In 2007, two new products were launched that changed business forever: iPhones and Androids both made their big debut not even a full decade ago. Then, in 2010, the iPad launched, adding tablet devices to the mix; today, Microsoft has unveiled a laptop with a touchscreen, and smartphones have morphed from basic call-and-text communication devices to sophisticated windows into our world, powerful mini-computers that we carry without a thought in our pockets.
In 2007, two new products were launched that changed business forever: iPhones and Androids both made their big debut not even a full decade ago.
Then, in 2010, the iPad launched, adding tablet devices to the mix; today, Microsoft has unveiled a laptop with a touchscreen, and smartphones have morphed from basic call-and-text communication devices to sophisticated windows into our world, powerful mini-computers that we carry without a thought in our pockets.
Of course, even as mobile devices have made finding information and getting in touch with clients easier than ever before, it’s also shifted client expectations and agent and broker behavior. Real estate has never been a nine-to-five business, and in a world where sight-unseen and international purchases are becoming more common, agents and brokers are learning how to grapple with the new 24-7 rules.
Inman invited readers to complete a survey about mobile technology. We then identified seven sources based on those answers — agents and brokers who have been in the business long enough to see it change drastically and who embrace mobile technology — and conducted in-depth interviews with those sources to learn more about how they use mobile devices and platforms to better their business.
- It’s not your imagination: Clients expect faster responses and increased access to their real estate agents and brokers. This is especially critical when clients are still at the “lead” stage of their agent/broker relationship.
- Mobile technology puts information directly into the hands of consumers, which changes the nature of the agent’s job. Instead of helping consumers find properties, agents are increasingly concerned with vetting properties that clients have found themselves.
- Some agents and brokers are able to complete entire real estate transactions on their mobile devices alone, but it isn’t yet a fully seamless process.
- Software that doesn’t translate well to mobile use and agents on the other side of the deal requiring help with newer platforms were cited as two big reasons why mobile transactions can face snags.
- The biggest mistakes real estate agents make with mobile technology? Not knowing what’s out there — and being careless with their communication. Although smartphones make it easier to complete a contract on-the-go, they also contribute to typos and other mistakes that sometimes require a do-over.
In the beginning
In 1985, Rich Rector, the President at Realty Executives International in Scottsdale, Arizona, figured out a way to print MLS listings in his car. He’d had his license for 11 years at that point, working for his father’s real estate company. “I had been selling real estate, but my real job was to recruit and do marketing for the company,” he explained.
His tactics piqued the interest of a reporter at The Arizona Republic when he hooked up a Texas Instruments portable printer with his car phone. “I saw this brochure for the printer,” Rector remembered, “and there was a picture in the brochure of a real estate agent taking the printer
up to a pay phone. And I thought, ‘That’s really stupid. Maybe there’s a way I can hook this printer up to my car phone and do an MLS search right there in the car.’”
He contacted TI, purchased an RS232 cable, hooked up the two devices, “and it worked,” he said. “It was way ahead of its time, but it was cumbersome and somewhat impractical for the agent on the street. Still, we were able to show that searching for properties on the MLS could be done out of the office.”
Today, that’s no longer novel. Agents and brokers who responded to our survey consistently cited their MLS apps (along with email and portal apps) as among the most-used on their mobile devices. And nobody needs a printer or a cable to do it, either.
But even as mobile technology has made real estate easier in some ways — especially in terms of managing transactions — it’s also raised consumer expectations considerably. Clients expect immediate answers to their questions, and agents must juggle more information than ever before to ensure they are well-informed and on top of their game.
Inman conducted in-depth interviews with seven agents and brokers. They shared their thoughts on where the industry is going, discussed how they manage their mobile time and gave advice for new agents and industry veterans alike.