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," (NREP) a phrase coined by Saul D. Klein in talks to REALTORS across the country. So what does this NREP look like?
1. An Information Commander
The NREP recognizes that the hottest commodity in the real estate business -- besides time -- is INFORMATION. Consumers need professional help in dealing with 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 bite size chunks which are graphically presented 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 right in the center of the information business!
2. A Web Surfer
With a computer, modem, and a small monthly fee to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Global Center, 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 is becoming much more user-friendly. But we have a long way to go on the marketing learning curve. Although no one has the answer on 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 by the end of 1997 most everyone who now sends or receives faxes will be on the Internet. Many agents remember buying their first fax machine -- wasn't it the same day a client said they would be faxing the agent a signed contract?
3. An E-mail User
The NREP loves e-mail! No more telephone tag (time zone concerns), long distance charges, interrupted conversations, piles of unanswered or unsent correspondence. But the NREP recognizes that e-mail is so much more than a means of business communication (one with an automatic paper trail). E-mail is one of the most effective marketing tools available to the real estate agent. The number one use of the Internet today is E-mail. With a click of the mouse, and then a cut and paste of some hot news reports, suddenly the NREP creates a personal newsletter filled with solid content. Another click brings up a distribution list of hundreds of clients/prospects with e-mail addresses around the globe; another click and the newsletter is sent instantly to the computers of everyone on the list. No stamps to lick, no envelopes to stuff! No wonder the NREP displays the e-mail address on business cards, letterhead, property ads -- and actively solicits the e-mail address of clients and prospects.
The NREP recognizes the value of their own Domain Name (like firstname.lastname@example.org) or a permanent e-mail address (like email@example.com) - one that directs the mail to whatever ISP the NREP happens to use at the time. The NREP is frustrated and surprised that most real estate agents put off the decision to go online (perhaps out of fear). Consumers appear to be way ahead of the real estate industry when it comes to being "wired." So far there is no critical mass of agents using e-mail -- by next year this will change dramatically, and the NREP won't have to rely on snail mail and the phone to contact other real estate agents about their properties.
4. A Home Page to Brag About
The NREP starts off with a home page -- perhaps creating a simple one using the web site building tools found online at http://realtown.com/pronet/pronet.htm . This "electronic brochure" is the NREP's office-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. Recognizing that "content is king," the NREP develops a more detailed home page 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 e-mail alerts when updates are made so consumers are encouraged to "bookmark" and revisit the site regularly. Ideally, consumers can set up personal profiles that will trigger an e-mail alert when there is a relevant update. The NREP views the home page as another great marketing avenue, though never more important than word of mouth and good service. Companies and agents wanting to distinguish their services often decide to pay extra for a custom design site (e.g., check out the exotic islands for sale in http://www.pacislands.com). Some technology savvy NREPs set up separate web sites for their major clients, so they can make it easy for the clients to check out digital photos of properties, public records' information, documents, financing, and appraisal information -- all from the comfort and privacy of their home computer. What is the consumer looking for these days? Speed...convenience...choice...value...discount. The NREP uses technology to match these consumer demands.
5. Works from a Mobile Office
Not the kind on four wheels, but the NREP's office functions 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 programmable financial calculator, and the portable printer. The NREP's computer might be a Pentium 133, 32 + MB or RAM, 2 gig hard drive with an office docking station and laser jet color printer -- reference.
The NREP's computer can dial in to the company computer and receive messages, faxes, MLS listings, and other helpful data. Meetings and conferences are conducted more efficiently online. There are much fewer and shorter in-person meetings to attend because most of the background information, agenda, confirmations, updates, and follow-up are handled online.
6. A Master Networker
The Internet is the Ultimate Networking tool. The NREP participates online with several discussion groups (mail lists), 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 -- online networking is just another way of expanding key contacts. One of the most popular online discussion forums is RealTalk -- to join this free forum send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can be a "lurker" for a few days and check out how easy it is to participate. E-mail messages posted to the list are "echoed" to all members of the list -- because this can result in many messages, start off receiving the Digest format (which collects a certain number of messages and posts them in one message).
7. Always Growing
The NREP is aware of the major cultural changes occurring in the technology and information age. The NREP focuses on developing their Internet Presence, consisting of their E-mail presence and their Web presence. They often find "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 e-mail, newsletters, property photographs, and documents transmitted electronically. The NREP uses the home page to attract these clients online and then sends them e-mail with "imbedded links" in hypertext that enable the client to simply click on the link and jump to this helpful new information.
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 online community 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. The NREP now has a way to make company and Association leadership accountable online for some of their decisions -- talk about grass- roots participation! Each member has a clear voice in the process.
8. Sees Technology as Tools of the 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 standard presentations and computerized checklists and "action plans" to keep track of deadlines, creating a "paperless trail" for each transaction. The tools enable the NREP to gather much of the needed transaction information -- less time tracking down information translates to more quality time face to face with qualified clients.
With new mapping software (such as Know The Neighborhood), much of the statistical information about a property (surrounding schools, comparable sales, taxes, census, environment) can be quickly assembled into an attractive graphical presentation piece. The NREP is a master presenter, using presentation software such as Powerpoint in making buyer and seller presentations. And one of the most powerful tools is the digital camera - for example, the NREP uses a simple digital camera to take pictures of the properties shown to a buyer and then attaches them to an e-mail so the buyer and spouse can review these properties later; or the agent uses friendly software like Photoshare to create a multimedia slide show of Featured Properties, with voice over and music.
9. Participants 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 electronically -- this streamlines the processing and closing of the transaction. The NREP is an expert transaction manager. The NREP sends out e-mail directives to the appraiser, surveyor, attorney, and lender 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 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.
There is no mistaking the New Real Estate Professional. Look for the salesperson with the most transactions in the works. Look for one coming to your area in the very near future.
This article has been reprinted on this web site with the permission of the author. 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 President of Real Estate Electronic Publishing Company, along with Saul D. Klein, Jack Harper, Mike Barnett, and Terri Murphy all contributors to this article. Contact information: email@example.com or http://www.realtown.com. Copyright 1997 Reilly.
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