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Essential Tech Tools for REALTORS® in 2013

by Karen Kroll

When it comes to the technical tools that REALTORS® will want to consider incorporating within their businesses this year, "what's old is new," says Matthew Ferrara, a technology speaker with a focus on the real estate industry. That is, while many of these tools have been around for a while, savvy REALTORS® are finding new ways to use them.

Matthew FerraraVideo Tools For REALTORS®

Take video, which Ferrara calls "the sleeper technology in real estate." In fact, YouTube searches related to real estate agents grew by 46 percent over the last year, according to a recent study by the National Association of REALTORS® and Google, "Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate." The survey found that potential buyers are most likely to use video to learn more about specific communities, as well as to see the interiors of houses in which they’re interested.

Shannon RegisterRegister Real Estate Advisors in Spring, TX, operates an in-house production studio from which the company produces videos of listed homes and the neighborhoods in which they're located, according to Shannon Register, ABR, GRI, broker and owner.

The videos are a way to both show off the homes and provide information on different communities. Register also creates videos of its agents getting involved in community events, which helps set them apart from their competitors.

The videos also allow prospective clients to get to know Register or another agent before they actually meet. "They feel like they know me when I walk in the door," Register says.

Amy ChorewVideos also can help clients better understand the nuts and bolts of different components of a real estate transaction, says Amy Chorew, vice president of platform development with Better Homes and Garden Real Estate LLC. For instance, a video might describe how to craft an offer or explain how to buy a property that’s been foreclosed.

Several steps are key to creating compelling videos, Register says. Clear, easy-to-understand audio is critical, as is using a tripod to prevent shakiness. Many consumers have become used to near-professional quality videos, even when they’re produced by amateurs. They'll quickly abandon those that are difficult to hear or watch.

Professional Photography

Even as the role of video grows, photos remain a critical part of marketing homes, Ferrara says. These also need to be of high quality, given that more buyers are viewing them on tablets. "The screens are so beautiful, you need good photos," Ferrara says.

While it may not be necessary to purchase a professional camera (although agents working in the luxury market might want to) a decent point-and-shoot model is a must.

Like Register, Ferrara also recommends investing in a tripod. "Very few people can compose (an image) well with a handheld." Placing a camera on a tripod almost forces the picture-taker to slow down and check whether it would help to, for instance, adjust the light or angle.

Social Media

While Facebook, with one billion active users each month (as of October 2012), remains a key element in the social media strategy of many REALTORS®, a few other venues are coming on strong. "In real estate, this is the year to master Twitter," Ferrara predicts. Many REALTORS® will find Twitter a viable tool for building relationships and getting their name out in their markets. The key is to "contribute your content and point people to other good content."

Another social media site that can work well for REALTORS® is Pinterest, which bills itself as a virtual pinboard. With an estimated 25-plus million unique monthly visitors, according to comScore, Inc., it is one more online venue in which agents can showcase the features of different properties.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint an immediate, direct return on an investment in social media marketing, many business people who use these tools say they benefit from it. For instance, 85 percent of marketers indicated that their social media efforts have increased exposure for their businesses, while 58 percent have generated leads, according to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Mobile Devices

Approximately one-fifth of searches related to real estate now take place on mobile devices, "Digital House Hunt" found. To reach these clients, REALTORS should ensure that their websites can be easily accessed from different mobile devices.

At the same time, many real estate professionals can take advantage of mobility themselves. For instance, REALTORS® who are viewing photos of a house on a tablet can easily hand the device to a client and boost his or her involvement in the process. "It's very powerful, because they go through the act of discovery," Ferrara says.

In addition, REALTORS® can turn to a number of mobile apps that make completing real estate transactions on the road easier and more efficient, Chorew says. For example, some allow you to electronically send documents to clients for their signatures, eliminating the need to fax or physically deliver paper documents.

Of course, technology doesn't replace the need for REALTORS® to develop relationships with their clients. It does, however, offer additional ways to communicate with them – which is one key to building those relationships.

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