While digital cameras, desktop computers and standard cell phones are the primary tools of the trade for real estate professionals, smart phones and handheld devices that feature, phone, e-mail and Internet access are catching on fast, according to a technology survey.

About 28 percent of Realtors who participated in the 2007 Realtor Technology Survey used a smart phone in 2006, compared with 8 percent among Realtors surveyed in 2005, and up to 30 percent of respondents reported that they planned to purchase or replace a smart phone device within a year.

The survey was conducted from Feb. 28 to March 24 this year by the National Association of Realtors’ Center for Realtor Technology and is based on 468 responses from Realtor association members.

About 54 percent of respondents said they spent more than $1,000 on technology in 2006. Half of the broker respondents said they spent more than $2,000, while half of the associate brokers and sales agents participating in the survey said they spent $501-$1,000 or more.

About two-thirds of respondents have their own real estate Web site, and 75 percent reported that they spent $1,000 or less building their personal or company Web site, while 5 percent spent $5,000 or more. The amount that a real estate professional spent on a Web site did not appear to have any dependence on the number of transactions associated with the professional, according to the report.

About 93 percent of respondents’ real estate Web sites allow property searches, according to the survey. Other than their own Web sites, the most popular sites for Realtors to display their listings include the local Multiple Listing Service, their broker’s Web site and Realtor.com, NAR reported.

“Realtors have invested a lot of time and millions of dollars in building and improving real estate technology, and the demand for additional technology is high,” said Mark Lesswing, NAR senior vice president and chief technology officer, in a statement.

About 80 percent of survey respondents said that the technology supplied by their brokers is valuable, and two-thirds would like their broker to expand the amount of technology offered. About 84 percent of those surveyed said they were interested in augmenting the technology and services offered by their MLS, Lesswing noted.

For generating leads, the most important sources are referrals, repeat business and the Internet, survey respondents said. Meanwhile, open houses, floor time and telemarketing were among the least important sources for leads, respondents said.

Respondents also said that Realtor.com, their own Web sites, their broker’s Web site, and the local MLS’ Web site were the most popular sites for property listings.

About 72 percent of respondents said they use some electronic mapping applications, and “the most useful applications are driving directions and those that provide outlined maps of neighborhoods and subdivisions,” the survey revealed.

About 94 percent of respondents said they include a comparative market analysis, which features market statistics, as a part of their listing presentations. While most respondents said they were satisfied by the CMA program offered by their local MLS, “about 35 percent were either somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied” with that program, according to the report.

About 75 percent of Realtors surveyed said they must manage up to 20 documents to complete a real estate transaction, and 59 percent of respondents said they use an automated forms management program to help streamline the paperwork involved in a transaction, according to the report.

About 23 percent of respondents use a transaction management system to track the various stages in a real estate transaction, and 69 percent of those who aren’t currently using a transaction management system reported that they are interested in adopting the technology, according to a survey announcement.

One-third of respondents said that more than half of their business comes from referral clients. And 48 percent said the most popular way to maintain relationships with current clients is through phone calls, while 39 percent of respondents said e-mail was the most popular way.

About two-thirds of Realtors continue to communicate with their former clients at least once or more every quarter, the survey found, and electronic newsletters have gained in popularity. Other preferred methods are mailings and market updates.

The telephone is falling out of favor to keep in touch with past clients. While the 2005 survey results found that one of every three Realtors reached out to former clients with telephone calls, less than 1 percent of Realtors in the latest survey said they relied on phone calls to stay in touch with past clients.

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