Elite AgentTECH + SOCIAL

Future Proof Your Software

One of the great frustrations in business is to invest in new software, only to find it has been superseded by the time you’ve trained your team on how to use it. Marie Phillips investigates choosing a future proof software solution.

What benefits do you receive from your real estate software subscription? Perhaps tools to help you save time? The ability to utilise technology which would otherwise be too time consuming to create on your own? Or simply, to offer what your competition does to avoid being “left behind”?

Either way, we must ensure that we are partnered with a provider who gives us the most “bang for our buck”. As we are often required to enter into long term partnerships with these providers, we not only have to consider what they offer us now, but more importantly what they will be able to offer us as technology develops over time.

Step back ten years to the age of the new millennium – year 2000. What were you using to manage your database? Some agents may have been using contact/index cards. The more advanced may have been using an Excel spreadsheet. Or some simply adopted very basic applications to manage their precious “fields of diamonds”.

Welcome to today, and look what we are using now. There is a myriad of options available at our fingertips. Major advances in real estate technology affect the way we do business. A splendid example of how technology has changed the way we do things is “portal pushing”. We now enter our listings into our online database which in turn disseminates the data automatically to property portals such as Realestate.com.au and Domain and whichever other medium we chose to subscribe to. For those who survived the dark ages of the late 90’s/early 00’s, we remember the tedious manual entry to the various portals and we cannot forget the huge amount of time wasted and error prone multiple data entry! The coming of age of automated data feeds has allowed our hard working administrators more hours per week to work on important tasks.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
When looking for a software partner in today’s market, you must be looking for a solution which provides a platform for growth as time and technology move forward. Two important features to look out for are:

An online solution: Storing your data online is critical for two reasons; accessibility and redundancy. Accessibility means you can access your data when out of the office or out of the country, assuming there is a reliable internet connection. This will become increasingly important as the rest of the world moves its business activity online, and as we become more dependent on mobile devices such as the iphone and ipad. Redundancy means that your vital data, processes, and settings will be safe even if your personal computer is stolen or happens to explode into a smoking heap of rubble.

Modulated extras: A company which modulates its services, providing turn-key “pick and pack” extra services which grow as you grow eg. a solid property database management system (CRM), portal pushing, an easy to use content management system (CMS), electronic communication options such as e-newsletters, e-brochures or e-cards, vendor advertising budget management, SMS packages. With this approach, it is likely that future modules will be added and easily integrated as technology permits.

Your software provider’s attitude to innovation is crucial to your long term business success. You should be partnered with a company who invests heavily in ongoing research and development (R&D) positioned to offer the technology of tomorrow when it becomes today. Changing providers can be a costly and disruptive exercise, so you need to be looking for a company who represents your best interest for the long haul. What is your current software provider’s attitude to R&D? What new technologies have you been offered recently which allow you to do something faster, more efficiently, or more impressively than what your competitor down the road is doing?

WHAT’S NEXT?
What new technologies will affect the real estate industry over the next year or so? The iphone is plaguing the pockets of our staff and clients alike. Apple shipped 125,000 of these smart phones to Australia in the two months following its release in July 2008 – and demand has been red hot ever since. More recently, the ipad (Apple’s solution to the tablet computer) has rocked America. As in the past with previous “must have” gadgets, we were shown images of people in queues stretching out the doors of Apple stores across America, with a staggering 300,000 ipads sold on the first day. …it’s going to be a game changer, said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. We now have the HP Slate hot on its tail, quickly on the band wagon of including important features the ipad left off in the initial release. In researching this article, I could only find one twitter post which reported an oversupply of the ipad. No lines, very fast service, oversupplied – Mogadishu.

The uptake of smart, mobile devices is being embraced at a staggering rate. The major property portals now offer iphone applications. Some real estate software providers now offer a .mobi version of your office website (a version of your office website, optimised for mobile computers) at a very low cost – sometimes thrown into your package as a deal sweetener.

Ten years ago it was easier for those looking to buy or lease property, to physically visit the home, than it was to download the images from a website. Today, getting information from the internet is like taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant. We can get it everywhere and it’s getting faster and more cost effective to “get connected”. Where will it end? Faster download speeds enable our clients to view richer media, for example audio and video on both their home computers and their mobile devices. As a result, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of agents displaying videos on their websites to promote both their office and their listings. A software provider should allow you the ability to either link to videos from your website quickly and easily, or host your videos for a reasonable rate.

Welcome to the “mobile agent” dream. Imagine this scenario… a sales person greets the enthusiastic buyer at the door of an open house, the open home which was advertised on many different websites initially. With the ipad running, he records the buyers contact details and their buying criteria, which is saved instantly to his database (adding them automatically to his weekly mailing list). After a quick tour of the property, the buyer informs the sales person that he is not interested in this particular property. As the sales person taps the screen, he instantly sees properties in his database that match the buyer’s previously entered criteria resulting in a list of similar properties in the area. The list contains a couple of properties for sale on a street the buyer “just loves”. So he is shown a quick video tour from the agent’s ipad, then quickly pre-registers them for an open for inspection held later that day and proceeds to send the address, time and map to the buyer’s Blackberry. How good does the agent look in the buyer’s eyes? Or, imagine sitting down with the vendor at the listing presentation. Using the ipad, you produce a list of 40 buyers who are interested in the property right now. Sure sounds like a good way to win the listing to me. Soon this technology will not only be a reality but a necessity and an affordable solution available on most popular mobile devices.

Case study: PortPlus Online Real Estate Solutions
PortPlus has been providing online software solutions to the Real Estate industry for over ten years with clients throughout Australia and New Zealand. PortPlus offers an array of software modules providing agents with a total business Solution. Eddie Lynch, CEO and founder of PortPlus talks of the challenges he faced early on, 56k modems were a major challenge particularly with uploading images and files. he says, but, we have never regretted our decision to persevere with being an online company especially with the ability to share information between one or multiple offices in real time. The ease of use this provided for groups has allowed them to easily manage and support their offices in the field.

Customer feedback must remain the paramount factor for growth and direction of any business. Although Eddie is the CEO of a large company he never stops taking calls from clients in the field and wanting to give helpful feedback to see the PortPlus system advance. This helps him understand their needs and daily challenges and keeps the business steering in the right direction. Eddie believes listening to the needs of his client base has attributed to the high retention rate of his consumers.

When asked about the importance of R&D, Not enough companies have invested time and money in to their R&D. We have put many millions of dollars in to our ongoing R&D to secure and maintain our future as a leading technology supplier. We are only ever weeks or months away from launching the next new version or upgrade he says. At the moment we are hard at work on the total mobile agent solution, based on overwhelming feedback from our clients. Companies must always be working on the next new version to keep you relevant in this fast moving and competitive market place.

Work smarter
If ever a saying rings true, it is the phrase “work smarter not harder”. Whether it is Blackberry, iphone, ipad or the next new piece of hardware, this is truly an exciting time to use these devices as listing tools and eliminate the need to be tied to your desk. The penny is quickly dropping where real estate agencies who have the latest software in easy reach for their sales team, enables them to use mobile devices to drive their business, in turn reducing the need for large office space. The time will soon come where we see stunning reception areas but out the back, few “real” people – their sales team are out doing what they should be doing which is listing and selling real estate!

Marie Phillips regularly works with Eddie Lynch from PortPlus. Eddie Lynch has over 20 years experience in the Real Estate industry having owned his own Real Estate business before embracing his passion for Real Estate Software and Technology creating PortPlus.in 1999.

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