The real estate industry is in the midst of a major cultural change in the way real estate agents conduct their business. Salespeople and brokers alike appear overwhelmed by all the choices computers and technology offer. Emerging from the stress and confusion generated by countless choices is a new breed of real estate agent, one called "The New Real Estate Professional(tm)," a phrase coined by Saul D. Klein, President of InternetCrusade™, in talks to REALTORS® across the country. So what does this NREP look like? Check out these 10 ways to spot a NREP.
1. AN INFORMATION COMMANDER
The NREP recognizes that the hottest commodity in the real estate business is information. Consumers are overwhelmed and confused by the information overload available on the Internet. The NREP is very adept at extracting information from the Internet, and the local MLS -- and then manipulating and sorting the information into formats that are graphically tailored to the consumer. The NREP knows how to filter, customize, manage, analyze and process that information in the shortest amount of time in order to add value to the transaction. The NREP is positioned right in the center of the information business!
2. A WEB SURFER
Armed with a computer, modem, and a modest monthly fee to an Internet Service Provider, the NREP is an integral part of a new world of doing business within the online community. Although the real estate industry is in Phase One of doing business online, the NREP is leading the charge. The technology is here -- and with "point and click" systems, it finally is becoming user-friendly. But we have a long way to go to master the “marketing learning curve.”
Although no single entity has figured out how to best use this fabulous tool to market products and generate revenues, the NREP is experimenting with new approaches every day -- and is steadily finding success with consumers online. The NREP realizes that soon most everyone who now sends or receives faxes will be relying on the Internet for essential information and communication– studies indicate that 78% of all Americans will own an eMail address by the year 2000.
The very first step the NREP takes is to secure a permanent Internet Identity by acquiring a personal domain name. PersonalName.com becomes the centerpiece of the NREP’s Internet Presence, which consists of both their eMail Presence and their Web Presence.
3. AN eMail USER
The NREP recognizes the power of eMail! Electronic-mail eliminates telephone tag (time zone concerns), long distance charges, interrupted conversations, and piles of unanswered correspondence. The NREP works hard to develop a personal eMail writing style, as well as eMail management skills to sort, filter and store this new flow of business communication. The NREP understands that eMail is much more than a means of business communication (one with an automatic "paperless trail").
eMail is one of the most effective marketing tools available to the real estate agent. With a click of the mouse, and then a cut and paste of some hot news reports, the NREP can create a personal electronic newsletter filled with solid content. Another click brings up a distribution list of hundreds of clients/prospects with eMail addresses around the globe; another click and the E-newsletter is sent instantly to the computer of everyone on the list. No stamps to lick, no envelopes to stuff – and with a minimum of time and expense!
No wonder the NREP displays an eMail address on business cards, letterhead, and property ads -- actively soliciting and capturing the eMail address of every potential client and prospect. The NREP checks for eMail messages as frequently as one checks for voice mail – and then makes sure to respond promptly, recognizing that consumers are impatient and will move on to those real estate agents who are better-connected.
The NREP is frustrated and surprised that many real estate agents put off the decision to go online (perhaps out of fear). In fact, consumers appear to be way ahead of the real estate industry when it comes to being "wired." Once the critical mass of agents finally get the message about the need to connect to the Internet and implement eMail as a necessary communication tool, the NREP won’t need to rely on "snail mail" and the phone to contact other real estate agents about their properties.
4. A WEB SITE TO BRAG ABOUT
The NREP starts off with a basic Web Site, perhaps taking an initial small step to create one in template form as illustrated by http://internetcrusade.com/agent. This "electronic brochure" is the NREP's store-front in cyberspace in which properties are displayed, useful information presented and, most importantly, reply messages from consumers are posted with the click of a mouse. This cyber office is open “24/7” – that is, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Recognizing that "content is king," the NREP develops a Web Site employing useful hypertext jumps (an electronic cross-reference) to other Web Sites -- the idea being to showcase the NREP's professionalism and knowledge level. The NREP keeps the material fresh and updated, perhaps sending eMail alerts to its client database when updates are made so consumers are encouraged to "bookmark" and revisit the site regularly.
The NREP views the Web Site as another great marketing avenue, though never more important than word of mouth and good service. This site offers the “value-added” service to clients and customers 24 hours a day, long after the purchase or sale of their home is completed, helping to keep the service and communication lines active.
Once the NREP becomes comfortable with using their Web site as a marketing tool, it is time to take the second step and employ some of the new tools of the trade such as Web Administered Databases, web authoring systems, user tracking software, and self-publishing articles on the Web using friendly programs like Microsoft’s FrontPage. The NREP can create “on-the-fly” customized Web pages for seller’s listings and for buyer prospects to obtain community information and view property photos with IPIX immersive virtual tours. Also, the NREP can use embedded links in eMail to drive clients to articles and property photos published on a fast-loading Web site. For example, to find out more about How To Publish on the Internet, turn your web browser to http://www.internetcrusade.com/articles/PostingInfo/
5. WORKS FROM A MOBILE OFFICE
Not the kind on four wheels, but the NREP's office functions efficiently whether at home, on the road, in the client's home/office, or in the company's office. There is the cellular, the pager, the laptop with modem, the fax, the financial calculator, the personal digital assistant, the Kodak Digital camera and Lexmark Printer.
The NREP's computer might be a Pentium 133, 64 + MB of RAM, 2 gig hard drive with docking station and laser jet color printer. The NREP's computer can dial in to the company computer and receive messages, faxes, MLS listings, and other helpful data. Calls are forwarded, appointment calendars updated, and eMail messages checked on the road through a virtual assistant. Meetings and conferences are conducted more efficiently online. Live meetings are fewer and shorter to attend because most of the background information, agenda, confirmations, updates, and follow-up are handled online, with hard copy documents sent in readable Adobe Acrobat format.
6. A MASTER NETWORKER
The NREP participates online with several discussion groups (mail lists or listservs such as RealTalk), networking with professionals and consumers sharing common interests -- perhaps a group of commercial agents, buyer brokers, real estate attorneys, or educators, etc. To the NREP, it is like being at a national convention 365 days out of the year.
Like any real estate agent, the NREP knows it pays to network, often setting up special categories of eMail distribution lists – perhaps one for all the leading brokers in town who will receive special alerts when new listings reach the market. Online networking is just another way of expanding key contacts. The NREP understands the importance of contributing useful information and not just personal commercial plugs – although the NREP knows how to craft an effective sales message in a four-line electronic signature.
7. ALWAYS GROWING
The NREP is aware of the major cultural changes occurring in the technology and information age. The NREP is already finding "wired" clients and prospects who are looking to develop an "electronic rapport" with a competent real estate professional -- one who can keep the client up to date with eMail, newsletters, property photos and documents transmitted electronically.
The NREP recognizes that consumers are demanding more control over their financial transactions – and, the Internet is a powerful consumer tool. The NREP welcomes new and creative resources for generating leads online such as offered on http://HomeGain.com , a seller-focused service that matches home sellers with real estate professionals. The NREP is also open to new and innovative ways to market properties such as the online auctions found on http://HomeBid.com .
The NREP uses the Web Site to attract clients, perhaps by offering FREE Reports online through a seamless form of AutoResponder that will ask the user to choose from a menu of Reports and then instantly send the Report by reply eMail. In the process, the NREP will legally ‘captures’ the user’s eMail address for follow-up and prospecting. AutoResponders are also a great way to showcase Featured Properties or announce new developments or legislation. For an example, send a blank message to mailto:5Steps@InternetCrusade.com
The NREP is able to complete the mandatory state-approved continuing education requirements through computer-based education courses offered online. The NREP tunes in to private networks like RealTown.com for online interviews and seminars by panels of national experts. These continue over a several week period, enabling participants to raise questions and comments. While reading eMail, the NREP keeps up to date with trends in real estate by listening to online audio programs such as Newsmaker interviews at http://inman.com/newsmaker.asp
8. SEES TECHNOLOGY AS TOOL OF TRADE
The NREP keeps technology in perspective -- in some cases, the NREP may find a #2 pencil more beneficial than a laptop. The NREP uses the computer to become more effective in business; for example, to create new digital listing and selling presentations. Implementing computerized checklists and "action plans" to keep track of deadlines assists the agent by creating a "paperless trail" for each transaction. The tools enable the NREP to gather much of the needed transaction information – and, less time tracking down information translates to more quality time face to face with qualified clients. With new mapping software, much of the statistical information about a property (surrounding schools, comparable sales, taxes, census, environmental) can be quickly assembled into an attractive graphical presentation piece. The NREP is a master presenter, using colorful presentation software, such as Power Point, in making buyer and seller presentations.
9. PARTICIPATES IN AN ON-LINE BUSINESS NETWORK
As the NREP's business moves from paper commerce to electronic commerce, the players in the typical real estate transaction become linked -- this streamlines the processing and closing of the transaction. The NREP is an expert transaction manager. At the command of the NREP, the appraiser, surveyor, title company, attorney, and lender are alerted by eMail to start work and to submit reports and documents electronically. Those players who are not up to date with the new technology will not be part of the closing process -- and soon may be looking for a different line of work.
10. USES REAL ESTATE ASSISTANTS
Professional assistants are individuals who are highly skilled in all phases of real estate technology and the Internet. Some offices will have a professional assistant assigned to several NREPs. Likely, these assistants will be former real estate agents who have focused their energies on understanding and directing the new technology to enhancing the NREP's business practice. The assistant will also be responsible for performing "back-ups" to protect valuable information and files stored in the computer.
Some NREPs prefer to use ‘digital assistants’ who never take a sick day, or complain about a raise, and are willing to work “24/7” – these are our friends the AutoResponder, the MailLists, the Portico virtual assistant, and the productivity software assistants like Top Producer. The NREP understands that these are only tools to assist in the main mission of servicing clients and soliciting prospects – the computer does not replace the face to face contact with the client, rather it enhances it. Check out how AutoResponders can help mailto:ARInfo@InternetCrusade.com
There is no mistaking the New Real Estate Professional. Look for the real estate agent with the most transactions in the works. Look for one coming to your area in the very near future. And make no mistake about it, technology is not going to replace the real estate professional…the NREP who chooses to take the time to learn how to use the power of technology is going to replace the real estate professional who sits on the sidelines. In the words of philosopher Eric Hoffer: "In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who survive; the 'learned' find themselves fully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."
John Reilly, DREI, is an educator, attorney and author of ten real estate books all of which he wrote on yellow legal pads with a #2 pencil. New to computers, he spends 150 hours a month online exploring ways to use the computer in real estate education and brokerage. He is a principal in Real Estate Electronic Publishing Company and the InternetCrusade™, along with Saul D. Klein, and Mike Barnett, who are contributors to this article.
Contact information: John@InternetCrusade.com