The first time Illinois Realtor Tammy Powell heard from a particular client was via an instant message that popped onto her computer screen. Intrigued by one of Powell's listings, the woman sent Powell an instant message after finding her screen name on her Web site. The two continued to use instant message, or IM for short, throughout the home buying process. When it came time to negotiate a deal for the house, Powell and the woman communicated almost entirely through IM. "It's a quicker way to contact someone," said Powell, who works with Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell in Romeoville, Ill. "It's much more efficient." IM is one way of chatting online. It enables people to electronically send short text messages to other people in real time. The technology has actually been around for more than a decade, though it is just now catching on in the real estate industry and other fields. Ask any teenager, however, and they'll know right away what you're talking about. Many also might say they c...
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