep that’s probably all there is.   Because that is what your content will be focused on and once the sale is made they have made their purchase.

However, if the focus is on the Community.   The rules change.   Why?   Because now your blog provided more than just information about buying and selling real estate.   It provides valuable information about other things people in your community are interested in.

“Like what?”

Take for example where I live.   Here in the desert Southwest people want to know about a lot of things.

  • Why do they say if you don’t have termites you will get them?
  • Are scorpions dangerous?   (do they really glow in the dark?)
  • Where do you go for camping, hiking, biking, theater, hospitals, community service?
  • What yearly local events and national events are going to be coming to our community?
  • Is there a zoo?
  • Why is it so dark around the city, there really is a dark skies policy? Why?
  • What are the names of these green trees? and those flowers?   And all those cactus?
  • Etc. etc. etc.

It doesn’t matter where your community is located there is information people living there and planning on living there want to know.   Be an ambassador, provide that information and they will keep coming back to your blog to find out what you are writing about.   They will come because it is more than just “How to buy a house” or “How to sell a house.”

There’s a paradox in this type of blog.   The focus is outward, toward the community, providing desired information.   It isn’t an inward focus of “Getting Leads” and “Making Sales”.   Here is where the paradox comes in.   The more you focus on giving to the community the more leads and sales come to you.   Because you become an ambassador for your community.

Taking Down the Barriers

Let’s face it, people don’t instantly trust those of us in the real estate business.   Almost every one has a horror story to tell about a real estate transaction.   Therefore, we don’t encounter people with a neutral bias.   Usually there is a huge wall between us.   Being a representative of our community and sharing information about the next air show in the area or when the firefighters are holding their annual chili cook-off for charity slowly takes down the barriers.   Sharing that the green barked trees are Palo Verde and in the spring they fill with the most amazing yellow blossoms, now that peaks their interests.   Put a picture of it in a blog post and they can’t wait for spring to come around so they can see the valleys fill with yellow blooms.   Show a few amazing sunsets, some wildflowers and with every image and every post, take down the barriers.

Buying a house is like buying a toilet, but living in a community is ongoing. The question is: “Do you want to sell toilets or be an ambassador for your community?”


  1. Calgary MLs listings says

    Hey Dave, i agree with your post. Its indeed a tough job buying a house in today’s competitive scenario. I live in calgary and the RealEstate in calgary is volatile. Check the Calgary MLS listings, you will know what i mean. Let me know your thoughts on the Calgary MLS listings, once you go thru it. There are so many parameters, locality, proximity to schools, colleges and markets, business districts, transport facilities, besides a whole lot of personal choices of near and dear ones. indeed a difficult choice to make in today’s competitive world , especially when recession has bull dozed the Real Estate sector, thinks are on a downside in Calgary too. Check the Calgary MLS listings and do let me know.

  2. That is too funny but true in a weird way. Read a post a week or so back talking about 33 touches before a sale but I think most of us fall short after the sale.

  3. Barry,

    What amazes me in a way is the number of clients that continue to read the blog after they have bought there home. They never leave comments, but when we see them they always bring up something I’ve been writing about.

    I remember one of them saying my post on Verdant Tucson made them almost snort their morning coffee.

    I didn’t touch in this in the post, but a little humor goes a long way in taking down barriers as well.

  4. Your headline reeled me in like a marlin hooked on a lure.
    .-= Keahi Pelayo´s last blog ..What’s Wrong With This Picture? =-.

  5. Dave,

    I like that you take the time to comment on other people’s comments. You talk about being “an ambassador for your community”, and I just mentioned to a someone else that by commenting on other people’s comments, you build a sense of community. You’re definitely on the right track, especially if you have clients reading the blog after the sale, snorting coffee about something you posted. By many accounts, that’s a huge sign that people see you as more than “that guy that sold us the house.”


  6. Thanks Shane,

    I don’t get many comments on the RE blog. It is the nature of the beast. I also believe that is one of the biggest hurdles for RE bloggers. We just don’t get many comments on a typical RE blog about community.

    Now the Lab, that’s a blog of a different color. And commenting on comments is really valuable in building community.

    One final point. Many of the comments I have received on our RE Blog have been negative to start. Approving those comments then starting a dialog is one of the most valuable things we can do. The tendency is to just delete the comment and not let it see the light of day.

    Doing so is an opportunity lost. Hum, I think there’s a blog post in that idea . . .

    Have a great weekend Shane. Thanks for dropping by the lab.


  7. Very well written article Dave. I like the way you write it. I was totally taken back when I saw the title of the post. when I started to read it I felt it was too simple at the same time very good. Really enjoyed it. I am happy that I read the post before I actually decided to buy a home. Lol.

  8. Margaret,

    Interesting comment.

    Have a great weekend. Good luck on that house hunt.


  9. Dave,

    What a perfectly unique analogy to describe what “hyper-local blogging” (your term, I believe) is all about. I stumbled and bumbled to the same conclusion after about a year of writing mostly about real estate stuff. The window of readership opens by an order of magnitude when you write about local events. And most important, as you so nailed with the toilet analogy, the readers and subscribers stay loyal to the site much longer when there’s more to it than just real estate. The other positive effect is that it gives the search engines that many more ways to find your site.

    It’s also easier to keep your blog “fresh” when you have more material to draw from. Try writing 3-4 posts per week (EVERY week) on nothing but real estate! Not only will it get tremendously boring, but even the most experienced agent will run out of topics after awhile.

    Thanks again for the great reminder. Keep it real, and keep it local!

    .-= Chuck Gillooley´s last blog ..Community Meeting on Wheeler Plaza: December 2nd… =-.

  10. Chuck,

    You have some of the most thoughtful comments I read on any blog. You always contribute to the discussion and expand it.

    Thanks for dropping by the Lab.

    To those leaving comments for the Do Follow saying things like “Wow, interesting post, I really got a lot out of it”.

    This is how to leave a comment, Just like Chuck.


  11. Dave – Too True – the whole thing. Two years ago i started my blog and quickly realized a couple of things
    1- There was only so much real estate I could write about then i wanted to pull my hair out
    2- No one in the Lake Powell area is blogging anything
    3- Our newspaper comes out once a week – what an opening for posting local events and photos

    Almost anywhere I go lately someone will comment on something I’ve written. While at the city offices a few weeks ago to pick up some plats, I decided to introduce myself to a new city employee. His reply? “Oh I know who you are – I read you blog – nice to meet you”

    There is no under estimating the reach of what we are doing. So yes, I am that blogger chick who also happens to sell real estate!
    .-= Heather Rankin´s last blog ..More Information on the $8000 Homebuyers Tax Credit – How to Claim the Credit =-.

  12. @Heather, you’re absolutely right. It’s pretty cool when someone recognizes you (or your name) because of your blog. That’s when you know it’s making an impact! That’s finally happening for me — at a couple of open houses I held recently several visitors came up and said “You’re the White Oaks guy! Thanks for writing the blog,” or something positive like that. That’s the kind of positive feedback that keeps you excited about writing, because as you already know, it takes a TON of time to keep a good blog going.

    And Dave, thanks for this outstanding site and all of the selfless tips that you share here. I lost count of how many times I’ve used one of these gems to make my site better.. It’s also cool to know someone else in this world who has an affinity for McDonalds, no matter what time of day it is 🙂

  13. Chuck & Heather,

    Thanks to you both for sharing how this is working for you. Blogging about your community isn’t an instant fix or gratification tool. It is the building of a community reputation that takes time to establish along with a reputation as someone who knows about the community.

    I think this is the absolute best way to establish ourselves as RE Agents in a community and region. Those posts we write never go away. They are out there working for us 24/7.

    You both provide living proof and evidence that the time spent blogging this way is well spent. Quality community content providing a service to the community is much better for a local focus than a lot of opinions about national real estate trends.

    And it goes without the need to say to both of you, but the more we are a part of the community and the less we try and “sell” the community the more we gain respect as individuals in our communities.

    Anyone out there listening?

    Heather and Chuck are building their business on a firm foundation of community representation instead of blogging for “Leads” and “Sales”.


  14. Interesting comparison there, I can see the connection about only searching based on your need at that specific moment. Being able to tear down the negative barriers with clients will definitely help if you can tailor your website with a specific search and treat them on a human level.

  15. Thanks for this post Dave. I just found you blog here… I’m just getting my wordpress blog up and running. I like the idea of focusing on local issues & answering peoples questions – basically being a bigger resource than just real estate issues. I will be subscribing and look forward to reading more! Thanks Ryan
    .-= Ryan “Tiny” Crozier´s last blog ..2009-2010 – First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit =-.

  16. Ryan,

    Drop by the Lab as often as you like. Hope you always find something you can use.


  17. They way you describe this is amazingly simple and accurate. I think there is something to be said about identifying the stages of purchase for each client / reader and then trying to target information to them. I recognize your analogy and think that we work diligently to format our electronic newsletter to address your point.

    We know that the people on our news letter distribution list are homeowners presently. We try to send out information that will not only be valuable to them presently, but also keep their interest in their own home. Winterizing Tips. Product Recalls. Special offers from vendors we work with. Community news (recycling rule changes) and taxation issues. We measure the click throughs to articles and the helps drive our content.

    We approach the blog similarly (in fact we use the news letter to drive blog traffic). We work to include community information that would be of interest to potential buyers, which also happens to be content that sellers will want to be aware of. We like to post local industry trends because looking at your home’s value is like peeking at your bank account – who is not interested right now? The fact is we have a 70% new visitor rate and are happy with that.We write content that we think is important to our present, past, and future clients.

  18. Now that is an interesting analogy that I don’t think I will use with my home buyer clients. Not saying that it is off the mark because it is more right on than anything, but it may not site to well with them when trying to convince themselves to spend $200k plus on a toilet/home…. I thought it was on the mark though.

  19. Denver,

    Since this is about blogging for RE and has nothing to do with buying or selling a home I would hope you would never mention this post. Totally apples to oranges.

  20. Dave,

    Do you feel it is possible to do both? Right now my blog is focused on community, but also real estate related “tooting of my own horn” and educating the consumer. I often struggle whether this is the best approach because I realized early in starting my blog that most people don’t care about real estate stuff once they own a home, just like your article states. I still feel it is my “job” to help educate though, and I want my community to understand real estate etiquette and do’s and don’ts a little better.

    Struggling to find the fine line,
    .-= Shanna´s last blog ..Kenny Loggins Headlines Dublin July 4th Festivities =-.

  21. Shanna,

    Writing about your community and (this is a big and) What you are passionate about is a way of keeping it informative and interesting. It is a real estate blog, but it can and should be so much more. If (and this is a big if) If you want regular readers.

    Many of our future clients have found us by reading a post that was NOT real estate related. And coming back to read more. When they needed our services it was an easy choice.

    One of the reasons so many get started in RE blogging and quit is because you can only write so many RE statistics and market reports before YOU loose interest. This is why those that succeed write about more than RE and include what they are passionate about.

    Not only is it possible to do both, it must do both if it is really going to let you shine. When you approach it this way you don’t need to blow your own horn. They will get the message.


  22. Great point. Keeping your blog diverse does open it up to attracting and keeping more readers. This is also an excellent way to stay involved with past clients or at least make them aware of what you are doing.
    .-= Jans Indianapolis Real Estate For Sale´s last blog ..Graves Sylvan Ridge Subdivision Washington Township Indianapolis Indiana: Real Estate & Homes for Sale =-.

  23. Dave the title certainly caught my attention. I know this is an old post but I figured I would chime in. Having a well rounded blog that not only speaks to the local market but topics of national interest can go a long way in bringing business.