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IEditor’s note: The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS®. Watch for this column each month.

Moderator:
James Imhoff, Chariman & CEO, First Weber Group, Madison, Wis.; NAR Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations

Panelists:
Jake Barnett, Marketing Director, First Weber Group, Madison, Wis.
Gena Caudle, President, The Goodlife Team, Austin, Texas
Therese Swan, REALTOR®, Alain Pinel REALTORS®, Saratoga, Calif.
Jeremiah Taylor, Team Leader, Keller Williams Realty, Tucson, Ariz.
Jennifer Branchini, REALTOR®, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate® Tri-Valley Realty, Pleasanton, Calif.

Jim Imhoff: When it comes to technology, we all know that much of what’s new and hot today will be obsolete tomorrow. That’s reason enough to reserve judgment on what’s worth the investment and what’s not—and the new bells and whistles, from drones and GPS-based apps to 3D video photography—just keep coming at us. In my company, technology services represents the biggest bill I pay each month, and we’ve earned a reputation as a leading tech firm in our state—but it isn’t because I’m so smart. I rely on my tech-savvy marketing team to vet the newest and coolest tools—and in my firm and others, it’s often an agent who sees the value in something new and invests in it on their own. So for all of us brokers making the valiant effort to figure out what’s worth it and what’s not, we bring together a panel of tech-wise real estate professionals to help us figure it out. Let’s lead off with Jake Barnett, my personal go-to tech guru. Jake, where do you find these shiny new tools, anyway?

Jake Barnett: We find a lot of them at industry conferences—and rarely does a day go by without a few emails from vendors. We don’t follow up on every new product, but we hop on those that look exciting—and if an agent asks us to look into something new, we absolutely will. We’ll vet it internally because it may be something the company as a whole should invest in.

Gena Caudle: Our goal is to find and target the consumer, but consumers today are all over. We just signed a partnership with a company called RealSavvy—a new program that connects buyers, their friends, their family and their agent in the search for the perfect home. We’re excited about that—and targeted social media marketing is high on our list of priorities.

Jake Barrett: We like mobile apps and demographics filters, like the one on Facebook that leads us to ‘empty nesters,’ new parents,’ etc.

Jeremiah Taylor: What’s hot right now are drones, of course. They’re great for marketing a property. It’s tempting to buy your own drone, but it’s best left in the hands of a pro. For an investment of maybe $700 or $800, a licensed professional can give you a viable, edited end-product—far better than anything you could produce yourself—and something people really find exciting.

Jim Imhoff: But safety and privacy issues make drone fly-bys controversial. The use of drones for real estate is currently prohibited by the FAA, and they are working on the development of a final rule to permit commercial use of drones. Until they do, NAR advises members that the commercial use of drones, which includes the marketing of real estate, is currently prohibited without a Section 333 waiver. NAR does not have an issue with the use of drones if they are operated in accordance with the waiver.  You can read more about this issue, as well as find a helpful FAQ on drones, at REALTOR.org/topics/drones.

Jennifer Branchini: Something else on the cusp that I really like are 3D virtual tours—and not just for high-end homes. They’re a great value, especially if you get subscription pricing. I like Matterport, a relatively new company. I believe every listing deserves good marketing, and these 3D simulations give me a reasonable way to provide quality marketing no matter the price of the home.

Therese Swan: Something else that’s integral to our business are effective communication tools—things like Dropbox for document sharing and Docusign for contracts. Customers love them, and I don’t know how I’d get along anymore without them.

Gena Caudle: We’re constantly looking, evaluating, and innovating—but always with a purpose. We ask ourselves, what problems need solving? What needs to be done better?

Therese Swan: That’s why I like my Apple Watch. What a great investment that was! I know the faster I answer an incoming lead, the more likely I’ll win the customer. Sure, I get the same lead on my smartphone, but when I’m talking to someone, or in a meeting, it’s rude to keep checking my phone. But a quick glance at my watch is very discreet, and if I see something I need to jump on, I can find a minute to pull away.

Jeremiah Taylor: We’re all looking all the time for ‘the next big solution,’ whether it’s contract management or workflow processing or just a new, shiny object. It’s time-consuming, but if we want to stay on top, we know we have to do it.

Jake Barnett: Because we know the minute you stop paying attention is the minute you fall behind.

Jim Imhoff: NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology is a good place to start for the latest on tech tools for real estate. They serve members as a technology resource. Check out their blog at crt.blogs.realtor.org.

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