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Forward Thinkers: How Fillmore Real Estate Maximizes Technology

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By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, Oct. 17, 2007-With the month-old relaunch of its Web site and a technology-embracing attitude, Fillmore Real Estate believes it is doing what’s best for the consumer-giving buyers and sellers more data, more photos and more of everything they could possibly need to help guide one of the most important financial decisions a person makes in his/her life.

“Technology is so important today,” says John Reinhardt, president and CEO of Brooklyn, New York-based Fillmore Real Estate. “The technology behind our old Web site was similar to hosting a home magazine online with some pictures. We knew we needed our portal to be more about the customer experience-that’s where we truly wanted to be.”

In this interview, Reinhardt dishes on the Amazon.com-esque comparisons to his company’s new site, how he believes it’s going to help Fillmore distinguish itself, and why he believes the real estate industry is sometimes so fearful of change.

Real Estate magazine: Fillmore Real Estate has recently undergone an extensive online transformation. Can you talk about this process and the decision to take on such a sizeable task?

John Reinhardt: Technology is so important today and it’s always changing. The technology behind our old Web site was similar to hosting a home magazine online with some pictures. We knew we needed our portal to be more about the customer experience-that’s where we truly wanted to be.

RE: How does this new site differ from some that on the surface seem quite similar?

JR: The type of data being gathered on our new site is comparable to Amazon.com. After logging on to MyFillmore.com, visitors create an account where they can save properties, check out “recently viewed” listings and set up automatic alerts. It’s similar to Amazon.com in that the foundation of the site is created in layers. For example, eventually these users will have their page come up and say, “People who looked at this listing also looked at…” It’s a pretty cool thing that we’ve been able to do.

Plus, consumers can now search for information on neighborhoods-neighborhood profiles that we actually wrote ourselves. These weren’t farmed out to a company who does the research; they’re authentic because, honestly, who knows Brooklyn better than we do? We’ll be able to update information regularly-as things change. We know what’s happening before anyone else. They’re very detailed and we’re very proud of them. You’ll be able to click on “Bay Ridge” and see what the neighborhood is really about. We’ll also show a few properties that are available and some that were sold so visitors can see what it’s like in that area. They’ll be able to continue to click deeper into that information.

RE: How will this best help your sales agents?

JR: The new platform is a great thing for our sales agents; now each of their clients can sit down with us and set up their myfillmore.com account with them. They can find out about new listings as soon as they become available. Plus, our agents can gain access to their clients’ profiles with permission. They can now say, “We’re in this together.” Our agents can look at the profiles, call and say, “I see you were looking at these two properties-is there anything else I can tell you about them?” It helps them share the experience. Plus, for sellers, it automatically keeps track of the number of times their property is viewed, shown, had requests for more information or e-mailed to friends. Gathering this information and these statistics will enhance and create the ultimate consumer experience. Over the next six months, our library of information will continue to grow and grow.

RE: Can you explain the upgraded search function?

JR: For agents, they will benefit by all the new searches. It used to be that visitors were unable to type in Main Street and actually get results. Now, our searches are so much more sophisticated. You can type in the first few digits of an address and or search by property ID number. For consumers, it’s just an easier tool-you can even do searches for open houses.

RE: What are you doing at Fillmore with regard to other technology, such as blogs, podcasting and video?

JR: We have podcasting on certain topics and video on some homes. Plus, we just started a blog on some brand-new units we are listing. We’re still exploring and I’m curious to see where all of this will take us. Our younger agents are much more involved with some of this technology, as well as some of the social networking sites. New-age agents and brokers are more in tune with the online community. Just as the older generations would go to civic club meetings, etc., to get to know those in their community, the younger professionals are networking with people in their own community online-they have specialty blogs and/or forums for different local communities and are well-known in that community. It’s amazing to me.

RE: Where do you see the industry going in terms of marketing?

JR: I see a combination of things; we’ll need different mediums as we move ahead. The online vertical searches, I believe, are part of the solution. They’re not the end-all-and-be-all, but useful. Look at the New York Times-their online advertising is up, while their print is down. It is a fact-people are migrating from newspapers to online. Even in the old days, it wasn’t just the Times, but it was local and national advertising as well. Even today, if you are listing homes in a blue-collar neighborhood, you would advertise in a blue-collar trade publication. There’s a need for both print and online; people just need to find that balance.

RE: Why are others in the real estate industry so afraid of technological advancements?

JR: People are comfortable and afraid of change. But, we’re in a good time-we have a good number of brokers that are old enough to run a company, yet young enough to like technology. We looked at the Amazon experience and thought, “Why can’t we do that here?” We try to apply basic concepts online and incorporate them into the industry. For us at Fillmore, we see opportunity in technology. RE

Fillmore Real Estate: Yesterday and Today

Founded in 1966 by John Reinhardt’s father, Bill Reinhardt, today, Fillmore Real Estate is New York City’s largest privately owned and operated residential and commercial real estate company. In 1993, when John Reinhardt first became president, the company had 14 offices with 125 agents. Under his leadership, the company has grown to its current number of 18 offices and more than 500 agents. Today, the company also offers a variety of services, including: Fillmore Management and Fillmore Insurance.

Not Just About Technology

Besides its push toward technology, Fillmore Real Estate also realizes that when it comes to its agents-especially in the new, more normalizing market-there can never be enough education and training.

“We’ve bumped up our training program,” says John Reinhardt, president and CEO of Fillmore Real Estate. “With so much changing in the market, our agents need that training and education. We have a national speaker/coach come in three times a month. They focus on agent strategies, workshops and accountability; it’s a more intensive training program and more detailed. Now, with the subprime changes, we’re also talking about financing. We’re teaching our agents how to talk to sellers about adjusting their price in market, doing the best we can to ensure that the property is priced right.”

For more information, visit www.Fillmore.com.

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