Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series examining advances in mobile-phone applications tailored for real estate. Part 1 looked at how Apple’s iPhone has revolutionized mobile phone applications by harnessing the power of independent software developers. Part 2 explores smart-phone adoption by consumers and real estate professionals, and how the industry is putting smart phones and older mobile technologies to use.
Although Apple’s iPhone has helped demonstrate the utility of smart phones to real estate professionals, it’s taking longer for consumers to migrate over to the new devices.
When it comes to smart-phone adoption, real estate brokers and agents may be surprised to find themselves ahead on the technology curve. But smart-phone users are a sought-after demographic, and there are many opportunities to capture business employing technologies that cater to older phones with more limited capabilities, as well.
According to the latest numbers from the research and advisory firm Gartner Inc., sales of smart phones in North America grew by 69 percent last year, but still accounted for only one in five mobile devices sold. Globally, smart phones accounted for only 12 percent of mobile device sales in the last three months of 2008.
But even back in 2007 — the year the iPhone was rolled out — 42 percent of brokers, agents and real estate managers were already using a smart phone such as a Treo, BlackBerry or iPhone, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.
The survey showed phenomenal growth in smart-phone adoption by real estate professionals. In 2006, only 28 percent said they were using a smart phone with wireless e-mail and Internet capabilities. The percentage of those using cell phones without e-mail or Internet capabilities fell from 72 percent in 2006 to 55 percent in 2007.
Even more tellingly for the future, 37 percent of those surveyed in 2008 said they planned to purchase (or replace) a smart phone in the next year, while only 12 percent planned to buy a mobile phone that did not offer e-mail and Internet access.
In a recent survey of Inman News readers, 98 percent called mobile phones and handheld devices either "extremely important" (87.1 percent) "very important" (8.7 percent) or "important" (2.5 percent) in allowing them to work remotely.
Only e-mail — a capability now handled by many mobile phones — was identified as "extremely important" more often than mobile phones (90.5 percent).
But those surveyed were more likely to say they’d devoted the most resources to e-mail (27.7 percent), real estate search portals like Realtor.com (23.3 percent), broker-provided tools and services (22.5 percent), wireless Internet (20.4 percent), and multiple listing service-provided tools and services (17.6 percent) than mobile phones and handheld devices (10.6 percent).
The survey was conducted from Feb. 19 to March 3, and nearly 90 percent of the 1,330 participants identified themselves as brokers or agents.
Why they’re hot
Given the amount of time real estate professionals spend out of the office, it’s no surprise they’ve embraced smart phones. The devices are now tackling tasks once handled only by personal computers, such as lead generation and management, market research and analysis, and customer relationship management.
ERA offers agents a lead-routing and management tool, LeadRouter’s DirectAccess, which forwards leads to agents using smart phones or any mobile device.
"We all know the agents that are the first to respond to someone on the Internet is most likely the agent the consumer will use throughout the homebuying process," said P.J. Martin Smith, Senior Vice President of Marketing, ERA Franchise Systems LLC. "This device has the capability to forward leads to the agent while they are on the road, so they can get back to consumers no matter where they are."
Move Inc. offers smart-phone applications for consumers and Realtors through its Top Producer Systems and Realtor.com subsidiaries.
The company’s latest application for Realtors, Top Producer 8i, allows users to bring along their entire customer database and calendar, to-do lists, and even sophisticated tools like comparative market analyses created on a desktop or laptop computer.
"Everything I’ve ever done in working with you as a client that’s in my Top Producer system is with me on the phone," said Errol Samuelson, president of Top Producer Systems and Realtor.com, a top real estate search site for consumers. "When you call me, I have the opportunity to enter information on what the call was like, so I can see what we last talked about." …CONTINUED