Thursday, December 27, 2012

In Gear for the New Year?

      Last month, the National Association of Realtors released its 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and SellersTwo things jumped out at me when I read the summary report: today’s typical buyer is a 42 year old; and 96 percent of buyers under 44—almost all—used the Internet during the home buying process.
      Consider these buyers the vanguard, and we’ve entered the era when the average home buyer came of age in a consumer culture defined by its evolving digital technologies. They are well versed in all the tools and technologies which redefined our mobile society and real estate searches and services over the past two decades. And, they will quickly lose patience and move on from anyone they turn to for advice or assistance who lacks that core competency.
As the real estate market emerges from the doldrums of recent years, the “typical” buyer will expect a variety of tech enabled services in every phase of the home buying or selling process. Pressed for time, they’ll use online photo and video tours to winnow their options. In a similar way, social networking—either your online presence, neighborhood blog or recommendations from their own circle of friends— will identify the real estate candidates to help them through the emotional buying or selling process. 
As they preview properties, online presence can be the make or break factor determining who gets that first call. Sure they want a look at likely homes,and to calculate costs of ownership. They’ll also want to tour the neighborhood, with a map showing location and nearby amenities, recreational facilities, commute times and critical reports on the local school system before they initiate contact.
Once engaged, they’ll expect all communications channels to be open, with texting the first preference. They’ll use email less so, and voice calling when a more detailed response is required. For those out of state, video conferencing and virtual meetings will serve to familiarize them with you, and facilitate the process. In fact, live open houses, and virtual closings will eventually seem routine. 
When visiting homes or an area, they’ll expect you can provide information on the spot, via smartphone or tablet, on any home or property you pass. If you can’t summon the answers, they use theirs....leaving them wondering why they’re riding around with you.
Ebook readers, these consumers already understand digital forms and documents, and the convenience of electronic signatures. Once they’re under contract, texted updates should suffice, but they’ll also want the option of monitoring progress toward closing on their own, through a secure transaction management system.
Success in real estate is still built on personal relationships, but the tools and client expectations have changed. Today’s typical buyers came of age in a digital world, it’s shaped their world view, how they interact and communicate. Everything you’ve read is already available. With technology, availability becomes necessity, for those in the know.
Good Luck in the New Year!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dress Up Tours, Presentations With Multimedia Content

         This month’s buying guide in Realtor magazine online will take a look at multimedia solutions and services—tools you can use to jazz up  presentations and property tours.
          When you rely on the templates and content provided in any of these solutions, you can end up with multimedia vignettes which look something like what all your peers are producing. But, search beyond what’s included with any respective software or service, you can achieve a more distinctive look with a variety of content available online.
There’s wasn’t space in the guide to address clip art and content sources, so I’ll expound a little here. Online you’ll find abundant sources of content of all types: photos, video and animation clips, music tracks, even buttons and icons you can incorporate into your web designs.
In the broadest sense, across all categories, there’s two categories: royalty free content you can freely use, without restriction, and content which carries some form of license agreement. This can be a mere acknowledgement, giving credit to the creator, or it can also mean you must pay a fee for  specified use of that content. In either case respect the creators’ wishes, and protect your interests. Always read the Terms of Use or License Agreement and abide by its stipulations.
Quality varies greatly, but take time to look around and you’ll find what you need.
Simply search or “google” what you want. You’ll be impressed with what’s  available, to give your presentations or sites a more distinctive look.
To get you started, here’s links to just a few examples of all that is available: RealtyClipArt; the Open ClipArt LibraryVector4Free; Vector.USAnimation Factory; IconFinder; FotoSearch; iStock Photo; RoyaltyFreeMusic; and SoundIdeas.

Monday, September 24, 2012

That next computer....

It’s a means, not an end.
With buyer’s guides to computers, smartphones and tablets all updated for 2012 , and having just revised my ebook on essential mobile technology for real state), I’ll take a breather here to offer some straightforward advice on that next computer.
It should be whatever makes sense for you
That can mean any and all of the above, or just the one device which makes sense for you. They are, after all, all computers.
If budget is tight, add one device; if not,build an integrated workflow so all your devices work together seamlessly and information created on one is available in a familiar format on others. Depending on your technical prowess, that may mean sticking with one operating system, or mixing and matching as you like.
If I had to prioritize for real estate, I’d say start with a smartphone. If you’re not already carrying an Android or iPhone device, migrating to one of these will bring you the most productive benefits. You can get a decent camera, and navigation services to boot, making you a more portable professional. With the right real estate apps—well you’ve got that mobile office in hand. 
(A word on smartphones for Windows loyalists. If you’re thinking smartphone, you might want to wait a few weeks and see what Windows 8, and the compatible version of Windows Phone, means in terms of your choices)
Got a smartphone? Then the next recommendation I’d make is a tablet. It gives you everything you have in a smartphone, save calling, in a format that’s larger so easier to use, view and share. Again the choices: Windows 8(shortly), Ipad or one of the Android devices—that’s up to you. Sample them all and go with your gut.
Finally that “real “computer, the more traditional mobile or desktop system. That should be your next investment only if your present system is so old it’s slowing you down, dragging across the web. Otherwise, you and your clients will be better served with a more mobile solution. You’ll see productive gains immediately.
Across the board. what’s the best choice?
The one that works for you. 
People can get very snobbish about the technology they use. It’s not the brand, but what the brand delivers for you that matters. In every class of computer, the smart choice is the one you’re most comfortable using, with software and apps to empower your career.
Remember, any computer is just a means to more responsive service, more productive use of your time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Ebook: Essential Mobile Technology For Real Estate

If you’re confused about all all this mobile technology, unsure which tech tools to embrace, what questions to ask, I’ve updated this ebook for you. Just $5 for download in format of your choice: PDF or multiple ebook formats.
I’ve been lax here the last month or so as I made time to revisit the first edition and update the content. As in the original, it’s a quick study for those in real real estate, and other mobile professions, who need a firm grounding in today’s mobile tech, want to know the right questions to ask so they can make the smart choices to empower their careers. If you consider yourself tech-savvy, you may find some of it too basic. But you can preview before buying at Smashwords or on my website.
The content is drawn from my years of experience covering  technology and putting together tech buying guides for the National Association of Realtors’ print and online publications. My goal here was to create a general reference so readers can intelligently approach their many options, gain a basic understanding of the mobile essentials, and incorporate the right mix into your own mobile strategy. Since the first edition appeared, smartphones have really come to the fore, tablets gained a wide audience here, and promise of the cloud has been realized.
For a better idea of my approach, you can check out the Real Tech Tools website I put together when I first published the book. But I’ll forewarn you it’s not updated yet. That’s a next project.
Anyway, I’m a full time freelancer and appreciate any sales. If there’s enough interest, I’ll follow-up with a mobile marketing guide. For now, I’m glad it’s done and hope it helps some of you.
If you bought the first edition of the book, and want the update, you can contact me from here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Some New and Noteworthy:

Putting Windows To Work
The flyer pasted to the real estate brokerage window promoting latest listings is doomed. A startup out of New York LOH Vision unveiled its replacement last month with their debut product/integrated solution of the same name. 
Combining an interactive video touchscreen with a real estate marketing platform, it can engage pedestrians in ways paper never could. Installed in a storefront window, The Live Open House panel invites them to step up and tap the glass to learn about listings, view photo or video tours, explore maps of the surrounding neighborhood, learn about or contact agents. System analytics track all activity, which properties and neighborhoods, price searches, etc.
It’s pricey at launch, as innovations are, but the concept has real potential to captivate interested buyers, promote property and the tech savvy companies first to embrace it. Currently available in the NYC area, awaiting word when/if they’ll take it to other markets.

Tours and Tools
Looking further ahead, a European company, Real5D has technology to allow prospective tenants and  buyers tour a virtual rendering of commercial property while still under construction. It’s 3D renderings can be built from blueprints, construction plans and architectural renders, then toured in an interactive conference with a sales agent. Viewers can commit before construction is complete, or owners/developers to make changes before more costly....Back at home, Real Tour Vision upgraded and renamed its virtual tour creation and marketing platform as Real Tour Fusion. According to its announcement, the new version simplifies the the creative process that goes into building an interactive tour from photos,panoramic images and HD video. See a sample here. ...Walk Score, which has provided a useful online interactive mapping tool to help buyers learn what’s in an area, commuting times/distances, etc. just launched a redesigned version for iPhone and iPad .

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tablets, and more...

Microsoft's Surface, as introduced

     Next up will be putting together a guide to tablets for Realtor magazine online. It’s an iPad world so far, in real estate as elsewhere, but is that how it ultimately shape out with Microsoft’s announcement of its Surfacerumors of a Google Nexus tablet , and the many Android tablets already out there.
Tablets so far have repeated what was seen with PCs in real estate, where the abundant software catalog made this a Windows World. That’s part of the buzz driving users toward the iPad, then there’s the user experience......anyway if you’re using any tablet for real estate, I welcome your comments as I get to work on the story. Just email me.

Beyond The QR code

      The app guide should post on Realtor magazine online sometime soon, so here’s a shameless plug. There are many great apps out there, so many it’s fairer to present them as examples of different types of apps, rather than focus. on any specific app.        That said, One of the more intriguing apps I came across  and included is something called HomeSnap from SawBuck Realty .
This seems a great leap forward from the QR code. For rather than than using the code as the engagement point for delivering home info to potential buyers. 
      With HomeSnap, they simply snap an image of the house the system’s location-based services and sophisticated image recognition software serve up all the details. See for yourself, and you’ll glimpse the future of mobile searches. And, be sure to app buyers’ guide for an overview of the range of apps available to make your mobile career more productive.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some Briefs:

     Alternative financing? In what it claims is a first for the lending industry, Money360 taps the reach of the Internet for a “ peer-to-peer (P2P) real estate lending marketplace,” matching qualifying residential or commercial real estate borrowers with its network of private lenders. 
     Site says, ”Borrowers find Lenders seeking to make loans based on their requested terms.  Lenders gain access to lending opportunities they would not otherwise see, and can conveniently review the opportunities that match their specified preferences.”  if you and clients have been frustrated with the traditional lending process, probably worth a look.... 

     If you’ve been considering other revenue streams until the market comes back, might have a program for you. The digital book provider is targeting real estate professionals() with a program that allows them to capitalize on local market expertise as a local rep for its custom yearbook program. It might be a stretch, but if you’re feeling stretched, you might want to consider the program.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Smartphones and....

 Wrapped up the buying guide to smartphones recently and it should post on Realtor magazine online soon.
Even in the short cycle of online publishing it’s getting tougher to provide the most current information in a category like this. Smartphones are so hot, vendors seem to be talking up their next generation even as the most current products hit stores.
For buyers, this creates a real conundrum. The smartphone is a must have in real estate---but if you’re budget conscious when you choose your smartphone you’re making a commitment that typically runs two years. Computers and camera you can buy  a new model at will; most smartphones are sold locked to a service contract and can get very expensive when you buy outside that bundle.
So, the most important concern is getting a product you can live with that long. If you’re over 40, screen size and resolution should be a top consideration, as the display remains the biggest drawback to relying on the smartphones your primary PC in the field. Then you need to decide if that screen is worth the bulk that goes with it. Yes smartphones are thinner, sleeker lighter than ever before, but they are large compared to other types of cell phones.
But operating system trumps all other considerations....

Best Apps for Real Estate?

      It’s the apps which unleash the power of a smartphone.The June guide will take a look at this critical software category. What smartphone OS are you using, and in turn, which apps make yours a practical productive real estate tool?. I’m looking to talk to some Realtors about what they are using, and why, for this guide. If you’d like to be considered, send your thoughts to antoniakATdtccomDOTnet

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who should pay...

When putting together the 2012 latest buyer’s guide to digital cameras for Realtor magazine online I had an intersting conversation with Lee Jinks, Realtor and associate executive for the Greater McAllen(TX) Association of Realtors.
Whatever the cateogry, I seek out real estate professionals to interview who are knoweldgebale and passionate about that topic. For evidence of Lee’s expertise andskill behind the lens, take a look at his ActiveRain blogYou may also find some useful insights and tips there on making listings look their best.
He believes better photos start with a passion for photography, and the dedication to master the craft. If you don’t possess that, you might be better off hiring a professional photographer to convey all the appeal of a home.

That’s common sense advice; there are always times you and clients are best served hiring the pro. 
Where Lee breaks with the prevailing view, however, is in who should cover that cost.“Here's how I would love to change the industry,” he explained in an email to me. 
“When a home needs to be prepared for the market, the agent will suggest necessary improvements and the seller will complete them based on their importance and theseller's budget..... It would make sense that the seller would pay to have the home professionally photographed if they feel that would help sell the home.....”
He contends sellers should be willing to make a marketing investment which will directly benefit them(and spare the agent that expense), and then retain ownership of those photos, should they later decide to switch agents. 
While I see the sense of what he’s advocating, I’m skeptical this could ever become common practice where agents are agressivly competing for listings.If anyone has had much success convincing sellers to cover the costs of professional photo or video tours, everyone could benefit from hearing how and why you’ve made that work.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What’s next for the virtual tour?

        How about the virtual flyover, via a drone? 
In Saturday’s New York Times the paper of record reported on a new federal law, signed by signed President Obama last week, which will allow use of camera-equipped personal drones for all sorts of commercial endeavors 
       One practical example how the technology could be used: real estate tours. Among those interviewed was Daniel Garate, a pioneer in dispatching camera-equipped drones to capture aerial tours of pricey homes in the LA market. A remote controlled drone gives a unique perspective. You can see the visual appeal some of what he’s done on his website. 
        For those who want that next marketing edge for the right property, they could offer a less expensive alternative to hiring a plane and pilot for that aerial view; a new service opportunity for the entrepreneurial minded
And whether or not you consider these eyes in the sky the next assault on privacy, they’re coming, guaranteeing early adopters something else to show off before the virtual flyover becomes routine

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting Mobilized

       Smartphones first impacted the real estate as a professional tool, giving you access to all the information and communications resources you need, when and where needed. As clients and prospects followed that lead, and embraced smartphones over the last few years, the influence of the smartphone on real estate has become more consumer-driven.
       A decade ago the challenge was to build your Web presence as a portal to listing information and introduction to your services. Today, the parallel challenge is to establish a winning mobile presence.
Smartphone want seamless convenience, whether retrieving information on restaurants, gas stations or local listings. What’s sometimes missed though, is how property information must be optimized for the handset and its smaller display screen. 
I touched on the critical importance of mobile websites for real estate as they relate to QR codes in the last Tech Watch column I did for for Realtor magazine online.  It’s a much bigger issue, though. As buyers rely on mobile devices for retrieving property information, they expect what you provide be optimized for display on their particular small screen, whatever device, whatever smartphone operating system they use.
Fortunately, vendors offer a growing array of cost effective solutions and services to meet this challenge. While researching mobile real estate, I came across a white paper from one provider which explains the challenges, frustrations and one potential solution for mobile real estate websites. (Available for free with registration on Mobile Real Estate ID )
If you’re not convinced of the need to optimize your site and listing information, it provides a quick overview and all at stake for those who don’t create that winning mobile presence, near term. For those in the now, it makes the strong case to act now, and mobilize your site, if you haven’t already done so.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Google Guide
To Google for Real Estate

        There’s much you can miss, when you aren’t looking. 
Everyone knows and recognizes the importance of Google as a tool for marketing and drawing potential clients to online listings and sites. For all you know, though, you may not know how to take full advantage of all that's available. Google wants your business, and to make it easy they’ve put together a page specifically targeting real estate pros. 
Appropriately named, Google for Real Estate Professionals, it presents a brief overview of how and why to effectively embrace Google’s many resources to reach buyers and sellers — everything  from Google Docs through SketchUp, YouTube, Google Places, Maps, Earth etc., etc. If you can use it, it's there.
If you’ve been disappointed with your online performance, and willing to explore ways to make more effective use of the Web, this might be a good place to start, measure up, and adapt, as needed.
Speaking of websites, Coldwell Banker proudly reports its branded real estate websites topped all national franchises in unique visitors last year, according to figures just announced. In a press release, the company says Nielsen puts the traffic at 17.5 million unique visitors, while comScore Media Metrix  estimates the traffic at 26.1 million unique visitors. By either tally, they’re obviously doing something rich....and there’s much to be learned from compelling websites.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Briefs out of this year’s starting gate

       Time for that next portable PC? Yet another choice awaits you in 2012: the ultrabook. At CES PC makers put new emphasis on on the compact PC, without compromise,showing off respective versions of the thin and light  powered by Intel processors.
IdeaPad Yoga, one of the new ultrabooks
Not for the budget minded, yet, they offer the portable experience the MacBook Air  has allowed its users, with all the PC performance one can’t get from a tablet. Introductions include the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Dell’s XPS 13, HP Envy Spectre and the Acer Aspire S5.....In peripherals, Logitech has a new take on the mobile mouse with its Cube ,wireless handheld device for controlling your screen or presentations with swipes of the touch sensitive surface. of this palm sized device.
Lumia 900
Think the choice smartphones comes down t IPhone or Android for app-powered functionality, don’t  count Windows Phone handsets out entirely. Recent developments there: Both HTC and : Nokia’s  have announced  new models  for the Windows Phone operating system, the Titan and Lumia 900, respectively.... Adding to their appeal could be a software tool from the company BlueStacks which will allow existing Android apps to run on Windows  PCs and possibly smartphones  when Windows 8 appears.... Since the topic is phones, here’s something useful every handset could use, regardless of OS.  HzO WaterBlock nano technology  if adopted by manufacturers could permanently protect electronics from spills, splashes, even the dreaded  accidental drop into water.

Logitech Cube
       Ipad and  notebook who have been wishing for a way to scan detailed forms and contracts without heading back to the office, take heart. Xerox may have the just he solution you’ve been awaiting with its Mobile Scanner   Powered by a lithium battery, the scanner reads and converts documents into JPEGs or PDF files then transfers them via WiFi to your hardware of choice. 
       CES always is a showcase for things to come, maybe. Two of note: Cotton Candy, from FXI Technology , essentially a tablet in a flash drive, for the ultimate in mobile convenience. Plug it into a TV set or monitor via USB or HD connectors built into the unit, it becomes an Android device, connected to the cloud, controllable by an app-powered smartphone.....The car as computer cockpit isn’t that far off, either. Auto makers Audi, Mercedes Benz and Kia, gave glimpse of what could be the the future for the car dash and interior with interactive display systems. Graphics and text projected on the windshield/screen, could provide touch control of car functions and easy access to the kind of information you get now form your mobile PC or navigation system.
Cotton Candy 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Strategic Aside....

        CES, the annual consumer electronics show, is always big news in technology, and last week’s gathering in Vegas played to that rule. 
Before you weigh which latest marvel you’ll want in coming months, 
think strategically. In a year where the real estate market shows signs of slowly recovering , and many budgets are limited, focus on solutions to empower you to do more with less. 
We’re steeped in an era of converging technologies, and multipurpose tools. Your phone or tablet can handle whatever you want it to do, if so inclined. For navigation, service providers and apps likely deliver all you need for negotiating your market area. What’s really good enough in a camera for your needs? Camera features on phones and tablets are muscling into the point and shoot category. Snap on lenses make them even more versatile for photos and video
Maybe it’s time to leave that camera and navigation system behind...two less things to carry.
  Can/should your phone be your computer, too? Loaded with the right apps, possibly. But screen size and overall performance can still be challenges, especially for those who judge the phone screen just too small. 
So, should your other other device be a tablet, a notebook, or both? If budget dictates either/or, a PC of some form is still the more practical primary computer. Be it a desktop or notebook, most will be best served by that full-powered performance.
A tablet, for now, should still be seen as an extension of it. Loaded with apps, its serves neatly between smartphone and computer.; more practical for reviewing, listings and tours and contracts with clients . Add the the reach of the Web, you have whatever you need, when you need it.
Which brings us to cloud computing. Explore it, learn how to take advantage of it and empower your real estate career.  Technology , at its best, makes like simpler. Pare down the hardware while ramping up on software apps and services, and be all you can wherever you are.