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Shop Talk - The Real Estate Agent Podcast

Real Estate Agent Podcast Episode 85: Tech Tools to Boost Your Real Estate Business in 2022

Episode 85: Tech Tools to Boost Your Real Estate Business in 2022
February 9, 2022

In this episode, we explore new technology tools entering the real estate industry and outline which tools are best for agents.

While the idea around the real estate industry becoming fully automated spreads fear into the hearts of traditionalists everywhere, remember this: real estate is a people business, and it always will be.

Brett Van Alstine

About This Episode

Technology surrounds us. For many Americans, it’s with us all the time, right in our pockets. The real estate industry has seen all sorts of tech tools claim their functionality and how they will transform the business. The market for tech tools has become so saturated that new technology sounds more like snake oil than anything truly revolutionary.

To help you wade through these digital waters, we’re going to break down some of the biggest technological changes coming to the real estate industry this year and highlight some tools that should be a part of your business right now.

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Episode Transcript

Brett: Technology plays a large role in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally. Smartphones are essentially extensions of ourselves and have made real estate agents more efficient from both a transactional and customer service perspective.

Intro: Hey there and welcome to Shoptalk, the real estate show. I’m Brett Van Alstine and for this episode, we’re going to talk about tech tools - what new tech tools have been introduced, how these tools apply to the industry, and which tech tools can help real estate professionals grow their brand and business.

Brett: The real estate industry is notorious for resisting technology and changing slowly. Whether you’ve adopted new technology into your business or you’re still using your Rolodex to keep your clients organized, this episode will shed some light on some new technology that’s available for agents and how they can actually help you grow your business.

Brett: When it comes to new technology, tools, apps, and software seem to be released every day. History tends to repeat itself, and in the tech world, this notion still applies. New tech can seem like snake oil, prophesized by their inventor as being the one tool that can do it all.

Brett: To tackle what’s real and what’s a gimmick, let’s go over some new technology that’s been introduced to the industry and determine if it actually works.

Brett: First, let’s talk about AI and Big Data. Big Data is pretty vague, but the best example of Big Data in real estate are MLS’s such as Zillow or Redfin. These companies aggregate huge amounts of data on a daily basis and use this information primarily to sell to other agents, brokerages, or to outside companies interested in gathering more data on potential customers for their business.

Now AI, or artificial intelligence, is a bigger fish to fry. Essentially, AI relates to real estate through the automation of certain tasks. These tasks could be administrative, CRM management, or even the chat feature on your website. Inherently, AI in real estate aims to automate some of the more straightforward duties so that you can focus on your customers, listings, and other things that make you money.

One AI company that comes to mind is Structurely. This startup is a conversational sales platform for real estate businesses that’s powered by AI. While AI is still relatively new, the power and complexity behind it make a case for its importance in business operations. Structurely’s AI-powered software is so intelligent that it can facilitate a conversation on both your website or through text, organize the conversation and customer information in your CRM, qualify the lead, and stay connected with the lead on a schedule of your choosing.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of Structurely, Nate Joens, for the podcast. Here is Nate with a description of Structurely and how it can help agents.

Nate: What we found was mostly Salespeople as, as a whole really hate that follow-up work, they hate following up with leads. Most of what we've seen is most Salespeople across the board typically give up with, give up, following up with leads after the third to fifth attempt when most contacts are made between the sixth and eighth attempt. So there's a lot of, there's just a gap between all the work that's needed to maintain following up and qualifying hundreds, if not thousands of leads that everyone's probably dealing with and nodding their head to that they have right now, right. That's where we fit in is we hook up to your CRM, your lead gen sources, Facebook, wherever you're getting your leads. We automatically follow up with those leads over text and mill over, uh, about 52 times on average, over the course of the year. And then as soon as they respond, we actually have a two-way qualifying conversation with them. That's extremely humanlike, very empathetic, which is so important in this industry, um, and all that communication's happening and integrated right back into your CRM. So you can manage the conversations, take over the conversations, see them, uh, in real-time, uh, kind of on the go. And ultimately we like to say that we're kind of sifting out the, pay dirt, you get a lot of leads, and we're finding those that are really ready to move pretty quickly.

Nate: We have a full-facing kind of agent dashboard, mobile apps for Android iOS, too. But ultimately again, what we've seen is most agents’ system of work is their CRM. Okay. You don't want another tool. You don't want another product. You just want to work your leads in your CRM. And ideally, you want those qualified for you. So we're extracting all that information like, you know, are they working with another agent? Are they approved for a loan? What's their timeframe to move? We're extracting all that information, and we're sending it back to the CRM in some cases. Um, so ultimately that still becomes your system of truth or your system of record where your agents are, man managing on the go, ‘cuz you spend, I'm sure everyone here spent a lot of time getting in CRM up, up to speed training your agents, then getting them to continuously use the CRM. We don't want to have to make you go through that process with a product like ours. We're here to really just have quality, super, very humanlike conversations with leads and let all the kinds of lead management happen in the CRM.

Brett: When Nate says human-like, he means it. Structurely isn’t just your typical website chatbot. Their conversational AI app was tirelessly tested amongst users, and tests reported that 99.9% of customers believed they were having a conversation with a real human.

While this sounds a bit nerve-wracking, the functionality of the software is clearly there. Imagine using a company like Structurely to manage your leads and stay connected with clients, allowing you to focus on your business and face-to-face interactions.

Brett: The second tech tool that we’ll cover is one that may feel more familiar to you: virtual conference calls. Zoom, Google Video Calls, FaceTime, and, of course, Skype are all examples of virtual meetings that quickly took over offices throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while this tech seemed like a great band-aid during the pandemic, it’s becoming clear that virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere.

Even as the need to stay separated during the pandemic dwindles, homebuyers and sellers are increasingly keeping their distance during the buying and selling process even if they live in your market. The importance of having virtual meetings, listings, and tours is crucial to meeting your customer’s needs. Where are these virtual meetings and videos being conducted? Via their smartphones and tablets! This is another noteworthy stat: 76% of homebuyers used a mobile or tablet device in their home search, and Millennials used mobile devices nearly twice as often as previous generations.

While we’re on this topic, let’s do a quick dive into virtual staging and its importance in today’s real estate market. Virtual staging technology helps to make home staging simple and can quickly beautify any home for a virtual open house. Creating a virtual tour of a home also allows you to add in furniture and home decor that better suits the homebuyer’s style and taste, allowing them to visualize themselves in the space.

This sounds like a massive undertaking, but new technology makes it quite simple. All you need to do is take pictures of each room’s interior, send it off to a virtual stager, and they will create a 3D-rendering of the home that allows potential buyers to take a 360-degree virtual tour online. statistics report that listings with virtual tours receive 87% more views than home listings without tours, and 54% of buyers skip over listings of properties that don’t include virtual tours.

Beyond the fact that properties without virtual tours are largely ignored, there’s been a marked rise in site unseen purchases since the onset of the pandemic. According to a Redfin survey of more than 1,900 homebuyers across 32 major real estate markets, 63% made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person. Featuring virtual tours for your listings allows buyers near and far to feel like they’re in the home, which can help make the decision to purchase all the easier.

Adopting virtual and video tactics into your business will be crucial in 2022, not only to remain competitive but to best serve the needs of your customers. Real estate will remain a customer-centric business, and while the tech-specific needs of the customer might be uncomfortable for some of us to grasp, it is the future of the industry. That’s not to say all face-to-face interactions will be a thing of the past, but virtual listings and other accommodations will allow you to show more listings to more potential buyers. Imagine sitting in your office and not having to drive around town to show a listing in person; the time you save adds up and allows you to showcase a home to dozens of potential buyers without leaving your desk. In other words, this technology definitely isn’t snake oil.

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After the break, we’ll cover more tech tools in 2022 and how they can help you and your business.

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Brett: You might be surprised at our next recommended tech tool, particularly since you may be using it already. We’re talking about your website. While you may roll your eyes, most in the industry still don’t use this crucial tool to its fullest potential or invest enough time, energy, and money into it.

According to NAR, 70% of Brokers and 69% of Sales Agents have a website, and it’s clear why.

As with any major purchase nowadays, customers often start their research online, and real estate clients are no different. 97% of all homebuyers used the internet in their home search, making your website more crucial than ever before. However, 69% of members have a website that is around five years old. To a customer, having an outdated website that doesn’t look neat and doesn’t function properly can come off as lazy and show a lack of commitment to the business. While we’re sure this isn’t the case from the perspective of the agent or Broker, the customer’s perspective is key for continuing business.

In 2022, there are a plethora of websites that make it easy to create, update, and manage your site. If you’re not tech-savvy, don’t worry - there are plenty of companies that can help those of us who are not as privy to website management hire freelancers to do the work for you, such as Crowdspring.

Crowdspring is a website that allows you to leverage its marketplace of freelance designers to create high-quality custom designs for your business’s website.

They make it simple to communicate what your needs are. Just give them an idea or brief on what you’re looking for, you’ll collaborate with a designer from their pool of freelancers, and then, you’ll receive your ready-to-use final product.

Ross Kimbarovsky, the CEO and founder of Crowdspring, has been a guest on the podcast before. Here is Ross on the creation of Crowdspring and how it can help real estate professionals.

Ross: So I didn't have a design background, but, but I knew having run into this problem with the redesign of my firm's website, that there must be a better way for individuals for small businesses to buy design services. And so it wasn't just, we didn't pick a design from the very beginning. We actually looked at the market and asked the question where are people most in need when they're buying creative services? And we looked at architecture, video production, design, copywriting. Design was really important in 2006 and 2007 because almost a third to 50% of all projects that we found on traditional marketplaces involved design. And there's a reason for that. Having been an entrepreneur for 12 years, having mentored, you know, hundreds of business owners and talked to thousands of startups it's more clear than ever that building a strong brand identity, which is the visual elements of your brand is one of the best ways that you can actually differentiate in the marketplace.

Ross: Design was unapproachable because you have to figure out somebody that would do it for you. You had to accept one or two, maybe examples of a design, and pick the one you like the most. And so we said, why don't we find a better way? So Crowdspring is an example. A custom logo design project is $299, including all fees. And you get to pick from dozens of custom designs for your new real estate agency. As an example, you get a hundred percent money-back guarantee. If you're not happy, we feel so strongly about it. You get a customized legal agreement, transferring the full rights to the intellectual property to you. So every problem I discovered at the time that was making it really tough for people like me, for real estate agents, for small business owners to buy design services, we tried to solve. And today 220,000 freelancers in every single country in the world working with real estate agents, agencies entrepreneurs and startups, and nonprofits in over a hundred countries.

Brett: As Ross said, clean, thoughtful website design is important for real estate agents and small businesses looking to grow their brand identity. And in a world where most customers’ first touchpoint with a business is online, having a strong digital brand identity is crucial.

While you tighten up the design and ensure your brand is memorable, it’s worth examining what you post on your website. A key feature of every successful agent’s site are the listings they’re trying to sell.

If you aren’t currently featuring your listings online, you need to start this year. Having your listings live online is a sure-fire way to increase their visibility. There are a host of companies that can help you do this, including Zillow. But as we all know, Zillow might not necessarily have your best interests in mind. While listing a home on Zillow will increase its views, it also increases the chance of your clients being poached by another agent. That’s why companies like Showcase IDX are a great solution for listing your client’s home online while keeping their information private.

Showcase IDX is a simple plugin (aka downloadable software that can be applied to your website) that will be the hub for your brand, generate more leads, and help you market your business.

Kurt Uhlir is the CMO at Showcase IDX, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kurt for the podcast. Here is Kurt on how Showcase IDX can help agents generate leads and improve their websites.

Kurt: So I work with a company named showcase IDX, and so we provide that Zillow like home search, um, better than that, we're the only home search that consumers choose over any of the big portals. Um, but it powers, um, it literally, we don't build websites for agents. We're just a home search that is, uh, powers our websites. And so they'll use WordPress and us. And, um, I mentioned some of the success stories that we have, we support thousands of agents across more than a hundred plus brokers in teams across the us and Canada. Um, and so some cases, agents build the websites themselves using us some cases. I mentioned like a 14 year old daughter or, uh, we have a lot of marketing partners that will, uh, help build them with their website or other parts of their marketing. Cuz a lot of agents it's not, not just the website they're needing, they may, they're often saying that's maybe something I'm revamping today, but I also need some social media help or I also need some help with content or somebody to take my voice notes and write that out.

Brett: Technology in real estate is not going anywhere, and that’s great news for you. The tools we’ve discussed today are worth the hype. Those who have integrated tech tools into their businesses are reaping the benefits, but like anything else, don’t just buy tools to have them. If you purchase new software, apps, or other intriguing pieces of tech, you have to become familiar with and actually use them. This is a great quote from a previous podcast guest, Tonya Eberhart, that is applicable to tech tools in real estate: “It's like a treadmill. You can have a $500 treadmill or a $5,000 treadmill. They're going to both be the same if you never turn them on.”

Brett: While the idea around the real estate industry becoming fully automated spreads fear into the hearts of traditionalists everywhere, remember this: real estate is a people business, and it always will be. No matter how many apps or new pieces of software enter the industry, the agents that focus on the people and prioritize their clients their will always win.

For those trembling at the thought of embracing more technology, I have a funny quote from real estate agent Matt Lionetti: “Sometimes I do get really scared about what people say about the future of our industry and how we’re all gonna be replaced by robots and how we won’t be needed. Then I go stand in the Walmart self-checkout line, and I see all of the people that can’t figure out how to type in the code for their tomatoes and I think…. We’re gonna make it, we’re gonna be all right.”

Brett: That’s it for this episode, thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the podcast, you can subscribe to us and leave a review on your podcast player of choice. Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.