The Top 10 Tools, Technology, and Apps for REALTORS®
Every day, every month, and every year there is a new crop of new tech tools for real estate agents to use for running their businesses and generating leads.
Some of these are great and actually work very well, while others are just a waste of your time and money.
So the question becomes: How is an Agent supposed to keep up with all?
I don’t have the perfect answer, but I do have a very good place for an agent to begin sorting it all out. Since, 2011 I’ve been diving deep into discovering practical approaches for using Technology, Social Media, Video, Websites, and everything else Online in real estate.
I then take all of this knowledge and put it into this blog: AgentRedefined.com.
This is how my Top Tools and Apps for Real Estate Agents list was born and you can see it below along with some additional info about each of them.
Top Technology Tools and Apps for Real Estate Agents in 2016
Here’s the complete breakdown of the updated list for 2016.
1. Having an Online Presence
2. Your Database
3. Social Media (Personal Profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.)
4. Zillow and Trulia
5. Smart Phones and the iPad
6. Photo and Video Apps
7. Electronic Signature: DocuSign & DotLoop
8. Email Communications & Email Marketing
9. WordPress for Real Estate Agents
10. Cloud Storage
11. Audiobooks, Podcasts, and Podcasting
12. Pre-Marketing Listings: Pro HDR w/Wide Angle Lens
13. Home Warranty’s as a Branding Tool
14. Open Home Pro App
15. Rethinking Business Cards with Moo.com
16. The DSLR Camera
17. The Off Button
18. Bulletproof Coffee
19. Facebook Dark Posts and The Power Editor
20. The Starbucks App
21. Work-Life Balance
22. Steven Pressfield’s the Resistance from his book “The War of Art”
24. Real Estate Signs
25. Fascination Advantage by Sally Hogshead
Technology and information continue to evolve the Real Estate Industry; the tools, apps, and devices a Realtor needs in order to run their businesses have also evolved. Ten years ago you needed a Desktop Computer, Fax Machine, Phone Line, and Rolodex. Back then a decent agent with these tools could conduct business and communicate with their clients in an effective manner. Think about how far technology has changed not only the Real Estate industry but how business is conducted overall today with technological advancements!
(leave a comment below and let me know what you think)
Today’s Real Estate Agents require far more than simply a fax machine to perform their day to day operations. Although you may need a fax number, the actual fax machine is no longer needed. The tools and apps needed for today’s Agents are all about information and how that information is gathered, communicated, and delivered to your clients and other real estate professionals.
In complete full disclosure and to demonstrate my absolute biased opinion. Every product or service I discuss on this list is purely because I have purchased and used these products and services. I do not push other peoples products or services for any type of back-end commission or referral fee.
I do this to keep all of the information I deliver to you 100% pure, so let’s begin….
1. Backing Up Your Files and Data using Carbonite.com.(click image to go to Carbonite.com)
Years ago when I was still using a PC I had the unfortunate experience of my computer crashing and losing all of my data. Not only did I loose my files filled with contracts for all of my deals, I also lost all of my photos and video from when I was in the Military. I was crushed. Then I found Carbonite.
Once installed on your computer Carbonite.com will automatically update all of your files, music, and pictures when your connected to the internet. It works completely on it’s own and is backing up all of your data every time your computer is online. You can also access any of your files from any computer or mobile device once you log into your Carbonite.com account.
This service should give you peace of mind that all of your data is backed up in case your computer crashes or is lost/stolen. This only backs up your files it doesn’t back up your programs and complete hard drive. Carbonite does have some larger plans that I think will do this but I have not tried them out. I have the basic plan currently which backs up all data files.
The service costs $59/year and will cover 1 computer with unlimited storage space.
OPEN HOME PRO UPDATE | UPDATE JANUARY 2014: Open Home Pro has been purchased by Homefinder.com. We don’t know how this will affect the app but what we do know is that over the past 6 months Open Home Pro has changed is setup and you now have to pay a monthly fee to access all of it’s features unlike before. It’s still a great app but that may change depending on what Homefinder.com does with this app. I will keep you posted as time goes on.
Unfortunately, there is no other app out there like this. If you know anyone in the app business this would be a great one to copy and put out into the marketplace.
2. Open House Technology using the App Open Home Pro. (go to Open Home Pro…click here)
Depending on the Market Conditions of where your listing is located, Open Houses are still a viable sales technique for marketing your listings. Typically, you would have a “sign in sheet” at the open house to collect agents or prospective buyers information. The difficult part would be taking your sign in sheet at the end of the open house and trying to read all of the information gathered and then send out follow up emails or calls. With this app your able to collect contact information of your visitors using your iPad.
They simply type in the information themselves using the very user friendly app. It’s professional and has a “wow” factor to it when people are using it. Plus, we have found out that most people generally like filling out the form because its using the iPad. Next, your able to easily send a professionally designed email with pictures and info on the property. It looks professional and is a great way to do the follow-up.
If your taking on listings, then your going to have an open house at some point. Realtors should use this app to save them time in collecting information and to show off some technological skills.
The app costs $14.99 and can be purchased at the App Store on Apple.
3. Utilizing DropBox. (go to Dropbox.com…click here)
Instead of filling up the hard drive on your computer with contracts, addendum’s, and other documents of your previously closed deals they should be stored on a service like Dropbox. Basically, once installed on your computer and mobile devices you have a completely mobile hard drive which won’t eat up valuable memory space. Furthermore, since Dropbox acts like having another hard drive on your computer if Carbonite.com is also installed Carbonite will automatically back up your Dropbox data. This adds a 2nd level of data backup for you.
Dropbox is just simply a great easy tool to store all of the stuff you don’t want to throw away but need to keep.
I use the PRO Plan which comes out to be $9.99 per month. There is a free version with will give your 2GB of space which is enough for a lot of people. If your unsure about how much space you need just sign up for the free plan and start transferring your documents over. It’s a very easy and user friendly website to use. You can also get more free space if you recommend people to sign up for an account!
4. Apple Products: MacBook Pro, iPad, & iPhone.
After a being a lifetime PC user I switched over to a Mac after repeated PC’s crashing and getting attacked with viruses. I was very apprehensive about making a switch, and the higher cost of Apple products made me nervous about making the investment. All I can say is that my experience using a Macbook Pro has been nothing short of completely satisfied. I’m still using my late model 2009 15″ Macbook Pro with 320GB. The computer is simply just a workhorse I use it everyday for up to 14 hours and the performance and speed is just about the same as when I first purchased it. There’s no way a PC could have lasted this long and performed so well.
The iPad is simply just an amazing device. A Realtor can literally perform all of their business on it without even having to use a computer. Furthermore, the video camera on the iPad 3 and 4 is not bad. You can purchase a wide angle lens and camera kit from www.hdhat.com and produce quality real estate videos with it. Purchase the iMovie app for iPad and you edit your videos in it also. That is just simply amazing.
The iPhone is also just a great device for keeping you in constant communication. The only other smart phone that compares to it is the Samsung Galaxy Series, which is also just as awesome as the iPhone. Really, you can’t go wrong with either the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. They are both great devices and offer agents the ultimate communication tool. Honestly, I cant see how you can do business without one of the two.
I currently use an iPhone 4. One thing to note about the iPhone 5 is the picture and video quality of the camera in it. It’s quite spectacular from everything I have seen it do and it’s on my list of gadgets to get next.
This is a training/educational product for Realtors. Basically, it’s a course which will train you how to use your iPad for handling your Buyers and Sellers. I could probably do a full article just reviewing this training because there is simply nothing else like it out there. I honestly wished I would have come up with this iPad training myself, HAHA. If you’ve been following any of my marketing training, this training provided by the Good Life Team in Austin, TX will absolutely complement it. Utilizing the skills the Good Life Team teaches in conjunction with my Online Marketing Training will demonstrate to your clients a level of mastery in being a technologically capable Realtor. It goes in total sync with what Agent Redefined is all about.
The product costs $347.00 at the time of this article. I purchased it in January 2013 after attending one of their webinars.
The training course consists of a series of videos which are easy to follow and professionally made. They even tell you how much time you will need to watch them all. So if you have an iPad, then you need this training. If you don’t have an iPad yet but are planning on getting one in the future, I would suggest getting on their email list in order to keep up with updates and webinars. The webinar I attended as a listener gave away a lot of great information and it was informative.
The last thing I would add on here is to sign up and follow Kristina Wise online. She’s the owner of Paperless Agent & the Good Life Real Estate in Austin, TX and also producing some really good content about Agent Branding. It’s a topic that deserves some attention as our industry moves into a new phase in 2013. Her website is at www.CoffeeWithkrisstina.com, sign up there for the email updates.
6. A Trulia & Zillow Free Account (click here to go to the Realtor Training Blog)
If you don’t already have your Free Account at Trulia and Zillow and have a 100% completed profile, then your behind the times. This is absolutely crucial for any Realtor, especially if your taking on listings. I don’t care if you love or hate them, in 2013 a Realtor cannot avoid these 3rd Party Real Estate Search Websites and it’s just that simple.
Go to the Trulia and Zillow Training Section here at my Realtor Training Blog to find out more about Trulia and Zillow.
Basically it’s all about exposure. Consumers of real estate searches are utilizing websites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Homes.com, Redfin, ZipRealty, MSN Real Estate, AOL Real Estate, Yahoo Real Estate, HGTV FrontDoor, and HomeFinder not only to find property but to find Realtors, Pricing Information, Recent Closed Transactions, and Foreclosure Data.
7. Business Cards, yes they are still important and should not be overlooked…. MOO.COM (click here to check out www.moo.com)
I purchased my first set of business cards from Moo.com in November 2012. I have been pushing these cards on Realtors ever since. The reason? They make a very unique card called the LUXE Business Card, it’s definitely unique and that’s what I’m looking for in a business card. When we start talking about branding yourself apart from the rest of agents your competing with in a market it comes down to a series of details that will make the difference. Your business card is one of those details.
The standard Realtor Business Cards out there are just bland and almost expected to be bland and loaded with too much information, you probably have one of these now. There is something better out there and it can be done by using Moo.com. You can select one of their template designs or bring in your own and upload it to their website. The LUXE Business Card is thicker than a credit card and made out of some thick paper. When you first feel it you know it’s different. It actually can be a conversation starter. Moo.com is the only company that I found out there that’s really trying to create some unique business cards that can help you communicate and present yourself in a unique way.
These cards aren’t cheap. So I suggest starting off with two sets of cards. One set used for pure marketing purposes towards buyers, sellers, and strategic partners. The second set used for everyone else. At least this can help offset the high cost to the cards. Also, only if your doing a custom design only produce 50 at first so you know how the final product will look before committing to a longer production run.
8. Video Camera and a Wide Angle Lens…yes you will need to make video…
UPDATE: AUGUST 2013
The relatively low cost and availability of high-quality video camera’s which can produce professional video is just awesome. New Samsung Galaxy’s or Apple iPhone’s have incredible video capabilities! Just a few years ago you would’ve had to purchase a separate video camera costing hundreds of dollars more to get the same quality video that these devices can produce today. Bottom line: creating video to market your properties and your brand is not only affordable to do today but it’s necessary, the only thing most agents lack is the proper training and/or marketing support to edit, produce, and syndicate online.
Video is here and must be part of a Realtors overall Online Marketing Efforts. There are two types of agents out there; ones that make video and ones that don’t. Most Realtors don’t make videos and that’s where the opportunity lies.
In order to produce and edit video it just requires some training for learning a new set of skills. It’s not rocket science so if a former grunt in the Army can learn it then so can you.
If you work for a brokerage that employs a Chief Technology Officer, LIKE ME, then your covered because I shoot and produce videos for our agents all of the time. If your brokerage doesn’t offer marketing support (and they should be, what are they doing with their end of your split?) for shooting and producing your videos then you can still hire me to train you, and my prices are not bad!
2 Types of Videos That Agents Need To Produce:
- The Property Video, often called the Virtual Tour. This is an actual video of both the interior and exterior of the property. A wide-angle lens must be used also in order to fully capture capture the property in a professional manner. Every listing an agent has should have a video produced to accompany the property photos. I don’t believe an agent should talk throughout the video. Let the video do the work of selling the home. The agent should only have a 20 to 30 second intro in the beginning of the video and an optional close at the end for 15 seconds. Additional tools like a camera stabilizer, tripod, and slider are also used to create the “money shots”.
- The Agent Video: The purpose of produce informational videos on real estate topics. These can include videos for First Time Homebuyers, Staging a Property, or how to Purchase a Short Sale. The topics are limitless and you can even make them in an interview style where you bring in other professionals like a real estate attorney, a mortgage officer, or a professional home stager. These types of videos should be produced every month consistently.
Video Equipment Needed To Produce Real Estate Video:
- The Video Camera: You have two options here, one is cheaper than the other and recommended for most agents. The second one is more expensive and requires more training and equipment in order to use them properly. In the 1st option you would begin using the video capability of your smartphone. Going this route is a great way to start your entry into producing video and getting yourself familiar with the process. The second option is using a DSLR Camera! I love the second option because it really brings your videos into another level with quality of video your able to produce with it. I’m currently using a Canon T4i with a 10-22mm wide angle lens. This camera not only produces my real estate videos but it’s also the same camera used for shooting my real estate photos.
- A Tripod: There are a ton of options available for you here from cheap tripods you can purchase for under $50 to professional grade models that can go for over $200! If your using a smartphone for your video camera you will need to also purchase a tripod adapter for attaching your phone to the tripod.
- A Microphone: Audio is also important and you want quality sound when your speaking in your videos. Even though smartphones and DSLR cameras have an internal microphone built-in these are typically not ideal. Especially if your filming outside and have lot’s of wind or external noises. I use two different mics on my DSLR camera. A wired mic from Audio Technica called the ATR-3350, it’s a wired lavalier style microphone that is affordable and works great. This is a great starter option. If your using your smartphone you will need an adaptor that is used to connect the microphone into the headphone jack of the phone.
- Video Software: Once you shoot your video you’ll need video editing software to put it all together. Currently I use an Apple Computer and use iMovie for producing all of my videos. iMovie is a great way to get started because it’s easy to use and can produce good HD Video, but this program is only available on a Mac/Apple Computer. If you have a PC then your going to be looking at a program like Sony Vegas or Adobe Premier Pro. I’m currently learning Adobe Premier because its the next level of software to use for creating even more and better video. It’s a little more complicated to use and requires more training but will give you more options for creating your videos.
Additional Video Resources
- A good company with video equipment accessories for converting your iPhone or iPad into a movie making machineI is www.HDHat.com.
- Additional YouTube strategies for creating video: www.jameswedmore.com
Example of a Virtual Tour for Your Listings
Here’s an example of a Virtual Tour I created for one of my real estate agent clients in Chicago. I perform these services for agents for a very reasonable fee. Y
Example of a Agent Informational Video
In these videos you’ll see an agents give information about real estate which in turn helps establish themselves as an authority figure on the subject.
9. Google Apps for Business
Your email is a major communication tool that connects you to your clients and other real estate professionals. Realtors transmit contracts and other documents regularly now via email attachments. People also depend on using email in order to find your contact information. Any tools utilized this much should be customized and branded to the Realtor. I believe using an email account that ends in a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, or even a ME.com is just not professional enough. Again, it’s a series of details that every agent should be concerned with in order to create an overall brand of that agent.
By using Google Apps for Business you can take your domain name and make it into a customized Gmail account. Gmail is a pretty solid email service, it does a good job at eliminating spam, it’s fast, and the signature line is easy to customize. What I really like about this App is having the ability to have a customized email address without the headache of maintaining servers or using a 3rd party to manage your email server account. This means less headaches and ease of use.
My current email address is email@example.com and I own the domain AgentRedefined.com. With Google Apps for Business I was able to create my own Gmail Account utilizing my domain name. I think this is just awesome! My Google Apps for Business account was created over 2 years ago so I actually have it for free, but late last year Google Apps for Business started charging for this service. It now costs $5/month for it. This is still worth it because of what you get in return. A customized email address while using the Gmail Framework. This is an easy solution for any Realtor and affordable at $60 for the year.
10. WordPress Real Estate Websites
Every Realtor depends on their own brand in order to generate leads which will be converted into business and generate income. A website is part of your overall Marketing Plan and helps build your branding online. WordPress offers the best solution for a real estate website to Realtors. Again this is a topic I can write a complete series of articles on but I’ll try to summarize it as best as I can here.
There are 4 main factors to take into consideration when building a website for your business.
WordPress offers a viable alternative to meeting all 4 of my criteria. First, it’s fairly cheap to set up yourself or have someone set up for you. I charge $1000 to build a WordPress website and if this is too much you can also find web developers for cheaper on websites like Fiverr.com or Elance.com. Second, maintenance can be performed on the site easily with some property training, or an agent can find tech people on Fiverr and/or Elance. Thirdly, WordPress offers the best solution to updating your website with the purchase of new Themes. A Theme in WordPress is simply the skin of your website. The actual nuts and bolts, the content of your website will never change when you set up a new Theme in it. This offers a longevity factor to owning your own personalized website. Changing over to a new theme is like changing the color of the exterior paint of your car from white to black. The engine and interior are all still the same, but on the outside the color as been changed.
SEO and WordPress: WordPress out of the box is a very SEO friendly platform to build a website on. With the proper setup and use of the blog and plugins like IDX Press you can generate traffic to your site without having to pay for Google or Facebook Pay Per Clicks.
UPDATE 2016…. WordPress IDX Plugins: Do you really need an IDX in 2016? NO
I recently wrote an article about real estate websites and using WordPress where we get into greater detail about this subject. Check out the article by CLICKING HERE.
WordPress Estimated Cost Breakdown:
1. Purchase Theme: $35-$75 (Even though WordPress is open source software and free you still have to purchase a theme)
2. Website Hosting: Approx. $65/year (Your website has to be hosted on a server somewhere, I use BlueHost.com it’s cheap and reliable)
3. Build out the Website: $500 – $2000 (I charge $1000, but you can find someone on Fiverr/Elance to probably build one for $350 to $500)
4. Website Security and Backups: Monthly-Approx $15-$35 (This varies, I use Website Backup from BlogVault.com and Website Security from SiteLock.com)
5. IDX: Setup Fee’s Approx.-$150; Monthly Fee’s Approx.-$29/month (I currently use IDX Press from Diverse Solutions, it’s good, not great)
Thanks for checking out the article and my website. Every year I compile this list of tools, apps, and tech for agents and it’s the most popular article on the site.
If you want to download the latest copy of the list fill out the form below… Thanks George