Text Messaging, Podcasting as Listing Tools

Use these communication tools to promote your listings to the growing legion of homebuyers and sellers using the new media.

November 1, 2005

Practitioners who convince sellers that they’ll do the most to market a home usually get the listing. That could mean pulling out all the marketing stops: open houses, flyers, ads, virtual tours—and even text messaging and “podcasts.”

Both text messaging and podcasting provide the means for you to deliver property information to an interested buyer in a mutually convenient format. Several vendors offer solutions to capitalize on consumers’ growing fascination with these newer communication technologies.

Text messaging—the more familiar of the two—is an increasingly popular alternative to e-mail that lets users send or receive condensed written messages to and from a cell phone or smartphone. Several service providers offer products tailored to real estate that allow potential buyers to request information from their wireless handheld device and receive an instant response with details on the home from the service providers.

Current providers of this service include:

  • iCode PhoneFlyer from Clear Sky Mobile Media Inc. delivers photos and a brief description of a listing. Interested buyers enter a code assigned to the home—prominently featured on a yard sign—and the system transmits the photos and text. The service simultaneously relays the prospect’s phone number to the listing agent for follow-up. Pricing starts at $39 per month for a single iCode; volume discounts available.
  • CellSigns from QWASI Inc. employs a similar model. Once a potential buyer enters the property’s ID code featured on the sign, the service responds with a brief description of the home, contact information, and the opportunity to connect directly to the salesperson or schedule a showing. The service also notifies the real estate professional with contact information for each prospect accessing the service. Pricing starts at $19.95 per month for each ID code; volume discounts available.
  • House4Cell from Cellit LLC provides a code that interested buyers can enter to receive property information via text message. Meanwhile, the prospective buyers’ contact information is forwarded to the listing agent. Pricing starts at $29.99 per month for three codes.

A podcast is something entirely different. The term itself was spawned by the surging popularity of Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod, the portable music player that lets users download song files and carry their favorite music wherever they go. A podcast is any type of audio file that can be delivered to iPods, portable MP3 music players, or computers for playback.

For real estate purposes, podcasts are a new take on the audio narration already offered by some virtual tour solutions. As with audio narration, prospects can play back the podcast while viewing property information online. They also can download the file to their iPod or other MP3 player for playback later or while viewing the property.

Current providers of this solution include:

  • a la mode, a technology developer for the real estate industry, which offers free podcasting of listings to current users of its Agent XSites Web site services. With this new feature, practitioners can record and upload an audio description of a listing. This audio file is then included with other listing information on the Web site. Potential buyers can click a screen icon to play the file or download it to their portable music player. Buyers also can subscribe to a service that automatically updates their portable players with new podcasts of listings. The podcasting capability is now bundled into the Agent XSites Web site services, which costs $699 annually. The company expects to announce a video version of the service, for iPods equipped with video-playback capabilities, within the month.
  • RealEstateShows.com, which expects to release iPod Shows, its version of a video podcast solution, in December. This option will allow subscribers to the company’s home tour solution to create versions of a property presentation for download into iPods. Once there, the file can be viewed on the iPod screen or displayed on a TV monitor connected to the device. This option will be available to the company’s subscribers for an annual fee of $29.95.

Are any of the above services something you should add to your marketing repertoire in the near term? Both text messaging and portable music players have already proven their appeal, especially among younger consumers, and have the potential to become standard tools for real estate marketing. Employing them now could demonstrate to sellers that you’re equipped with all the latest technological options to market a home—which could make all the difference when sellers decide who gets the listing.

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