Better, faster and smaller: It’s what the majority look for when purchasing from the mountain of technological gadgets on today’s market. Many of these here-today, improved-tomorrow items are ideal for the fast-paced world of real estate. Most would agree they make you, the Realtor, better at what you do.
Most industry experts would argue that it is a necessity in today’s Whether it’s the Bluetooth technology that wirelessly interconnects mobile phones, computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs), or the efficiency of directing clients to a plethora of information on an agency Web site, technology has revolutionized the way we do business. Many of us still have flashbacks of those gargantuan, bagged cell phones that lived in the passenger’s seats of our cars. Since then, phones have gotten smaller and smaller, while offering us better quality and more flexibility and functions.
Rose Bazan, a sales manager with Ocean View International Realty’s Miami Lakes office, re-joined the industry more than 25 years ago and enjoys using technology to make life simpler and more efficient. She used to shuttle an inventory of technology about the city, but the recent purchase of a PDA phone has allowed her to cut down on the pieces of equipment she juggles daily.
“Not only is it a phone, but it serves as a small computer and carries Excel and Word Mobile, a contact management program, and a calculator with huge numbers, and you can use a stylus or key it in,” she says of her Cingular 8125 pocket PC.
In addition, Bazan has downloaded an amortization program and MLS, and she uses the device to photograph documents that she then sends to herself. An infrared feature allows her to beam her business card to anyone with a similar device, and she can synch everything with her desktop. Her information is constantly updated.
Bazan admits the laptop to which she was once so attached doesn’t see much action these days as she even uses her PDA to type and send letters. In addition to her “wonder phone,” Bazan puts a lot of emphasis on her Web site, noting that she’s pooled a wealth of resources on her site to benefit potential clients.
She also utilizes Lead Capture, a software program that gathers basic information from visitors to her site, and then allows her to follow up with later. A module in the program allows her to generate activity reports showing such data as which days have the heaviest use. That is information valuable for online marketing tactics, Bazan says.
“It really kind of informs the consumer about what’s going on in real estate on a local level and a lot of time an even wider area,” she says, noting that the site includes such functions as current interest rate, banks offerings, frequently asked questions, information on property taxes, tenants and foreclosures. The site even translates to Spanish, an important offering in South Florida.
While Florida doesn’t award agents continuing education credits for ePRO certification, Marc Gordon, a Realtor with Keller Williams and a member of the Agent Leadership Council, says it was well worth the time and money to obtain the knowledge he gained through the course.
“One of the greatest lessons I learned [regarding] how I look at my choices in technology is that the best choice is the one that you’re most comfortable with,” Gordon says. For example, with regard to contact management software, he prefers Outlook but pairs it with another program called Active Agent, a template-like software that makes Outlook real estate specific.
Gordon also swears by the e-fax service, CallWave. “I love it and haven’t had any problems with it.” He’s also had no problems with a new free anti-virus program, AVG. “I got rid of Norton; that was a very difficult divorce for me,” says Gordon of the security he felt with the Norton product. But Gordon says AVG has made a believer out of him, and he has no regrets.
Gordon also touts the Palm Treo 650, from which he accesses MLS and synchs to Outlook on his computer. “I have my whole database in the palm of my hand and any activities I take with a client are automatically updated,” says Gordon, who frequently uses the phone’s email and messaging functions. “Clients today are expecting you to be able to text message.”
His Toshiba Satellite laptop with wireless card goes with him everywhere, but Gordon already has his sights set elsewhere: a tablet PC with Red Square Listings software that allows you to convert contracts to PDFs.
The other must-have for Gordon is his Maxtor One Touch backup drive, which he uses twice a week to backup all of his files. “For me in this day and age, I’m always fearful of a crash and losing all my files,” he says.
Keller Williams is a pacesetter when it comes to real estate technology, he says, having recently published an Internet marketing handbook for agents. “They provide an amazing source of education for technology in the real estate business,” says Gordon. “They really go that extra mile to keep associates and agents up on the latest technology, even offering regional training.”
Not one to run with the crowd, Gordon makes every effort to stand out with his Internet marketing and branding efforts, especially when it comes to his Web site. “It’s not a plus to have a Web site anymore, it’s an expectation,” he says, noting that his site has earned him accolades over the years. “I wanted it to be different from everyone else.
“There’s been a paradigm shift with Web sites,” Gordon continues. “Before, it was all about the agent, the ‘about me’ page. Today, it’s about search capabilities and how easily people visiting your Web site can find properties.” He recently added a search function to the home page of his site to make it even more convenient for visitors.
Ivan Ramirez, community representative and director of international sales for WCI Communities believes that if you’re good at the business of real estate, technology simply serves to make you more productive. For example, having contacts at your fingertips rather than having to memorize them or flip through a bulky Rolodex certainly saves time.
“It definitely allows me to focus my efforts on the more important parts of my job, such as getting creative on how to sell real estate,” says Ramirez of the convenience of today’s technology. “My brain is free to think about how to make a sale happen.”
Ramirez especially depends on GPS as he can let the equipment do the work in getting him to the right location while he returns phone calls on the road. He can keep an ear out for instruction on where to turn.
“Back in the day trying to make calls while searching for an address, I’d get focused on the call and miss the exit,” he says. “When you have four to five tasks going on, that’s when you make mistakes.”
Ramirez admits that while the “old guard” may be at a disadvantage with memorizing phone numbers, they don’t have to worry about technology letting them down. “If it goes down, you’re not trained to work without it and you don’t have all of your business cards and information,” he says. “suddenly, you’re just not functioning.” While many agents, especially the “old school” crowd, haven’t completely sworn off technology, many just don’t allow it to replace the art of old fashioned face-to-face exchange with clients.
Some even believe that the inaccuracy of some technology, such as www.zillow.com, which professes to be a single resource for homeowners who want to know the value of their homes, actually increases their business. People find it so inaccurate that they end up calling an agent for help.
Ocean View International Realty
Williams Realty Miami Northeast