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Real Estate Agents and The Mobile App Revolution

By Ben Shepardson | November 21, 2016

A decade ago, the notion that we could carry around palm-sized computers equipped with email, video phone calls, and instant internet access would have sounded like the stuff of science fiction. But, lo and behold, that's exactly what 64% of Americans now do, thanks to the intricate advancements of mobile app technology. And the rise of the smartphone has forever changed the way real estate agents do business.

This mobile market shift shouldn't come as a surprise, as it's certainly not the first major change in the industry. Over a century ago, Sears and Roebuck were selling house kits through their catalog. Nowadays, the idea seems absurd, probably just as absurd as the idea of people selling houses via computers may have seemed in the 1990s. The fact remains that the real estate market is indeed shifting, and those who fail to adapt may find themselves on a downward spiral into irrelevance.

There's an app for everything.

Apple's epic iPhone ad campaign in 2009 repeatedly hammered that "there's an app for that." And they meant it wholeheartedly. From calculators to diet trackers to fast food takeout and virtual bubble wrap, the inundation of mobile apps has transformed one-trick cell phones into powerful, portable tools we use to manage nearly every aspect of our lives. With reliance on technology becoming increasingly heavier, countless apps hitting the mobile marketplace each year, and the number of smartphones users continuing to grow, we start to wonder: is there anything mobile technology can't do?

Real estate agents and other outside sales professionals have seen some of the greatest benefits in the mobile revolution. Less than 20 years ago, some of your biggest hurdles were managing mountains of spec sheets and photos, and fearing a missed phone call while you were out of the office. Now, nearly every tool you need has claimed hard drive space on your smartphone. You can respond to clients on the go, email documents instead of printing a tree's worth of paper, instantly upload photos without waiting for film processing, and spend more time serving your clients instead of hiding behind a desk full of busy work.

Even marketing has joined the mobile organization. Social media apps make it easy to connect to new prospects, share content, and fuel your digital marketing strategy. Real estate apps like Zillow and Trulia give your listings extra exposure, along with social media integration. Lots of real estate agencies are developing their own mobile-friendly websites to deliver a better overall experience. In short, mobile technology bought a cozy home in the real estate industry, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Simpler doesn't always mean better.

As much as mobile technology has made your role as a real estate agent simpler, it has almost equally complicated it. Cell phones were a luxury over a decade ago, but they have now become more of an expectation. As a result, clients can be more demanding of your attention and expect quicker responses. Mobile technology has all but put an end to regular office hours, as some clients don't hesitate to call you even after the sun goes down.

Popular real estate apps like Zillow and Trulia can also pose potential threats. Where buyers once relied solely on their agent to dish the details about a property, they can now find out just about anything they want to know on their own. When you have clients who don't need to rely on you every step in the search, you risk losing the ability to cement a strong relationship and build value. And that lack of interpersonal connection can kill your chance of referrals, repeat business, and ultimately, your commissions.

How can real estate agents thrive in the mobile technology takeover?

Considering the prevalence (and preference) of mobile communication, there are still some things that no piece of technology can ever match, especially when it comes to building relationships. Despite all the ways the smartphone has simplified business, there is nothing more important than the human connection. The personalized service you can only deliver in the flesh should never be sacrificed for the convenience of technology. And that is the trump card that real estate agents should always be ready and willing to play first.

Ben Shepardson is a Realty Biz News Contributing Writer and has a long track record of success in online marketing and web development. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems, he worked doing enterprise-level SEO and started an online business offering web development services to small business customers.
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