iPad's Big Changes for Real Estate Agents

One year in, and I can’t imagine living without my iPad. I am old enough to remember a time before fax machines. I was not yet in the real estate business during those dark ages, but I have older agents tell me sad tales of running paperwork around for signatures. But now, while sitting at a kitchen table of a house I am showing, I can search for data on the property, compare it with comps on a map of the neighborhood, fill out an offer, have a buyer sign the docs on the device itself, and email the offer to another agent, all on the iPad.

By the early 2000s, many observers were predicting that the real estate business would go the way of travel agents because of the new access to information online. But the businesses are apples and oranges. When I started in 2001, I leveraged my interest and experience with new technology as a then-relatively young agent to set myself apart from the pack of older agents less eager to adapt to the influence of information technology on the RE business. And good/great real estate agents (and there are plenty of those around Boston) have always been able to distance themselves from mediocre or poor agents in their level of professionalism, which would include embracing new technology and adapting to the changing aspects of their roles.

For listing agents, this means taking advantage of as many new tools as possible for marketing plans that gain maximum exposure for listings. It is no longer about being the main person with the keys, the exclusive contract, and the contact information for the sellers. Sellers paying the 5 percent going rate around here should expect that their listing agents are going to market the house to the tilt. The template should include professional photography (not cell phone shots from the agent), floor plans, and a huge Internet presence.

This does not mean grabbing on to every new technology out there. I am unconvinced, for example, QR codes are really worth the hype. And most virtual tours are lame, stitched together from photos already in the listing, with some Kenny G background music. Sellers should be careful of not having too many photos (three shots of a bidet, say) or video overrepresentation of their house as buyers looking from afar may just rule it out without proper consideration. Photos and videos should be in just the right dose to pique interest and result in a visit. Online browsing never replaces physical visits.

Which brings us back to the agent. Many first-time buyers looking for every edge they can get make the short-sighted choice of going with a discount brokerage, the sort that has the buyers do most of the legwork: perusing online, gathering data from public records, looking up comps, and then having the discount agent come in at the end to handle paperwork and last-minute details. The hook for these brokerages is they offer a rebate at closing. It’s my opinion that the rebates offered for discount services do not offset the loss of the other advantages a buyer forfeits by forgoing the expertise of a dialed-in, full-time local agent who has expertise in the area of the home purchase (most of the rebate-based offices have agents covering very wide regions). Indeed, there are signs that the model of the discount brokerage seems to be having trouble catching on in the Boston area.

The folks I work with are looking for expertise on the pricing and marketing of their houses. They want agents who have visited the comps and who will successfully negotiate the best price. Buyers are looking for information about towns, neighborhoods, schools, comps, construction details, property history, and so on. Sure, some of this information can be gathered online. But an experienced local agent will help contextualize it all.


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