Today’s agent needs to stay aware of technological developments now more than ever – regularly browsing Chicago Agent magazine’s website, Inman News, The Verge and other similar sites will keep you informed. Some of these sites focus exclusively on how technology affects real estate, but others cover technological developments more broadly. By following technology blogs both inside and outside of a real estate context, you can learn how others have incorporated these tools into the industry while also opening yourself up to opportunities for differentiation.
Agents should also recognize their strengths in technology and devote the most time to developments that have the potential to elevate their position within their niche marketing strategy. If giving advice to potential homebuyers through platforms like Zillow and Trulia is your strongest source for leads, then you should also be building your presence on new listing platforms, in the event that they become the next Zillow or Trulia. Similarly, agents who focus their efforts on farming referrals from their spheres by an aggressive social media presence should be keenly aware of developments in this sector.
The real estate industry has become accustomed to the prominent online tools of our day, but as these forms of technology develop, it’s important that agents understand how these tools are being innovated:
1. New Listing Sites
Most real estate agents are familiar with the dominant listing sites (including Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com) and the effect they have on the real estate consumer. However, as homebuyers spend a greater portion of their time on the Internet to find their ideal homes, the model for connecting consumers to potential listings is already being innovated by new online enterprises. As agents, it’s important to recognize that when one of these new listings sites seems poised for growth in consumer traffic, it could mean the growth of your business.
Most agents focus their efforts on the platforms that we’re all familiar with, and while these sites maintain a high volume of traffic, newer sites are adapting to the changing demands of the real estate buyer and gradually bringing traffic (without the same number of agents participating in these communities). For example, Househappy.org is a new photo-driven listing site that is embracing the evolution of the Internet; Househappy.org’s interface is tailored to the visually oriented buyer, and its site design is optimized for viewers on all types of devices. Site design will continue to evolve with the user’s desired experience as user-generated content becomes more prominent. Online companies that embrace this change will flourish over time.
2. Interactive Floor Plans
Prospective buyers and sellers entrusting you with the marketing of their home both have desires and expectations for the presentation of the marketing materials: they expect bright, high-quality photographs, detailed information on the specifications and history of the property, and often, a floor plan of the property’s layout. As the way prospective buyers screen properties online becomes more exhaustive, new resources like the interactive floor plan will allow interested parties to understand the property in greater depth when viewing it online.
Vis-Home is a photography and marketing service for real estate agents with a particularly strong interactive floor plan feature; in addition to allowing buyers to view the perspective of each photograph on the property’s floor plan, they also allow buyers to virtually ‘place’ furniture within the empty floor plan. These features can ultimately save time for the agent, familiarizing buyers with your listings and separating the strongly interested from the mildly interested before taking them to the property.
Floorplanner.com is a popular online software that allows agents to create and customize floor plans themselves, highlighting the interior features and giving prospective buyers a sense for dimensions and layout with various types of furniture. The agent controls the furniture placement themselves – you can decide whether you’d like to recreate the interior as your client has it staged, or if you’d prefer to provide an alternative perspective on the space. Floorplanner has many additional features available, including 3D renderings, Google Maps integration and a simple system for embedding your listings to other online platforms.
3. Social Media Video
Many agents use services to create videos of their listings, which helps to drive traffic to their properties, enhance their SEO rankings and provide the content to create their own YouTube channels. But just as agents have started to recognize the significance that video has in building an online presence, recent months have heralded services dedicated to new, bite-sized video content, shifting the online video landscape.
Vine is the most prominent of this group, which has been strengthened by a partnership with Twitter. Vine allows users to upload six-second videos shot on their phones and post them to their social media accounts. Since mobile devices are now a driving vehicle of the way people experience their social media accounts, and since these devices are equipped with greater video capabilities, Vine has tailored a service to sharing their mobile-generated content. Agents can use this platform to shoot micro-videos of listings, making them easily shareable to your Twitter sphere.
Givit is another mobile app that’s streamlined posting videos to your social media accounts. Givit differentiates itself from services like Vine by emphasizing ease of editing. With its simple interface, agents can splice their clips, add music or special effects and post their videos to Facebook or Twitter all from within the app. Givit is ideal for the more methodical agent, whereas agents seeking an efficient solution would prefer the simplicity of Vine.
Pinterest has been on the technology radar for some time now, as its explosive growth in 2012 brought it a flurry of coverage as the next big social media network. Most agents have heard of it by now, but many have not yet considered how to incorporate it into their business. Pinterest is a photo-driven site dedicated to the sharing of visual inspiration, including architecture and interior design. Posting photos of your new listing’s distinct architectural details can drive traffic to other marketing materials on the property. You can create pin boards dedicated to listings with a specific type of ornamentation and post close-ups from the listing. Once you’ve posted your photos to a pin board, make it a group board – this allows other Pinterest users to add their own photos to the board, re-pin your listing photos and drive traffic from the massive Pinterest user base to your listing site.
The possibilities for incorporating technology into real estate sales can be overwhelming. As a result, many agents back down from the potential impact that these developments can have on their business. However, by staying aware of the newest in technology while also understanding your strengths well enough to recognize which tools to invest your time in, you can harness technology for its benefits while minimizing the distracting aspects of it. As online technology becomes more engrained in our lives, this will be integral to running a successful real estate enterprise.
Aaron Woodman has sold more than $200 million in real estate assets and has managed a portfolio of more than 1,600 multifamily units, working for several large property management companies as well as for EXIT Realty and Keller Williams Realty. Recently, he has focused his efforts on using his breadth of experience to act as a consultant for a variety of real estate businesses, including individual residential brokers across the country, national property management firms and real estate technology start-ups. Find him on twitter (@aaronwoodman) and at about.me/aaronwoodman.