Most broker-owners can give themselves a pat on the back when it comes to the technology tools they provide, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2018 Technology Survey released this week. While agents gave their real estate companies high marks in the survey, there’s also room for improvement, especially for brokers looking to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Overall, 64 percent of the 2,525 survey respondents said they were somewhat or completely satisfied with the level of technology provided by their broker, and 90 percent of respondents said the technology they receive is somewhat easy or very easy to use.
Kyle Malnati, CEO and founder of Calibrate Real Estate, a Denver-based boutique brokerage, was encouraged by the survey results, especially in a day and age when some agents are scared that technology will eliminate their ability to do business as they have in the past. “Those who embrace technology can use it as a powerful amplifier for their business,” he says.
Despite their overall satisfaction, salespeople do have a wish list of items they’d like their brokers to supply, starting with predictive analytics tools, cited by 36 percent of survey respondents. Such platforms use big data to help agents target their marketing efforts, among other applications. The next highest requested piece of technology agents wish brokers would provide is a CRM at 35 percent, followed by transaction management software at 25 percent. Personal websites tied with tablets and technology support services—such as a brokerage staff person, additional training, or help desk support—each making 23 percent of real estate professionals’ wish lists (because respondents were able to choose more than one option, the total percentage for wish-list items exceeds 100).
This leaves brokers with room to grow in their offerings to agents, a sentiment echoed elsewhere in the survey. Take web presence, for example. Only 32 percent of agents pay for a personal website separate from their brokerage’s site, while little over half—51 percent—said they have a dedicated page on their brokerage website. What’s more, only 49 percent of respondents said they have a personal web domain, which they pay for through a domain registrar or hosting company. Brokers may be able to attract top producers by offering attractive, dedicated pages on their sites for agents, or by offering to subsidize the cost of an agent’s site or domain registration costs.
However, Shannon Hall, broker and co-owner of Dwellings by Rudy & Hall in the Detroit metro area, says agents who build up a social media presence attract more leads than those who rely on a personal website. Indeed, when asked about the tech tools that have given them the highest quality leads in the past year, social media was the top source with 47 percent, followed by the MLS (32 percent) and their brokerage’s website (29 percent).
In terms of the types of technology survey respondents found to be most valuable to their business—whether or not they’re paid for by their broker—their local MLS website or app topped the list at 64 percent, followed by a lockbox or smartkey device at 39 percent, and social media at 19 percent (again, respondents were able to choose more than one option).
Agents don’t appear to spend much of their own money on technology, however. Over the last 12 months, 57 percent said they paid less than $1,000 for tech tools or systems, while 26 percent spent between $1,001 and $3,000, with 16 percent spending more than $3,000. The most mentioned technology purchase agents said they plan to make in the next year is a laptop (22 percent), followed by a smartphone (19 percent).
Malnati, who started in the real estate industry almost 15 years ago, recalls the days when newspaper ads, printed mail, and fax machines were vital to an agent’s business.
“The benefit of technology is that your business is more efficient and costs less,” Malnati says. “Therefore, I find it surprising that many REALTORS® aren't reallocating their savings into spending as much, or more, for technology to effectively operate their business.”
When it comes to charging agents for technology, 39 percent of brokers require agents to pay a monthly technology fee, according to survey results, while 23 percent bundle them into desk fees and 18 percent take a percentage out of the commission split for tech tools. Many of the respondents (45 percent) said their broker charged them a reasonable rate for technology, and 36 percent said their broker doesn’t charge anything for such resources. Four percent of respondents said their broker could charge more for the tools they provide.
“I believe that the choice to intentionally invest in your brand, which includes technological expenses, will be the differentiating factor that separates top producers from average agents," Malnati says.