As you will see in later chapters, I highly recommend the real estate career book Make Millions Selling Real Estate by Oregonian Jim Remley. As it relates to our current discussion, let me point you to the chapter in his book titled "Building A Technology Plan". Here are the specific topics he covers: contact management systems, personal digital assistants (PDA's), presentation tools, wireless technology, Internet safety, building profitable websites, and developing effective e-mail systems.
YOUR PERSONAL COACH
Allen Hainge, CRS, is a former top producing real estate professional who has been teaching real estate technology seminars for over a decade. He has been a featured speaker at a number of NAR national conventions and was a Senior Instructor for the Council of Residential Specialists technology course for eleven years. I attended a seminar he presented at an Oregon Association of Realtors convention and was impressed with his ability to make the complex comprehensible and even entertaining. I reviewed his books Dominate! Capturing Your Market With Today's Technology and Secrets of the Cyberstars- Making Money With Today's Technology for The Real Estate Professional magazine. I highly recommend both books as solid sources on the topic of technology as it relates to the real estate professional. To order the books log on to his web site at www·afhseminars·com.
In his Dominate! book Hainge outlines a technology action plan for real estate professionals at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Since you're probably looking beyond the beginning stage, I'll include all three levels. If you're just starting to explore the wonders of technology you may need to do some additional research to understand all his guidance, but it will be worth your efforts. Regarding the number one step of hiring a coach, you'll want to do a lot of research before you implement that one.
- Hire a technology coach, one who also knows real estate.
- Get a good notebook computer.
- Connect to the Internet using an ISP (Internet Service Provider).
- Acquire your own domain name. Incorporate if into your e-mail address and begin publicizing that address.
- Learn to use the major components of e-mail: attachments, filters, signatures, and mailboxes.
- Make sure you know the principal functions of Windows.
- Spend one to two hours a day looking at agent sites nationwide and learning new technology.
- Get a good template website.
- Create multiple "signatures" for your e-mail, one for every routine request you receive and several for use at the end of your e-mail messages.
- Intensify your campaign to gather e-mail address of both consumers and other top agents.
- Start your custom e-mail newsletter, personalizing it though the use of your real estate database or WordMerge.
- Learn Microsoft Publisher and begin creating custom marketing pieces for your seller and buyer presentations.
- Begin to check out major real estate websites on a regular basis, specifically Realty Times.
- Create and implement a plan for adding more content to your website.
- Formulate your plan to publicize your website.
- Get VisualTour.com software. Learn how to create your own multimedia tours, how to put them on your site, how to save them to disk and how to e-mail them.
- Get eNeighborhoods. Learn how to do reports and how to e-mail them to prospects.
- If you don't have one, get a good real estate database and move your business into it.
- Hire a technically literate Personal Assistant.
- Create VisualTour.com tours for your overall market area and move each specific area of subdivision within that area. Post them to your website and copy them to disks for distribution
- Get the e-mail addresses of the top 10% of the agents in your local association. Begin e-mailing them multimedia tours of your new listings, after having obtained their permission to do so.
- Analyze your printed mailing expenses for the previous twelve months. Create and implement a plan for reducing that expense by at least 40% through the use of e-mail, HotSend and PDF files on your site.
- Hire a site designer to create personalized site.
- Formulate major campaign to brand your website in your area.
- If your site designer does not do so, get the services of a good graphic artist to create original artwork for your site and all your promotional materials.
- Create an extranet on your site for updating all current buyers, sellers and anyone involved in your current transactions.
- Spend one hour a day looking at nationwide agent sites. When you find a good one, e-mail the agent asking for a link to his or her site. Add the agent to your e-mail newsletter database.
- Attend every real estate convention you can: local association, state association, NAR and franchise. Network with other top agents at the convention.
In the event you haven't burned yourself out checking out real estate websites, I've got another project for you. Log on to www·cyberstars·net. This is the Allen Hainge website. You will find easy to navigate links to a group he founded, the CyberStars, a nationwide group of over 150 top real estate sales professionals who use technology to dominate their marketplace. It will be quite a learning experience for you. Not only are the websites models of cutting edge technology, but there are a number of articles on the individual websites written by various CyberStars. Many are aimed at newcomers to the profession. Check them out.
ONE LAST WEBSITE (I PROMISE)
While researching another writing project I ran across a resource that I think will be of particular interest to you. It's the website of Team Rothenberg Pacific Union, located in the San Francisco East Bay community of Lafayette, California. Log on to www·teamrothenberg·com. While I was stationed with the Air Force at Cal Berkeley 1966-70 my family and I lived in Walnut Creek, which is just a few miles from Lafayette. I drove through it each day on my commute to Berkeley. It's an incredibly lovely area with homes that are, to say the least, somewhat pricey.
Here is what impressed me about this site. There are a number of cities in the immediate area, all of which would be legitimate markets for a company headquartered in Lafayette. I clicked on my old stomping grounds of Walnut Creek. What popped up was what appears to be the entire inventory of all listings (not just the Rothenberg's) in Walnut Creek, starting with the most expensive at a cool $2,499,000. There were 193 listings in all. Each had a link to the individual property, many with photos and contact information for the listing brokerage. I didn't need to type in the kind of property I was looking for or the price range. There were search engines on the web site you could do this, but here you just scrolled down and checked them all out. You also did not have to log in, give your name, rank, and serial number to get information.
There was an e-mail update feature for new listings if you wished to be contacted, but you could do the whole thing in complete anonymity. There was another feature that really impressed me. For most listings you could map out the location. I typed in the address of our old home and it showed me exactly how to get from there to the listed property. Here's my point: It gave me what I wanted to know. Not just enough information to hook me into contacting the real estate company. Trust me, if I were heading back to the East Bay I would contact team Rothenberg.
Incidentally, if you're looking for a "real estate is a great investment" story, consider this. When we bought our nice, brand new three bedroom two bath home in a great little Walnut Creek neighborhood in 1966 we paid $30,000 (no down, federal VA loan.) One of the listings on the Rothenberg website was a four bedroom, three bath home just down the street from ours. It was built by the same builder in the same year. As I recall it was priced in the mid thirty thousands. The listing price: $1,299,000! My ears are still ringing from my wife screaming: "I told you we should have kept that house!" as she was looking over my shoulder as I was writing this.
TECHNOLOGY: TOOLS OF THE TRADE
One of the most memorable of the computer related TV ads I recall showed a young fellow who had just purchased the latest computer package, the Whiz Banger Ultimo Model 101. It had all the bells and whistles. As he was happily driving home to set up his new playmate he passed a billboard. Workers were putting up a huge ad touting the brand new, completely revolutionary, blow everything before it out of the water, Whiz Banger Ultimo Model 102. Relax. The important thing is to know what basic tools you need, get them, and learn how to use them. Then when something new comes along you'll be able to make an informed decision as to whether you need to upgrade or not. Speaking of tools, Realtor Magazine recently ran a Technology Buyer's Guide supplement to their regular magazine. They included their suggestions for a "Budget Toolbox," a "Midrange Toolbox," and a "Deluxe Toolbox." In each category they suggested specific products, but the categories are what are informative. Here are the basics they recommended for each toolbox: a cell phone, a digital camera, a Palmtop, and a Laptop. Naturally you'll wish to stay tuned, since I recently saw a news release discussing a product under development that will combine many functions into one instrument.
Each time I run across an article in a real estate magazine or on the Internet which deals with "Top Real Estate Tech Tools" I take note. One item that has appeared in each piece is the REDTablet PC. It's a flat, portable tablet computer designed specifically for real estate agents. It works in conjunction with the Real Estate Dashboard software to offer a mobile and paperless business tool for agents. It lets them take notes in their own handwriting, convert them to a Word file, collect e-signatures, manage documents digitally, and access transaction files wirelessly. Of course, by the time you read this you may be saying: "How quaint and old fashioned. My REDTablet is in my antique cabinet along with my IBM Selectric typewriter."
Acouple of years ago I was working with an associate in my office in locating a home for our daughter and grandson. She was an experienced real estate professional with a complete grasp of all the technological innovations as they relate to real estate. Her husband is a computer engineer at the local Hewlett-Packard plant. I'm not sure whether they have a computer in every room, but close. All that was noteworthy, but here's what really impressed me. Several years before she had worked with a home inspection company in an administrative capacity. When we located the home we wanted to buy and made an offer on it we naturally made it subject to a full home inspection. She was a virtual fountain of useful information before, during, and after the inspection. Is it important to your real estate career to be able to use the tools of technology productively? Of course. Just remember what really matters most to your customers and clients.
My experience is borne out by highly successful professionals. For example, Margaret Vierra, a top producing agent in Morgan Hills, California (www.mvierra.com) was posed this question for in an interview for a Realtor Magazine article in their Technology Buyer's Guide: "How do you use technology?" Her answer: "Gingerly. I capture the attention of prospective clients with Internet advertising and stay connected with my cell phone. But once I establish a relationship with a client, personal attention is essential to success." Should we follow her guidance? Here was her "tech tip" for readers: "The bottom line for success is to take good care of your customers. Stay connected but don't rely too much on technology. By striking a balance, I grossed more than $12 million last year."
I know it can be intimidating when you are faced with technological challenges and when you encounter someone who seems to know all there is to know about, let's say, computers. But to put things in perspective and to emphasize that there are many skills you probably already possess that matter just as much, consider this: When my wife and I were setting up our first computer in our home, we were having difficulty getting all the systems integrated. At the time, my wife worked at a local educational institution. It had a huge array of computers for the staff. We hired the young man in charge of the whole system to come out and get everything set up for us. He did a magnificent job. When he finished, he asked me for a key word he could type in to see if a particular program was working properly. I said, "Type in real estate." He typed, "reel estate."