Free and Low-Cost Tech Tools to Try

Here are a few of the products that had members buzzing at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., this month.

May 17, 2016

Though the annual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is heavily focused on the political, there are other kinds of buzz in Washington, D.C., each May. REALTOR® Magazine took a moment to check in with a couple of tech experts in the real estate world to learn more about the free and low-cost tools that real estate pros can quickly and easily integrate into their businesses.

At the Emerging Business Issues & Technology Forum during last week’s conference, Amy Smythe-Harris, co-broker–owner of Urban Provision, REALTORS®, in Houston, and Jacy Riedmann, vice president of real estate photo and video company Amoura Productions in Omaha, Neb., recommended an exhaustive list of tools to fellow REALTORS®. Here are a couple of our favorites.

Are You the One and Only?

Smythe-Harris is big on developing a robust social media strategy, just like you would any other marketing program. She told forum attendees to make sure their social profiles are complete and as similar as possible across platforms. To that end, she suggested a free service that will make sure your profile identity isn’t already in use by someone else. “Namechk is a website to see if your cutesy name is going to be available across all social media,” she said.

A Handful of Video Options

The forum provided a plethora of free and low-cost video tools real estate pros may want to try. Here’s a selection:

  • TimeLapse is an iOS app that allows you to create sped-up videos true to the tool’s name. Riedmann loved the fact that this free app gives users the ability to edit out any flaws that might creep in during the extended filming process. “You can show a major event without having to be stuck on your phone the whole time,” she said, adding that the format is a favorite for consumers. “People love time-lapse video. It’s pretty popular.”
  • For clients she hasn’t connected with via social media, Smythe-Harris uses Eyejot. The free service allows her to embed short videos directly into e-mails. “The return and open rates on that are great,” she said.
  • If your brokerage is thinking about taking the next step up from iMovie editing, consider WeVideo, Riedmann said. It has an option that will allow branding across videos and collaboration among sales associates and clients. “It’s a team approach,” she said, noting that the company offers a $20-per-month package specifically for real estate pros.
  • For those who are already using the Adobe suite, Riedmann suggested Animoto as a way to integrate still photos and video in a seamless way. “I love Animoto,” she said. “They’re not new, but they keep evolving.” The service offers templates specifically made for real estate agents and licensed music tracks to take a simple slide show to the next level.

Composing Social Poetry

Looking for a more striking way to post on social media? Riedmann suggested Textagon as a way to turn a simple update into “visual poetry.” She said the free macro generator app is a good way for real estate pros to construct more appealing text and photo updates about everything from how your afternoon is going to new listings: “It makes you look like you really know what you’re doing with graphic design.”

Groups, Both Secret and Public

Smythe-Harris says real estate pros can tackle a number of common business problems with the humble social media group. “I get so much business from groups,” she told forum attendees, adding that she also uses them as a free “crowdsourcing tool.” For example, she joined a group about local restaurants so that she could learn where to send foodie clients when they ask for recommendations. She also seeks out neighborhood groups for transplants looking to quickly assimilate into a community.

Secret groups help Smythe-Harris communicate with clients who aren’t particularly good with e-mail (users can immediately see the whole chain of a conversation, for example, rather than relying on one person remembering to carbon-copy all). She also creates private Pinterest boards as groups to help clients—whether they’re sellers who need to learn how to stage their home or new-home builders who look to Smythe-Harris for design inspiration—understand visual ideas through example.

Stay Safe

Riedmann stressed the importance of using technology wisely, noting that video and check-ins specifically put real estate professionals at risk. “If you’re putting it on the Internet, it’s public. I don’t care what your privacy settings are,” she cautioned. She also noted that some technology products such as bSafe can help boost security. The tool offers the ability to send location-enabled alerts to friends if you’re in danger or schedule fake check-in calls to help you remove yourself from a situation where you don’t feel secure. You can even start automatically streaming if you’re in trouble,” Riedmann said. “That’s pretty awesome for a free app.”

Meg White

Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.