Communications and Technology

Communications and Technology

In a world teeming with technological advances, the real estate industry is probably closer to the cutting edge than much of the corporate sector. In an industry that depends on being available, responsive and helpful, realtors have long relied on wireless technologies and mobility to communicate with clients, improve their productivity and enhance revenue opportunities.

Because realtors, by definition, spend a good chunk of the workday (and nights and weekends) away from an office, being able to remain in touch and connected provides an important competitive advantage for today's on the go, mobile real estate professionals.

Smart phones, mobile broadband and industry-focused apps enable real estate pros to work from nearly anywhere and respond to client needs quickly and efficiently.

Smart Phones, Smart Tools

A smart phone combines cell phone technology with specialized real estate apps as well as general features such as Internet access, email, electronic scheduling, task management, text messaging, camera, video player, voice recognition, and more.

For busy real estate professionals, wireless tools offer a number of time- and money-saving advantages:

Mobile-enhanced MLS - Applications that combine short messaging service (SMS) functionality with multiple listing services allow real estate professionals to access and edit up-to-date MLS listings on the spot. Mobile access to the MLS helps agents juggle multiple clients (always a good problem to have) easily, and buyers can conduct their own mobile MLS research.

Listings apps – Online real estate listings sites are working to expand their reach and market share by developing mobile apps that provide updated listings and neighborhood data to interested buyers. By leveraging the smart phone's GPS data, apps can provide nearby listings and sales data, as well as information about the listing's community. Some apps allow house-hunters to enter notes about specific properties, as well as photos they've taken during showings or open houses.

Wireless lockboxes – The traditional analog lockbox, which requires sharing access combinations with a variety of showing agents, is being phased out in favor of digital lockboxes that can be opened via an agent's smart phone or other wireless devices.

In addition to improving security and convenience by better controlling access and the need to share combinations, wireless lockboxes offer real-time reporting capabilities such as when a property is showed and the agent who brought in prospective buyers. These kinds of details help listing agents monitor showings for follow-up and reporting to the seller.

Transaction management – Software tools can help busy real estate pros manage the myriad of details involved in the sales process by keeping track of customer and seller contact data, relationship details, contact records, lead generation tools and more. If a buyer makes an offer, for instance, transaction management software generates and sends the appropriate documents directly from the property, which improves the transaction's speed and efficiency.

Monitoring and metering – Used primarily in high-end properties that may be empty, wireless technology enables the easy installation of security cameras and a keycard access system that can be removed once the property is sold. Agents, buyers and maintenance people can enter a property as needed, with wireless cameras and monitoring services keeping a digital eye on the property at other times.

Mobile presentation apps – During an introductory meeting with a prospective client, showing a range of photos from active listings can help you better identify their needs and narrow the search more effectively. Displaying photos on a smart phone or a tablet can help you achieve these benefits without having to carry around a full-featured laptop.

Social media updates and monitoring- According to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey 89% of realtors utilize social media to some extent. Real estate professionals are increasingly communicating via social media to engage existing and potential clients.

Other business literature – It's convenient to have contact information or promotional materials stored on your smart phone so you can access it or print it at a moment's notice -- even if you're away from the office.

Specialized Software

In addition to mobile apps, real estate professionals can take advantage of a wide range of software tools designed with their needs in mind. Because a real estate transaction depends on a variety of details and documents being handled at the right time, electronic tools provide critical advantages for busy agents who can't afford to waste time or deliver inaccurate information.

Brokers and agents have a wide range of tools from which to choose. Some may prefer installed software that runs on their office network and agents' laptops, while others may prefer Web-based cloud computing suites that enable the flexibility of PC and mobile access.

Some of the most common features in productivity suites aimed at the real estate industry include:

Client/property/transaction management - This software genre, generally compatible with most mobile devices, tracks listings, closings, sellers and buyers, as well as commissions and lockboxes. It maintains document files, records promotions and open houses, and tracks ongoing offer sequences. Some brands provide quick access to local MLS data.

Important tools to look for include:

  • Listing organizers - Manage property listings, and generate reports or web catalogs.
  • Client organizers - Keep track of contacts, print letters, labels or client newsletters; send emails directly from the app's interface.
  • Web tools - Manage and share useful online resources (mapping systems, real estate glossaries, financial calculators, etc.).

Commission/accounting management - Sometimes bundled with other products, this software automatically tracks commission details, and also handles franchise and referral fees, deductions and splits. Commission estimates are calculated on projected closing dates and estimated sales prices. A good number of programs offer fully functional accounting systems.

Mapping software - No one needs to know where a property is located - and the best way to get there - more often than a real estate pro. Realtors can access comprehensive road atlases and detailed maps on laptops, tablet PCs, netbooks, smart phone and, occasionally, on their office computers.

Users likewise can also access demographic databases that offer easy access to important details about specific areas, such as resident profiles, average area income, school information, retail patterns, churches, commercial activity and more. This sort of bundled information comes in handy when potential buyers have questions about particular neighborhoods.

Similarly, GPS software functions by signals sent by the global positioning system, a network of orbiting satellites that communicate with ground receivers to pinpoint geographic locations.

GPS-enabled smart phones and devices can provide voice-guided turn-by-turn directions; re-calculate missed turns; find gas stations with the lowest prices; save favorite routes and locations; display moving maps; and perform dozens of other navigator chores.

Leading apps and suites for real estate professionals include Realty Juggler, Jade Property Suite, Realty Promoter, Real Estate Agent Organizer, and more.