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Coldwell Banker pushes into the future with an eye on technology and innovation

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, August 28, 2007-Do not confuse the terms “technology” and “innovation.” These two words go hand in hand as the real estate industry now pushes toward a future that will require more openness to change.

“I think of ‘technology’ as a tangible tool or thing that helps make a process easier,” explains Charlie Young, senior vice president of marketing, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. “Innovation, however, is a new way of thinking-whether that’s in the Internet space or elsewhere.” Regardless of description, Young believes these are two of the driving forces behind what will come to be in the real estate space. Here, Young talks about how sales associates can embrace this change, why the younger generations are so important to understand and what he believes needs to be done for sales associates to stay successful.

Real Estate magazine: Why do you believe technology and innovation seem to be driving a lot of marketing initiatives?
Charlie Young: Both technology and innovation are so important because of the market today and the business being conducted today. From my perspective, it’s about the consumer and their needs. They now have access to so much more information. They have the same level of expectation for the real estate buying-and-selling process as they do for anything else. Investors are also fueling the desire and need for innovative online needs for consumers. Big brands like us need to be on the cutting edge.

RE: What is the difference between the two words?
CY: I think of technology as a tangible tool or thing that helps make a process easier. Innovation, however, is a new way of thinking, whether it’s in the Internet space or elsewhere. It’s a new way of delivering a product or service.

RE: What you do on a corporate level is obviously different from that at a sales associate’s level. What tips can you suggest for sales associates to not only understand technology and innovation, but take advantage of the changes they have made in our industry?
CY: In a word-participate. Get involved. Through that process, sales associates can figure out how to bring value into this new world. I always tell people, “Run toward light, not away from it.” The world is going to change whether we want it to or not. You will have to contend with blogging, video, consumer-generated content sites, new real estate-oriented portals, etc. Consumers ask more about the process these days. As a sales associate, step one should be to participate. You have to figure out how to be inside the dialogue.

RE: Baby Boomers continue to drive real estate sales. That said, if they are old-fashioned, why do we need such discussion about technology and innovation?
CY: For a number of reasons. Change is happening all around-whether it’s the Baby Boomers or Generations X and/or Y. Change is already starting to trickle over to the Boomers. For their children-Gens X and Y-social networking and texting are part of their everyday tasks. It’s important for us to be innovative and to be searching for new technology solutions because these next generations, who are already buying at a great pace, are hot on the heels of having great influence; every year, 5 million people turn 21 and then begin to enter the real estate market.

RE: How much focus should real estate professionals put on attracting younger buyers and sellers?
CY: On a localized basis, you should serve your particular market the best way possible. It’s really an individual answer for different, individual areas. Different pockets will grow one way-more rural or older and others will become more urban and younger. Know your market. However, overall it’s still wise to get younger. It’s a good idea.

RE: So, does a sales associate have to think younger?
CY: Yes. An interesting trend we’re now seeing is agent teams. But not just agent teams, but specifically mother/daughter, mother/son, father/son, father/daughter, etc., teams. These people really have it right. The parent brings the years of experience in the business and the child, at typically 25 to 30 years old, brings a new perspective, one that is usually more tech savvy.

RE: How does a national brand’s ability to market impact the local innovation decisions?
CY: Our franchisees look to us for leadership. Our national programs need to be initiated so they can be tailored to the local markets. Real estate is local. Affiliated companies and their sales associates are the ones working directly with the consumer, shopping for homes, narrowing them down, making an offer, negotiating and closing has all changed. And our job is to harness technological advances so that we can provide our affiliated companies with an opportunity to attract buyers and sellers.

RE: Second Life (the online virtual world) has been a home run for the company. What lessons are you learning from this entrance into the virtual world?
CY: It goes back to what I said before about sales associates-they need to participate. It’s only through involvement that you can understand what it takes. Second Life is all about experimentation and using it as a test lab. We had three goals: to send a message to the real estate world about innovation; to see if this environment could drive people to; and to experience life in the third-dimension world. For the home-buying and selling process, this was important to understand.
We are very much committed to innovation, figuring out where we need to be and going in with open eyes. We don’t know everything but we’d like to learn. RE

Coldwell Banker’s Second Life Experience

With the 3-D virtual world of Second Life having become an online phenomenon, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC is the first national real estate company to sell homes within the community. The company is offering houses in a variety of architectural styles and the ability to tour neighborhoods with a real estate professional.

Members of Second Life ( create personas for themselves, known as avatars, which they use to navigate through the community peopled with more than 5 million residents worldwide. While in the virtual world of Second Life, avatars explore the society, shop, interact with others, visit entertainment events and do essentially everything they might in the real world. One of the more popular activities within Second Life is the purchase and rental of virtual land, so players can build their own stores, homes and event sites.

Coldwell Banker has an inventory of more than 500 homes on 550,000 square meters in the Ranchero section of the Second Life mainland, one of the largest home developments in this virtual world. These virtual homes will vary in price based on size and style, including southwestern, colonial and contemporary, among others. In addition, Coldwell Banker is offering homes perched atop a picturesque hill overlooking the ocean. Second Life residents can meet with a Coldwell Banker sales associate avatar in the brand’s virtual office and schedule an appointment to tour virtual properties of interest. Home buyers who close a purchase with Coldwell Banker will receive free “virtual furniture” for their new home as a closing gift.

For more information, visit