Real Estate Round-up
The methods of marketing real estate have evolved since the prehistoric Realtor planted the first “for sale” sign in a front lawn of a caveman’s home.
The classified ad in the newspaper is old hat. And every real estate project and virtually every Realtor has their own website. Realtors have been talking about blogging for years.
What’s new? One of the trends really catching hold lately is using social media for real estate promotional purposes. Real estate professionals are using Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to reach customers and clients.
If you’ve seen The Social Network — the new movie about the creation of Facebook — and read about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, then you know this whole social media genre is an amazing phenomenon. But it’s gone far beyond the friendly communications for keeping up with friends or finding a Saturday night date. Social media communications is now a business thing, too.
In a ranking of industries, the real estate business ranks 28th in the usage of social media for business, according to “The Social Industry Report,” a study prepared by Netprospex, a database marketing company.
In the use of Twitter, real estate ranks 13th as an industry. (Not surprisingly, funeral home companies come in last among the 50 industries ranked by Netprospex. Advertising and marketing firms, the banking industry and search engine firms rank highest.)
Real estate is a match for social media marketing because touting opportunities, generating new business and supporting new projects is vital to the real estate industry.
"For real estate, it may not be as important as location, but for buzz, Facebook is pretty darn important," says David Goswick of Goswick Social Media, a Houston marketing firm that specializes in social media. "The advantage of social media is that it is fast, inexpensive and the results are measurable."
The Uptown Park retail center, one of Goswick’s clients, has gone from having 2,000 Facebook friends in June, to over 6,000 friends today. The Galleria, the big gorilla of local Facebook marketing, has over 20,000 friends. Some projects that haven’t focused on developing their social programs have only 200 friends.
The “friends” of the real estate projects, particularly shopping centers, are bombarded with messages about new store openings, special events and the like. Goswick says making Facebook status blurbs relevant is the key to gaining new friends. Just tweeting to say “blue is my favorite color” won’t cut the mustard.
Iglesia de Visibility
Owning a big building that thousands of people see every day as they drive by is the next best thing to having a billboard.
Pare de Sufrir, a multi-cultural Christian church, has selected a highly visible location for its new church building. The church will be built at 6101 Southwest Freeway, near Renwick Drive and Westpark, where the freeway makes its big curve to take people to the southwest and the Fort Bend frontier.
The 46,000-square-foot Pare de Sufrir building will have a stylistic, modernist design with a tall glass entry, says architect Bin Yu of Ziegler Cooper Architects, which designed the structure.
The church will have an 1,100-seat worship center, 200-seat chapel, offices and an 11-bedroom residential complex for ministers and ministers-in-training.
Construction of the project will begin this fall and should be complete in 2011, Yu said. And yes, the church’s sign with be lit with LED lighting to make sure it’s visible at night to drivers on the Southwest Freeway.
Pare de Sufrir may be one of the most visible churches on the Southwest Freeway. But there’s no way it can surpass the visibility of the massive Lakewood Church, which occupies the former Compaq Center on the north side of the Southwest Freeway at Edloe.
CityCentre Building More Office Space
Houston hasn’t had many bright spots in its office market lately. But CityCentre is the exception.
Midway Companies is preparing to build a pair of six-story office buildings in the west Houston mixed-use project, located near the intersection of the Katy Freeway and the Sam Houston Tollway.
The existing office space in CityCentre has leased up rapidly, so naturally, Midway is ready to build more.
“The leasing velocity we’re seeing is pretty incredible in a down market," says leasing agent Michael Anderson of Colvill Office Properties.
The new office buildings will have 33,168 square feet of ground level retail space with 250,000 square feet of office above. That’s been the standard in CityCentre — stores on the ground level with offices and apartments on upper levels. The formula has worked well at CityCentre, which has an impressive collection of restaurants tenants including Bistro Alex, Ruggles Green, Sur La Table, The Tasting Room and a Cyclone Anaya.
If there are any doubts about mixed-use projects working in Houston’s suburbs, a visit to CityCentre should cure that.
Ralph Bivins, former president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, is editor-in-chief of RealtyNewsReport.com.