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7 Things I’ve Learned in a Year of Real Estate Technology

June 04 2012

3682 house mouse saleToday I realized that I have been writing about real estate technology for one year. As cliché as it sounds, time truly has flown by; it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting down with Victor Lund and trying desperately to understand this mysterious thing called "IDX." Being the sentimental fool that I am, anniversaries like this always cause me to reflect back on the things I've learned. Considering I came into this job with literally ZERO real estate experience, I've learned a lot.

Here are some of the things that stand out to me the most. Please keep in mind that these are my own, personal perceptions and do not necessarily reflect the views of RE Technology.

1) Digital signatures are the future, baby. Everybody needs to get on board, because this trend isn't going anywhere. They make life easier for agents, provide a better experience for consumers, and are kinder to the environment.

2) Listing syndication is broken. I don't know how to fix it, although I think that there are some people with great ideas. But it seems enough momentum is building that I'm optimistic things will get better.

3) Articles about social media are certainly crowd-pleasers, but the jury is still out about how much social media truly helps real estate agents do their job (buying and selling homes). Some people have a gift for social media and may be able to leverage it successfully, but more often than not, it seems like most social media efforts yield questionable results. I'm sure I'll get a lot of comments from people disagreeing with me here and I look forward to hearing success stories – I'd love to believe that social media works!

4) Real estate websites for agents and brokers are vitally important, but the majority of them stink. Don't hate me for being honest – I'm only trying to help. The bottom line is that consumers are beginning their house hunt online, so smart REALTORS® will have a strong online presence. That means a website that is pretty, easy-to-navigate, has an intuitive property search, uses proper SEO tactics, and captures leads.

5) Mobile technology is a real estate agent's best friend. A smartphone and an iPad are going to be essential tools in your arsenal. Yes, they're relatively expensive. Yes, there can be a learning curve. But once you invest the time and money, you'll wonder how you ever did without.

6) Too many agents aren't implementing technology – AND WHO CAN BLAME THEM? First of all, the myriad categories of products are totally confusing, what with the overlap between products and the confusing names and . . . (I could go on and on here). Then, once they understand what's available to them, they have to choose between different vendors. Technology can make their lives easier, but implementing it is way too difficult.

I may be biased, but I think RE Technology plays an important role in helping these tech-challenged agents. I also think that some MLSs and brokers could do a better job of supporting their agents in this area. If you need inspiration, just look to Howard Hanna, The GoodLife Team, MRIS, Pacific Union, ZipRealty, Century 21 Franchise and others. That's far from a comprehensive list, but they are some of the organizations that have stood out to me as helping agents make the most of technology. First, they make the effort to understand the technology themselves, then they provide coaching to help their agents make the most of the technology.

7) Online reputation management is going to be increasingly important in the future – but we need to work through some bugs first:

  • We need to address the wariness that some agents have about this concept.
  • We need to clarify how online ratings are appropriate for real estate and how we can protect their accuracy and helpfulness to consumers.
  • We need to nail down the terminology we're using to talk about them (no, not all of the solutions out there can be called "agent ratings").

Have I left something out? ABSOLUTELY. Why don't you help me fill in the blanks by answering this question: "What have YOU learned about real estate technology in the last year?"