Capping off the first night of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World’s annual conference in Las Vegas, hundreds of brokers and agents from throughout the United States and across the world funneled into a ballroom at the Wynn Hotel and Casino and wandered the aisles of booths set up by companies who had something to offer them.
Most of these booths belonged to tech companies, and the vast majority of the brokerages represented at the LeadingRE conference were advocates of technology use in Real Estate. While there are still many who shy away from tools that engage with clients online, tech is becoming more and more persuasive in the industry. And this year, the most-desired and sought-after technology was user-integration.
“Consumers today might start a search on their iPhone, finish it up on their iPad in the afternoon and jump on their laptop at work,” said Chip Gardner, broker at Gardner Realtors in Metairie, La. “We want to create a seamless experience. All the systems have to talk.”
Across the country in Bellevue, Wash., back-end integration was equally important to John L. Scott Real Estate.
“Right now there is technology that can do certain things, but all of these things have to speak the same language to engage the consumer,” said Howard Chung, vice president of broker excellence at John L. Scott.
Chung brought up customer relationship management (CRM) software as an example of a back-end product that he wishes could do more to bring agents and brokers closer to their clients. (Disclaimer: Propertybase is a CRM provider and is currently working to incorporate personalized video messaging options).
“You have to understand how it all works together,” Chung said. “In the end, you still have to meet (with the client) face-to-face.”
Other common technologies expected to affect Real Estate businesses the most in 2014 are a carry-over from the previous few years.
“It’s definitely paperless filing and electronic singing,” said Donna Petty, broker at Hamner Real Estate in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Petty is active in her brokerage’s expanded use of tech and even teaches a course in paperless business practices.
Hamner used to rely completely on stacks of paper, but pulled a complete turnaround on the practice. So sometimes, instead of being presented with pages-upon-pages, clients are instead handed an iPad. More common benefits are for long-distance transaction clients, however. The brokerage uses Authentisign, from Instanet Solutions, to accomplish its goal.
“It’s becoming irreplaceable,” Petty said. “There were a lot of agents and companies who were a little hesitant because they didn’t understand it. And now we can’t do without it.”
And while she’s happy that this method uses less paper and trees, that’s not Hamner’s goal, Petty said. The key is convenience to clients.
Representatives of several brokerages were also expecting the use of social media and mobile applications to further increase in 2014.
“Having these things at your fingertips; being able to connect with your customers in a rapid fashion — doing everything faster and faster … that’s important,” said Tess Chaney, relocation director at John Daugherty Realtors in Houston Texas. “Our MLS system on our iPhones is so important to us. That instant access is invaluable because the inventory is moving so fast.”
And half a world away, in Mumbai, India, listing services and their mobile apps are gaining more ground than ever in 2014.
“India is unique because the market is a bit unstructured and unregulated,” said Kiran Koppula, whose company, cLRE, is working to build a business platform for LeadingRE in that country. “The existing system is being shaken.”
The key reasons for that are services such as Zillow and Trulia, as well as local tech startups.
“(They) are replacing the traditional Realtor or broker (altogether),” Koppula said. “In an unregulated market, you can use technology as a differentiator. That will push the existing firms to absorb technology faster.”
What other technologies are affecting your business in 2014? Let us know in the comments section, below, or in person at the LeadingRE conference!