By Maria Patterson
RISMEDIA, July 3, 2008-As executive vice president of the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors (GLAR), Lisa Stephenson knows that when it comes to selling listings in today’s market, the faster the information travels, the faster the property moves. As Stephenson says, “Anytime we can get information into an agent’s hands quickly, there’s a big benefit for all involved.”
For Stephenson and an increasing number of agents, brokers, MLS providers, association execs-and consumers-mobile search technology from VoicePad® is paving the way for instant access to listing information from any location-from any phone. VoicePad’s MobileMLSTM and MobileIDXTM solutions are designed to target the agent and consumer (respectively) with updated listing information without the requirement of an expensive PDA, wireless broadband or text messaging subscription.
Interestingly enough, what sets VoicePad Mobile Search technology apart, is actually the de-emphasis on technology. All a user has to do is simply dial a telephone number and enter a house number (MLS ID or marketing code). The details on the property are then delivered in an easy-to-understand sentence format in either English or Spanish. After each inquiry, a system-generated e-mail is sent to the agent that includes property information and a Web link to the specific property searched.
VoicePad believes this is the key to breaking down the barriers that often accompany a new technology initiative. So far, the results are speaking for themselves.
“I was introduced to the new VoicePad search system for agents by the folks at GLAR,” says Samantha Sims, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Louisville, Kentucky. “I cannot tell you how elated I am with this new technology. For years, I have avoided the dreaded Treo. I have personally never wanted to have Internet access at all times, though it has been tempting given my profession. Thanks to this new technology, however, now I never have to. I absolutely love this service and will be sure to tell every agent I know about this. I will be able to deliver even better customer service now.”
VoicePad MobileMLS: An Agent’s Best Friend
Serving a seven-county area and 4,400 Realtors, Stephenson knew that VoicePad’s MobileMLS program was a technology product her members could quickly get their arms around. “We keep talking about technology with them but this is technology with no learning curve,” she explains. “This is a quick and easy way to get information…and this was the first program I had heard of with agent-only access.”
So convinced was Stephenson of the technology’s value that GLAR offers it to association members free of charge. “MobileMLS has witnessed the fastest adoption rate of anything we’ve ever done,” says Stephenson, reporting over 1,800 individual agent inquiries during the first seven weeks alone.
Stephenson attributes this adoption rate, in large part, to the lack of education required. “All we had to do was remind people to make sure that their cell phone number was current in the MLS system. Agents have to be an active, valid member of the MLS before it allows you access to the system.
According to Stephenson, MobileMLS allows agents to get information to their clients on the spot-critical to servicing today’s instant-gratification consumer.
“Clients and consumers are expecting information in split seconds-we are not a patient society. If you have a client in the car and you pass a home with a for-sale sign and they say, ‘Hey, how about that one?’ all you have to do is enter the street number to get the listing information,” she explains. “And then you can press another number to be connected to the listing agent. The agent has access to information at their fingertips. And the more quickly you can provide information, the more valuable you are as an agent.”
VoicePad MobileIDX: Going Straight to Consumers
Harrell Tague, principal broker of RE/MAX Properties East in the metropolitan Louisville area, and president of the local Realtor’s association MLS arm, MetroSearch, Inc., had been introduced to VoicePad through its president Randall Standard several years ago. “As a RE/MAX broker, I get people trying to sell me stuff every day,” Tague explains. But when Standard presented VoicePad’s mobile search technology to the Louisville Association of Realtors, it caught Tague’s interest.
Tague had seen similar competitive products, but VoicePad’s Mobile Search product stood apart. “This is Internet-driven and generates statistics that agents can show to homeowners,” he explains. “I knew this would become a great listing tool-the fact that people would be able to get information on the spot, like the price of a home, would be a benefit to both buyers and sellers.”
About six months ago, Tague started using VoicePad’s newest broker version of the technology, MobileIDX. Tague has the program available for all of his firm’s listings. “The information is pulled directly from the MLS and converted to voice,” he explains. “When an interested buyer calls about a property, the agent is notified by text message that their listing is being accessed-potential buyers also have the ability to hit a number to talk with the agent.
“The kicker for me is that all clients have to do is enter the street number of the house,” adds Tague. “And they don’t necessarily have to be in front of the house either.”
RE/MAX Properties East takes the VoicePad IDX technology a big step further by using it to track important statistics. According to Eric Blackwell, director of technology for the firm, “We are able to see how many people have accessed the system and how many people have clicked through for more information. We can tell how long they spend on the line or how quickly they got off. We can tell if they hung up as soon as they heard the price and we can share that information with the seller. This provides a ton of information that the agent can take back to the seller.”
Blackwell also reports significant usage among buyers: “Over the last three months, we’ve had 3,600 leads coming through this system off of about 300 different properties. When an agent puts a sign up, we get an average of four calls on that listing per month. We also found that one-fifth of the time, people are transferring live through to the agent.”
According to Tague and Blackwell, VoicePad technology also paves the way for cost cutting during a time when many agents are financially strapped. “A lot of agents are using this in place of putting out flyers,” says Blackwell. “When you leave flyers out, you have to replace them when they get wet-there’s a hassle factor and a cost factor involved.”
“My feeling is that this is a great listing tool more than anything,” says Tague. “When you are able to get back to people and show them the stats on what buyers are saying about their home, that’s very powerful. It also lets people know you’re doing something and that something is happening-you can show them that there is activity, which always gives the agent a good reason to get in touch and contact them.”
For more information, visit www.voicepad.com.