Mobile technologies are revolutionizing the way real estate is being conducted at every level of the transaction. If you’re not part of the mobile revolution, the time to get involved is now.
What are the mobile trends that will influence your business in the not-too-distant future? Here are some of the most important ones:
1. Everyone has a mobile phone (well, almost everyone).
Real estate strategist Stefan Swanepoel, in his Trends Report 2012, points to a number of important mobile trends that are changing how the real estate industry will conduct business in the future. One of the most important trends is the explosion of mobile phone users.
According to a report from the Gartner Group, a tech research company, there were 5.3 billion mobile device users as of the end of 2011. That’s about four out of every five people on the planet. In the U.S., nine out of every 10 Americans also have a cell phone. As a result, an ever-growing number of real estate transaction-related communications are taking place on mobile devices.
2. Laptops give way to phones and tablets.
According to Swanepoel, "55 percent of Gen (Yers) communicate with their friends via social networking sites on their mobile device."
Furthermore, mobile devices have made their way from practicality to fashion accessory: "Almost 1 in 2 Gen (Yers) view their phone as a status symbol and 61 percent consider mobile handsets to be a fashion accessory," according to Swanepoel.
The mobile agent and the mobile transaction have finally started to gain steam. In fact, if you own an Android-based smartphone or an iPhone, you can already do the large majority of your transaction work on your mobile.
The question is: Will you opt for your phone or for carrying your tablet?
Agents almost always have their mobile phone with them. You can use apps such as Evernote or Dragon Dictation to capture notes on your phone. The beauty of these programs is that they sync back with your other devices because they reside in the cloud.
3. Business will move from a paper trail to a digital trail in the cloud.
This means you will no longer be storing your information, your contracts and other documentation on your laptop — or worse, in a metal filing cabinet.
Instead, information is shared through the cloud. You are already using cloud technology if you have a Gmail account, use an online calendar, use Evernote, listen to Pandora radio, or use just about any other application that does not reside on the hard drive on your computer.
4. What will be your strategy for handling mobile signatures?
Paper-based transactions will soon be as obsolete as the old multiple listing service "dumb" terminals that used to take 10 minutes to print a single listing photo. Depending upon the type of device you use, you will have to determine whether your clients sign directly on your device with a finger, a stylus or a light pen.
Alternatively, companies such as DocuSign have the capability to issue digital signatures that work essentially the same way that you would shop online. You are assigned a private "key" that is tied to a login and/or other identifying pieces of information.
5. Location-based advertising
This is the holy grail in the advertising industry. Imagine that you are at your local mall and your favorite shoe store recognizes that you are nearby based upon your phone’s GPS. You receive a text message with a coupon for 10 percent off of any pair of shoes in the store if you drop by in the next hour.
In terms of the real estate industry, you can already drive down any street and determine a wealth of information about any property, whether or not it is listed.
Now imagine that you have registered to be notified of houses that come on the market in a certain price range, with a specific bedroom-bath count, as well as a specific location. When you drive through a neighborhood where you have been looking and there is a listing that fits your criteria, all the listing information, the public records and a video about the property will be pushed to your phone.
6. GPS face-to-face networking
A new app from Highlight may be an important forerunner for the next generation of mobile social networking. Instead of having to proactively check in on apps such as Facebook Places or Foursquare, the app uses the GPS on your phone to identify when someone you know or would like to know is in the same area where you are. There’s no need to check in.
According to online news site GigaOM: "After downloading and installing the (Highlight) app, users connect their accounts with Facebook, add a few minor personal details … and then they sit around and wait. Or move around and wait. Either way, eventually users will be pinged when they get within a reasonable distance of someone they might know or someone their friends know on Facebook."
This means that if one of your Facebook friends tells you that her cousin is thinking about selling his home and the cousin just happens to be at the same ice cream shop next to your office, you can walk over and introduce yourself.
7. Mobile overload
While all of these changes sound exciting, there are some serious issues that will have to be addressed as well. First, how available do you want to be? Do you constantly want to receive push notifications about who is nearby or about every single event happening around your real estate business?
Even more importantly, we are running out of cellular bandwidth due to the explosion of mobile devices. People are already having difficulty using their mobile phones in places such as New York City and San Francisco. How will you conduct your business when you can’t access your mobile carrier?
Changes in mobile technology will permanently alter the real estate landscape. Will you embrace the change or find yourself left behind in the dust?