Erica Christoffer is the product manager for REALTOR® Magazine, driving growth and helping make data-driven decisions for the editorial products and programs that fall under the publication's umbrella. Erica also co-manages the magazine's 30 Under 30 program. During her tenure as an editor, she wrote and edited hundreds of articles for the magazine and launched the Broker to Broker section. Connect with Erica via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tech That’s Essential to Your Business
Members of the 30 Under 30 class of 2017 reveal the tools they use to stay top of mind with clients while running efficient, well-organized businesses.
July 6, 2017
The amount of new technology available to real estate professionals is overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest trend that promises to make conducting your business easier—only to find out it doesn’t work for you. Before you invest your time and hard-earned dollars into a new service or platform, learn what’s actually working for other successful real estate entrepreneurs. Here’s what REALTOR® Magazine’s 30 Under 30 class of 2017 find invaluable in their day-to-day client interactions and business management.
Tools to Integrate and Simplify
Elizabeth Stone is focused on streamlining the communications and transaction management needs for her team of four at RE/MAX Allegiance in Falls Church, Va. In addition to offering sales guidance, she’s also responsible for teaching her team the inner workings of the tools they adopt. “In this business, you have to keep track of so many moving pieces—multiple lead sources, communication history, properties shown, past sales volume—and having user-friendly tech tools is key to managing everything cohesively,” says Stone, a self-proclaimed “real estate nerd.”
She says her team’s most essential tools—besides their smartphones and iPads—are Google Drive, Wufoo Forms, and their CRM, Contactually. Other handy apps Stone likes to share are Homesnap and Rapportive (“and, secretly, Redfin, but don’t tell [anyone] I said that”).
Her team collaborates via Google Drive, which serves as the base of their operations. Stone integrates tools that support their existing structure, but she also keeps it simple. They use basic checklists for transactions and Google Sheets for tracking market stats, sales, and other data. They upload meeting notes, yearly forecasts, and internal comparisons of local condo buildings. “It’s a virtual repository for all our collective brain power,” she says.
Wufoo Forms helps Stone’s team develop surveys for buyers and sellers to gain insight into their needs and track trends. Rapportive, she says, is a nifty tool that integrates with Gmail to immediately find LinkedIn data from new email addresses. “This is incredibly helpful when communicating with new leads because we’re able to make an educated guess about their preferred communication style and commuting needs—not to mention the fact that it helps us confirm their identity for our own safety as a team of five women,” Stone says.
Homesnap is her go-to app; it plots information on current listings, recently sold properties, and homes under contract on a map. She also uses it to book showings on the fly. It’s her MLS stand-in when she wants a powerful mobile interface. “For agents, Homesnap also pulls past sales histories, so I can see which agents work predominantly with buyers versus sellers and which agents have high close-to-list price ratios,” Stone says.
Finding the CRM You’ll Use
Dominic Pettruzzelli is diligent about tracking his ROI and doesn’t spend money if he doesn’t have to. So his customer relationship management system, Boomtown, is the single most important tool in his business, he says. As the leader of a four-person team at Keller Williams Western Realty in Burlington, Wash., Pettruzzelli, e-PRO, GREEN, appreciates how the CRM helps them systematically stay in touch with clients and strengthen their most important relationships.
“In real estate, we tend to get bored with the basics and end up trying to complicate things,” Pettruzzelli says. “That typically leads to spending too much money on a product that doesn’t have a good ROI and failing to put time into something that is working.”
It took Stone’s team several attempts over the past six years to find the right CRM. The team’s structure presented difficulty: Rather than agents having their own clients, they work with customers together. It was hard to find a CRM that supported their business model. In the end, they settled on Contactually because it pulls information directly from Gmail, the platform they use the most. Contactually allows them to build customized campaigns for people at different stages of the buying or selling process, and it provides a level of automation that tells them “exactly who to contact and when to ensure our clients and sphere feel loved,” Stone says.
Ryan Glass, a sales associate with Gibson Sotheby’s International in Boston, uses Top Producer, which gives him an overview of the transactions he’s servicing, incoming revenue, his future pipeline, and all marketing activities. “It stores all my tasks, contacts, calendar, and captures leads directly from my website and realtor.com®,” Glass says. “The time saved on data entry is amazing.”
Wrangling the Numbers
Maggie Scarborough knows the appeal of new and shiny objects, but when it’s time to get things done, she’s a big proponent of a tool every REALTOR® has at his or her fingertips: the MLS. Scarborough, an agent with Burns & Ellis, REALTORS®, in Dover, Del., has become proficient at scrounging up data from her MLS and presenting the most pertinent information to clients in a way that makes sense to them. “I’m a crazy advocate for using the tools we already have,” she says. “It seems like every day, there’s someone trying to sell us a program [we don’t need].”
Scarborough would rather put her efforts into a tool she knows has value. “The data we have is incredible,” she says. “We all have access to it, but I don’t think a lot of [agents] have made use of it like I have.”
Market data isn’t the only set of numbers real estate pros need to track. Keeping a close eye on business financials is also crucial. Glass prefers QuickBooks from REALTOR Benefits® Program partner Intuit because it can link to all of his credit cards and bank accounts, automatically adding transactions and categorizing expenses. He has even added his accountant as a user so that she can view his expenses online and run reports.
Sarah Lyons, a sales associate with Century 21 Judge Fite Company in Springtown, Texas, recommends TaxBot for tracking mileage and expenditures. She can link to her bank account to keep tabs on her business expenses in one place. Plus, she can simply take a picture of a receipt at a restaurant and upload it for instant record-keeping.
Real Estate Among Friends
Facebook has been a vital tool for Melissa Shipley, SRES, SRS, a salesperson with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Pittsburgh. It’s where she connects with friends, many of whom are starting to think about buying a house. In one case, a friend she hadn’t spoken to since fourth grade reached out to her on Facebook. Shipley believes she wouldn’t have made that connection if not for social networking.
But Shipley’s Facebook page isn’t just an advertising vehicle for her listings. It’s a resource about what’s happening in Pittsburgh that can be useful even to people who aren’t in the market to buy. She’ll share information about restaurant openings, upcoming events, or the best bars in town. “I really try to create value on my page,” she says. She also has some fun. One of the most popular features on her page is “Mantel Monday,” in which she shares a photo of a beautifully decorated fireplace mantel to start each week.
Melanie Stone, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago, has developed a specific Instagram strategy, weaving humor into subtle real estate references. In a photo of football cookies she took on Super Bowl Sunday, the caption reads: “The only reason I care for Super Bowl Sunday is because it’s the start of the spring market.”
Tried and True Tech
Being around real estate his whole life, Ryan Gillen, a team leader at Irongate Inc., REALTORS®, in Dayton, Ohio, has been able to adapt to the fast-paced nature of real estate. “If you and your clients do not work as a team, they may just miss out on their dream home,” he says. He uses FaceTime on his iPhone to quickly show clients a listing and see if it fits their criteria before they visit in person.
Gillen and his team are constantly thinking mobile. “When a lead comes in through our online marketing, we instantly text the prospect,” he says. “Our team has found that texting them first then giving them a call gives us a great return rate.”
Another one of Gillen’s favorite technologies for prospecting is Handwrytten, which enables you to print letters in a font that looks like a handwritten note. You can also upload your email list to create custom-addressed envelopes. “When you see one of these envelopes, you can’t help but to open it. It looks like a wedding invitation,” he says.
Nathan Hansen, Pamela Dittmer McKuen, Maggie Sieger, and Graham Wood contributed to this article.