“Paperless” and “mobile” are the most overused and meaningless words of 2014.
The terms are often paired with the word “agent” — we now have “paperless agents” and “mobile agents.”
Which doesn’t really help, because we expect agents to be mobile. It would be hard for us to work with clients if we could not move. I don’t think anyone expects agents to be made out of paper either.
When we use the term “paperless,” it can’t mean the same thing in every market because real estate is local. Local laws dictate exactly how many pieces of paper it takes to buy a home, and how those pieces of paper are used.
As a real estate agent and a human being, I detest paper and use very little of it. But I consider how I use paper to be a business decision, and I don’t bore my clients with what I consider “administrivia.”
Some of my clients like using electronic signatures and documents. Others would rather come to an office or someplace where we can meet in person to sign documents in person.
I always ask my clients if they want me to use actual paper documents, or if signing electronic documents on an iPad is acceptable.
Using less paper is good for my business, and I can understand why large real estate companies would like to see their agents use less paper. Paper costs money.
I don’t think my clients really care about paper unless I inconvenience them with it. My use or nonuse of paper seems to be more about me than about my clients.
In Minnesota we close at the table, and that involves signing piles of actual paper. My electronic documents eventually become part of that pile of paper, and I don’t have a say in it. Maybe when a homebuyer spends $300,000, they should walk away with paper?
The word “mobile” is even less descriptive, and more vague, than the term “paperless.”
When people ask what my company “is doing about mobile,” it kind of reminds me of how my ancient mom asked me last week what we are going to do about Christmas.
The truth is Christmas comes even if we don’t do anything. Mobile works the same way. The term refers to the fact that we carry miniature computers in our pockets and handbags, and can do all sorts of things with them that we used to have to be in front of a computer to do.
There are some people out there who want to scare us. They advise us that our companies had better do something about mobile or we will go out of business.
Yet there isn’t a thing we can do about mobile. It really is a thing, and it’s here to stay no matter what we do.
If real estate agents adopt the same technology that most other people use, they have addressed mobile. At the next Tuesday morning sales meeting, ask for a show of hands of the agents who don’t use a smartphone.
Real estate companies can and should go one step further, and make sure their websites look nice and work well when they are viewed with a mobile device, because it isn’t just real estate agents who are mobile. At this point, we know that a lot of homebuyers are getting information about homes for sale with a mobile device.
Since consumers are accessing third-party sites with mobile apps, it might be a good idea for agents to put their listings on those sites, too. They are still free.
Remember that just because our clients use mobile devices doesn’t mean that we need to. It is very possible to interact with persons who are using mobile devices from a desktop computer, and even send and receive text messages that way.
Telemarketing and drip email campaigns are still alive and well. Mobile doesn’t seem to have changed traditional methods of prospecting.
Mobile is here and it is a mindset and a way of doing things. There isn’t anything that anyone can “do” about mobile. Even if we do nothing, we will still be more mobile than we used to be when we needed a computer and a desk to interact with the Internet or to accept electronic communication.
Maybe in 2015 we can just vow to use less paper and acknowledge that people will be using mobile devices to access information about real estate, and move on to the next big thing.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.