Editor’s note: Real estate agents are depending more and more on mobile technology, enabling them 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 more. In this three-part series, we explore a new round of mobile technologies and how they’re being used in real estate. (See Part 2.)

Even if you drive an SUV, you probably don’t have room in it for a scanner, a fax machine and a PC – and with this in mind, two new companies are providing related services to real estate agents and others via cell phone.

ScanR, which officially launched March 13, makes it possible to photograph a document with a camera phone, turn it into a digital file and send it via e-mail or fax. Cellstory, which launched in mid-2005, enables agents to create personalized property descriptions with up to 100 photos over the phone.

“Some of our heaviest data users are real estate agents,” said Chris Dury, ScanR’s vice president of marketing. “They use it to send a listing agreement or amendment to another agent or client, but also to keep a digital record of other papers for themselves, to keep a record of their communications with their clients.”

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.

Dury said one of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s heaviest users during its beta, or test, stage was a real estate agent who scanned in almost 400 pages in one month.

“We’ve been doing focus groups with real estate agents and we talked to some of the busiest agents. They said they spend an extra half an hour to an hour each week running to Kinko’s or elsewhere to send a fax. This is a simple way to take a piece of paper and make a digital file and send it wherever you want,” Dury said.

The service will cost agents and others less than $10 a month, Dury said.

“If you have a camera phone, you take a picture, you e-mail it via your cell phone’s wireless connection to ScanR, we process it and send a copy via e-mail or fax,” Dury said. Once the photo is taken, he said, it takes about 30 seconds to send it wirelessly to ScanR and 30 seconds to process it.

Dury cautioned that the quality of the photos depends on the quality of the camera. “The one-megapixel cameras are not very good, and legal agreements often have small text on them. We recommend two-megapixel cameras or even a regular digital camera because the documents are more challenging and the quality need is high.”

Since many people don’t know what kind of camera is in their camera phone, there is a section on the ScanR site where agents can check the model of their cell phone to see if it will work with the service. Also, the company offers a free trial whereby people can try the service to see if it works on their phone.

“Real estate agents deal with a number of documents and want to be able to showcase documents to clients who may not be online. The scanner makes it possible for them to send documents to someone who is using a fax machine,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with The Enderle Group.

“This is a way to use something no real estate agent is ever without – their phone – to provide a richer service for their clients and prospects,” Enderle said.

Once an agent finishes faxing a document to a client via cell phone using ScanR, he or she can then create a personalized property description for another client over the phone using Cellstory.

Early adopters of Cellstory, which launched in mid-2005 and costs around $50 a month, 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.

Through a series of default settings and prompts, Cellstory makes it possible to enter photos taken with a cell phone and descriptions chosen from pre-entered data, then upload the information.

The product isn’t available for every cell phone. Since photos are one of the key elements, the phone must include a camera function.

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.

Once an agent gets used to the process, it can take as little as two minutes to create a Cellstory, Oliver claimed.

“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.”


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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