NEW YORK — Chris Smith, co-founder of real estate tech blog Tech Savvy Agent, has a best friend who is an attorney in Miami and just bought his first home. What did the friend like best about his real estate agent? That he never had to meet her.
Two speakers at Inman News’ Real Estate Connect conference today helped attendees sort through the best tools and applications available to help real estate professionals take their business mobile: Smith and Adam Hirsch, a former brokerage director of business affairs and now chief operating officer at technology news site Mashable.
Smith outlined the physical parts of an office that smart phone and tablet applications and other mobile tools can now replicate for free or at a low cost:
1. The new Post-it: Evernote. This app allows users to save typed, image, video or audio notes, and syncs across users’ mobile and desktop devices. The app also geocodes every note so that users know where they were when they saved it. The app can also take an image of a handwritten note and make the text searchable.
2. The new printer: HP Officejet H470. This printer weighs 5 pounds and prints 22 pages per minute wirelessly. Users can print directly from their BlackBerry or iPhone.
3. The new modem: MiFi 4G. Several companies offer these portable square wireless Internet hubs that fit in your pocket and allow users to access the Internet from anywhere. These devices offer download speeds of 10 Mb per second.
4. The new answering machine: Google Voice. This app can route calls to multiple phones at once, and transcribe voice mail to text. Users can also listen in on someone leaving a voicemail message live and hop in and pick it up if they choose.
5. The new filing cabinet: Dropbox. This app keeps every document, spreadsheet, listing agreement or PDF at users’ fingertips. It also allows them to link to any of those documents to share them with other people. Smith suggested that agents create a PDF that answers the ubiquitous "How’s the market?" question, and store it in DropBox for easy access.
6. The new multiple listing service book: Realtor.com. Information on for-sale homes nationwide is available on this app directly from MLSs. Listings are updated every 15 minutes. Users can search for properties in list view, satellite view or map view. For clients with neighborhood preferences, an area highlighter function allows users to trace a particular area with their finger to include or exclude search results in that area.
7. The new conference room: Skype. This service allows users to make video calls for up to five people. Users can also record calls and videos.
8. The new comparative market analysis: Hten.com. The 1 Minute Housing Trends e-Newsletter offers monthly local real estate market updates.
9. The new "let me get back to you": iTeleport and LogMeIn. These mobile apps emulate users’ desktops from their mobile devices. This means users can view and edit files and access their desktop software programs in order to answer any client question.
10. The new closing table: DocuSign. Agents can sign documents electronically from anywhere using this mobile app. It is also available as a Realtor benefit through the National Association of Realtors.
Hirsch outlined 10 categories of mobile applications that will help agents streamline nearly every aspect of their business away from their desks.
1. Location-based services: These help establish real estate professionals as credible experts deeply involved in their community, Hirsch said. Services include Foursquare, Gowalla, Where, Whrrl, Facebook Places and SCVNGR.
2. Customer relationship management: CRMs help agents keep track of every single piece of information for past and present clients at all times. These include Salesforce.com, Batchbook and SugarCRM, among others.
3. Tasks and project management: These apps go a long way toward helping agents keep track of various parts of their job, including showings and contract deadlines. Examples include todoist, hitask, remember the milk, basecamp, backpack, campfire and toodledo.
4. Note-taking and bookmarking: In addition to the above-mentioned Evernote, there are other apps that can help agents save and bookmark valuable information: delicious, Springpad, Microsoft Onenote 2010 and StumbleUpon, among others.
5. Calenders and scheduling: Many apps allow agents to schedule walk-throughs, conference calls or meetings. Among them are Tungle.me, timebridge, timetrade, doodle and scheduleonce. Some of these also allow users to share calendar information with colleagues.
7. Social media listening/monitoring: Real estate professionals should know what people are thinking and saying about them and their company, Hirsch said. Apps that can help include Radian6, Cision, peoplebrowsr, HootSuite and Google Alerts.
9. Telling a story: WordPress, Blogger, Gowalla, Tumblr, Foursquare and Facebook Places are all platforms that allow agents to tell a story and show off their expertise through updates, video and photos. "Being an expert in any field is important in social media," Hirsch said. "Friends don’t get business — experts get the business."
10. Become an expert (Q&A): One of the best ways to show off expertise is through question-and-answer forums such as LinkedIn, Quora, Yahoo Answers and Mahalo. "Being an expert is the best form of marketing," Hirsch said.