New Year Resolutions: Your Tech To-Do List

Use the New Year to leap ahead of the competition and improve the speed and efficiency of your business.

January 1, 2008

The latest technology — from transaction management systems to virtual tours and social networking — can help you widen your reach to prospects and better manage your transactions. Plan to stay ahead of the curve in 2008 by putting these 10 goals on your tech to-do list.

1. Find some good deals.

Wait long enough and technology is always more affordable. Prices have fallen to a point where it’s easy to add or upgrade equipment, whatever your budget. Shop around and you can find a fully serviceable laptop for under $500; digital cameras, even with wide-angle capabilities, starting in the $200 range; and multifunction inkjet printers, less than $100.

As for that smart phone, just wait a little longer. You can expect price breaks as handset makers roll out their response to the iPhone, and as other service providers follow Verizon’s lead and unbundle the hardware/service package that has stifled choices for many.

2. Get up to speed.

A range of technology products are still untapped by many practitioners. The 2007 REALTOR® Technology survey found 35 percent of those surveyed don’t have their own Web site yet, and 41 percent aren’t using electronic forms and contracts. Some practitioners haven’t adopted a contact management system, the basic building block of responsive service and automated marketing.

If you feel you lag in any area, play catch-up during the winter, when you might have the extra time to devote to setting up a Web site, mastering new software, or building that database — it’ll make a big difference for your business in the long run.

3. Revisit your Web site.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that once you have a Web site up and running that you’re done with it. To consistently place well in Web searches, and for buyers and sellers to have reasons to return, your Web site needs to be reworked and updated on a regular basis.

Add or revise content, move things around, and work on expanding the number of incoming links. You might even consider launching a blog, or exploring how to add a map or mash-up to present prospects visually with essential information about listings and the area.

Feeling overwhelmed? Then, farm the work out. It’ll be money well spent. After all, most buyers and sellers start their search for real estate information and services online.

4. Bring action to your listings.

Video tours represent a new standard for marketing properties. Pulling them off well, however, can be labor intensive, so you might want to outsource this work too.

Video tours are becoming a marketing must. By the end of next year, if you do not offer virtual tours, you’ll miss out on winning some listings, especially of better homes and properties. Keep videos brief, highlight only the most salient features, and capture footage throughout the home, moving around to provide some sense of being there. Just get that camcorder rolling!

5. Make your work Web accessible.

Web-based software applications are in your future. Some immediate advantages: Essential tools available wherever, whenever you’re connected to the Internet; less software on your computer; and you always have access to the same information and the latest versions of the software.

The downside: You subscribe rather than buy, so there’s an ongoing fee. Web-based software makes sense for those who move around during the day, maybe working on a laptop in the field, retrieving essential data over a smart phone at some point, then working in a home office on a desktop PC.

6. Improve your transaction management.

Expect to hear more about transaction management in 2008 as it becomes a solution that can empower all parties in the real estate sale. Such Web-based solutions centralize the documents, details, schedule, and to-do lists that drive a sale — where all involved can see and update them.

To fully participate, you’ve got to be up to speed with contact management, using Web-based applications, electronic forms and contracts, and digital signatures. The learning curve depends on where you are today, but time invested moving to a transaction management solution will pay back in efficiency, increased productivity, and more responsive service.

7. Advertise online.

With buyers headed to the Web first in their quest for real estate, you’re challenged to do some real soul searching about conventional advertising, especially print. While you may recognize why print dollars will be better spent on brand building than individual listings, it’s a tough sell to home owners who expect to see that tiny picture of their house in the newspaper.

They’ll be more receptive to online advertising of their home if you can demonstrate how a campaign to drive consumers to your Web site actually increases exposure to qualified buyers. Making that case, though, requires some system for gauging what’s working. You can do this, in its most basic incarnation, with a simple online form, asking visitors how they found your Web site.

8. Get your listings more exposure.

Growth of the Web, and the easy access it gives consumers to property information once controlled by the real estate professional, is changing the dynamics of the marketplace. Distribution of listing information through the MLS is a requisite for the exposure it brings, but it’s now one part of the marketing maze.

People turn to a menu of Web sites for listings, especially Google and, in their real estate search. Some require you, or an assistant, to manually upload listing data and photos.

Prospects are looking for more online than just home information when considering a move. Every piece of property is part of a larger neighborhood or community, and consumers will favor those sites that present them with all they want to know about an area.

9. Build your social networks.

Some of the same sites that accept listing information invite real estate professionals to participate in community forums, or establish themselves as local experts by responding to queries from buyers or sellers. A well-done blog helps attract people interested in an area. Unlike other types of social networking, however, the community you want to create is primarily composed of those with very specific short-term interest in your market and services. Provide timely information and insight on trends that benefit buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants, and they’ll remember you as the local expert long after the transaction

10. Follow the “less is more” approach.

With technology, there can be a tendency to think you must embrace everything available to become a leading edge, top producer. But if you follow that path, you can become a slave to your solutions.

Sometimes the latest tech tools aren’t the best solutions for you. An effective tech strategy requires that you reflect on all options, and identify which make sense for you. The best tools are only those you will actually use for tangible gains in productivity and service.