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"Supporting the Mobile Agent!"


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Mark Lesswing Photo
12/5/03 Interview with Mark Lesswing

National Association of REALTORS®
430 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Biography

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The Center for REALTOR® Technology

  1. This division of the National Association of REALTORS® has three areas of focus: advocacy (of the use of technology by practitioners and of vendor standards), information (publication of surveys, white papers and guides) and implementation (free software projects for practitioners).
  2. One of the most popular software projects deals with the real estate transaction standard (RETS) ‹a way for MLSs to generate data down to brokers; the project provides a free server and client as a demonstration of how to implement the standard correctly.
  3. Among the white papers are technical implementation guides outlining 16 ways for putting up a VOW (virtual office web site); they can be used as a template for practitioners looking for software or working with consultants.
The Best Tools for Improving Performance

  1. Mobile technologies (cell phones capable of receiving email and accessing the web) are the most important tool to emerge in the last two years.
  2. Another important development is the off-loading of website hosting to services, which saves a practitioner from having a technical staff.
  3. Back office operations have become more automated through broker transaction systems; once a property is closed, all the paperwork is pulled together in automated fashion.
  4. Jack finds his new Treo 600 incredible with its array of features including a large screen, Web and email capability, voice dialing, speakerphone, full keyboard and camera.
The Completely Mobile Agent

  1. This vision will become an increasing reality as mobile networks improve; digital phones represented generation-2 networks; now we are at the G-2.5 era with additional services running on the same devices with the speed of a 56K modem.
  2. In the next 18 months, G-3 networks in the US will enable data speed comparable to a local LAN (about a 10MB connection); devices will get easier to use.
  3. The challenge now is the form factor ‹usability issues such as space for fingers and readability; different vendors are taking different approaches.
  4. Jot software is one solution that can be downloaded into a hand held device to provide a user-friendly, screen alternative to the built-in keyboard; smaller companies and philanthropic sources are developing such tools in a new sub-market of the mobile arena.
  5. The Center is looking into listing uploads to MLSs through cell phone software; the ability to get an immediate placeholder on the MLS complete with photo would be an advantage in fast-moving markets; picture quality should improve to a 2-mega pixel image in the next 12 months.
  6. The limitation of handhelds in seeing only part of a web page is an example of technology getting ahead of implementation; in the future, more web sites will offer different views for different kinds of devices.
The VOW Issue

  1. VOW is an outgrowth of the IDX (Internet data exchange) concept, which gives participants the ability to download listings locally to drive their web sites; the controversy started over what happens to data after downloading; the NAR's VOW policy aims to put some controls around the concept.
  2. To operate a VOW, you need to meet these requirements: 1) have a registration process before customers can use your online data; 2) maintaina log of consumers using the data (accessible to the MLS); 3) distinguish whether you bring down the data to your site or operate via a live link to the MLS (there is a big cost difference in the two implementation options).
  3. Some of the early adopters of VOW who had extensive IDX sites are struggling with re-implementation, but the controversy has calmed down.
  4. Vendor products and services that do VOW are starting to appear; Bainbridge and WebPointCentral are two examples of application service providers (ASPs) ‹companies that run your site for you.
Practical Solutions for Common Challenges

  1. An effective strategy for agents to keep up with technology is to join technically focused groups (such as the Society).
  2. An effective way to reduce exposure to spam is to have two email addresses ‹use a free address (MSN/HotMail, Yahoo!) for Web surfing and information gathering to limit your exposure to spam.
  3. If you operate a web site, follow best practices to help stay free of viruses, Trojan horses and worms; REALTOR® Secure is a list and self-help guide on the Center's web site.
What's on the Horizon

  1. New software coming out in first quarter 2004 will allow you to operate your office systems right from your cellphone to put together custom packages of information and have them printed or emailed directly to a client.
  2. Bluetooth technology allows printers to announce themselves wirelessly to another computer; soon the computer in your cellphone will recognize a printer in a consumer's house.
  3. A rollup computer screen on flexible material is in demo form and should be on the market in 12­18 months.
  4. Some MLSs see a future in offering contact management systems as an adjunct service and in offering transaction systems focused on the preparation steps at the broker level.
Favorite Web Sites

  1. Slashdot.org and LinuxToday.com are excellent sources for keeping up with technology.
  2. Realtor.org offers technology information, policy and industry news.
Tech Applications in Five Years

  1. Applications in real estate will follow consumer demand as the younger generation moves into the home buying and selling arena; technology needs to be adopted as a channel equal to face-to-face communication.
  2. The Web will move toward being more of a communication tool than a supermarket of products; it will speed the transaction process and increase the ability of agents to create personal bonds with consumers.
  3. Agents who integrate technology into their business will double or triple their productivity (and their income!).
Contact Information for Mark Lesswing:

(v) 312-329-8273
(f) 312.329.8398
(e) mlesswing@realtors.org
(w)www.CRT.realtors.org


Real Estate Sites & Tools in this Briefing:

NAR Center for REALTOR® Technology:
www.crt.realtors.org

Treo 600:
www.handspring.com

Jot software:
www.cic.com

Bainbridge (ASP):
www.mlsassistant.com

WebPointCentral:
www.webpointcentral.com

Free email sources:
www.hotmail.com
mail.yahoo.com

REALTOR® Secure guidelines:
www.realtors.org

Bluetooth technology:
www.bluetooth.com

Slashdot.org:
www.slashdot.org

LinuxToday.com:
www.linuxtoday.com