2009 may go down in history as the year many real estate agents grew tired of twiddling their thumbs and began using them for a more-profitable if not higher purpose: texting. A slow-to-embrace-technology industry if ever there was one, the nation's real estate sales force stands poised to embrace some even newer technologies in 2010.
How about having buyers use their cell phone cameras to scan a bar code on a for-sale sign which then downloads all the home's details? Or an iPhone app to serve as a lockbox smartkey? Or mobile video text-messaging to send virtual tours and slideshows to would-be buyers?
All are coming.
Joseph Ferrara of TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator site, predicts increased reliance on technology in the property sales industry in the coming year.
Ferrara says a new cell phone from AT&T with an attachable projector will enable agents to show slide shows, photos, and videos to clients in the field. He expects a new iPhone or BlackBerry app for the National Association of Realtors Property Resource will become a must-have.
Among other technologies we can expect to gain popularity next year, Ferrara predicts video e-mail, web sites that allow agents to bid on listings, and services that allow buyers to quickly obtain home details by pointing cell phone cameras at a bar code on the "For Sale" sign or magazine ad. Now if he could only predict some buyers.
In the meantime, Ferrara says the best iPhone app for real estate agents -- who do a lot of driving and should be keeping their hands on the wheel not the dial pad -- is Vlingo, which lets you text, surf the web and send emails with your voice not your fingers.
Michael Antoniak, the techwatch blogger, predicts that by this time next year, many more real estate agents will be routinely circulating forms, disclosures, and contracts for clients to sign electronically.
Some other wizardry that might make the job of selling homes easier: Door locks can be remotely controlled through the Internet using a four digit code with Schlage Link door locks. Agents can use a cell phone to program a lock to open at a specific time. Agents can also monitor access to listings by opting to get a text or email when the code is used.
Whether these gadgets will dazzle buyers into making offers remains to be seen, but clearly the train has left the station. In fact, one of our favorite Realtor bloggers, Mike Gardner of Prudential in Malibu, offers some signs that your agent is from a bygone era. Does your Realtor:
* photograph your listing with a film camera
* not know how to text?
* not use sign riders with domain names or text messaging codes
* still believe that a full-page print ad is a big-time marketing campaign
* try to sell your home without a dedicated website for the property
* use a sheath of paper instead of a laptop for a listing presentation
Hey, don't shoot the (text) messenger.
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