Realtors' Tech Tools Open Doors to DataBy Michael R. Zimmerman | Print
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While in-house investment is out of reach at most sites, real estate agents are turning to technology partners in pursuit of better and faster access to their data.
For some real estate companies, investing in and implementing the latest tech gadgetry are the icing on a well-rounded, if not very elaborate, cake. But as obvious as some state-of-the-art trappings such as wide-area wireless connectivity, handheld computers and 360-degree virtual online tours may seem, some say such technology is not all it's cracked up to be.
For starters, it's difficult to know exactly how much revenue could be directly attributed to such an investment, real estate officials said. But even if a definitive return-on-investment proposition did exist, few small and midsize real estate companies would have the in-house technical expertise to deploy and maintain such features as a complex imaging system or robust Web site.
As a result, some are turning to what could be deemed the bare necessities of real estate technologyPCs, notebooks and digital cameras. To do it, they're leveraging systems integrators and technology partners for everything from hardware and software procurement to Web design.
First Choice Real Estate Inc., of Queens, N.Y., is just such an agency. Though the company is well staffed with nearly 100 full-time real estate agents and brought in $300 million in sales volume last year, it maintains a small IT staff.
For the past 10 years, First Choice has turned to RealPro Training & Consulting LLC for its IT procurement, deployment and support needs. The relationship dates back to 1994, when First Choice's co-owner and vice president, Jack Blumner, needed a direct-mail solution that could help him distribute advertising postcards to an entire community easily.
On cue, and ironically, Blumner received a cold call at the same time from RealPro's founder and president, Joseph Sabella, who pitched him on his new venture. Blumner said he was quickly impressed with Sabella's one-two punch of real estate and technical knowledge. Sabella had been in real estate for 10 years leading up to his work as a technology consultant and partner.
Sabella didn't disappoint, Blumner said. RealPro outfitted First Choice with a database and custom software that mail-merged RealPro's list of community homeowners with First Choice's advertising postcards. The system automatically labeled and bar-coded the cards for mass distribution.