Realtors want more technology from brokers and MLSs

Mobile devices more important than ever for delivering services to clients

Realtors are largely happy with the technology their brokers and multiple listing services provide, but they want more of it, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Realtors.

The survey, by NAR’s Center for Realtor Technology, found that nearly 1 in 4 respondents (24 percent) said they considered their MLS system an “exceptional” value for the price they paid, and about half (48 percent) considered it a “reasonable” value. Ten percent said there was “not enough” value, and 4 percent said its value was “poor.” The rest were neutral.

Mobile technology image via Shutterstock.
Mobile technology image via Shutterstock.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents, 62 percent, said they would like their MLS to expand the technology and services it offers. They suggested better mobile capabilities and apps; improved comparative market analysis (CMA) software; more ease of use; updated information; and training. Only 12 percent did not want more tech from their MLS.

The MLS tools respondents cited most often as most valuable were: comps or CMAs; education; property history information; statistics; e-signature services Authentisign and DocuSign; auto-emails to clients or auto-prospecting; mapping; forms; and Realtors Property Resource (RPR), among others.

The survey includes results gathered from 1,280 respondents. It was fielded in January among sales agents, associate brokers, brokers, broker-owners and managers who were asked to consider their business experiences with technology in the last 12 months.

The survey results stand in contrast to objections from The Realty Alliance, a network of some 60 large U.S. brokerages that has expressed frustration with MLSs that offer agents a myriad of tools that the network says compete with brokers’ own offerings.

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Nearly half of respondents to NAR’s survey (45 percent) indicated they wanted brokers to provide more technology as well. Just under a quarter (23 percent) said they did not want more tech from brokers. The rest (32 percent) had no opinion.

They expected several tech offerings from their brokers, almost none of which overlapped with the items asked of MLSs: a good CRM (customer relationship management) database; a better computer; reliable and faster Internet; updates on technology trends; a more professional website; ease of use; cutting-edge technology; and more tech support and training.

Among agent and broker-associate respondents, 28 percent rated their broker’s technology as an “exceptional” value, and 34 percent said it was a “reasonable” value. Fifteen percent were neutral, and 10 percent said it was either “not enough” or “poor.” Twelve percent said their broker provided no tech at all.

The majority of agents and broker associates, 55 percent, paid their broker no monthly tech fee at all. Just under a fifth paid $40 or less per month.

Broker respondents said they spent a median $1,410 on technology for their business in 2013, up from $1,122 in 2012. Agents spent a median $848 for business tech last year.

More than half of Realtors, 52 percent, have picked an iPhone as their smartphone of choice, up from 45 percent in 2012. Android smartphones have held fairly steady at 36 percent, while Blackberry use has slid to 3 percent. Only 4 percent of respondents said they did not use smartphones in their business.

Realtors said they spent a median 44 percent of their time corresponding with and doing work for their clients on mobile devices. Just over a quarter spent more than 70 percent of their time that way.

Communicating with clients was the most frequently cited use of mobile devices (94 percent of Realtors said they did this), followed by taking and posting photos (68 percent), reading news (62 percent), managing documents (41 percent), CRM (35 percent), taking and posting videos (27 percent) and creating listings (13 percent).

Nearly 4 in 10 Realtors, 37 percent, said they did not plan to buy any new tech gadgets this year, but among those who did, tablets were the most likely purchases. Nearly 3 in 10 respondents said they planned to purchase an iPad, Android, Surface or Kindle tablet. Fifteen percent planned to buy a new smartphone.

Respondents’ top sources of real estate tech information were colleagues (51 percent), real estate news websites (44 percent), NAR (42 percent), friends (39 percent), brokers (38 percent) and real estate conferences (32 percent).

More than half of respondents said their Realtor associations’ most important Web offerings were industry news, class registration, dues payment, business and sales tips, event registration and profile information maintenance. Local association websites were accessed the most, followed by state and national association sites.

Just over 9 in 10 Realtors said they used social media for business, and more than three-quarters of respondents said they were at least “somewhat comfortable” using social media. Among those who did not use social media, more than half said they preferred more personal contact.

Facebook and LinkedIn were the most popular social networks among Realtors with at least three-quarters of respondents participating in each. About a third of respondents indicated using Google Plus, YouTube and Twitter. Most respondents said they used social media to build relationships, to boost visibility and for free advertising. Only 20 percent cited a good return on investment.

Respondents overwhelmingly cited referrals and repeat business as their most important sources of lead generation, followed distantly by community involvement and personal advertising.

The most popular site respondents used to display their listings was realtor.com (79 percent), followed by Zillow (71 percent), Trulia (70 percent), their broker’s site (65 percent), their own site (57 percent) and IDX sites (56 percent). More than three-quarters said they pay for and do their own marketing of listings.

When asked to pick the single best marketing software or website to generate new leads, 22 percent cited their company website, followed by their personal website (15 percent), “other” (14 percent), realtor.com (13 percent), Facebook (10 percent), Zillow (9 percent) and Trulia (6 percent). Respondents were least likely to cite CRMs as their best source of new leads.

When it comes to Web browsers, Internet Explorer is still the most popular, but it is on a clear decline. In 2012, half of Realtors used IE; that’s down to 38 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, use of Google Chrome increased from 21 percent in 2012 to 32 percent in 2013. Firefox use rose from 13 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2013.

Gmail was the most popular email service, used by 32 percent of Realtors, up from 28 percent in 2012. Outlook was the second most popular service at 23 percent in this year’s survey.

The vast majority of Realtors, 82 percent, used Windows operating systems. Fourteen percent used Mac OS X, up from 11 percent in 2012.


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