Donald Marland, an associate broker with RE/MAX Professionals in Greater Toronto, was convinced of the importance of wireless real estate listings data about a year ago when he was having dinner with friends and received an e-mail inquiry from a client on his mobile device.
It was a Saturday night after 11 p.m., but Marland had wireless access to the local listings data while sitting at the table with friends. He quickly found some matches to what the client was looking for, e-mailed the information back to him and suggested he meet him at his office at noon the next day.
Marland’s quick response resulted in a closed deal worth $925,000 the very next day, he said. The client had e-mailed several agents when he initially reached Marland at his Saturday night dinner.
Wireless access to property listings data has been available for a few years in some markets, but is now catching on with agents who are seeing the power of the mobility, real-time access to information, and an increasing number of clients initially contacting them through e-mail.
“With the marketplace as fast-paced as it has been in the last year and a half, having access to that information in the palm of your hand is bar none,” Marland said.
Consumers expect agents to respond to e-mail inquiries within two hours, according to some studies, and most will work with the first agent who responds.
Marland today uses a cell phone and PDA to wirelessly access property listings data from his multiple listing service through a service offered by Most Home Technologies. Most Home partners with MLS technology vendors to integrate the wireless listings capabilities right into the organization’s existing platforms.
The company most recently partnered with Tarasoft, an MLS software provider, to provide browser-based wireless MLS services to Tarasoft customers, which include the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Greater South Bay Regional MLS, MRMLS of Southern California and RMLS of Minnesota.
The technology enables real estate agents to search and retrieve critical property listings data – including full color photos – in seconds, anytime and anywhere that cellular coverage is available.
Through the company’s partnerships, the service is available to nearly 300,000 agents, according to Jim Secord, president of Most Home Technologies, with about 10 percent to 20 percent of those agents using it.
Secord said the newfound adoption of wireless services for real estate has a lot to do with lower prices on devices and a much simpler way of connecting to the service. “On top of that, you’ve got this rapid shift from voice to e-mail. As a Realtor, if you can’t respond to e-mail quickly then you’ve got issues in dealing with the bulk of your customers,” he said.
The Most Home service is available for any type of Internet-enabled device on any mobile service carrier, he said.
Real estate agents whose MLSs have set up the wireless listings service can get the URL and password information from their MLS. To set it up, agents access the URL from their device, enter the user name and password information and they’re up and running.
“There’s a lot of technology out there for Realtors and most of it doesn’t get used, but with wireless we’re seeing the opposite – we’re seeing people logging in multiple times a day,” Secord said.
Joel Shears, wireless industry specialist for Most Home Technologies, provides wireless training classes for agents through their real estate boards. The classes help agents figure out what type of wireless device to buy, as well as how to use it to get the most out of their investment. For example, they’ll learn how to synchronize their contacts, e-mail, voicemail and how to set up and use the wireless MLS service, among other things.
“We’re now starting to build an advanced course,” Shears said. Agents in the courses have been very enthusiastic about the technology, he said.
In addition to wireless access to listings data, Most Home is integrating the wireless technology into its lead generation and lead response system for brokers.
The next step for the wireless technology is to enable consumers to access listings information themselves while they are driving around neighborhoods scoping out potential houses. Secord said a few MLSs have signed up to test the service, and Most Home is working on partnering with major wireless service carriers interested in offering this.
Secord and Shears both noted the future of wireless communication moving toward more location-based services, which give the ability to determine where the cell phone is located.
The use for such services in real estate would make it possible for a consumer to access information about a home while standing in front of it, without having to first search for the home listing information on the MLS, or to stand in a neighborhood and figure out where the for-sale houses are located. This technology could potentially cut down on the number of calls agents receive from prospective clients asking about property details or listing prices.
While Marland said the use of wireless MLS data is not yet commonplace among agents in his market, there’s more pressure now to come onboard with the technology.
A number of MLS organizations also are offering their members access to wireless handheld devices made especially for real estate agents. MLS Property Information Network in New England and the Nebraska Association of Realtors this year separately announced they would offer the Pathfinder wireless handheld device to members.
Pathfinder is a Pocket PC-powered, all-in-one PDA product that allows real estate professionals wireless access to real estate MLS data, GPS technology, prospect information, and MS-Outlook-synchronized contact and task lists – anywhere, anytime.
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