Why the Future of Real Estate CRM Looks Like Online Dating

August 10th, 2010 – in crm technology

What do real estate CRM (customer relationship management) and dating have in common? They are both about making the perfect match! Take a look at our article to find out more …

What do real estate CRM (customer relationship management) and dating have in common? They are both about making the perfect match!

So why is it that the dating marketplace has taken full advantage of Internet technology, spawning dozens of services like Match.com and eHarmony, while Real Estate CRM still remains mostly stuck in the analog era?

Oh sure, there are big CRM software packages that have been harnessed (sort of) and adapted (sort of) to the real estate business. And there are real-estate-specific CRM applications, like our own Propertybase, that do a good job of managing contacts, collecting customer data, and even helping out with marketing. But where is the Match.com of the real-estate world?

In an insightful 2008 blog post, real estate management guru Rob Hahn declared that CRM would be the killer app for the real estate industry. And yet, nearly two years later, nothing much has changed.

We think Hahn is right. CRM is the killer app for the real estate industry, and we spend every day trying to make a better platform for delivering it. So we’d like to share a little bit of our vision for the future.

First of all, let’s make clear that we’re not talking about a real-estate “dating” service that connects individual home sellers directly to buyers. That’s the real-estate agent’s worst nightmare. No, we believe that agents and brokers will always have a place in the real estate transaction—as long as they can know their customers and their customers’ needs well enough to truly add value.

That’s why CRM is the killer app. The agent or broker who knows their customer best can add the most value. And as Hahn points out, in an industry that has become largely commoditized, that personal touch is one of the few ways you can really set yourself apart.

So let’s take a look at what is right and wrong with current real estate CRM and see where we think it’s headed in the future.

Today’s real estate CRM tools (ours included) primarily support the process between the agent and the client. They are great for helping an agent:

  1. Generate leads from a web presence or through email campaigns
  2. Stay on top of follow-ups, so no opportunities slip through the cracks
  3. Profile each prospect, to personalize their service
  4. Save time on administrative tasks, gaining more face time with clients

BUT none of the current tools (ours included) really address the fact that agents don’t work alone!

The fact is, most deals are a co-production of at least two agents. And most agents regularly collaborate with the same bunch of people (other agents) and/or companies (brokers, developers, builders, etc.)

We think the real estate CRM of the future will nourish and reward a full and open exchange of information within this extended web of partners.

Perhaps it won’t look quite like Match.com, but we envision a social network similar to a dating platform, but where the participants are trading in “deals” rather than “dates.”

Imagine, for example, a system where you register a potential buyer and immediately get a handful of anonymous proposals suggesting well-matched listings—instead of the current system where you spend your precious time browsing through half-a-dozen mediocre MLS websites looking for needles in the haystack. The time you save means more face-time with clients. But while this is certainly a time-saver, we agree that it’s not exactly a breakthrough.

But what about the other way around? You speak to a seller and decide to work with her on a new listing. Then, in real time, the “match-making” system allows you evaluate the potential in the market—to see how many buyers are out there with matching criteria, to see how many are “almost” matched (and perhaps how many you could pull into the net by slightly dropping the price), and even which agent you need to call to arrange a “date.” Breakthrough? We think so.

Naturally, since real estate CRM is our business, we have some ideas along these lines we’re working on. We can’t get more specific yet, of course, but we can guarantee you that the future holds some interesting developments.

Author: Michael Wenglein