SAN FRANCISCO – You’re driving through a neighborhood on the way to a property, and your client falls in love. “Look at that house with the ‘For Sale’ sign. Do you know anything about it?”
You grab your Web-enabled cell phone or PDA and make a call, then turn to the client. “It’s a three-bedroom, two-bath home on the market for $215,000.”
This scenario is a reality for folks in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and San Diego, Calif., thanks to a company that makes listings more accessible to consumers. Two providers of mobile mapping solutions, along with a real estate agent with a “mobile office,” addressed mobile technologies on a panel at Real Estate Connect 2005 Thursday.
Brad Blumberg, CEO of Philadelphia-based Smarter Agent, the aforementioned company, John Pinto, a Realtor with Pinto & Associates, and Matt Gross, senior manager of product development for MapQuest Business Solutions, addressed the issues at Connect. The conference focuses on innovations and new technologies.
Pinto, an agent in Napa, Calif., uses a RedTablet PC. “I like not being tethered to an office and having my tools where I want them,” he said. “I drive to my client’s house, turn on my RedTablet, open the attachments, we go through the process. My client signs the statutory disclosures on the screen and I e-mail them their copy.
“I’ve been doing this for three years,” Pinto said. All his favorite restaurants have wi-fi hotspots, he said, so he can do business while lifting a glass of Chardonnary. “The key is mobility backed up by support staff in the office.”
Pinto’s “mobile office,” as he calls it, is currently a reality. So is Smarter Agent’s mobile technology. Smarter Agent offers listings information via handheld devices and cell phones.
The idea is that buyers or their agents will spot for-sale homes while driving around various neighborhoods, then connect to the Smarter Agent service using a Web-enabled cell phone or PDA device while in front of the property. The service detects the caller’s location via satellite-based Global Positioning System, then relays the property information back to the caller in real time.
But even more exciting developments are on the way, according to Smarter Agent’s Blumberg. Soon, it will be possible to get such information without having to make a call, he said.
“You will be able to stop in front of any property with your cell phone and it will know your location and have information about that house, whether it’s for sale or not, and information about the houses around it,” Blumberg said.
Smarter Agent uses MapQuest Maps to provide its mapping solutions, Blumberg said.
Currently, Nextel customers can purchase cell phones that know where they are, and Verizon, Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile are expected to launch the capability – known as location-based services, or LBS – on their cell phones within the next year, if not sooner, said MapQuest’s Gross.
“In two or three years, most cell phones will know where they are,” said Gross.
“There are 200 million cell phones in the U.S. market,” Gross said. “LBS will be a $200 billion industry by 2010.” The mobile division is the fastest-growing division of MapQuest, Gross said.
MapQuest will offer maps, aerial images, flood plains, demographics and user-contributed data via cell phones in the near future, Gross said.
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