By Tracy Staedter
If you're one of the approximately two million people in the United States that holds an active real estate license, you're probably up against some stiff competition. To stay on top of your game, utilize your smartphone and data plan to effectively reach prospective buyers, promote your listings and manage your sales.
Here are five ways you can use your smartphone to gain an edge and become a better agent:
Download a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) app. In a 2018 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey, 64 percent of agents said that an MLS website or app was the most valuable technology tool they had. But which one should you use? A popular choice among many agents is the Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®) app.
With this app, agents can find all available information about residential or commercial properties, including the owners, taxes, mortgage history, neighborhood demographics and worth. It offers the ability to find properties, take notes, run comparative market analysis reports and send those reports to buyers. If you have assistants working for you, add them to your account under your real estate license number to create a cohesive, well-informed team.
Use beacon technology. Location. Location. Location. This real estate mantra embodies one of the industry's main tenets that a home's value can increase or decrease based solely on where it is. How can you find people who are looking for homes in a specific neighborhood?
The answer is proximity marketing and beacon technology. This relatively new technology involves placing tiny gadgets on a property or for-sale sign that emit a radio signal up to 300 feet. Potential buyers with an app tied to the beacon will receive an alert when they come within range of the property, and that notification links to a listing of the property online. Agents can also use the app to keep tabs on the local competition.
Hone your skills with a video app. These days, the latest smartphones have great cameras that take amazing videos and stills. Snapshots are one thing, but if you're new to creating videos, consider honing your skills with a free video-making app for your phone. Three good options to get started are: Vlogit, Adobe Premier and InShot.
Once you have the content, you need to get that information in front of buyers. Post photos and videos to your website and promote them using social media. As you post, keep your audience in mind. Millennials tend to prefer photos and online property information, while baby boomers are keen on virtual video tours and direct contact with an agent, according to NAR.
Utilize smart lockboxes. Another tool often used by agents is a lockbox. Standard lockboxes are large, padlock-like devices that hold the keys to a property and can be opened with a combination. Seller's agents frequently share the combination with buyer's agents, and it can become challenging to keep track of the combinations for various listings, as well as who is coming and going.
A smartphone-enabled lockbox is completely different. It works electronically and can be unlocked remotely via an app, saving time and improving security. You can use your phone to provide a buyer's agent with a one-time code, reducing the chances that an unwanted person will enter the property unknowingly. Change your app's preferences to receive notifications when someone accesses the lockbox, and view logs of who is opening it and when.
Manage your transactions using an app. Being a real estate agent lets you help people navigate one of the most important buying decisions of their lives, but managing large transactions can be stressful. An excellent transaction-management app is key. DocuSign and RealtyBackOffice are two good choices—dotloop is another popular option. Dotloop keeps forms, documents, correspondences and task lists in one "loop" that provides a visual representation of the status of the sale. Clients can sign papers electronically, and the app maintains a bank-approved audit trail.
Working as an agent can be an exciting and rewarding career. You'll meet all kinds of people, can make good money and gain intimate knowledge of the city you live in. But there are many details to manage, and if you work independently, you'll need to wear several hats.
Gaining trust and closing sales will help you get the referrals that lead to new customers, so invest in apps that keep you organized—and technology that keeps your properties secure. Once you have your phone set up in a way that is most helpful for building your business, save money by bringing it with you when you sign up with a new carrier. You'll benefit from an upgraded data plan that matches your needs without losing everything you have on your current phone.
Tracy Staedter is an experienced science writer and contributor for Xfinity Mobile. She has covered everything from smart home technology to internet satellites. Staedter wrote the illustrated book, "Rocks and Minerals," part of the Reader's Digest Pathfinders series, and founded Fresh Pond Writers, a creative fiction and nonfiction writing group.