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Monday, July 26, 2010

Local Realtors Improving Service With Technology

Outside of my career as a bookstore manager I help my wife, Kathleen, with her Real Estate career as an assistant to her (yes, I get coffee . . . occasionally).  Technology gets a lot of buzz and discussion in the industry.  There have been great advances and technology tools available today that have allowed local Real Estate Pros to provide new services and improve the levels of existing services.  Steve Thomas (Broker/Owner of Trademark Realty Group of Palm Coast) and Kathleen West (Realtor, Trademark Realty Group of Palm Coast) shared some of their insights and experiences with me.

Listing a home for sale and security

It's natural for owners to want to feel comfortable leaving a key to their home in a lockbox outside of their home.  Steve and Kathleen are really excited with the local Realtor Association's (Flagler County Association of Realtors) decision to institute a new lockbox system that improves security for owners.  The new Sentrilock system transitioning in now adds improved security for access and wireless transmittal of who is accessing a lockbox.  This allows Brokers and Realtors to get email notifications and online reporting for who accesses a lockbox for a property.  According to Kathleen, "Although we've had electronic lockboxes for several years, this new system allows us much more control and access to information to give our customers more piece of mind."  Steve added, "Tracking everyone entering a house for sale and having the listing agent receive email notifications of these events is a great benefit for both security and communication of showings." 


"Staying in touch, keeping customers informed, and document exchange can always be a challenge in Real Estate especially when you have customers out of state and out of country.", says Kathleen.  "Email, the ability to easily digitize documents, electronic signatures, etc. have all been huge advances that have made the experience easier and less stressful for customers."  Kathleen shared an experience with a customer who was living in Greece at the time. "International calls, faxing, and mailing can end up being very costly and a real hassle.  Thanks to the internet and email, I was able to easily share properties and complete the transaction with her without the need to use faxing or mailings.  This way, the customer was able to focus on the move itself which I was able to make a bit easier by providing her links to online services for easily setting up utilities."

The local Association also instituted a new MLS system this past year which provides local professionals new services for both buyers and sellers.  Online scheduling of showings, online feedback, and seller access to their property which includes the showing and feedback information is extremely beneficial.  "Being able to provide sellers with access to this type of important information is crucial to being able to make decisions together.", says Kathleen. "As showings occur and we are seeing trends in feedback (which has always been one of the most challenging things to get from others), we can make informed decisions based upon facts and not mere speculation.  For example if we are getting feedback that the house seems small or 'closed in feeling', we can take a look at staging and make necessary changes." 

Online Shopping and Advertising

One of the things I assist my wife with is the advertising of properties for sale and website design/maintenance.  Advertising anything for sale is about getting out in front of the widest possible buyer audience and enticing them to want to know more.  You first have to know who your potential buyers are and where they are at.  The internet provides many new avenues for advertising that can be much more strategic due to the data that is available online.  Online advertising also allows Real Estate professionals to share much more of the property in terms of information including detailed property data, a multitude of photos, and virtual tours.  Potential buyers can experience much more of the property than ever before.  The challenge and barrier that has always existed with print advertising is limited information, and that it is very difficult  (if not impossible) to know if you are really reaching potential buyers.  For example, we use email flyers as one form of advertising.  This allows Kathleen to get a property sent directly to a targeted group of potential buyers and other Real Estate professionals complete with data that provides us the ability to see how effective the campaign is in a relatively short period of time. If we are not seeing a response, we are better informed and can make better decisions to get the customer to their goal.

Advances in internet technologies also allow us to provide customizable feeds of properties for sale straight from the MLS at Kathleen's website and Steve's website at  This allows Kathleen and Steve to provide great places for visitors to shop properties for sale in the area including adding 'quick links' to easily pull up properties by neighborhoods, and visitors can create accounts to manage their searches.  All of which provides customers with a better local shopping experience while putting customers more in control, the ability to stay better organized, and providing them with information they need to make better informed decisions.

Real Estate is a service business and technology tools are improving those services everyday in a number of ways.  As Steve puts it, "I have so many examples of how internet technology helps me provide valuable services everyday that I don't know where to begin. Our business would not be the same without it!"
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