Mandy Ellis is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer focusing on real estate, food, travel, and health.
The Tech Tools You Really Need
Don’t waste time and money chasing the next big thing when these tried-and-true products can meet your needs.
May - June
The whirlwind of new technology being served up in the real estate space can leave an agent’s head spinning. Platforms and software promising to save you time, provide better leads, and automate contacts for follow-up may look like the answer to your dreams. The allure of bright, shiny tech objects is understandable, especially if you’re a newer agent looking to jump-start sales. Impartial guidance can help to sort out which tools are truly necessary as you ramp up business.
Read more: How NAR Keeps You Tech-Savvy
Even if your brokerage offers an elaborate array of tech products, take it slowly. Acquiring an arsenal of solutions is more likely to overwhelm you—and squeeze your pocketbook—than to enhance what you do, seasoned pros say. Instead, identify the essential go-to tools, such as a customer relationship management system or email marketing software, and keep your focus there. While a top-of-the-line CRM can run as high as $900 a month, you’re likely to see a strong ROI if you use it properly every day. Struggling to decide what you need in your tech toolbox? Make these a priority.
A mobile-friendly video marketing tool.
One of the first suggestions Stefanie Hahn makes to new agents is to create a video profile, in addition to a written bio, for their website. It’s more engaging and can rank you higher in search results online. “Video puts new agents ahead of a lot of seasoned agents,” says Hahn, vice president of operations at Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Collegeville, Pa.
It’s simple enough to create such a video using your phone, but for a more polished presentation, consider programs that enable you to add headers, filters, titles, logos, and music, says Kate Lanagan MacGregor, broker-owner of Bold Moves Real Estate in Mattapoisett, Mass. Products such as WeVideo have editing features and allow for changes in video speed, which can be useful for video home tours. Pappas adds that “videos drive a lot more traffic than photos.”
Remember, though, that an engaging video needs your personality as well. “Even if you think you don’t have anything to say, you do,” Hahn says. “Create something short, not overproduced, where you can show who you are.”
- BombBomb: Create and send videos through any device to connect one-on-one with clients from any location. Capture leads and track engagement with analytics. Annual plans from $468 to $1,500, plus a $500 setup fee.
- WeVideo: Create 4K Ultra HD home tours and use editing features including text, motion effects, royalty-free music and images, voiceover narration, and various frame rate speeds. Monthly plans from $4.99 to $59.99.
- Animoto: Provides storyboards, voiceover capabilities, brand integration plus a million images and videos from Getty. Annual plans from $60 to $588.
A CRM with real estate–specific capabilities.
A customer relationship management tool “acts like a Rolodex,” keeping track of the prospects, clients, and networking contacts you meet throughout the year, says Jennifer Okhovat, a sales associate with Compass in West Hollywood, Calif. You’re likely to need a CRM that does more than schedule follow-up messages or congratulatory notes on your clients’ anniversaries and other special occasions. CRMs with add-ons such as website templates, email campaigns, and the ability to integrate with your social media accounts tend to work better for real estate.
“When you first start out [as an agent], you start thinking it’s easy to keep in touch with people. But the goal is to grow your database into 100, 200, 300 customers who are referring you business,” says Christina Pappas, district sales manager at The Keyes Company in Miami. “How are you keeping track of that? Do you know their wants, likes, dislikes, everything about their family, reasons to give them a call, reasons to write them notes? All of that needs to be tracked and recorded somewhere.”
Usability is the most important factor to consider when choosing a CRM, says Coldwell Banker Hearthside’s Hahn. “It’s got to be one you actually use,” she says. “This is your database, and when you’re a real estate agent, that’s all you have—that’s your life.”
- Wise Agent: Helps not only with transaction management but also with lead generation and marketing. Integrates with programs such as Gmail, BombBomb, DocuSign, and Facebook. Monthly plans range from $29 to $299+.
- Contactually: Organizes contacts, offers customized marketing templates, and sets automated follow-ups. Monthly plans range from $59 to $599.
- kvCORE: Offers lead generation, website templates, listing management, business analytics, and email marketing automation. Monthly plans start at $499.
- BoomTown: Assists agents with managing clients, lead generation, and websites, and integrates with tools such as REALTORS Property Resource®, Zapier, Facebook, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and Office 365. Monthly plans range from $750 to $1,500+.
- Commissions Inc.: Automate tasks and follow-ups, generate leads, track and analyze communication efforts, and compose drip campaigns. Monthly plans start at $850 for a single agent, $1,300 for teams.
These days, clients expect you to provide an option for electronic signatures, relieving them of the need to keep track of physical documents. It’s also one of the greatest time-savers for real estate pros, says Jillian Carlson, CRS, GRI, vice president of business development and marketing at Park Co., REALTORS®, in Fargo, N.D. “We train heavily on [e-signatures] with newer agents,” she says.
Tools such as DocuSign—NAR’s official and exclusive provider of electronic signatures under the REALTOR Benefits® Program—enable you to send listing agreements, contracts, and escrow amendments via email to your clients, and they can electronically sign the documents on any device. Documents are time-stamped, and the software is affordable and reliable, Okhovat says.
- DocuSign: Send documents for signature from any device and set signature notifications. Includes automation tools and integration with platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Monthly plans from $13 to $35 through exclusive pricing from NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program. Additional member-only savings are available for annual prepaid plans.
- DigiSigner: Includes templates, branding, and legally valid signatures, plus team features for growing businesses. Monthly plans from $40 to $50 for unlimited documents with five senders.
- Authentisign: Part of TransactionDesk; offers clients the chance to electronically sign from any device and integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. Annual plans from $69 to $129+
If your CRM doesn’t track transactions, get a separate transaction management platform with a timeline feature to monitor where your clients are in the process. “You can almost do an entire transaction online and reduce the paperwork you need to carry around,”Carlson says.
- zipTMS: NAR provides members with a comprehensive transaction management platform benefit through zipLogix. No charge for REALTORS® nationwide. Visit nar.realtor/zipLogix for details.
- TransactionDesk: Manage listings and sales into an online database that’s organized with templates and your company branding. Annual plans are $75+.
- Form Simplicity: Paperless forms that do calculations, e-signatures, and real-time comments from clients. Unlimited version is $72 per person per year.
A scheduling tool that works with your calendar.
End the back-and-forth communication and track all your appointments in one place. Clients can use apps to tap into your calendar and book appointments.
- ShowingTime: Schedule and confirm home showings while gathering listing feedback. Includes lead management tools and tracking of prospects and appointments. Monthly plans for agents start at $35 for 10 listings.
- Calendly: Connects to your calendar and shows clients your availability, integrates with other tools, and can be embedded into your website for new prospect appointments. Monthly plans are $15 with custom branding, group events, and integrations.
Software for in-depth email campaigns.
Although you may find a CRM with automated email options, you’ll likely need a separate tool to create more in-depth drip campaigns and newsletters. Specific email marketing software can help you create ongoing campaigns to nurture warm leads, highlight recent successes in your business, and share current and sold listings with your sphere, Okhovat says.
Most email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, SendGrid, and Constant Contact, also provide analytics on email clicks, which will show you the rate at which recipients are engaging with your content. With these tools, you can also curate broker-to-broker contact lists and send new listing announcements to your colleagues to see if their clients are interested in your property.
- Mailchimp: Create email campaigns and landing pages. Capabilities include tagging, A/B testing, analytics, pop-up forms, social media ads, and automated marketing emails. Free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month; $200+ per month with unlimited subscribers and emails.
- SendGrid: Create email campaigns and social media ads, plus it includes email API, automation, and analytics tools. Monthly plans range from $14.95 to $79.95+, plus $10 more per month for every additional 10,000 contacts over 2,000.
Choosing the right technology while keeping your data secure isn’t easy. The National Association of REALTORS® offers programs to keep you in the know.
The annual Innovation, Opportunity & Investment Summit (iOi) brings together the industry’s top tech companies, investors, and REALTORS® to discuss how to apply the latest technology to real estate. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and data security were hot topics at last year’s conference. This year, iOi will be held Aug. 21–22 in Seattle. For more details, visit nar.realtor/ioi.
NAR’s Reach Accelerator, operated by the association’s investment arm, Second Century Ventures, connects select technology startups with the real estate world. The program, which has graduated 48 companies since its inception in 2013, includes an Insight Panel, which gives REALTORS® exclusive access to test Reach company products and services. Visit nar-reach.com/realtors to sign up.
NAR is a leading advocate on your behalf for data privacy and security in real estate, which goes hand-in-hand with advances in technology. The association not only works with Congress and regulators but also provides educational videos and tool kits on data security for members.