Editor’s note: This is the second in a five-part series.
What are some great new technologies to use in your business? Part 1 of this series looked at five innovations that may dramatically alter how we do our business. Here are four additional tools that can help you to skyrocket your business.
6. Cartavi — the real estate alternative to Dropbox
I love Dropbox, but Dropbox is not set up for the real estate industry. Enter Cartavi, which like Dropbox allows you to store documents in the "cloud" and access them from all of your devices, including your smartphone. Cartavi takes the concept one step further by also allowing users to fax and archive documents, and by providing "transaction rooms" for sharing transaction data. This is a great way to cut down on the paperwork as well as to reduce wasted time and energy spent driving documents back and forth between the parties in the transaction.
The system also notifies the agent when their clients have accessed documents, providing a digital paper trail for the entire transaction. This allows you to respond to questions and issues in a more timely matter. There is no charge for the basic version of the program that includes up to 1 gigabyte of storage space and three unbranded transaction rooms. If you want your transaction rooms branded with your firm’s information and up to 10GB of storage, the fee is $99 per year.
Winner of the Inman Innovator of the Year award for the most innovative real estate startup, SocialBios puts your website’s "About Us" page on steroids. Instead of linking out to the various social media sites, SocialBios aggregates all your social networking information in one place.
The advantage of using SocialBios is that you can have website visitors discover interests that you have in common as well as shared friends. Website visitors never have to leave your site. Furthermore, these connections help you to convert visitors into referrals for your business.
8. Realtor.com mobile apps
Realtor.com’s real estate search app for the Android platform won the Most Innovative Mobile App at the 2011 Inman Innovator Awards. Designed for the iPad, iPhone and the Android platform, the Realtor.com app allows both agents and consumers to instantly access more than 3 million homes for sale. You can highlight the areas that are of the greatest interest to you using the Nearby Homes for Sale, Open House, and Area Scout features. The Area Scout feature helps consumers locate nearby open houses including price pins that display on the map. Even more important, this app updates the listings every 15 minutes making the data one of the best sources for accurate information for consumers.
Additional features allow consumers to synch the information about their likes and dislikes on their mobile as well as in their Realtor.com account. Consumers can also rate various homes and then send the information to their friends and family either in a text-based or an audio format.
9. Real-Buzz — connect on Facebook in 13 different languages in real time
Janet Choynowski, the founder of Immobel.com, a site that translates your listings into 13 different languages, was an Inman Innovator of the Year nominee. The Immobel site allows consumers to select one of 13 languages for their property search experience, including receiving new-listing alerts in their preferred language. There is a global "Find a Real Estate Professional" offering worldwide search by map or criteria for qualified professionals.
Choynowski launched Real-Buzz at Real Estate Connect. The Real-Buzz platform is a complete social networking platform designed to meet the needs of both real estate professionals and consumers. Realtors can join for the B2B (business) networking where they can share referrals and exchange information.
They can also connect with consumers with the "Connect Now!" app that allows Realtors to chat with consumers from almost anywhere in the world through their IM (instant messaging) function. For consumers who speak other languages, the chat can be translated into any of the 13 languages that Real-Buzz supports or they can connect on a VOIP call. This gives participating Realtors a huge competitive advantage in that the National Association of Realtors’ research shows that 73 percent of all consumers do business with the first Realtor with whom they make actual contact.
Companies and agents who offer access to their listings in 13 different languages achieve a 91 percent penetration of all online traffic compared with only 28 percent if they rely exclusively on English.
A core component is the penetration into the Spanish-speaking and Asian market segments. According to Choynowski, these two demographics represent more than $1.5 trillion in buying power and are set to fuel the next wave of homebuying.
In addition, the Real-Buzz app allows Facebook users to transform their Facebook pages into real estate websites, complete with MLS search in the users’ choice of languages. Listing alerts can be viewed in Japanese in Japan and Portuguese in Brazil. The Realtors’ branding and information is embedded in the posts.
While the constant onslaught of new apps and technologies can be overwhelming, the smart move is to choose one innovation to experiment with every one or two months. Implement the apps that work for you and dump those that don’t. Remember, the best app is the one that you use.