Several years ago, I wrote about how much easier my life would be if the home addresses I needed to show would feed into my GPS directly from the multiple listing service (MLS). I theorized at the time that the smartphone would eventually bridge that gap and someone would invent an app for scheduling showings that would link to the GPS in my phone and provide turn by turn instructions.
My dream became a reality a few years ago. It might not seem like a big deal, but it makes my job much easier. Instead of spending time plotting homes out on a map or looking up every one on Google Maps, I just click on the appointment in the ShowingTime app on my phone to get directions.
I don’t even have to put showing appointments on my calendar — there is a feed for that. And if my clients have questions, I look up the answer on my phone and send a link to their phone.
Writing an offer on a home for sale is faster and easier than ever, and so is getting it signed by my clients. Everything I need is available through our MLS.
Things have certainly gotten better and easier, but there is more to my business than lead capture, drip email and having a CRM.
The missing tech link
Most of my day is spent going from app to app. It sure would be nice if I could do it all in one app. That one app is a missing piece of technology. I can go from the ShowingTime app directly to the MLS app which saves some time, but I still need two separate apps.
I have the eKEY app for opening key boxes, but why isn’t it integrated into the ShowingTime app or the MLS app? Why do I need three apps when showing houses to clients?
A broker app
Most brokers have access to many tech feature agents don’t need, like in-office administrative tools. It is assumed that brokers are constantly in the office or that there is an administrative person who does it all, but that’s simply not the case.
We need a broker app.
Current mobile apps don’t access administrative features, but I need administrative level access on the go. I should be able to approve an appointment for another agent’s listing, or help in any other way I can without having to use a computer.
I’d like the ability to fire up a web browser and use websites that are really hard to use on my phone.
When I worked in information technology (IT) departments at large companies, we used report writers and we could get all sorts of information from our own databases. Using that same model, I export data from our MLS to make reports from the data. I mainly create charts, graphs and tables for listing presentations and for my blog.
It would be amazing if there was a built-in report writer that allowed me to simply select a report and run it. Why aren’t there report writers?
Broker back-office software
The biggest missing piece for a small real estate office is a back-office system. Sure, I have looked at a few that claim to be “scalable,” but I’ve not yet found one that makes anything easier, more efficient or more accurate.
A friend of mine who owns a real estate company or two told me that the reason people buy franchises instead of starting their own real estate company is because they get systems at the franchise. Systems are what it is all about.
When I first started my company, I asked around to see what other brokers were using and I did test some systems, but none of them seemed to fit my basic needs. They were cumbersome and awkward to use.
I run my company, or my “back office,” in an MS Excel workbook. The system is simple. It keeps track of commissions and company splits and keeps a running total for agents. It also tracks fees paid to the company.
The workbook has pages and linked data. Each year I create a new workbook for the year by copying last year’s workbook and deleting everything that closed last year.
I am not alone in this. I have talked with several brokers who have small companies that use spreadsheets the same way I do and are willing to admit it.
Ideally, my system should integrate with a calendar so that I don’t have to manually input closing dates. It is important to know when the closing dates are, especially if I am holding the earnest money.
In a perfect world, my broker app, back-office app and MLS app would all be integrated — and they would have the electronic forms integrated so I could click on an address and see the whole file. Maybe our MLS will add such a service one day.