Looking through a crystal ball I picked up on Craigslist, here’s what I saw:
1. Increasingly mobile and virtual brokerages. While the tough economic times will continue through 2010, new tech tools are breaking through brick-and-mortar barriers and empowering agents to work remotely. Lower overhead costs for brokers could mean lower fees to agents, too.
2. Mobile video text-messaging. Mobile applications will give agents on the go many ways to do business. Imagine sending a text message to a client’s non-smartphone that contains a video, slide show or virtual tour of a home. Mogreet introduced the first mobile video-messaging system for cell phones. It works with smartphones and regular cell phones that don’t have Internet access.
3. Realtors Property Valuation mobile phone app. While most multiple listing services will have mobile-phone applications that members can download to access the database while they are traveling with their clients (see example here), I predict the new Realtors Property Resource (RPR), with its valuable in-depth property data, will release an app for iPhone and BlackBerry that will give NAR members an edge over the competition.
4. Custom interactive Facebook pages. Facebook will continue to be used for marketing purposes in 2010 via Facebook pages that allow interaction with people who have chosen to opt-in as "fans." You can easily communicate with your fans (who should be your target market). If you’re doing an event or offer a promotion, it is easy to invite everyone.
Instead of brokers and agents creating pages for themselves (or inviting their colleagues), I see them creating pages for neighborhoods, towns or local events to make connections that can lead to business.
How about a "local homebuyers" page to share information? Since Facebook pages are indexed on Google, they should have local-market keywords. Start here to create a Facebook page.
Since most default Facebook pages are boring, next year I see more custom-built and branded pages using apps like the Static FBML app, which accepts code to create interesting and interactive pages. Here’s a tab from ForeclosureRadar’s page.
And here’s an amusing visual presentation I quickly created using Static FBML.
Tips: Choose a "vanity URL," a branded and/or easy-to-remember custom URL, for your page once you get 25 fans (send an e-mail announcing the page and you should attract more fans). You can create a landing page for visitors other than your Facebook "Wall" by editing the page — go to the Wall and choose any tab as the default landing page.
5. Cell phones with attachable projectors. AT&T is about to launch a cell phone that will allow a small projector to be attached to the phone. It will make sharing photos, slideshows and video much easier for agents meeting with clients or prospective clients in the field. …CONTINUED
Instead of having husband and wife craning their necks to look at your computer screen, they can enjoy the presentation on their living room wall.
6. Buyer listing service Internet Data Exchange-type platform. Real estate agents will have the ability to list their clients (no names) and share them with other real estate agents in the market via an IDX-like system.
7. Television-Web convergence. Google will probably be first to bring the Web to the tube in a mainstream way, meaning that folks will be able to surf the Web from the sofa. YouTube videos will be accessed and playable on the boob tube. People looking for a new home can search for one by remote control and save the home videos in their digital video recorder.
8. QR (Quick Response)-coded for-sale signs and ads. Folks will be able to stop at a For Sale sign or magazine ad, point their cell phone camera at a bar code and get all the home details. They can then click a number to call the agent. (I have been wishing for QR code readers since I have Fat Thumb Syndrome, as texting for home information is troublesome for me.)
9. Lowe’s and Home Depot Real Estate ads. This is a low-tech prediction: Why should shopping cart ads be only at the supermarket? I say folks using home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot might be in the market to sell, so I predict real estate agent ads in those venues next year.
10. Video e-mail. Virtually all clients receive e-mails. But they are all largely the same. I predict more real estate agents will discover the appeal of video e-mail. Video communicates in ways the written word cannot, with facial expressions and voice tone showing energy, passion, excitement and humor.
I use TalkFusion to send personal visual thank-yous and video (a disclosure here: I am also a seller of this product). The player can feature personalized branding, and the tool delivers statistics on openings and e-mail forwardings. Eyejot is a free e-mail-based tool.
11. Homebuyer downpayment programs available on listings. Many towns, counties and cities offer downpayment assistance programs to first-time homebuyers, or they offer low-income assistance programs for buyers. But not many folks know how to find these programs. A new Web site tool will put a tag on a listing that may qualify for a local buyer’s program and link to the program. This is currently being done by Workforce Resource.
12. Bidding for real estate services. Rather than having to look for a real estate agent to sell your home, you have them come to you and make you an offer. An early-adopter example is Realty Baron, and check out a medical services example at Pricedoc.com.
What does your crystal ball show?
Joseph Ferrara is publisher of the Sellsius Real Estate Blog and a partner in TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator site. He is an attorney with 25 years of experience in New York, and he also coaches agents on the use of blogging and social networking.
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