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OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®



This article was published on: 10/01/2006

TECH@WORK: Intranets

BY JIM KIMMONS

Remote management

Keep things humming with an intranet.

Are you worried that time in the field is negatively affecting your work flow and communication with your team? An intranet may be your answer.

Simply put, an intranet is a method of connecting team members via their computers over the Internet so that they can share documents, information, and tasks. You need no special hardware other than an Internet-enabled computer. Content can be password-protected so that team members can view only what you want them to.

With an intranet, it’s easy to
  • Share marketing materials. Set up a master document folder with subfolders containing promotional e-mail templates, brochures, mailers, and authorized logos so that ads can be prepared and reviewed electronically. If you use layout professionals, create a folder for copy to be proofed.
  • Manage contacts, prospects, and sales leads. A database within the intranet allows all team members to enter new leads and track their progress in converting those leads. Team members can make private entries into the database, while sharing common contacts, such as appraisers, title companies, and inspectors.
  • File company personnel documents. A master company document folder provides group access to operations manuals, procedure memos, and office policies. Brokers or team leaders can also restrict access to subfolders that contain each associate’s independent contractor agreements, commission schedules, and personnel actions.
  • Motivate and communicate with your team. Sending memos, announcements of sales meetings, and new listings to team members via an intranet ensures that all associates are kept in the loop. The intranet can also replace the company newsletter. Polls can be used to elicit feedback.
  • Manage listings and closings. Create task checklists on how to handle different types of transactions (residential, investment, land). Assign deadlines for each new transaction. A document folder with strict password protection can also allow the client, title company, lender, or appraiser to upload or download transaction documents.

Short of a fully custom intranet, which can cost between $10,000 and $30,000, your best software option is an off-the-shelf program. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate one tailored to the real estate business. However, the functions common to any office intranet product, such as shared contacts and calendars, can be customized by a programmer to include specific real estate fields and functionalities.

The generic intranet products I’ve found most useful are www.HyperOffice.com, www.IceboxPortal.com, and www.webexone.com. I’ve built numerous real estate database templates for use with the WebEx product. Access them for free at http://realtydemo.webexone.com.I’ve found that the WebEx database functionality is the only one that allows you to design custom real estate databases.

Each of the three products has an easy-to-use function that lets you import your current contact and to-do lists into the program. You can also customize your database to allow for functions such as prospect feedback forms or showing schedules.

As you set up your database, set the permission levels so that only the appropriate people can view certain documents. You build permissions by setting up folders to contain specific documents. You then designate a user or group of users who can access the documents.

If you involve a programmer, expect to pay between $30 and $75 per hour (at least in my area). In addition, the intranet provider will charge a monthly fee based on the number of users. WebEx charges $59.95 per month for up to five users. If you can do without the customization, HyperOffice has an intranet for as few as two users for $17.99 per month. There’s also usually an additional charge for storing data above a certain amount.

There’s no perfect solution for connecting your team or brokerage online, but an intranet can get you close.

Kimmons, ABRŽ, e-PROŽ, is a real estate broker and technology consultant with Gallery Realty of Taos in Ranchos de Taos, N.M. You can reach him at 866/503-2260.

MORE ONLINE
To see a sample real estate intranet, click Current Links at REALTOR.org/realtormag.
Sample real estate intranet

Intranet demo (Click Intranets.)

Jim Kimmons’ technology reference site


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