By Esther Muller

The Real Deal
April, 2004

Technology, whether it’s Internet-based or product-oriented, allows the real estate professional the opportunity to reach more clients and be more efficient. What’s more, as Kes Dama, president of Realtor Web Marketing, says, “Technology is a necessity. It can take the broker of the salesperson
to the next level.”

Many of you are already taking note. According to the National Association of Realtors, a typical NAR member will spend more than $1,300 on technology products, services and training in 2004, a jump of 52 percent from last year. Especially noteworthy is the fact about how our customers are using technology. NAR says that 65 percent of homebuyers use the Internet in their home searches. Wow! If your business plan doesn’t contain an e-business component, it’s time to start thinking about developing one.

Your Web site should be at the forefront of your technology planning. Dama notes that a Web site “is your personal business card.” It is representative of you, your skills and your services. It has to be “sticky,” meaning it should make the visitor stop and read the content and prompt him or her to contact you. A good Internet page should be simple in design.

“Forget the flash technology or intricate graphics,” advises Gary Streisand, vice president of Visual Listing Systems. “An overly complex site drives away potential customers.” The content should be streamlined. “Too much information confuses the visitor,” he notes.

Streisand recommends that you keep your content limited to: your profile accompanied by a color photo, your listings, sold properties and testimonials. A “Resources” button that contains neighborhood information or free market reports is helpful. All information should be accessible with a minimum of clicks. “You want your Web site to be easy to navigate,” Streisand says.
“If the visitor finds it difficult to access material, he’s gone.”

Consider creating your own branded Web site. Regardless of where you
are housed, you remain an independent contractor, and in the current
climate of consolidations and of brokers hopping from one company to another, it’s a wise move to develop a site outside of your brokerage
firm’s Internet presence. “Real estate is a personal, one-on-one business,” Dama notes.

“Your client remembers you more than they remember the name of your brokerage firm.” Streisand concurs. “Every broker should promote his or
her own name” through his or her domain name (i.e., Having two Web sites – one on your company’s site and your own stand along site – will only add value to your business.

Developing a Web site is not as expensive as it once was. Five years ago, the cost to design a web site was approximately $2,500. Streisand says you can now get a basic Web site for as little as $99. My advice for anyone upgrading or creating a Web site is to hire an IT professional who works specifically within the real estate industry. They are market savvy and can advise you on the most recent technology trends, issues and products that would work best for your particular situation.

With the second quarter just starting, now is the perfect time to incorporate
e-business into your business program or update the technology focus in your current plan. Good luck!

Ms. Muller is the master teacher at the Real Estate Academy.