It’s 5 a.m. and your phone vibrates off the nightstand, waking you from your beauty sleep. It’s a text from a potential homebuyer. Do you jump up and respond?

Texting is now mainstream, and it’s not just your teenagers. Sending text messages has become more acceptable as a means of professional communication. In fact, more than 9.8 trillion text messages were sent in 2012, with users sending and receiving an average of 35 messages per day. Morgan Stanley estimates that 91 percent of adults keep their smartphone within arm’s reach throughout the day. That’s how your phone ended up vibrating off the nightstand anyway, right?

Texting can be a powerful tool in your real estate marketing arsenal. In fact, text message open rates exceed 99 percent, and 90 percent of all text messages are read within three minutes of being received! Many real estate professionals employ “text for more information” and QR code strategies to grow their opted-in leads lists, thus allowing them to communicate new listings or marketing materials via text. A recent Home Buyer Survey by the California Association of Realtors also shows that only 17 percent of buyers prefer to communicate with their agents by telephone, while 29 percent claimed they prefer text messages.

Only 17 percent of buyers prefer to communicate w/agents by phone, while 29 percent said they prefer text messages. Tweet This

Because text communication can occur so immediately and effortlessly — and because tone and nuance can be lost in short messages — it is easy to forget to shift modes from texting friends and family to texting clients and potential clients.

With text messaging only growing in popularity, here are six etiquette tips for making the most of texting with your mobilized clients:

1. Ask permission upfront: The most irritating 5 a.m. text message is the one that’s unsolicited. Sending unexpected text messages can quickly lead to unhappy clients and missed messages for those who don’t use text messaging often. Be sure to always ask the client for their preferences upfront.

2. Be wary of abbreviations: You may want to meet “L8TR” with clients to sign a contract or view a home “2MRW,” but you should save the abbreviations for texting with friends. While industry abbreviations such as “MLS” should be OK, be wary of using them in general, especially if you’re not 100 percent clear on their meaning.

“An ‘OMG’ would definitely be a ‘WTF’ moment for your client — yikes!” Tweet This

3. Tone: With texting, you can be quick and to the point, but never overly informal. Tone can be lost or easily misinterpreted in text messages. Try to use the same tone of voice you would use in an email or face-to-face meeting with the client.

4. Length: Only send text messages with information that is important and concise. Sending a complete paragraph of information, which will be difficult to read and review on a phone, will only overwhelm and frustrate the client.

5. Response time: While it may seem obvious, how and when you answer text messages sets precedents with your clients. If you don’t mind a 5 a.m. wake-up text, jump up and respond immediately. If you prefer to communicate during business hours, only send and respond to messages during those times. Some real estate professionals are lenient in this area because they understand that buying or selling a home can be a dynamic process.

6. Avoid legal discussions: Need to give your client details on a new offer? Want to send over the details of a contingency? While you may want to alert clients that a new offer has come in via text message, always be sure to follow up with an email. Email is easier to maintain a paper trail and should be used for more formal discussions such as contract negotiations and details. You should also be wary of discussing financial information via text.

These are just a few texting etiquette tips that our team at RealScout wanted to share with you. Do you have additional tips? Has your Realtor board implemented an Etiquette and Professional Courtesies guide like the one we found in Austin, Texas? Follow RealScout on Twitter: @RealScout.

Andrew Flachner is the co-founder and chief real estate enthusiast at RealScout.

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