EPMEPM: Technology & Social

Four Ways Technology Is Changing the Business of Real Estate

REAL ESTATE AGENCIES across the country are developing new techniques to streamline services and keep up with emerging trends.

Technology has come a long way from the first set of bulky computers in your local real estate office. With advancements in technology occurring rapidly, real estate agencies across the country are developing new techniques to streamline services and keep up with emerging trends.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, each Australian spends an average of 10 hours online per week

– with those in younger age brackets spending up to 18 hours on the net every week.

The continued rise of the internet as a primary source of information and advertising has provided extensive opportunities for those in the real estate industry to expand in the online sphere. So what are the biggest advantages of new technologies for real estate agencies?

Gone are the days of only reaching potential buyers or tenants via newspapers, magazines and word of mouth. A study conducted last year by realestate.com.au found that 78 per cent of consumers were accessing property listings and information online – rather than through traditional methods – using smart phones, laptops and tablets. Digital technology has provided myriad new opportunities for agencies to market services and properties to a broader audience using digital platforms and online listings.

Many real estate companies have chosen to move with consumers, shifting their focus to list properties on their own websites and real estate portals, using social media platforms in a client-friendly way and engaging personalised targeted marketing techniques. Mobile content and marketing is one of the biggest targets for agencies, with around 80 per cent of Australians consuming information using devices that fit in their pockets. Optimising websites and delivering advertising that is mobile-friendly can do wonders for a marketing campaign.

Real estate is a paper-heavy industry, with many documents to keep track of internally and externally. For most real estate companies, electronic document management systems are either already in place or in the process of being completed. Agents are saving extensive amounts of valuable time by managing their documents using internal digitised systems. There are mass-market document-sharing and digital collaboration tools like Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as specialised document management software for the real estate industry, like Rockend’s fileSMART.

Financial transactions are also made easy with cloud-based accounting software and online banking tools – all information is stored and can be shared securely, software updates automatically and business accounting costs are drastically lowered. In an industry like real estate, with its unique requirements, our company, Rockend, has made specialist accounting software for a long time with REST Professional. More recently, it has moved into the cloud with PropertyTree.

Processes surrounding contact databases and recording or accessing client information have also been remodelled as technology advances. Agents can take down contact details of potential clients using smart phones, set up regular or automated messages advising clients of new properties on the market and even send clients a text when their lease application or price offer has been processed.

The real estate industry revolves around people, and innovations in technology have led to an opportunity for greater communication between agencies and clients. Where in the past agents may have spent precious time playing phone tag with potential clients or having face-to-face meetings, many now use email or online contact forms as their first port of call and primary form of communication. In turn, clients are finding it easier to access information about listings, specific real estate offices and contact information for particular agents.

Online listings have also helped to streamline the communication process. If a listing is effectively detailed and contains great imagery, potential buyers won’t need to contact agents with initial questions about the property – and their first contact will likely be to arrange a viewing. Clients can do their own research, from viewing the original listing, to looking at a satellite view on Google Maps, to searching for past sale or rental prices of the property. Agents have an opportunity to steer clients in the right direction, using their inside knowledge of the local market and specific property to pass on further information and close the sale.

Not only do new technology and digital advancements mean that agencies can remain in contact with clients and colleagues using smart phones and tablets – it also means that they can present information to potential buyers or tenants in new, innovative ways. Many digital consumers are leaning towards video content, with a 2015 Nielsen report stating that at least 55 per cent of all Australians – and around 73 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds – are choosing to view online video content over regular broadcast television.

Video content like visual walk-throughs of properties can be utilised extremely effectively on property listings, adding an extra element to the portfolio. Video advertising is also on the rise, particularly on social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook, where consumers are much more likely to hit ‘play’. Embracing and trialling new technologies can give agencies an advantage over competitors and help listings stand out to clients.

Technology has revolutionised the way that real estate agencies and their clients can operate and communicate. Agencies that enjoy embracing new technologies and incorporating different processes into their workflows have the chance not only to impress customers – but to remain a step or two ahead of the competition.

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Sarah Dawson

Sarah Dawson is the Chief Customer Officer at PropertyMe.