• Many agents simply won't use the technology -- no matter how great it is.
  • My MLS allows my tiny company to offer the same services as big companies.
  • If your company insists that you have to use their stuff, move to another company.

I just love the question: should I use my broker’s technology? I see agents who are held hostage by email addresses and domain names that they do not own. They are held by the belief that it’s the technology they use and probably pay for through the real estate company that keeps them in business.

I’ll admit, I have not seen all of the technology used by all real estate companies, and I could be missing something amazing.

But from what I see in the field, even if it is unbelievable, many agents can’t or won’t use it — so I don’t see how it can give them or the company a competitive edge.

I know that the last time I used the technology the broker supplied, I paid extra for it, and it seemed to be designed to make it easier for the company to track sales and profits but did nothing to make my job easier or to improve customer experience.

A solution that works for me

Real estate is local, and some of the amazing products out there don’t work all that well in every market. I think that is part of the problem with the technology offered through the franchises and with the companies that create solutions for all. They end up with solutions that work somewhat for most but not wonderfully for all.

That is why I like to write about our MLS, NorthstarMLS, which is simply amazing, and it solves so many expensive technological type problems. It’s owned by our local Realtor associations.

Through partnerships, services are added to the offerings so that I can run my business from one website or a mobile app on my phone or tablet. It just keeps getting better as agents have input. It’s all about us and for us.

If I need a market analysis (CMA), I can use the reports built into the MLS. If I want to show homes, I click on links, schedule the showings and save them to my personal calendar that I access for instructions and directions using Google Calendar and Google Maps on my phone.

It’s easy to track showings and feedback for my listings, and my clients with homes on the market are in the loop, too. I used to have to pay extra for software that generates fancy reports now I can make them myself and send them to my sellers.

I can even track how many potential buyers have favorite my listings, and I can alert agents with buyers that their client is interested in my listing.

We have RPR (Realtors Property Resource) integrated into our MLS. RPR is available through the National Association of Realtors and gives us information about real estate that is on or off the market that we can’t get anywhere else. It also has a strong CMA creation tool that impresses sellers when I create it on my tablet in their living room using the mobile app.

My homebuyer clients like the portal they can use to view and save or reject properties I recommend and send them information about through sophisticated and sometimes very detailed searches in our MLS.

My MLS helps me provide services

None of this is free, but it is a lot less expensive than buying or renting all of the software that I would need to do my job every day. It is a lot less expensive than having to develop or buy technology for my company that agents mostly won’t use.

The MLS is rarely down. It houses all of our contracts, and we can auto-populate fields in the contracts from the MLS, and we can write contracts and have them electronically signed without ever using a piece of paper.

My company accepts electronic earnest money payments, which means I don’t have to go to the bank every time an earnest money check comes in, and anyone buying one of our listings can do so without writing a check.

Those services are also linked to our MLS, and it makes it possible for my tiny company to offer the same services that the big companies offer.

Find an answer that fits your needs

From a business point of view, this is all wonderful. We have a large userbase, and the people who make and deploy the MLS and related software know what they are doing. It all works in our market.

In fact, it is tailored for our market and because of it, agents have most of what they need and might not need to use their broker’s technology.

As for the email and the domain names I own my domain names and self-host my email. I have been using the same email address and phone number for my business since 2002. When I changed companies, I just changed logos.

If your business is important to you and you are an independent contractor, I highly recommend owning your email address, website and phone number. I am happy to help any agent who works in my company buy domain names and set up email accounts.

Think like an independent contractor, not an employee. If it is a branding issue, consider putting a logo and tagline in the signature section of your email messages. If your company insists that you have to use their stuff, move to another company.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.

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