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RISMEDIA, November 6, 2009—The ongoing financial crisis is changing the face of the real estate market, and although the media is fond of using terms such as “credit crunch,” and “credit crisis,” these are misnomers. A more appropriate term would be a “return to rational lending practices.” The effects of runaway lending to anything with a pulse and the ability to sign on the dotted line are clear, and the lending institutions are being forced to pull back – who knows, they might even start teaching financiers the meaning of the words, “due diligence,” again? 

Regardless of the causes, the real estate market is going through some fundamental changes, and the real estate agents who will survive, are the ones most able to adapt to the new paradigm. The credit bubble distorted the market for some time, with so-called “luxury” mansions and condominium developments sprouting like weeds all across the world, making the term “luxury” all but useless to describe a property, spawning new improved, better-than-before superlatives like ultra-luxury. 

Many luxury real estate agents are discovering that they are not luxury real estate agents after all, and it takes more than granite counter tops and gourmet appliances to distinguish a luxury property from any other. This distortion in the marketplace means that amongst the vast array of property for sale, it is necessary to become more focused on a specific niche to be found. Zillow.com claims to have over 3 million homes for sale listed on their website, and rather like being faced with too many choices in a grocery store, this is probably off-putting to many potential buyers. Another aspect of the changing marketplace is the amount of foreclosure and bank properties for sale, with some estimates that around 50% of all sales currently are of financially distressed property. With sales volumes slowly picking up and prices still falling, it becomes necessary to specialize to attract potential buyers. 

The Internet is often the first place many buyers start their search for a property, and getting found for your particular geographic area is becoming more and more difficult. The competition is strong, and another approach is to specialize in small niches, which is proving a successful strategy for some agents. One example that comes to mind is Glenn Plantone at Viewpoint equity, who currently specializes in foreclosed condominiums in Las Vegas after seeing a opportunity and educating himself on this micro-market or niche. 

Buyers know that it is not possible to be an expert in all markets and for all property types, and are now expecting to find an expert in the niche that interests them. But how to create Web traffic to a particular niche is an interesting dilemma. The first step in any Web-based promotional campaign is to begin with the URL, or Web address of a particular property. Bank properties as an example. The term “bank properties” or a derivative using both of these words is searched for on Google approximately 14,000 times a month and is far less competitive than a broader search term which will have hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions of websites competing to be found higher up the search engine results. So, creating a URL such as http://bankproperties.com/listing-crestmoor-park-colorado-reo-81.html will have automatic authority over some thing such as http://joebloggsrealty/bankproperties/listing-crestmoor-park-colorado-reo-81.html because the search term is at the beginning of the URL and matches the term used. 

Thus, the first step in dominating a niche market online is here – using a niche property portal that matches your niche as closely as possible. Obviously, this is just the first step, but using this approach give obvious advantages over using a large “jack of all trades” portal where your property is listed with 3 million other properties. 

Mark Knowles is a long time professional real estate investor and analyst who now concentrates on online real estate. He currently writes the luxury property blog as the executive blogger for niche properties. He can be reached at mknowles@lux.com

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