Are big brokers delivering on tech, training promises?

Realtor Notebook

I like to look at the websites of the large brokerages and see how they are marketing to agents and to consumers.

I cannot find a large brokerage that doesn’t advertise having the best technology and the latest technology and technology training for agents. I see the advertisements, but not any specifics. When I work with their agents, I don’t see any evidence of technology, other than the fact that they have to drive to an office to scan and email a contract and I have to wait for it.

Why aren’t agents bragging about all the wonderful technology their brokerage gives them? My most recent real estate transactions have been with experienced agents who are with the two biggest brokerages in town. Both are excellent agents.

Neither of the agents had or used electronic signature software, and both transactions involved out-of-town buyers or sellers, or both. Both agents could use electronic signatures through our MLS, but it is fairly new and they may not have noticed it yet or learned how to use it.

I use EchoSign and I find it indispensable. I cannot understand why the local real estate offices don’t buy a premium EchoSign account that is branded and let their agents use it.

The ability to get a signature from clients quickly and electronically can greatly reduce the amount of time, stress and work that can go into finalizing a contract. Buyers and sellers love to be able to sign electronically because it makes the transaction easier and less stressful for them too.

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Both the agents I recently worked with filled out the real estate contacts by hand, when we have software that auto-populates the basics like address and legal description and several other fields right from our MLS. It’s much easier to write contracts electronically. I’ll need to ask them why they did it that way when they are with brokerages that offer state-of-the-art technology.

During another transaction I needed to get 20 megabytes of condominium documents to a buyer’s agent across town in a hurry and she needed to get the same documents to her client quickly. I created a folder in my Dropbox account and shared it with her and included instructions so that she could share it with her buyer.

That little Dropbox folder saved all parties some headaches, and I did not have to print anything or deliver it or have it delivered. There are other products I could have used, but Dropbox is right on my desktop. The other agent expressed her appreciation and is now using Dropbox herself.

If I ran a big real estate office I would buy a Dropbox pro account or bigger and let my agents use it for free, and I would advertise that we use "cutting edge technology."

Keeping organized is a huge part of any agent’s job, even if that agent has an assistant. All agents should have Evernote accounts and be taught how to use them on their computers, iPads and mobile phones so that they can stay organized.

Evernote is great for taking notes and adding photos and drawings and contacts and everything that makes up a client file, including my crude drawings of the foundation with notes and measurements. I couldn’t get through a single appointment without taking notes. Files and notes in Evernote can be shared with clients, the office, or the title company or escrow agents.

The $45 I spend a year for a premium account is worth every penny. If I ran a big brokerage that claimed to give agents the best technology, I would give each agent an Evernote account and teach them how to use it.

The big brokerages tell sellers that they have the best website and about how much traffic it gets, and how they can track how many clicks the home gets. I can tell my sellers that all of my listings show up on those sites too, but I can’t track how many clicks they get.

How many clicks does it take to sell a house? Do they provide statistics that rank the home as compared to others like it on the site? How is the information used? Am I short-changing my sellers?

I could write several more paragraphs about iPads, smartphones and mobile apps. I am just going to assume that the brokerages with the cutting-edge technology are providing apps for their agents and encouraging the use of iPads to cut down on paper, save money and improve efficiency.

Our MLS provides all of us with what I consider cutting-edge technology, including mobile apps. Are the offerings of the big brokerages even better? Third parties have started offering agents technology and training too. Are their offerings better than what brokerages have to offer or just different?

Which real estate company has the best technology? Can they prove it? What does it look like? What is it? Do agents use the technology that is provided by the brokerage? What technology am I missing out on by not being part of a large company or franchise?

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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