4 Advanced Tech Tools for REALTORS


It’s been 63 years since Delbert Williams crafted the first Supra lockbox out of a Yale bicycle lock and a sand-cast aluminum container. Since then, the pace of technological innovation has picked up like a whirlwind, taking real estate professionals right along with it. Sorting through the best tools, gizmos, and devices is both time consuming and a bit of a crapshoot, particularly for busy real estate professionals who don’t always have the resources to thoroughly experiment with and test the new innovations before buying. Here are four that you’ll want to consider adding to your company’s tech toolbox:

Virtual Reality Theatres

The days of driving buyers around to get a “first look” at prospective homes is over, at least for the team at Engel & Völkers, where a recently-built virtual reality (VR) theatre serves as a place where clients can stop in and view listings using the firm’s Oculus Rift VR device. Featuring all of the brokerage’s listings that have been shot in VR (not just those in the Minneapolis area), the theatre has only been up and running since October and is already paying for itself. 

Lindsay Bacigalupo, CEO and co-owner, says the idea came about when local statistics revealed that typical buyers spend less than 30 seconds looking at a listing online, but that they spend 7-8 minutes on a VR listing. “With our theatre, we can give our sellers very real, tangible exposure,” says Bacigalupo, whose agents are using the theatre for wine-and-cheese nights and other events. The fact that VR headsets are a novel concept for most consumers has helped boost attendance at these events, and usage of the theatre overall. 

Facebook Live  

More than just a social media platform, Facebook is a place where many real estate professionals start (and continue) conversations with current and prospective customers. At AE Home Group in Maryland, Jeff Miller, co-founder, says his team has been using Facebook Live to hold virtual open houses to attract buyers. (Facebook Live is a basic feature that offers live-streaming video capabilities to users.)

It works like this:  On Sundays between 1pm and 3pm, team members set up a camera at one of their listed properties and then use Facebook to answer attendees’ “live” questions. The events often attract hundreds of local buyers, says Miller, who has sold several properties using this marketing approach. 

To capture the content, the company uses livestream cameras from Mevo. Add a cheap microphone stand and a mobile app to the equation and you get a professional setting for streaming to platforms like Facebook and YouTube. “The cool thing is that we can edit in real-time,” says Miller. “It gives the presentation a more professional feel than you can get from just streaming it on a mobile device.”   

Interactive CMAs

Whether it’s a 2-page synopsis or a lengthy tome, the comparative market analysis (CMA) stands as one of the most important tools for homeowners that want to know what their properties are worth. Recently, @properties in Chicago rolled out a new, interactive CMA platform that updates continuously in real-time (from the local MLS) to determine market conditions and trends, and to gauge the current value of a home. 

According to Kevin Van Eck, VP of training and brokerage services, the platform continually evaluates comparable properties relative to a specific home sale or search, taking into account variables such as location, property features, market times, and price changes. “In the past, the only CMA solutions we’ve used were ‘static,’ and/or had to be printed out on paper,” Van Eck says. “If the seller had questions, agents had to then log into the MLS and get the information, or use a different tool to find what they needed.”

Chatbots

Computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet, chatbots help companies save time and effort by automating functions like customer support. And while real estate is still largely a relationship-based business, where “real” people talk to one another on the way to the closing table, there is also a place for non-human-based customer interactions. 

At San Francisco-based Climb Real Estate, chatbots are helping to fill the void that can form online when a customer needs help but an agent isn’t standing by ready to chat live.  “Let’s face it. Real estate agents aren’t always at their desks, waiting to chat with someone online,” says Mark Choey, co-founder and CTO for the brokerage, which is currently utilizing ReadyChat’s live chat service, but also keeping an eye out for more advanced chatbot offerings.  

“At this point, most chatbots start off being handled by the computer, but then hand the customer off to a human when things get too [complicated],” Choey says. When a potential client mistypes a word, for example, or uses non-traditional (or unexpected) language, the chatbot can’t always handle those complexities.”    

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