Real estate companies and associations have spent bazillions on technology that no one wants to use or that quickly becomes obsolete, writes broker Teresa Boardman. Here’s what would make it better and more user-friendly.

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The technologies that have had the biggest overall impact on real estate agents are the internet and the smartphone. Sure the pager and the fax machine were helpful, but not nearly as convenient as mobile devices. As the internet has become faster there it is more than just a way to look at pretty pictures of houses for sale.

Real estate companies and associations have spent bazillions on technology that no one wants to use or that quickly becomes obsolete.

The default tech excuse? Blame the user

Up until recently, I would not have admitted that some real estate tech makes me cry. There really isn’t any point in admitting it because tech companies tend to blame the person using the technology not the technology or the people who designed it.

I can say for certain that I am confronted with what I would call poor user experiences on a daily basis. If I call tech support if there is tech support they are always happy to explain what I did wrong when the tech didn’t work.

Real estate happens after 8:30 p.m. and on weekends, but tech support generally happens from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

There are mobile apps that provide a dumbed-down version of the MLS forcing me to go to a regular website that isn’t optimized for the smartphone to get the information I need. That definitely isn’t a good experience. Finding a particular property that is for sale while on that property using a location-based app should at least be possible.

If I suggest that an app is less than wonderful someone will explain the app to me again, but more slowly. Eventually, the app will disappear or get sold to another company. The entrepreneurs behind products move on to the next big thing after they decide what is needed.

The surest way to mess up what’s working? The latest upgrade

The software for electronic forms and signatures has gotten easier to use and more reliable over the years but the last batch of upgrades aren’t upgrades at all. Someone rearranged all of the menus and screens for the important parts of the program, without adding any new functionality. Who does that and why?

The system used for scheduling appointments defaults to the day it is being used to schedule appointments. I can’t tell you how many times I have accidentally scheduled an appointment for the wrong day. I have no idea why anyone would want scheduling to default to today.

It would work so much better with no default at all. It seems like a minor thing until you schedule 10 appointments for the wrong day and have to change them all. The software could be so much better yet there is no need to improve it because there isn’t any competition.

As small tech companies are purchased by larger companies and those companies are bought out by bigger companies, we end up with something that looks like a monopoly but somehow isn’t a monopoly and as a result, there isn’t any competition or incentive to improve products.

We also end up with multiple apps that each need to be used separately as part of the same process. There is an app for scheduling showings and sending feedback but we have to go to another app to get information about the property and yet another app to unlock the lockbox at the front door.

Let’s not forget the apps that are redundant and those that solve problems that we don’t have. Some of those make the lists of “must have” apps and maybe in some markets they are useful.

With so many women in real estate, why aren’t there more women in real estate-related tech?

Entrepreneurship in real estate technology seems to be the ultimate male privilege. The people who start the companies are often older men and the people who create the products are younger men.

The real estate agents who use the tech are mostly women, and a large percentage of those women are over 50, which is convenient because if there is a problem with an app it is easy to blame the user.

Tech that is developed especially for real estate companies is the worst. I have used a few of those systems over the years but I won’t name names.

The National Association of Realtors has a decades-long track record of championing and sometimes paying for technology that is dead on arrival and needs large infusions of cash.

There are always new products that no one is asking for that are being built by start-ups. They arrive with much fanfare and then suddenly vanish leaving nothing but a website behind.

I think real estate technology could be much improved by getting more women involved in the development process. Especially some of the experienced, smart and talented women who are over 50. We also need to recognize the fact that there is no national real estate market. There are state and local markets with unique business practices and needs.

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

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