Editor’s note: Real estate agents are depending more and more on mobile technology, enabling them to take and make phone calls on the run, respond to leads while they’re out in the field, pull up home listings data while driving clients around, and more. In this three-part series, we explore a new round of mobile technologies and how they’re being used in real estate. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)
People cruising by the Hammond GMAC Real Estate office in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., should be ready for a new real estate window-shopping experience. The large, flat-panel screen in the brokerage’s window rotates images of available homes for sale, and invites them to grab their cell phones and control the listings on the screen as if they were browsing a Web site.
Hammond GMAC uses a program called StreetSurfer developed by Somerville, Mass.-based LocaModa. Rather than stand and watch a slideshow presentation of properties, passersby can browse around the screen and see more details on select homes using their cell phones to navigate.
A wave of real estate technology companies have offered agents a way to pull up property data on a Web-enabled cell phone, and one company, CellSigns, has designed a way for consumers to receive phone text messages containing property data. LocaModa uses the cell phone as a remote control for listings info displayed in a real estate storefront or other remote locations.
LocaModa’s StreetSurfer makes the real estate office window-browsing experience more interactive. While many offices display listings flyers in the front window and some set up computer monitors to rotate listings on a screen, LocaModa is taking it a step further by bringing the Web-browsing experience to the street.
“We see ourselves as a way to build relationships, allowing brokers to really repurpose their frontage in a way that is much more dynamic and compelling than having placards in the front window,” said Bill Nast, LocaModa’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Consumers using StreetSurfer can flip back and forth between listings, view more detailed information on specific properties matching their interests and they can press “0″ on their cell phone at any time to leave a voicemail for the broker, Nast said.
“Think of this as bringing the Web to the front window,” he said.
The company is rolling out StreetSurfer in RE/MAX, Champion and GMAC brokerages in the Northeast this month, Nast said, though it is available for brokerages in any location.
For an online demo of how StreetSurfer works with real estate listings, click here.
The StreetSurfer interface fits well with brokerage offices that get a lot of “foot traffic,” and Nast points out that it also would work in locations like malls and airports, where the broker may not have an office, but there are people with cell phones and time on their hands to look.
“We think brokers will be going out and cutting deals for the land grab,” Nast said, referring to prime space in shopping centers for the StreetSurfer technology to be implemented.
Future versions to be released in the next three to six months will include the ability to bookmark several houses while browsing at the storefront, Nast said. The user’s cell phone would act as a “cookie” so that they could log onto the broker’s Web site later and continue their search online.
Much like window browsing, StreetSurfer is an “opt-in” system, according to Nast. “The only way the consumer actually gives information to the broker is if they want to…These are highly qualified leads,” he said.
StreetSurfer also enables brokers to track user interest in properties. “You can tell which screen generated the business,” said Tod Beaty, president of Hammond GMAC’s Cambridge office, which was an early beta tester of the technology.
Beaty said the brokerage would be installing two more in the next few weeks.
LocaModa demonstrated StreetSurfer at the emerging technology conference DEMO 2006. The company also unveiled StreetMessenger, a mobile-enabled platform for in-location messaging, social networking, blogging and entertainment applications. Wiffiti (a combination of “wireless” and “graffiti”) is the first application for StreetMessenger, enabling users to send text messages from their mobile phones to large flat TV displays in locations where people socialize such as bars, clubs and cafes.
Real estate brokers interested in installing StreetSurfer need to buy their own screens, Nast said. “We supply them with a computer and our software,” then the company plugs in their multiple listing service data feed so the listings come directly from the MLS database. The listings are refreshed every couple of hours, he said.
The cost includes a $1,000 or $2,000 one-time set-up fee, depending on which installation version brokers purchase, Nast said. And there is a monthly hosting fee of $399 per month. The program runs 24-7 and brokers don’t need to do anything once it’s set up.
LocaModa provides a weekly click trends report so that brokers can track how many people engaged with the software, how many pressed “0″ to leave a voicemail, what houses were viewed, and other statistics, Nast said.
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