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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Levar January 21, 2014 at 6:31 am

Branding is so important regardless of the industry you find yourself or those of you with entrepreneurial pursuits. It takes some creative thought to capture “yourself” in a few words but it is worth it in the end.

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Sharon Vornholt January 21, 2014 at 11:44 am

It does take some time to do that Levar. But you are right when you say it is worth it.

Sharon

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Tim Herriage January 21, 2014 at 7:06 am

I agree with these points. Another point is to be aware of trademark law, and copyrights. I am a HomeVestors Franchisee and Development Agent. Unfortunately part of building a brand, is protecting it. This means HomeVestors must pursue any violators we are aware of. At times, I have actually had to have the corporate office send demand letters to friends.

So, when building your investing brand, my quick advice is do NOT use the word Ugly with regards to houses, or the word HomeVestors.

So:

uglyhousesinsanfrancisco.com will get you a letter from us.

i wanted to make this comment to be clear, we (HomeVestors) do not send these letters out of spite or meanness. We send them (the same way you will need to be prepared to) in order to maintain our copyrights and trademarks. The moment you do not, there is case law where you can lose it!

Good post as always, Sharon.

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Jason F January 21, 2014 at 11:15 am

Lol…good luck with that one champ. By the way; I have the word houses trademarked. Expect a letter from us shortly.

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Tim Herriage January 22, 2014 at 8:49 am

Jason,

You are more than welcome to look it up, or even try it. I am not a part of the corporate office, but I do report violators to the general council. This is to protect the brand. I recommend you ask you attorney if utilizing the phrase “Ugly House” is a violation of HomeVestors trade marks. If you disagree, please seek council. We have never lost, and have won against several gurus, like Robyn Thompson.

Regards,

Tim

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Kurt K January 22, 2014 at 9:17 am

Tim from a quick search “we buy ugly houses” is trade marked. Is “ugly houses” itself trademarked?

Jason F January 22, 2014 at 11:35 am

I have been buying ugly houses here in Idaho since 2004. Sometimes I buy nice houses. I have marketing materials that explain all of the different types of houses I will buy from someone that needs to sell their house quickly. I have never heard of home vestors and I don’t care about what words you think only you can use in your marketing. Why in the world would your company trademark a word or phrase that is very commonly used with investors all over the country and then threaten a lawsuit whenever you suspect it is being used. It seems to be a great way to alienate yourself from the rest of the investing community of whatever market you are in. Bigger Pockets forums are a great place to network, share and learn new ideas. Your threats are not welcome and from reading most of the other posts on this thread, neither is your company.

Tim Herriage January 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Jason, I made no threats. If you disagree, so be it. I agree with you about the uses of BiggerPockets. It was my intent to share my opinion. If you disagree, good luck to you.

Alan Mackenthun January 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Agreed. I’m not sure how to refer to the earlier poster. I can’t think of anything printable that would do him justice. Nice to see that he’s too obtuse to quit digging.

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Sharon Vornholt January 21, 2014 at 11:50 am

Tim –

I agree with the fact that you have to protect your brand, but I really have to disagree with you.

To say that no one but your company can use the word “ugly” is crazy. That is just a word in the dictionary. All of us buy and market for ugly houses. You can’t trademark a word like ugly and demand that no other business it. Trademarking the name “Homevestors” is something entirely different.

Thanks for reading.
Sharon

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Tim Herriage January 22, 2014 at 9:04 am

Sharon,

I do respect your opinion, but the case law on this issue is very clear. Trademark law provides protection for phrases, in connection with a trade/industry. HomeVestors has never lost, and I’d invite any trademark attorney to disagree. I am not here to argue, but I am here to help. I’d recommend you read up on Trademark law prior to advising the readers to violate it.

The purpose of my post was to simply help investors avoid a headache. HomeVestors does not enjoy the actions, but it is necessary to protect what we have invested in for 17 years.

If anyone would like a reference to the general Council at HomeVestors, to obtain the paperwork supporting this position, you may contact the legal department at HomeVestors of America, Inc.

HomeVestors of America, Inc.
6500 Greenville Avenue #400
Dallas, TX 75206
Telephone: 972-761-0046
Fax: 972-761-9022

From the corporate webpage:

“We Buy Ugly Houses and HomeVestors are registered trademarks of our main company HomeVestors of America, Inc. We defend our trademark vigorously. Although some people say imitation is truly the sincerest type of flattery, HomeVestors is not flattered at all when other companies infringe on our trademarks, especially “We Buy Ugly Houses” and “Homevestors.” We make great efforts to protect our HomeVestors® franchise and franchisees by taking fast legal action against individuals and companies using our trademarks who have no business relationship with us that allows them to do so. We enjoy a 100 – 0 record as we have never lost a trademark infringement action.”

REFERENCES:
http://www.inman.com/2012/12/19/we-buy-ugly-houses-franchisor-wins-domain-name-dispute/

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/homevestors-continues-aggressive-trademark-enforcement-in-second-quarter-210570451.html

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Sharon Vornholt January 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Tim –

I can see that you have trademarked “we buy ugly houses”. That does not prevent folks from using the term “ugly houses” in their marketing. That exact phrase isn’t what was trademarked.

I’m pretty sure people all across America have included a very large number of the words in the English language in their trademarks. So – the rest of us can’t utter those words?

This post was only for general information on how to branding your company. My final word on this subject is that this is absolutely the wrong place to boast about your company being corporate bullies.

Sharon

Tim Herriage January 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Sharon,

I am sorry you feel me agreeing with you and adding that while building a brand, beware of trademarks makes you think of us as corporate bullies. I am merely trying to help. Just last week, Duncan Wierman advised one of his students to turn over two URL’s with uglyhouse in them.

Whether you agree with me or not, I don’t think you should call names. i am merely stating documented facts, in an effort to help investors avoid problems. Consider it a speed limit sign. If any of you would like to speed, go ahead. There is nothing stopping you, except the law.

Kurt K January 21, 2014 at 7:27 am

Wow, ugly is off limits, homevestors is definitely the ugly brand.

I never had an opinion on these guys until reading related threads on the forums

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Jason F January 21, 2014 at 11:31 am

Don’t worry. You are not alone.

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Roy Schauer January 21, 2014 at 8:44 am

Great article and points Sharon! Definitely have seen the need for branding and making sure the materials are higher quality. There are so many that take the cheap route, and that’s great, but we didn’t want to. We spent the little bit of extra time to create a good logo and have quality printed materials and it has paid off. I’ve had several people tell me the reason they called was because we looked more “serious and professional”. Our materials gave the impression before they even talked to us. While I know some like a more informal approach, we deal primarily with people in preforeclosure who get offers of help all the time. Our goal is for them to believe we will be able to help them in a professional manner.

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Sharon Vornholt January 21, 2014 at 11:53 am

Roy –

It sounds like you have made great strides in your branding. Congratulations on that. I agree that in most cases people like to do business with folks that appear to be professionals. You don’t have to be a big company to have that appearance either. Just a few tweaks here and there. Thanks.

Sharon

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Martin Cortez January 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Sharon – Along with my ventures in real estate, I have spent nearly 25 years in the graphic arts and printing industry, so I enthusiastically agree with you about the importance of a consistent and professional look for all of your marketing materials.

I think it is especially important for beginning investors to establish themselves with marketing graphics that stand out and promote credibility. Please feel free to take a look at my website (shameless plug), where I have combined real estate investing and graphic design in an attempt to help real estate “newbies”.

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Sharon Vornholt January 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm

I will definitely do that Martin.

I think real estate investors by and large are really small companies that struggle with branding. You should jump in here are write some articles for the BP blog. See how good I an getting at outsourcing!

Thanks for your comments.
Sharon

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Arthur Botting January 23, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Martin,

Can you give us your web address so we can visit your website?

Arthur

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Martin Cortez January 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

Arthur – absolutely! My web address is http://www.NewInvestorGraphics.com

Feel free to pass along the address to anyone you think it could help.

Thanks!

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Sharon Vornholt January 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

Nice site Martin, and also nice postcards.

Sharon

Arthur Botting January 23, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Sharon,

Do you think instead of a “webuyhouses” style of name for a REI company a different style can be effective? For example, our company is La Piedra Properties LLC. We couldn’t find a name using “buy” and “houses” that wasn’t already taken.

If you don’t think that’s effective what would you recommend?

BTW – Thanks for sharing all of your marketing and wholesaling tips with every one on Bigger Pockets!

Arthur Botting

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Sharon Vornholt January 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

Arthur –
Yes it can. Stop and think about all of the brands you are familiar with. It is ultimately about the people involved in the business. There are many other aspects of branding besides the name.

Thanks for reading the articles Arthur!

Sharon

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Paul Haughton January 22, 2014 at 7:24 am

There’s lots of food for thought in this post. I’ll definitely be coming back to reference these nuggets. The branding process certainly takes time and effort to refine. My approach has been to commit to it over the long-term, develop a plan of action, and follow through with baby steps daily. Great advice about purchasing your domain name. I’ll have to take action on that.

Thanks Sharon.

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Sharon Vornholt January 22, 2014 at 11:54 am

Paul –

Branding is a process and yes it does take time. I would definitely get your domain name ASAP. In come cases you have to add a middle initial, middle name, or change it up in some way.Then I would just start to think about 5 things you can do to improve your brand and work on those. Then pick 5 more. Best of luck.

Sharon

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Brian Gibbons January 22, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Hi Sharon,

what is your point of difference?

Mine is –

We solve house problems. If we cant, we know someone who can.

No Equity?
Divorce?
Making 2 Payments?
Ugly House?

If you dont call us, we cant help.
———————-
I see your tag line, We Buy Houses, We Solve Problems

Nice point of difference! :)

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Sharon Vornholt January 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Brian –
It is getting harder and harder to be different. We are all in basically the same business. I don’t have a problem with that where personal branding is concerned, But it is a whole different story for our REI businesses. That is one of my goals this year; to get this nailed down.

Sharon

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Shaun January 25, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Great action steps for building a brand.
I did put a little more effort into getting a professional logo designed, and then plastered it on everything!
Have it on nice Polo shirts I’ll where to meetings and appointments, I have pens, notebooks, sticky notes, notepads, mousepads, calculators, address labels, letterhead and even my business checks with it on there.
People know who I am at the local meetings by picking up on the visual. It also definitely helps reinforce the message.

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Brian Gibbons January 25, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Got a link for your logo? :)

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Shaun January 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Click on my name here and it is on my website.
Also is on my BiggerPockets profile:
http://www.biggerpockets.com/users/smreilly

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Sharon Vornholt January 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Your marketing is much like I did for my other business. We had all of those things.

Who did your logo?

Sharon

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Shaun January 25, 2014 at 11:10 pm

It was actually done by the husband of one of my sister-in-laws good friends.
He is a professional graphic designer in the corporate world but does some side projects for people in his “sphere” sometimes.
Very legit where some of his signature work were large campaigns at the Boston Garden for the Bruins and Celtics.
It’s been a few years but I believe it was like $230 and I got the logo with all the digital files (color, black and white, various formats and resolutions for different applications) and a business card design with the logo and a few alternate backsides for easy upload to online printers (I tend to use Vista Print).
Clearly a lot more than if I found someone on Fiverr or E-lance or something but pretty good deal for someone with that level of skill and experience.

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Sharon Vornholt January 26, 2014 at 9:06 am

Thanks Shaun for the info.

Sharon

Suzanne De Vita January 30, 2014 at 8:25 am

Sharon,

Terrific tips! Something else to consider: uniform branding across multiple platforms online, not just with printed materials. It’s so important to convey consistent messages, whether it’s through a blog, videos, even signatures on message boards…

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Sharon Vornholt January 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Absolutely Suzanne. It should be consistent across all platforms.

Sharon

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Jaz Cook February 20, 2014 at 1:10 pm

So often with real estate, we are our own brand. Who and what we do on a personal level, especially when your name is your domain, needs to be consistent, just like our marketing materials.

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Sharon Vornholt February 20, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I agree completely Jaz. That’s why it’s so important to buy your name domain.

Sharon

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