Most ‘real estate technology’ is really just ‘technology’

Broker Notebook

Does anybody really think we should expect Realtor associations and real estate companies to teach brokers and agents how to use technology?

I ask because yesterday I was given a survey that asked where I get my technology training and education. None of the choices on the multiple-choice questions applied to me, because it listed only educational opportunities available through the real estate industry.

Vintage computer image via Shutterstock.
Vintage computer image via Shutterstock.

Sure, I have gone to a few BarCamps and a couple of sessions put on by our local Realtor association. But it’s rare that I come away with new information about anything technical.

Most of the classes or sessions offered by real estate industry groups are designed to help the agent who is struggling with technology. There are no advanced or even intermediate classes.

For the most part, the technology tools we use on the job are the same tools that millions of others use for business or personal use. Most are not at all unique to the real estate industry, and few require education or training.

If they do, there are usually instructions to read, or a video to watch. If that doesn’t work, there is always a help desk someplace that I can call or write.

There are many uses for a tablet or a smartphone for any mobile professional. There is no one right way to use either. They are tools that are more like Swiss army knives than hammers.

Proficient isn’t good enough to be able to compete with a zillion other agents for each piece of business."

There are few best practices that apply in every real estate market and for every agent. Real estate is local, and our needs and business problems are not all the same.

It is always fun to see how other agents use mobile devices. But why limit ourselves by using them the same way?

There are thousands of apps we can use on the job, and they have thousands of uses. There’s no point in learning them all, because we need only a few.

Real estate agents sometimes complain about the training or lack of training that is offered in their office or through their association. They don’t consider traveling around the country to attend conferences as a cost-effective way to learn.

Our associations should be a source of education about real estate, and a place where we can learn the new laws and how to best write contracts that serve our clients and keep us out of the courtroom. There are so many agents who do not know how to use real estate contract forms correctly.

Most real estate agents are independent contractors. It really is up to us to learn what we need to learn to do our jobs. We are in a competitive business, and waiting for the office or association to bring us up to speed will put us behind.

Often technology is no longer cutting edge by the time real estate agent training classes are developed. New ideas are seldom embraced by the industry until real estate agents who are early adopters have had a couple years of success with them.

Agents who don’t want to wait around for their peers to catch up can read the news and some of the popular technology blogs. They can even walk into the mobile phone store, look at the latest models and ask questions.

Apple Stores are wonderful places to ask questions about all things Apple, and try out some apps.

If you live in or near a major metro area, chances are there are BarCamps and other events where anyone from the local business community can learn and meet people at the same time. At least half of my education comes from classes and events that are designed for freelancers and small-business owners.

Books electronic or otherwise are still a wonderful way to learn. Kindle books can be read on most any mobile device or computer. I have a list of books I plan to read my way though this year. There are videos and even TED talks I can watch in my office.

I am not afraid to reach out to my peers in other industries and ask them what they are reading or which technology seminars they plan on going to this year.

Each year I decide what I want to learn and plan my own education based partly on my business goals.

I hope I am not the only agent who steps outside the industry. If I depended upon classes in the industry, I would always be behind and just know enough to be proficient.

Proficient isn’t good enough to be able to compete with a zillion other agents for each piece of business.

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


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