Blog used to boost community

October 23, 2005|By NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

By now, you have probably heard of Web logs, those online diaries where people post memos to the world on just about any topic - politics, fly-fishing, a trip around the world, their daughter's wedding.

So when 52-year-old Alan Weinkrantz decided to sell his $349,000, three-bedroom bungalow, the public-relations professional figured, what better way to get the word out and give prospective buyers a taste of the town than to create a blog? Weinkrantz's blog is called "826 Cambridge Oval, San Antonio, TX" - essentially a digital scrapbook of his turn-of-the-century home and life as he knows it in the 2-square mile city of Alamo Heights, population 7,319.

His idea: Anyone thinking of moving or relocating there, can go to his blog at alanweinkrantz.typepad.com/826-cambridge-oval/ and get the skinny on the community.

"A home like this has a story to tell. I'm trying to extend the personality of the real estate into cyberspace rather than just talking about the square footage," says Weinkrantz, who describes his community as an enclave of older, historic homes. "But I also talk about my next door neighbors, the school system, what happened the other day when I was mowing the lawn."

The idea of neighborhood blogs that dish about life in the community seems to be gaining ground. Type the words "real estate" in blogsearch.google.com and you get more than 1 million entries.

For many house hunters, finding the right neighborhood or town is often left to chance, or a quick drive-by with an agent.

Neighborhood blogs give outsiders a glance at what the insiders are saying about a community - information that can ultimately help people get a feel for an area and determine if it's the place for them.

Ken Baris, president of Jordan Baris Realtors in West Orange, N.J., says he believes well-done neighborhood blogs can be excellent tools for sales agents to promote their listings and distinguish themselves from other agents. He says he has been considering launching one.

"At first blush, it sounds spectacular," Baris says. "But the real key is, how do you let a neighborhood know that it's out there and how do you get the neighbors to use it regularly? You have to have enough depth to make it exciting so the public feels like a part of that online community."

One of the biggest real estate blogs is Curbed.com, a site devoted to New York, created by journalist Lockhart Steele, 31.

In a little more than one year, Steele, who moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan after graduating from Brown University in 1996, has turned his love of New York, architecture and redevelopment into a must-read blog.

Since Curbed.com was launched in May 2004, its traffic has grown to a million page views a month.

As for Weinkrantz, he says he recently fielded a serious offer on his home and believes his blog played a role.

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