The Best in Tech for Real Estate

by Chicago Agent


The saying “there’s an app for that” is very true – there’s an app for just about anything. We asked five top agents who are not only at the top of their game in real estate, but in tech, as well,  for their opinions of the “best of the best” in real estate tech.

Click through to the next page to meet our panel, and read their thoughts on the best of the best in the following tech categories: storing, signing and sending documents; CRM; lead generation software; app/software for showings; marketing listings; MLS search app; neighborhood expert; safety; app/software for open houses; photography; and other, miscellaneous apps.

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  • First let me say that I do not mean to diminish your distinguished panel in any way, but only two of them are actually from the Chicago area. Since Chicago Agent Magazine’s target audience is primarily Chicago’s real estate practitioner, I felt compelled to add my two cents worth to the conversation.

    The most significant “app” that was not mentioned is the MLS itself. MRED IS the MLS for the vast majority (85-90%) of brokers, agents and appraisers within the state of Illinois. In any given month we support one million REALTOR® logons and three million consumer logons to our main MLS system. The MLS houses a database of over 5 million listing records going back decades, and these user numbers do not count use from any of our other related 2 dozen products and services.

    The Best App for Storing, Signing and Sending Documents

    While the applications you mention are all fine products, the problem you run into when dealing with transactional documents is that there are two sides to every real estate transaction. That means that if each party is using a different document management system there is no way for the two to easily share.

    connectMLS™, our MLS system, started its life as a Transaction Management Platform and already has the ability to share transactional data among ALL of our MLS participants. We currently have nearly 1.5 million transaction related documents stored in our system. This year alone, tens of thousands of our customers have filled out forms, added service partners, and uploaded documents. Every year we collect information for nearly 100,000 sales in the Chicagoland area.

    We have also integrated DocuSign™ into our system so that all of our customers have available to them, free for one year, the ability to eSign 5 packets – that’s packets, not single documents – per month. If they need more they can upgrade. At the end of the year they can subscribe and get the full nationwide discount available to all NAR members.

    The Best CRM

    As I mentioned previously we have over three million logons per month by consumers who have received automated emails from their REALTOR®. That’s about ten logons for every client. When they DO logon they have a huge amount of information about that property and its surrounding neighborhood, and also have the ability to collaborate with their REALTOR® on which properties they like and don’t like. I don’t know of too many stand-alone products that could match that kind of volume.

    If that weren’t enough, we also provide several other related integrated products and services with which our customers may communicate with their clients.
    • Cloud CMA™ – a web based presentation tool that offers property profiles, CMAs, buyer’s tours and flyers – all delivered electronically in seconds.
    • The Thing™ – an interactive statistical package that easily and quickly enables our customers to generate professional, easy to understand statistics down to the neighborhood level with which to inform and wow their clients.
    • Down Payment Assistance – How terrific is it to be able to find down payment assistance programs for your clients – which just might make the difference between them being able to buy that dream home or not.
    • MRED DocBox™ – For those people who have not totally transitioned to the electronic way of doing business but may still prefer faxing, we have integrated the DocBox into the MLS system so that they can easily become part of the transaction package.
    • RatePlug™ – How about having the ability to communicate the latest mortgage rates and compare lenders?
    • ShowingAssist™ – More than 80% of our listings have been enabled to integrate with ShowingAssist™ in order to facilitate showings right from the MLS system, or from our mobile programs and app.
    • MRED Social IDX – We have recently introduced a Facebook App that allows our customers to have a full Internet Data Exchange (IDX) search listing application right on their Facebook Brand page so they can take advantage of their social network, and the networks of all their clients, and directly control the conversation.
    • MRED Share My Listing Widget (SMyL) – for over 2 years we have offered our customers the ability to share any or all of their listings on the major social marketing sites – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Craigslist, etc. You can also easily check out how your listings look on the various public sites. You can even generate a QR code that takes you to that listing.
    • Goomzee™ – One of the best text, QR code and collaboration tools out there.
    • Walk Score™ – Not only find out how walkable your neighborhood might be, but dig deeper and learn about commute times and transit scores.

    All of these are available right from the agent’s desk top. Since our system is browser neutral you can use them all on any device. There is no excuse for not being in constant contact with your clients.

    The Best Lead Generation Software

    I think you can see from the above list we provide quite a few ways to keep in the lead generation pipeline.

    One product that many people overlook as a major lead source would be Realist®, our public records subsystem. Realist® is much more than just owners name and tax amounts. With Realist® you can easily identify absentee owners, identify owners who have equity positions in their homes, identify owners who have owned their home for a while and might very well be ready to move up or scale down. You are limited only by your own imagination.

    I would make one note about Market Leader that some might not be aware of – they also own the realestate.com brokerage brand. In some areas that puts them in direct competition with the very people to whom they are selling their software.

    The Best App/Software for Showings

    As previously mentioned we have ShowingAssist™ integrated within our connectMLS™ system. It is also integrated into our Mobile App – Midwest Homes and the connectMLS™ wireless program.

    They DO have a mobile version of their product which we have been using for a while. I am not sure why when people speak mobile they lump smart phones in with tablets. Most desktop applications, and especially those that we promote, will work on a tablet without having to have a separate version. Phones are definitely a different matter since you have less real estate to work with on the smaller screen.

    The Best MLS Search App

    Thanks for pointing out the emergence of Midwest Homes™ – our mobile app that runs on all IOS and Droid platforms. I had difficulty following the logic about it being limited to only MLS listings – since it is tagged as an MLS app. Nor did I understand the statement that “they won’t be able to see yours if you’re not a member” since being a member is the requirement for listings to be displayed. Just a bit confusing.

    The sub-branding that we have introduced allows our customers to have a complete IDX solution that they can offer to their clients and prospects so that all communications that come from a listing search using the sub-branded app will come back to the agent who sent them the app. This is a for-fee item since we cannot afford to offer it as a loss leader like the other models that get the bulk of their revenue from listing enhancements and other upsells. We would never ask our customers to pay to enhance listings on an MLS app since that would fly in the face of what an MLS is all about. Although maybe now that you have suggested it we should look at that. 

    The Best Neighborhood Expert

    I think you have done Walk Score™ a bit of a disservice. There is more to Walk Score™ than just their Walk Score™. If you go under the hood you will see that not only do you get the walkability of the neighborhood, you can use it to computer commute times using various methods, find transit scores to see how the neighborhood stacks up when it comes to public transportation, and learn about what is nearby.

    In addition to Walk Score™ we also have other ways to get your hands on good neighborhood information. We have an item called City Info Pages that is an easy way for the client to get a list of phone numbers for all the services provided by that city, and also has a link to the extensive Onboard Informatics’ Neighborhood information pages.

    We also have a lot of neighborhood information and demographics available through the Realist® and MLS Data Co-Op products.

    I apologize for going on about this, but at MRED we are very proud of what we have accomplished. We feel that an article that is limited to just highlighting a few products that a handful of panelists recommend does not paint a true picture of what is available to the Chicagoland and Illinois REALTOR® community. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

    Russ Bergeron
    CEO, Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED)
    2009, 2010, 2011 Inman News Top 100 Influential People in Real Estate
    1998 Inman Innovator of the Year Award Winner

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