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VOL. 126 | NO. 21 | Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On the Go

Apps, social media enhancing real estate business

By Sarah Baker

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From seasoned veterans to young agents, smart phone technology enables real estate professionals to work from virtually anywhere.

Realtor.com is one of the new generation of mobile applications that are being used by Realtors and homebuyers. Users can find home listings while driving around a city. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

But with new applications incessantly hitting the market, it can be a challenge to keep up with the latest trends.

When Joe Spake, broker with Revid Realty, got started in the business, he worked mostly via phone, with some e-mail. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to have a phone conversation, an e-mail and a text with the same client in the same day.

“That’s the way it’s always been, now it’s just more intense,” Spake said. “There’s no excuse for a busy signal or missing a callback now.”

If Spake is out showing properties and unable to return the call for a while, he uses Google Voice, which transcribes the voice message.

“I don’t have to call them back, I don’t even have to listen to the message,” Spake said. “When I have a second, I can look at what they sent, and if it’s urgent, I’ll excuse myself and do it. If it’s just routine, I know I can wait.”

No matter the smart phone of choice, real estate apps are becoming increasingly popular among agents and clients alike. Hundreds of apps like Zillow, Realtor.com, LoopNet and Trulia allow business to be conducted at both party’s fingertips.

“I’ve been out with clients who have been looking at properties on Realtor.com while we’ve been riding around,” Spake said.

Spake, a self-proclaimed “grandfather of social media,” said because real estate has always had such a strong “push-marketing” aspect – with advertising, listings, etc. – agents don’t always grasp the interaction. This concept is especially difficult for older agents, Spake said, who make up two thirds of the business.

“I think it’s just a matter of resistance,” Spake said. “All of my new business that hasn’t been referred in the last two years has come straight from social media – from being out there, from blogging, from being on Facebook or Twitter – people that I don’t even know in real life call me up to help them find a house. There’s a big credibility factor there.”

Indeed, if agents do not embrace social media, they will likely fall behind the curve, said Judy McLellan, a broker at Crye-Leike Realtors Inc.’s Quail Hollow office. But nothing substitutes human touch to go along with the latest trends.

“You have to embrace the technology and use it, but at the same time, you can have all of the technology in the world, but if you don’t have the people skills and know how to sell real estate, then it doesn’t do you any good,” McLellan said. “If you did it all, you wouldn’t have any time to sell real estate.”

With constantly evolving technology, time management for social media can be a challenge, which is why McLellan has an active marketing team in place so that she can focus on selling.

McLellan’s team also utilizes different mediums for different tasks – Blackberry for text message and e-mail push technology, iPhone for social media applications and YouTube, and the iPad for bringing up contracts and seller disclosures. Crye-Leike also has a mini Multiple Listing Service app, where agents can send out listings to clients daily.

Another powerful, emerging technology is QR Codes – a specific matrix barcode of black modules on a square pattern of a white background. First seen in Japan in 1994, QR Codes have momentous potential in efficiency, allowing a virtual tour of the house to take place on the medium of choice.

Recently, Spake has placed the codes on a few houses he has listed to see how much interest it draws in. While the technology is slow to take hold in Memphis, Spake estimates that within five years, flyer boxes will be completely obsolete.

Amanda Lott, affiliate broker with Prudential Collins-Maury Inc., has about 20 listings she’s registered with a “PruID” – a combination of letters and numbers that are assigned specifically to a listing. This technology saves time, paper and gas, Lott said.

“Without fail, you make a price change, print out 30 flyers and two days later, they’ll decide to reduce it again,” Lott said.

Lott – a member of the mother/daughter The Lott Team – also relies heavily on her smart phone for other aspects of her business, whether it’s opening a PDF, Excel spreadsheet, working a contract or using the mortgage calculator. But she also uses mail-outs to keep her name out there, a medium many agents have done away with.

“They can see you on Facebook and they can see your signs out and about but I think it’s almost easier for you to fall out of their frame of reference when your face isn’t in front of them on a regular basis,” Lott said. “It may not generate as much new business, but it keeps you in front of your old clients.”

PROPERTY SALES 56 289 2,908
MORTGAGES 55 226 2,009
BUILDING PERMITS 108 1,002 6,703
BANKRUPTCIES 42 248 1,225