Realtors, there’s a ton of technological stuff out there vying for your attention these days, much of it pretty good, but most of it not worth the time and effort it would take for a good Broker or Agent to learn and master. If you are good at selling real estate, it probably means your people skills are outstanding. That’s where you need to focus: doing the things that get you out in the field, meeting the people, putting this one together with that one and so on. All this wonderful technology is just there to support that effort. It is not the star, you are.
Because most Help-U-Sell offices are small in terms of agent population, we don’t often see the large number of bright young people who come into the business each year, quickly master all the technology, and never sell a thing. It’s not about technology, it’s about people.
So what do you do? You need to be up-to-date, and you need to be able to pick out the handful of tools out there that will be worth the time and effort it will take you to master them. If you’re lucky enough to have some ‘Tweens’ running around, a great course of action is to let them do the investigation, let them organize the database, let them update your website (you stay in charge of content). Pay them lavishly – what? $10 an hour plus at least one meal a day (and all the bread and water they want).
If you do not have that biologically built in tech support system, let me give you three – just three – bits of technology I think you need to have today.
1. A broadband capable Ipad, tablet pc or netbook. What do they all have in common? They are small, lightweight, connect to the internet when you are out on the road, and can access your MLS from anywhere. Honestly, I don’t know how you work buyers today without one. For example, you’re showing property and your buyer nearly climbs out the window when she spots a brand new sign (on a listing you knew nothing about) on your way to show a property. With one of these devices, you quickly access the MLS, pull the listing and, bam! you’ve got it covered. Or, you’ve just shown the third house she hated. It’s becoming clear that what she told you she wanted is not actually what she wants. With mobile device like this, you can quickly stop, search and come up with a set of more appropriate properties to see.
I know you can probably access your MLS with your smartphone, but screen size creates all kinds of problems: pictures are hard to see, typing is very difficult and despite recent gains, they tend to be slooooowww.
In this category, the Ipad has captured everyone’s imagination – a tribute to the excellent marketing Apple does. But I like the Samsung Tab. I know Verizon offers it and others may as well. It runs on the Android operating system so has great expansion capabilities via numerous free and paid Apps. Most of all, I like its size. It’s narrow enough to fit in the palm of one hand so you can type with the other. The Ipad feels cumbersome by comparison. Both of these devices are, well, sexy . . . and are bound to turn a few heads if you’re into that sort of thing. But if you just want something small you can use to access the MLS, check out some of the new NetBooks. These are more like traditional notebooks with a lot of the power stripped from them. You’re not going to use them to edit video, but if you get one with a wireless broadband card (or purchase a USB dongle from your provider), they can do the job of surfing the MLS quite well — and you don’t even have to give up the keyboard!
By the way, I didn’t mention the new device that’s getting a lot of buzz right now, the Motorola Xoom. Sorry, I thought it was clunky and heavy. Just my opinion.
2. A notetaking system. I’d love to give you a menu of options but the first one I tried I loved and I think you will too. It’s Evernote (www.evernote.com). You install it on your computer and on your mobile phone. You can create ‘notes’ on your computer and sync them so they are available on your phone: to do lists, pictures of your dog, voice memos, house showing itineraries, whatever. You can also create ‘notes’ on your phone and sync them with your computer. So you collect data in two places simultaneously (much better chance you’ll find what you want when you want it).
Most good Brokers and Agents I’ve known were a disaster when it came to note taking and organization. I can’t tell you how many I’ve seen running around with a briefcase full of little scraps of paper each with a name and phone number scrawled on it. I swear, one lady who worked for me – a good agent – spent 20% of her time just looking for stuff she’d written down . . . somewhere. With Evernote, you can still write that number down on a scrap of paper, but then you immediately take a photo of it from Evernote on your phone and zingo! it’s stored on your phone and uploaded to your computer all at once. Best of all, ‘notes’ are searchable. You can even make voice notes in Evernote. Push the button on your phone and say, ‘check out the new listing at 123 Elm’ and the reminder will be stored where you can find it. How about this: you meet someone who may want to buy. Rather than writing their contact info down, ask for it, then push the button on your phone and record them giving it to you. It’s also great for taking photos of business cards, which are automatically converted to searchable text.
Why not download your free copies on your phone and computer, spend a little time getting comfortable and then challenge yourself. See if you can get through a whole week without hanging on to a single scrap of paper or note.
3. A buyer incubation/loyalty system. You know I love Listingbook. It think it’s the most exciting buyer/agent tool I’ve seen in a long time. When you give your buyer a Listingbook account, you’re giving them something better than Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com or any other aggregator website. You’re giving them real time access to the LOCAL MLS. You’re giving them the ability to search to their hearts content and giving them a means to keep you in the loop in a way that is not intrusive. They love it and you stay in control. Not all MLSs have Listingbook, but most have something. Call your Board and ask: ‘What tools do we have to help buyers in the search process, that they will perceive as being ‘high value,’ and that will help me maintain contact and control as they incubate?’
As with all technology, each of these three items has a learning curve, but it’s pretty gentle. Take them one at a time, get comfortable with one before adding another; and see if your efficiency and productivity doesn’t increase as the year unfolds.