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"Who is Doing What to Whom on the Tech Scene"

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4/4/03 Interview with Blanche Evans

Agent News
5949 Sherry Lane, Suite 1250
Dallas, TX 75225

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Growing Use of the Internet

  1. The real estate consumer is leading the charge into cyberspace because of the information available there and the ability to engage with the listing agent or other agents about the listing or area.
  2. Savvy agents want to spend marketing dollars for maximum benefit;Internet advertising is a bargain compared to most newspaper advertising.
  3. Newspaper ads are targeted and attract consumers who are close to buying,but the Internet begins an early dialog with consumers.
  4. In addition to having an informative web site, agents must get exposure on the right search engines and advertising spots to be found.
Measuring the Worth of Technology

  1. Technology that helps agents organize business, communicate with clients and deliver information efficiently will pay for itself again and again.
  2. On the learning curve for the Internet, agents must learn online communications from email to instant messaging and the use of products like digital cameras and palm pilots; to avoid losing the interest of consumers,agents must deliver more than consumers can find for themselves.
  3. To be up-to-speed with technology, learn: Windows terminology, basic PC skills, basic email skills, remote access of email, basic Internet skills,Microsoft Office word processing and spreadsheets, search engines, digital photography, real estate web site content and how to improve it, online data backup, promotional tools, and digital listing presentations.
  4. Real estate survivors evolve through continuing education; education should be focused on keeping up with consumers on electronic skills.
The Trend Toward VOWs

  1. VOWs (virtual office web sites) enable agents to do everything in a virtual environment that they can do in a brick-and-mortar office; the NAR is investigating if VOWs are truly virtual offices or a new kind of advertising.
  2. Other issues related to VOWs include: Who should be allowed to operate one? Should participants in the MLS be allowed to use the listings of other brokers and exclusive advertising arrangements with portals like Yahoo? How should VOWs be implemented?
  3. A solution to some of the controversial questions would be for an MLS to establish the VOW and then make it available for 'framing' by the brokers, i.e., for integration into their individual sites.
Remaining Competitive Online

  1. Many agents use more than one web site or website strategy in order to be found on the Internet; agents should also consider professional help to achieve advantageous search engine placement, and they should factor the cost into online marketing expenses.
  2. Referral sites are a business model that has been aided by the Web; the downside is that many rely on cronyism and fail to educate participants on fair-housing laws; agents should make clear that, as an agent, they serve all clients regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, etc.
A Gathering Industry Storm

  1. Consumers are more informed and are holding agents to a higher level of service to earn their fees; at the same time, the industry is not providing adequate training and support for that level of service.
  2. One concern is liability; as consumers have become more litigious, agents have tended to retreat from service; if consumers aren't getting representation and advice, what are they paying for?
  3. There is a movement starting to establish a National Association of Real Estate Attorneys to teach lawyers to operate non-litigation real estate services that will help consumers close deals for a flat fee (without agents).
  4. New business models are being created to satisfy the consumer's need to spend less money on a transaction or enjoy better efficiency on a transaction, but the real estate industry is not responding fast enough.
Topics to Watch in 2003

  1. In 2003, Evans will be monitoring broker innovation in responding to industry challenges; innovation is expensive and risky.
  2. It may be time for brokers to relieve agents of some of the burden by hiring transaction managers and on-staff tech support and to start training agents to specialize.
  3. By expanding services into non-traditional areas, brokers can allow agents to play to their own strengths; offering more services and fewer agents is a way to eliminate considerable liability and excess cost.
  4. Another hot topic is the impact of people doing transactions on their own ‹for buying as well as selling.
  5. The reorganization of Homestore remains unresolved, e.g., the deal with AOL to drive traffic to the Homestore site.
  6. Tony Rapattoni's attempt to penetrate the lockbox business will be an interesting story; in 2003 he will challenge the two related companies whohave exclusively offered lock boxes to associations.
Favorite Sites on the Web

Good economic sites to monitor the integration of real estate into general business news include CBS MarketWatch, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Predictions Old and New

  1. Real estate should remain a strong component of the economy; expect there to be more interest in owning property in the coming decade.
  2. Someone new coming into real estate should ask a potential boss what technology training the company offers and what technology skills it requires of agents.
  3. Commissions have yielded to downward pressure as Evans expected two years ago; brokers are still developing responses by becoming more efficient via the Internet and reviving the push for a transaction platform.
  4. Referral business has already gained support from the Internet as expected, and more organizations will lend assistance for referrals (the Society has taken the lead with Commercial-Residential cross-referrals).
  5. In the future, more agents will recognize the need to focus on a specialty and to refer and delegate other business.
Contact Information for Blanche Evans:

(v) 214-353-6980
(f) 214-353-0699

Real Estate Sites & Tools in this Briefing:

Good general economic sites: