Housing demand is rebounding, with lower interest rates and limited supply keeping the market fiercely competitive. According to the National Association of Realtors monthly report in December, existing–homes sales grew 5.9 percent in November, the highest level in three years, with low inventory supply keeping pressure on home prices.
That’s making the work-from-a-desk approach to buying and selling homes outdated, when swift responses are needed in a housing market where completing a deal or not can come down to a matter of minutes.
With prospective homebuyers armed with preapproval packages and ready to jump in the market, and existing homeowners lured by low rates and ready to upgrade, brokers can’t afford to miss opportunities with outdated technology.
Shifts in the real estate market since the heady days of 2006 mean making and closing deals can happen anywhere and in any way. Brokers and agents, in the field or at a desk, need to be in sync with mobile savvy homebuyers, and able to connect with banks and other lending organizations while away from the office.
That’s especially true for a new generation of homebuyers who already live in a world where they are electronically connected to their jobs, their finances and their friends and families through a variety of mobile devices. Modern brokers need to be connected and ready to work with this mobile-dependent group.
Almost one-fifth of U.S. online adult smartphone users have said they’re likely to apply for a financial product, such as a home loan, through a mobile device, according to a Forrester Research report released in November. That number almost doubles in the Generation Y demographic. About 41 percent of the Gen Y-ers surveyed by Forrester who applied for a home loan in 2012 reported applying in a digital channel, compared with 35 percent who applied in a physical branch.
Mobile devices with applications to serve this market have flourished. Now, applications can be loaded on to devices such as smartphones and tablets that send and receive faxes, search and find documents and allow the quick digesting of complex data and electronic signatures, all of which mean an on-the-go agent can use one piece of equipment to provide on-the-spot data and information to a client.
Brokers need to leverage every advantage they can to attract new clients by being available and professional wherever and whenever opportunity comes. Handheld devices using cloud technology, such as online fax or a virtual phone service, make it easier to be more productive in the office, on the road and just on the go.
Here are some tips for agents, brokers and bankers to help them be more productive and tap into easy-to-use business technology:
- Embrace the cloud. Stay connected when you aren’t in the office using cloud-based phone systems. New virtual phone systems can deliver all the professional communication services brokers need directly to a smartphone or tablet.
- Customize your phone service. Establish clear greetings, call routing so you don’t miss important calls, personalized messages, call screening and conference call capabilities, and add services such as voice-to-text.
- Real-time communication. Mobile services and apps connect banks, lenders and homebuyers instantly for on-the-spot decision making and seamless collaboration.
- Organize documents. Organize and manage documents directly on a handheld device, making it very portable for on-the-go meetings and easy for instantly accessing information.
- View and print faxes and contracts. Access information quickly and view faxes and contracts online before printing them. Have faxes sent to email.
- Access for all. Everyone involved in a deal can access the same documents and faxes online, efficiently review loans and close deals with less time wasted and minimal paperwork.
- Virtual signatures. Sign and close the deal by sending a fax from a mobile device or tablet with a digital signature.
- Lower maintenance costs – Never worry about machines breaking down or running out of paper.
Mike Pugh is vice president of marketing at j2 Global, Inc., a provider of cloud-based communications services including eFax, which offers online fax services, and eVoice, a phone system for small businesses. Pugh joined j2 Global in 2000 when the company acquired eFax, where he had held management positions in sales, marketing and product development since 1997. Pugh currently manages the company’s domestic marketing organization. Prior to this, he was the VP of product marketing, with responsibilities including product development.