Technology has changed, is changing, and will change the way real estate professionals do business. Virtual tours of homes from the comfort of the real estate office or the home computer, computers that permit cross-country teleconferencing, entire training programs on one dinky little CD-ROM, software programs with bells and whistles for virtually every real estate need are all part of the landscape. The future possibilities boggle the imagination. Keep an open mind and try out all the new stuff. Approach it all with a spirit of adventure. For those of you (like me) who have been around the block a few times, don't try to understand it. Just accept on faith that it's a miracle and develop the ability to sort out the useful from the merely glitzy.
One minor disclaimer before we get into the details. If you are not computer literate, stop. Do not pass "go." Get thee to a training facility immediately and master the basics. Local community colleges typically have a wide variety of programs. If you are a fellow member of AARP and qualify for senior discounts, your local senior center will likely have some special nonthreatening offerings for you. It's not an option. Do it. Your grandchildren can help you with your homework. And a bit of advice when you're doing any research on the Internet. If you simply type a key phrase into the search engine you will be absolutely amazed at the amount and variety of information you'll be provided. My biggest challenge is to stay focused on the information I was looking for, since there are so many other great sources on an almost limitless array of topics.
Here's the really good news. When you get your license and affiliate with a broker, you will be entering a functioning business. It will be your job to fit in and learn the ropes, but the system will be there. Real estate brokerages need to compete. They must stay up-to-date. Even if they came into the computer age dragging their feet, they must adapt if they want to survive. That's good for you as a newcomer. As you gain experience, you can build on and exploit any technological expertise you might attain, but in the beginning, you'll simply be expected to pay attention and learn how to operate the current systems and programs. If there is a formal training program, it will constitute a major segment of the curriculum. Pay particular attention to those agents in your office who are generating substantial leads and income from their web sites. I'm guessing one of your first exposures to formal computer training will be your indoctrination into your local Multiple Listing Service, since that's an indispensable tool for your day to day business. It's a great place to start.
THROUGH THE CONSUMERS' EYES
Clearly, one of the most visible public manifestations of a real estate brokerage's mastery of modern technology is its Web site. As I counseled in Chapter 3, when we were discussing your approach to choosing a company with which to affiliate, one of your best tools for judging brokerages is how they come across on their Web page. If they don't have a Web page, loan them a copy of this book. Check out all your local real estate companies, even if you've already made your decision as to where you want to hang your license. You'll notice a marked degree of similarity and differences. My preference would be one that has a link from their main page to their agents, including you. Typically that would include a picture and some biographical information that you would be asked to compose. When one of my former students affiliates with a real estate company, I log on to their Web page and check out my student's biographical information. Most of the time they do a good job. On occasion, however, I'm disappointed. In one instance, for example, I knew what an incredibly impressive background one of my students had, but her bio on the Web page was, to be charitable, inadequate. Yes, I sent her an e-mail. And have your photo done by a professional. Many successful agents also have individual Web sites with specific addresses, such as www·bestrealestateagentintheuniverse·com (check for current availability). I also prefer company sites that give consumers useful information, as opposed to just enough to motivate them to contact the company. This is not an opinion shared by all.
WEB SITES: BEST OF SHOW
Several years ago the editors of Realtor Magazine evaluated the Web sites of hundreds of Realtors. From those they picked their top ten. I thought it would be instructive to see if they are still up and running. Eight of them are still operating. I've referenced them below. Here is what I suggest: Assume you are contemplating a move to one of the communities in which these agents operate. What did you like about the Web site? What did you not like? While several of these agents have changed companies, each still has their original web site address.
- www·wynnea·com (Wynne Achatz, ABR, CRS, GRI, LTG, Westrick Associates, Inc. Marine City, Michigan)
- www·michaelgreenwald·com (Michael Greenwald, Sotheby's International Realty, Brentwood, California). Incidentally, when I visited this web site, there was a modest little 20 acre listing in the Santa Monica Hills for a cool eleven million five. Let's see, that commission would be . . .
- www·judysells·com (Judy Niemeyer, CRS, GRI, RE/MAX By the Bay, Fairhope, Alabama)
- www·dallashomes·com (Judy McCutchin, ABR, CRS, RE/MAX Premier, Preston Road, Dallas, Texas)
- www·arizonagolfproperties·com (Dean Benigno, Realty Executives, Scottsdale, Arizona)
- www·come2az·com (Alice Held, CRS, GRI, RE/MAX Excaliber, Scottsdale, Arizona)
- www·munsteragent·com (John Reipsa, GRI, and Pam Reipsa, McColly Real Estate Brokerage, Schereville, Indiana)
- www·maryjanedeering·com (Mary Jane Deering, LTC, Alain Pinel Realtors, Pleasanton, California)
Here's a handy little book you will want to add to your library early in your career. It's Real Estate Technology Guide-Winning With Technology by Saul Klein, John Reilly, and Mike Barnett and published by Dearborn publishers. My recommendation is that you simply review the contents while you're getting settled into your company operation. It will give you a good long term overview of the technological challenges and opportunities you will be encountering in your real estate career, and will assist you in deciding how to best proceed to accomplish your objectives.
An NAR professional designation program you will find described in the book is that of e-Pro. The authors operate the program and also maintain an online real estate discussion community know as RealTalk. You can check it out at www·realtalk·internetcrusade·com. While you are there, click the e-Pro link and it will take you to the NAR Web site that describes the e-Pro curriculum in detail. As an overview, here are the four major modules: Understanding the Miracle of the Internet; Becoming an E-Mail Powerhouse;
World Wide Web - Marketing, Publishing, Service and Support; and Tying it All Together - Tools of the Trade; Virtual Community, and Technology Plan of Action. The authors travel around the country presenting e-Pro seminars. If they offer one in your area it would be time well spent to attend.