Last week was the first 2010 RESO meeting, with the new Executive Director Travis Wright. As always, the RESO meetings are filled with a lot of standards talk and conversation of the direction for the organization.
Some of it was recorded and can be seen via Video Segments.
Of note, the new lists of standard names as submitted by the MLS COVE group was approved, and discussion on the evolution of the RETS Standard to incorporate new efficient web transport technology and data standardization (universal, cross MLS data dictionaries).
Let me just throw this out upfront — do you use your website’s property search to find properties for your clients? I’d bet that you probably don’t, and you prefer the MLS search. Given that preference, why put so much time and effort into having the best possible property search on our sites? The prevailing wisdom is that prospective clients find agents through websites; therefore, websites with the best search will get the most clients (not simply just anonymous visitors).
But I don’t know if I buy that argument. I wouldn’t necessarily pick a real estate agent solely because they have the best property search – I want to work with someone that is good at what they do, and I know I will be able to work with personality wise.
A friendly invitation to those that are attending the AE Institute in Canada. Stop by the Hilton Hotel’s Dufferin Room on Suday, April 18 and Monday, April 19, between 8:30 a.m. – 2:30p.m. for one (or many) of the Tech Trend Labs. When you stop by for the Tech Lab sessions, not only will you walk away with useful tech information but if you leave your business card with a CRT staff member, you will receive a coffee gift card, and you will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle.
What’s being discussed during the Tech Trend Labs?
- Managing Your Social Network – Sunday 8:30-9:15am, Frederik Heller, NAR Information Central
- Staying Connected through Web Conferencing, Monday 8:30-9:15am , Mary Martinez-Garcia, NAR Information Central
- Art of Engaging Members & Consumers wtih Technology – Sunday, 9:30-10:15am ; Monday, 1:00 pm - 1:45pm, Jay Thompson, Thompson’s Realty
- Social Media in Practice & How NAR Embraces It – Sunday, 10:30-11:15am ; Monday, 9:30-10:15am, Todd Carpenter, NAR Social Media
- Tech Tools Every AE Should Know About – Sunday, 1:00-1:45pm ; Monday, 10:30-11:15am, Greg Sax, Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®
- Latest Tech Trends and the Fine Print – Sunday, 2:00-2:45pm; Monday, 2:00 – 2:45pm, Katie Raynolds, NAR Legal
What a great way to spend some of your time in Quebec - Join us! Look for the sign-up sheets at the registration desk on Friday and at the Convention Center at the Association Executive & Leadership Development table thereafter. Seating will be limited to 25 people per session.
Not long ago agents and brokers lugged around MLS catalogs. Back then, finding a listing that fit a consumer’s needs took a while. The search was not exactly instantaneous. Newspaper ads were at the top of the advertising mix, and mobile technology wasn’t on most people’s minds.
The advent of the Internet created new opportunities & new challenges. A few expressed concern that this medium would eliminate the role of agents and brokers in the home purchasing and selling process. It soon became obvious to everyone that consumers would continue to find value in real estate professionals because these agents & brokers knew the business and could help the consumer navigate the tricky real estate process. And just as listing aggregators began to find a home on the Internet, mobile tech tools popped up. These tools gained momentum among real estate practitioners, and tools like e-mail, digital cameras, virtual tours, laptops, GPS and PDAs proved to be popular among agents and brokers who used them as a way to keep up with the way consumers used technology to shop for and sell homes.
Now that we are a decade into the 21st century, listing placement and mobile tech tools are coming together. Today, smartphones have taken a leap and put home listings in the palms of our hands. At the drop of a hat, the consumers sitting in your car may ask to explore other ‘homes for sale’ in a given neighborhood. And the information you need is accessible instantly. That kind of access is hard to beat. But, what if you—as a real estate professional—were armed with a device slightly less bulky than a laptop but larger than a smartphone to help with a listing search on the go….would you use that tool with clients? Or in sales presentations? This question comes to mind in response to Kindle’s recent announcement about a limited release of its SDK. It sounds like they are laying the groundwork for an app store. And then, of course, there’s the iPad. These devices may lend themselves to clever ways of presenting listings in the future.
“Bah, humbug! Another device to carry?” Many may say that, but you might want to think of it this way: in an era where differentiation is key, what might that client think when they find out that their house can be viewed via an app on one of these e-readers? Or that they can search for a house that way? Picture this: someone sitting quietly on a train, on their way home, can use an e-reader to navigate home listings. They come upon the property that exactly fits their criteria, and then finds you. This is not that farfetched. With the development of new technology, the question becomes, “What’s next for real estate listings?”
Of course, no tech tool could rival a real estate professional’s knowledge, integrity, & network. But technology tools could bring them and their listings closer to the consumer.
For your consideration:
There are literally thousands of products for businesspeople today, and finding the right products for your needs can be exceedingly difficult. The process of finding exactly the right tools and resources can be costly and time consuming. We at the Center for REALTOR® Technology realize that many REALTORS® want to become more tech savvy, but they don’t know where to start.
With that in mind, I’ll be discussing some of the most popular tools in detail over the next few months. Our blog and newsletters will be filled with advice and useful ideas to help you find the best mobile gadgets, software, and office hardware. To be clear, none of these guides will endorse any specific products. Rather, we hope to give you information about the tools that are available so that you can make a decision about whether or not you should consider a particular tech tool.
Part I: GPS
Whether you’re an agent, broker, or an association executive, you may want to consider a GPS unit for your car. GPS units are common in today’s market. Over the past five years the number of different GPS units available has been growing at an exponential rate. With recent advancements in mapping and location, finding where you are and where you want to go quickly and easily has never been simpler. The popularity of GPS units has been so great that most smartphone manufacturers now include GPS radios in their phones.
While most new smartphones have the ability to accurately track and map your location and destination, many phones still do not offer the versatility of a standalone GPS unit. In addition to the extra features available, personal GPS devices often come with screens that are much larger than a smartphone’s screen. This is not to say that smartphones with factory GPS applications or with apps that can be purchased are not valuable. Rather, I would suggest that GPS software on smartphones simply is not quite the equal of a standalone unit.
There are numerous GPS manufacturers and each one is vying for your business. Each manufacturer attempts to differentiate itself by offering different features. Many of these features can sway you to purchase one GPS or another. However, I would offer the following advice when considering a new GPS device:
1. How well does the routing work? This might seem like an easy question to answer for any GPS device, but my experience with different hardware would suggest otherwise. The most important feature of any GPS device is this: will it get you where you need to go?
2. Have you used the brand before? If not, do you know anyone who has? With the number of manufacturers in the GPS market, it has never been more important to know what you’re getting before you buy it. Your experience with a certain device will vary greatly between different brands. When you’re doing your research, talk to other people who have used the unit, or at the very least, the brand you’re considering.
3. Is the unit you want being offered at a super-mega-hyper discount? If the unit you’re considering is on sale for an incredibly low price, find out why. Many units that go on sale are perfectly well built and provide great features. However, buying the cheapest option simply because it’s the cheapest option is never good. Weigh the price against the features before making your purchase.
4. What are you going to use it for? How often? If you’re a REALTOR® who takes your clients from showing to showing on a daily basis, your needs will likely be higher than a REALTOR® who rarely does any driving.
5. What features do you really need? Don’t buy the unit with all the bells and whistles; you’ll probably never use half of the features it has. The software is so advanced in many devices that with the higher-end units, you really need to be a road warrior to justify the cost of those features.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to technology, so do your best to consider as many options as you can. And above all else, try before you buy. If you never play with the device before you buy it, you’re never going to know if it’s right for you. Most big box stores such as Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart have display units available to examine and use. Make sure you’re comfortable with the device in the store or you’ll never be comfortable once it’s talking to you in your car.
With the recent announcement and upcoming release of the Apple iPad, there has been much discussion about how this new tech toy can be used. The real question for REALTORs®, of course, is “Would the iPad be of any use to me in my business?” And while it’s still a little early to see all the potential benefits, I think that the iPad or a similar device can be of great use to a REALTOR®; perhaps even better than a laptop when you’re on the road.
One of the first reactions that people had with regard to the iPad was something along the lines of “Oh, it’s just a giant iPhone.” I admit that I had the same reaction at first. Then I realized, “Wait, that’s awesome!” The idea of a device that is in between a smartphone and a full-fledged laptop actually makes sense for a REALTOR®.
To see what I mean, let’s take a look a couple of scenarios where a device like the iPad could serve you better than a smartphone, laptop or netbook.
First, let’s say that you are showing a property, and in the course of the showing, the potential buyer asks for some information that you don’t have in hardcopy, but that’s in your email or online. With a laptop, you could find the information and show it to the client, but it can be a little time consuming: you have to open up the laptop, find the information and then show it to the client. And unless you have a flat surface available, handling a laptop is awkward. With a smartphone, it’s much easier to handle, but not so good for viewing: you and the client would have to hunch over a tiny screen. But with an iPad, you have an easy-to-handle machine with a much larger screen. No hunching required!.
This ease of use could also apply to any other information you only have in soft copy. With an iPad, you could cut down on the amount of paperwork you would need to carry around with you while out showing properties. Simply preload your device with any information that you might think you’ll need for the showing. You can always go online if you need to. Even better, you can easily email this information for the buyer to look at later, if needed.
Here’s another situation where an iPad might come in handy. Perhaps, while out showing properties, you find that your client has new criteria for the property they want. Your current list for them doesn’t meet those criteria, so you need to do a quick search that takes this new information into account. Sure, any smartphone can take you to your MLS’s web search page, but again, it’s difficult for more than one person at a time to look at the device. A laptop or netbook would work well in this role, but only if you have a good place to put it. But the iPad could handle the search just as well as a laptop, without the need for a flat surface. And should a tabletop be available, you can attach a physical keyboard that makes typing on an iPad as easy as it is on a laptop.
In addition, the iPad, as a new device, is sure to inspire new types of applications, some of which will probably come in handy for REALTORs®. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone developed an application that would allow a buyer to make an offer on a property electronically. Also, applications that allow one to sign documents electronically would greatly reduce the amount of paper work you need to carry about. Plus, the iPad is able to run the thousands of apps that have already been developed for the iPhone and iPod Touch. If you have one of those, and there’s an app on it that you love, you could put it on the iPad as well.
The biggest downside to the Apple iPad is its price, it starts at just under $500 for the cheapest WiFi only model and it is tied to AT&T for the 3G models. However, its release will undoubtedly inspire competitors to create similar devices, which will help make this kind of tool more affordable and give you a better choice of mobile carriers. If you don’t wish to wait, you can get the WiFi only model and buy a mobile WiFi hotspot from another provider.
So the Apple iPad is something that could, once it has been released, prove very useful to a REALTOR®. It could make showing properties easier, while reducing the amount of paperwork you have to carry with you. It gives you the option of easy-to-handle web access that you can share with other people. And new applications and devices are sure to bring even more functionality to an already useful type of tool.
Earlier this year, CRT conducted a smartphone survey among a sample of NAR members. The purpose of the survey was to get a snapshot of members’ smartphone usage, perceptions, and needs. Some highlights from the full report (PDF: 1.6MB):
- Blackberry was used by 41.2% of respondents, followed by iPhone (26% overall… 3G with 14.1% and 3GS with 11.9%) and Palm (14.0%).
- Top reasons why respondents selected their current smartphone: Best device for emails (45.9%) ; Ease of use (26.2%); device has a keyboard (23.7%).
- Most used features: phone (91.2%); email (88.4%); SMS (73.8%); calendar (52.6%); web browser (42.3%).
- In general, social-media-related applications were the most popular type of app downloaded by survey respondents (54.5%). Map (43.3%) and weather (41.8%) apps were also popular.
- Through open-ended responses, a few identified apps they wish existed or features they want their smartphones to have: an e-key for accessing lockboxes; an easy-to-use & free mortgage calculator; a projector; or faxing capability.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to participate! Your input is always valued.
Other studies & general info that may be of interest to you: data security survey (currently open); NAR Research tools; tech tools for association executives; mobile social networking activity; tech predictions; property managers & technology.