How Technology Is Helping & Hurting Realtors: RealTech 2013

RealEstateTechPanelToday at RealTech San Francisco, a conference on the current state of technology in the real estate industry, one of the more interesting panels was a group of realtors who discussed how technology is helping and hurting realtors. Below is a summary of the discussion.

Some of the comments paraphrased by me. More information and links to each panelist below. Choey was the highlight of this panel for me.

A WORD ON BLOGGING
Choey: We blog and we blog a lot. We get to reach anyone around the world quickly and cheaply. Back in 2005, I decided the best use of my time it was writing about a new building, a new unit. It wasn’t about buying ad space. I would get tons of customers from around the world. Blogging is still the most effective tool for our 50+ person brokerage. We don’t write about everything. The blog is SFNewDevelopments so it’s very focused.

Riese: I don’t really have time to blog. At 10pm, I’m dealing with client fires, writing new contracts. Most of my business comes from traditional methods like advertising. It’s just a time management issue for me. I get clients via face to face activities and that takes a lot of time.

Riggio: We’re in between Choey and Riese. We do automated posting for our agents. We’ve moved toward more Facebook and Twitter to do quick hits on listings. We’re more of a curator.

HOW ARE YOU GETTING BUSINESS?
Riese: It’s all about face to face interaction. Web leads tend to be very fickle and they tend to go to the fastest response, not the best person. We’re on Yelp, and it works, but not absolutely core to our model. That goes for all online sources—Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com—we pay a lot of money on all these major real estate sites, but we don’t rely on them as a sole source of business.

Choey: We’ve gone from leads to referrals. Good old fashioned postcards to homeowners is how we get most listings. Yelp is one of the best sources for us on new buyers. We also do Zillow and Trulia leads and they’re definitiely worth it, but you have to do it lightning fast or you don’t get the leads.

Riggio: We initially skipped Yelp thinking it was for restaurants, etc. But I was wrong and we’re starting to use it. Absolutely instant follow up is the key though.

WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR LEAD GENERATION?
Riggio: We draw instant results from FB posts on new listings. That’s the best way to get quick buzz for new property listings.

Choey: Facebook is a great way to reach people you know, but not a great way to get new leads. Your reach is limited on Facebook. [Moderator disagrees: he leverages FB to get to friends of friends]

Riese: It’s all about quality of content. Market statistics appeal to certain profile. But also basic real estate information is useful content. We also do print pieces and of course include relevant links in those print materials to specific bits of content.

WHAT TOOLS ARE YOU USING TO RESPOND TO LEADS?
Riese: We’re using phone, email text. It’s very frustrating for us to use online leads because no matter how fast I respond, someone else has gotten to them.

Choey: I use Docusign, I would quit the business if it didn’t exist!! This is the most important tool we use to keep things going. Any kind of electronic signature platform whether it was Docusign or not is my favorite tool. I can’t wait for the day we can draft contracts on mobile apps. For lead tracking, I use this thing called a spreadsheet 🙂 I’ve tried Salesforce, ACT, everything. They’re all too cumbersome and nothing works that well. I use spreadsheet in Google apps to track and follow up leads, and I can do it from anywhere.

Riggio: We use Google voice with Grasshopper. The latter allows multiple mailboxes and phone answering service. If you use it with virtual assistant, you can answer those questions very quickly. We also use Top Producer from Move Inc. for CRM.

Riese: I use Dropbox daily. And our biggest tool is the Salesforce CRM. It’s all about managing clients and getting back to them quickly. Being able to track that and maintain it, and have them on all your apps (phone, computer, etc) has been priceless on following up with clients.

HOW MOBILE IS YOUR BUSINESS TODAY?
Choey: We’re almost at a point in the business you don’t even need a computer. ZipForms mobile is almost to the point where I can draft a new contract on my mobile app. If you go to transaction coordinator’s office, everything is paperless in our office.

Riese: I came from a software sales background so everything is in Salesforce to run online and print marketing.

IS MLS GOING TO GET REPLACED BY SOMETHING ELSE
Choey: The idea of brokerages controlling listings and sold data will be past tense soon.

Riese: It devalues our business to hand listing data to the listing syndicators. I can’t tell you how many times I get inquiries of people calling on a Zillow property they saw that sold 2 years ago. I think the agent should make sure the consumer is verifying things like school districts, etc.

FAVORITE APPS FOR REALTORS
Choey: Pay By Phone for paying/renewing parking meters. This has saved me thousands in tickets!

Riggio: Google apps is the core of our daily business. 5err is very inexpensive virtual help.

Riese: GeniusScan is great for scanning and way better than photos. I like using Mint to track what I’m spending. And again: Dropbox. I’m on iphone looking at Dropbox all day.

Ellis (moderator): SlideDial is best for calling back clients. Evernote is what I use to keep track of everything else.

IS TECHNOLOGY MAKING REALTORS OBSOLETE?
Choey: The day of realtor gathering comps is a thing of the past. It’s ultra-local analytics of why different supposed comps are selling for different prices. Negotiation. Being versed on lending options for tough properties (like condos in litigation). Preemptive offer strategies. Off market property strategies. There are so many ways agents are highly valuable despite the data that consumers have access to now. They have access to information, but that doesn’t mean they’re knowledgable about all other things I mentioned.
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About The Panelists:
– Mark Choey, Founding Partner, Climb Real Estate, @mchoey

– Michael Riese, Broker, Sereno Real Estate Group, @serenogroup

– Dino Riggio, Broker, New Leaf Realty

– Nate Ellis, Director of Training, Contra Costa Realtors Assn, @in8ls

Related Reading:
Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman On Why Consumer Loyalty To Realtors Is Declining

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