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This article was published on: 03/01/2007

COVER FEATURE: The List Issue 2007

“Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.”
— Bill Gates

TECHNOLOGY



4 technologies that will bring change

With Web 2.0, the second generation of online tools and services, consumers will have even more options for accessing real estate information. Saul Klein, E-PRO®, GRI, president of San Diego based InternetCrusade and coauthor of Real Estate Technology Guide: Winning With Technology (Dearborn Real Estate Education, 2004), says these technologies are worth watching:

1. Metaverse sites. Sci-fi–like Web sites, such as www.SecondLife.com and www.There.com, have created a virtual world, complete with virtual economies, where residents appear in 3-D depictions to socialize, start up businesses, and buy homes. Although the transactions on these sites are virtual, the money is real. Metaverse sites as well as online communities, such as MySpace, will become important places for you to network with the next generation of home buyers and sellers.

2. Better search engines. Buyers and sellers will have greater access to view and post property listings on public databases. Many public sites such as Google Base and Craigslist already allow people to post property listings without charge. And as search engines become more sophisticated, consumers will be able to retrieve information across multiple databases.

3. RSS feeds. Short for “really simple syndication,” these feeds deliver syndicated content from various sites directly to subscribers’ RSS reader. Expect RSS feeds to grow as a way that consumers receive real estate information and property listings that fit their criteria.

4. Consumer ratings systems. The job you do for customers may soon be publicly rated. Some sites, such as www.Homethinking.com and Judy’s Book (www.judysbook.com), offer consumers a way to provide feedback about real estate professionals and brokerages. And expect more Web sites to soon include property reviews along with feedback from consumers, who note whether property descriptions match reality.

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4 content ideas for mashups

To create helpful visitor experiences, some site operators are blending, or mashing up, cool features from different Web sites into their own site. Mashups are created by using the free application programming interfaces (APIs) offered at some sites, such as Yahoo! Maps. To see what’s happening in the world of real estate mashups, REALTOR® Magazine visited ProgrammableWeb, which tracks mashups by category. Among the content available as APIs:
  • Maps. Google and Yahoo! Maps allow you to incorporate their maps into your site. Who’s doing it: Housingmaps.com’s mashup combines Google Maps with Craigslist.org property listings so that visitors can scan classified ads for rental or For Sale properties and see where those properties are located. Homethinking.com combines track records of real estate salespeople with Yahoo! Maps to pinpoint the location of the homes the practitioners have sold.
  • RSS (really simple syndication) feeds. These feeds allow users to receive syndicated content, such as real estate news, from various sources directly in an RSS reader without having to visit the sites that originated the content. For example, Propsmart.com offers RSS feeds of its online property listings for mashups. Who’s doing it: Trulia (www.trulia.com) combines Google Maps with RSS feeds of property listings from real estate broker Web sites.
  • Satellite imaging sites. GoogleEarth (http://earth.google.com) and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth (www.microsoft.com/virtualearth) provide aerial images of geographic locations that you can use in mashups. Who’s doing it: Eppraisal.com combines home valuations with Virtual Earth’s bird’s-eye property views.Sources: ProgrammableWeb (www.programmableweb.com); Center for REALTOR® Technology; and NAR Library Technology Reports

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6 ways to get the most from your PDA

Besides serving as a phone, smartphones and personal digital assistants are often used for e-mail, to store client contact information, and to maintain to-do lists. But there are many lesser-known uses for these devices especially when you take advantage of inexpensive software add-ons, says John D. Mayfield, ABR®, E-PRO®, real estate trainer (www.realestatetechguy.com) and author of 5 Minutes to Maximizing Real Estate Technology: A Desk Reference for Top-Selling Agents (Thomson South-Western, 2006).

1. Take digital photographs. The quality of photographs taken by a smartphone or a PDA increased dramatically over the past couple of years. Tip: Snap a photo of a FSBO home and use the image to create a virtual report or flyer that you can present to the owner.

2. Run a PowerPoint presentation. A variety of software add-ons, including Microsoft PowerPoint, can add new capabilities to your smartphone or PDA. The best part is that software programs for these devices tend to be very affordable (less than $20). Tip: PowerPoint presentations will be easier to view on your small screen if you use fewer text boxes and larger photos. To view the presentation on a larger screen, run presentations through a digital projector.

3. Do instant messaging. Most smartphones come equipped with MSN Messenger, which allows you to log on to your IM account and begin communicating in real time. Tip: Stay in touch with tech savvy clients who prefer texting to phone calls.

4. Read e-books. Booksellers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble let you download books digitally to your handheld device. Tip: The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has an e-books collection with hundreds of titles you can check out for no charge. Visit http://ebooks.REALTOR.org.

5. Store flyers and marketing handouts. With PDF software, you can save your flyers and other handouts on your device. Print them out whenever you need them. Tip: You can also attach PDFs to any e-mail you send from your mobile device.

6. Look up MLS data. Many MLSs have special versions of their programs for use with handhelds. Tip: If you know you won’t have access to wireless service at some point in the day, download the entire MLS or portions of it to your smartphone or PDA. That way, you can consult it whether or not you’re connected.

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5 real estate blogs to visit

In a lively industry such as real estate, it’s no surprise there are dozens of blogs visit A Directory of Real Estate Blogs (www.real-estate-blogs.com) to see a sample offering opinions and insights on the latest housing market news. Here are a few worth visiting:

Matrix (http://matrix.millersamuel.com)
This often updated blog aims to be an independent resource on the real estate market, focusing on the latest local, national, and international industry news. Jonathan Miller, cofounder of two Manhattan real estate appraisal companies, said he created the blog in 2005 to feed the nation’s voracious appetite for all things real estate. He says he’s able to maintain an impartial tone in his blog thanks to his appraisal background.

Mortgage Fraud Blog (www.mortgagefraudblog.com)
Mortgage fraud is the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the United States, according to the FBI. This blog, run by Rachel Dollar, an attorney and certified mortgage banker in Santa Rosa, Calif., is a clearinghouse of information on recent mortgage fraud schemes, indictments, and prevention tips.

President’s Report (http://narblog1.realtors.org/mvtype/president)
Want an easy way to learn about NAR’s top priorities and member resources? Just subscribe to this blog and its accompanying twice monthly podcast. 2007 NAR President Pat Vredevoogd Combs uses the forum to let members know about important legislative activities, free business tools and resources, and housing market updates.

The Real Estate Bloggers (www.therealestatebloggers.com)
If you enjoy reading interesting news on all manner of real estate topics the sale of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania and Arizona State University’s new real estate MBA were two postings we found on a recent visit check out this blog by Tom Royce out of Atlanta. Royce says he’s always had a keen interest in real estate, though he’s never worked as a practitioner. His goal is to capture the mood of the real estate market by spotlighting compelling news articles and video clips.

The Real Estate Tomato (http://realestatetomato.typepad.com)
A blog about blogs. The Real Estate Tomato’s founder and author, Jim Cronin, delivers e-marketing news and tips geared to real estate salespeople. Cronin, based in Paradise, Calif., says his goal is to educate practitioners on how to embrace blogging as an effective marketing tool. Occasionally he’ll include juicy or unique real estate news snippets, but only when he feels they won’t be covered on other industry blogs.

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Online Exclusive List
5 ways to engage prospects in your Web site

Enhance your Web presence so that when prospects visit your Web site, they’ll have reason to keep coming back. Try the following strategies:

1. Make your site unique. Target a niche so that you can tailor your site to fit the needs of one particular audience. You’ll have an easier chance of standing out among the competition if you concentrate on serving a smaller group than a broad audience. Your target audience will then be more likely to do business with you, since your site talks directly to their specific situation.

2. Give them reason to explore your site. Provide a compelling offer on your Web site along with an attention-grabbing headline that speaks to your target market. For example, you might offer first-time home buyers such articles as “Three negotiating tips you must know before making your first offer” or “How to beat everyone else to the best listings.” Have the special offer delivered via e-mail or snail mail so that you can gather contact information, too.

3. Let them hear or see you. To build rapport, add multimedia content to your site, such as online videos or podcasts, which consumers can launch from their computer or download and play from an MP3 or other audio and video players. Topics can be instructional what to expect during an inspection or what to keep in mind about purchase agreements or you can present a brief introduction about yourself and what you can do for prospects.

4. Keep it current. Don’t let information get out-of-date, or visitors will have no reason to return. Continually update your site with new information and compelling offers.

5. Interact. Invite visitors to submit questions or feedback to your site about home buying and selling. If you’ve followed the advice in No. 3, you could even prepare a weekly podcast that responds to consumer questions. By letting visitors pose questions, you encourage them to see you as their consultant.

Source: Michael J. Russer, a technology columnist for REALTOR® Magazine Online

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Online Exclusive List
4 computer terms you should know

Technology is contributing hundreds of words to the English language. Some are just for computer geeks. Others are worth knowing since technology drives so much of your business today.

1. Encryption: This type of software scrambles your confidential information to keep it secure so that it can be accessed only by using a special code or password. Most computers contain built-in software, so you can encrypt data in just a few steps. Also, when you visit a Web site, look for a tiny lock in the lower right-hand corner or the prefix “https” rather than “http” in the URL to see whether the site is encrypted. If the site isn’t encrypted, any information you transfer over the Internet is sent exactly the way you typed it and has the potential to be read by someone else.

2. Search engine optimization: This process helps ensure that your Web site appears high in a list of search engine results when a consumer conducts a search using keywords related to real estate in your area. Many vendors offer help in boosting rankings, emphasizing such practices as refreshing content often, using the same keywords in both your page content and HTML coding, and including a lot of links.

3. Two factor authentication: This extra layer of security requires you to prove your identity in two ways before accessing information or the Internet from your computer or other device. For example, unlocking a lockbox might require you to swipe a smart card and then key in a personal identification number. Or you might use a biometric fingerprint reader and password to access your laptop.

4. RETS: Short for Real Estate Transaction Standard, RETS provides a common language so that computers can more easily transfer real estate information such as MLS data to other computer programs or Web sites. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and other industry groups launched RETS in 1999.

Source: Keith Garner, managing director, NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology

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