Editor’s note: Real estate agents are depending more and more on mobile technology, with many devices and services offering much more than the ability to make a phone call or write an e-mail while out in the field. Agents today can pull up home listings data, store reams of information and even create a listing using a mobile device. In this three-part series, we uncovered new innovation in mobile technologies and services for the real estate industry, as well as new real estate uses for devices that have been around for awhile. (See Part 1: Agents find novel real estate uses for Blackberries and Part 3: Cell phones become maps, info sources for home seekers.)
“Phoning in your performance” is generally thought of as a bad thing, but a new mobile technology, Cellstory, makes it possible to create a personalized property description for real estate clients with up to 100 photos over the phone.
With Cellstory, an agent can take photos of a house using their cell phone’s camera and create a custom Web page with the photos and detailed descriptions, then e-mail the link to clients and put up an ad on craigslist or, soon, add a virtual tour to an existing listing on Realtor.com – all while onsite at the property.
The product launched in test version just a few months ago, so it remains to be seen whether it will catch on with agents. Early adopters include New York City brokerage Butler Kane, as well as a number of other New York brokerages, according to Bill Oliver, the company’s CEO.
Real estate agents are depending more and more on mobile technology, and it’s easy to see why. Mobile devices enable agents to take and make phone calls on the run, respond to leads while they’re out in the field, pull up home listings data while driving clients around, and store reams of information, such as names of escrow officers and other contacts, among other things.
Oliver didn’t have real estate in mind when he came up with the idea for Cellstory, he said.
“I was inspired by seeing mobile blogging, but with blogs, it’s very limited how the information can be presented,” Oliver said. “So I started developing the technology for Cellstory. I was talking to a real estate agent and she said, ‘Oh, that would be cool for real estate!'”
The agent told Oliver, “We do the same thing over and over again,” like entering phrases such as “two-car garage” or “granite countertops.”
“So, why have to write out ‘granite’ over and over?” Oliver said. With the agent’s needs in mind, he created Cellstory, which through a series of default settings and prompts makes it possible to enter photos taken with a cell phone and descriptions chosen from pre-entered data, then upload the information, in about 10 minutes.
Because appraisers similarly have phrases they must enter again and again, Oliver is working on a version of Cellstory for appraisers, he said.
Cellstory costs $50 a month, with no startup fee. In about a month, it will be possible to create virtual tours with Cellstory and upload them to Realtor.com for an additional fee of about $25 to $50 a shot, Oliver said. It is already possible to send the information to the free online classified ad site craigslist and have it automatically entered.
The product isn’t available for every cell phone. Since photos are one of the key elements, the phone must include a camera function. “Cellstory can be used with the Nokia Series 60, as well as U-IQ phones such as the Sony 610,” Oliver said. “It also works with Treos, and anything with a Palm operating system as long as it has a camera.”
To get Cellstory, the agent can cruise by the company’s Web site using their laptop or PC and fill out forms via a drop-down menu. Then the system sends a text message to the agent. Clicking on the message downloads the Cellstory software to the agent’s phone.
To create a custom Web page with as many as 100 photos of the property, the agent fires up his or her cell phone, then clicks on the Cellstory icon. A series of prompts then guides the agent through the process of creating the Web page.
“The system asks you what format for the page you want, such as “Residential Script 1, Land 1, and so forth,” Oliver said. “Then it prompts you to take the photos.”
Those with Treos or other devices requiring a stylus can tap the appropriate choices, while those with cell phones have one additional prompt to accept, he said.
A list of phrases for the property description then appears. Users can make up their own phrases on the Cellstory web site or just use the ones that are already in the system.
When all the steps are completed, the system automatically creates a Web page with photos and a property description in a layout determined by the agent. An example can be viewed here.
Finally, the system prompts the agent to choose where the link will be e-mailed. It’s possible to send the information to craigslist, and the system will create a craigslist ad. Within a month, Oliver said, it will be possible to send a virtual tour to Realtor.com for an additional fee.
“Or the agent can send it to a bulk e-mail list, or individual clients,” Oliver said. The brochure arrives as an e-mail with a link to the Web page. The system can be customized to deliver the entire brochure in Spanish.
Once an agent gets used to the process, it can take as little as two minutes to create a Cellstory, Oliver said.
“If you are a buying agent, it’s a great way to create something personalized for your customers. You can put up more photos than you can in an MLS listing,” Oliver said. “If you have a client with specific interests, such as mahogany wood, for example, you can create a brochure about a property just for them highlighting the mahogany paneling. And the selling agent can use it to create a listing for the property and send it and to add a virtual tour to Realtor.com.”
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