The real estate industry has been taken over by a flurry of technology. Learn the must-have's for agents to keep up.
Imagine back to only 10 years ago, and think of using your ‘cutting edge’ flip-phone to sell a house. Think you could do it? How would you email your team? Take pictures of houses? Text your clients? Access listings? Check your calendar? Promote an open house?
You’d likely be doing all of these the old-fashioned way, or back at the office. At the most, your phone would allow you to call your team and get some help while you’re on-the-go. Or if you had a brand new device, you might be able to send the odd text message — and T9 was about to be your new best friend!
With only voice calling capabilities, selling a house with only a phone would have been an unlikely scenario. Today it's completely possible, even though realtors may still rely on additional team support and technology on other devices.
How Has the Real Estate Industry Evolved?
Shona Scappaticci and the team at Realty Executives First Choice have been around for many technology updates. With over 15 years experience in real estate, Shona's seen dramatic changes along the way.
“Technology increases the speed we can get information to our clients. We live in a world of ‘right now,’ so speed is critical. “
Shona's experience is likely relatable to many realtors. “It was only 2000 when I started my real estate career. I had a flip-phone and a pager as my technology toolkit. There weren’t too many other options at the time, and these worked for a while.”
“But I needed something with more capabilities, and I thought I found the answer. It was called the ‘Palm Pilot’ and it was a big step up. Now I look back and can't believe how it even worked for me! I had to Google the picture to remember what it even looked like.”
The Palm Pilot allowed realtors to make phone calls, text, email and take some half-decent snapshots of houses. But it was definitely only a starting point compared to modern day tech. And it didn’t include today’s database and web capabilities.
Realty Executives now uses an automated Internet marketing system, giving Shona and her team an online presence around the clock. New clients and prospective buyers can get access to property listings directly from her site, and she can respond immediately to everyone.
Using her “Personal Home Search” tool, seller’s listings will be emailed to every prospective buyer whose home criteria matches up, which is a great way to meet buyers’ needs. Think of it like eHarmony for homes.
The technology doesn’t stop at the website though, as Shona has upgraded in other ways.
“It doesn't seem like that long ago, but times and technology have changed rapidly. I upgraded to the iPhone 6 Plus recently and I use it constantly throughout the day.” Comparing her new device to past phones was like night and day.
“It’s a great upgrade and, in particular, the battery capacity is so much better. I used to be dead in the water by early afternoon because of the amount of data I have to use on a regular basis.” Battery capacity is always a concern for real estate pros who are on-the-go and working from multiple locations. Aside from getting a quick recharge in the car or using a portable device charger, having a phone already charged up is essential.
And staying connected everywhere you go is crucial in the real estate business. “MTS hotspots throughout Winnipeg give me an easy connection to Wi-Fi that helps me save on my data.”
What to Update in Your Online Realty Strategy
The first step for any online strategy these days is making sure your website is mobile-friendly. Chances are your visitors are accessing your site using a smartphone or tablet, and “mobile responsive design” is critical to ensuring your customers have a positive experience. Take a quick peak on your own website using your smartphone. Is it easy to navigate and adjust to fit your screen? If not, it’s time to take a look at the mobile design.
The next step is making sure that your website and business can be found on key online referral sites. Update your information on all realtor listings where you appear online, like through the Canadian Real Estate Association and realtor.ca, or add yourself to the ones where you don’t appear. You may also want to Google other realtors to find out where they appear, and model your profiles after the best ones.
Next up, you should revisit your ad budget. Since people use mobile phones to consume roughly 25 per cent of all of media, mobile advertising should be an important aspect of your ad mix. Currently, only 8 per cent of advertising dollars are being spent on mobile advertising, so that could be a good opportunity for 2016.
Consider adopting new tools for your open houses. Open Home Pro can create a virtual sign-in sheet at viewings. Visitors enter their info on an iPad, and you are able to collect their contact information to easily follow up. After the open house, you can send a professionally designed email complete with pictures and information on the property to these potential buyers. Imagine that positive user experience!
If cloud computing isn't yet on your radar, it should be. 82% of companies that have used cloud computing have reported saving money with this new technology. And in the next five years it is expected that cloud computing workload growth will be in excess of 40 per cent annually. That's four times the expected growth in traditional "on-premise" computing. So what does that mean for the real estate industry?
Consider using cloud-computing tools and software. You can purchase the cloud version of software packages, which often provide regular updates for a monthly fee. That way you'll always have the latest and greatest versions, saving you time on updates and potential troubleshooting. Plus, seasonality in the real estate industry means you may not require every office computer to install every piece of software year-round. Cloud computing monthly subscriptions mean you can be more selective with your subscriptions for the office, and that can help you save money in the long run.
Read more: New Data Centres Keeps Information Secure
In Shona's case, she has made use of many tools for her day-to-day business. Her smartphone is still her number one tool. Take a look at how she and her team make the most of their devices.
How Shona Uses Her Smartphone in Day-to-Day of Real Estate:
- "I use Siri when I need to quickly find the right legal terms with regards to contracts."
- "I get directions and driving instructions to the addresses I’m going to almost every day. We no longer need regular maps in the car or a GPS on the dashboard."
- "I love the very bright flashlight on my phone, which I use going into creepy dark basements when showing a property."
- "In my car I can use voice command with my phone to read any incoming texts, and then use voice command to text back. It’s so much safer, and pairing my phone with Bluetooth is a great feature." Note: Never forget to stay safe and avoid distracted driving.
Apps Shona Uses to Sell Homes:
- "We have a realtor app called Prospects that gives us an instant view for any property we’re driving past."
- "I use the Find My iPhone app…so my husband knows where I left my purse!"
- "Alarm companies also have safety apps and can use my GPS location for when I do open houses."
How Technology Has Changed Shona's Workday:
- "I can record details of a property directly on my phone as I do walkthroughs."
- "I no longer need a pen, paper or a camera."
- "I can work from another province or go camping and fishing past Seven Sisters, and still stay connected. In the past, running to a pay phone to check-in didn't cut it."
- "Dealing with contracts is much easier. We take pictures of the paperwork and I can send them out directly to the client as a PDF."
Other Fantastic Tools & Apps to Consider:
There are so many great apps out there and Jay Forbes, CEO of MTS, recently provided his two cents:
"Over the years, I’ve used a number of 'to do' list style apps to help manage my workload. But the one that has found a permanent place in my toolkit is Appigo’s Todo app. I love the task managing functions, and the smart graphic presentation of detailed projects, sub-tasks, start dates, due dates, recurring tasks, print lists and folders. It also has the ability to geo-tag tasks that alert you as you approach a priority location – which I imagine would be extremely helpful as you arrive at your open house this weekend.
"Another app I can’t live without is iAnnotate. The ability to turn around documents for a transaction by end of day can make all the difference. iAnnotate enables me to read, mark up and share PDF, DOC, PPT and image files and work to tight deadlines like never before."
Clearly business has taken a technology shift and changed the way everyone does business. Yet not everything in business will change. In particular, the real estate industry is still about connecting with people and building relationships. The people are the same — it's the technology that has adjusted.
Outside of her day job, which is actually around-the-clock, tech keeps Shona connected to her family and friends. “My 83 year-old father calls from Saskatoon to ask me trivia questions while he’s playing cribbage. I search the answers immediately on my phone so he can feel smarter than the rest of his senior friends!” In this case, Shona's phone does more than just help her sell homes!
Are you a realtor using new technology? Let us know your favourite apps and tools in the comments below. Even more software exist to help you stay connected to your teams and clients. Read about the 10 Apps to Hack Your Productivity and Are You Sick of Emailing Clunky Attachments Back-and-Forth.