As a real estate agent, you may have contemplated moving to the cloud. But uncertainties may have stopped you. Perhaps you are unsure of what to expect and you're just not sure how it will benefit you and your business. If you're unsure where and how to start your journey to the cloud, here is a little scenario of how it could happen.
The first problem: storage space. You have several options here. You can reclaim the file cabinet space by scanning all of your existing paper documents (or hire someone to do it for you), or you can keep your existing paper files and just don't add anymore. All of your documents can be stored in the cloud. If you need a paper copy of a document, it can be printed instantly, so there's no reason for big, bulky file cabinets to take up all of your office space.
Office space costs so much. Again, there are several options. You can move your office to a smaller venue since you no longer need all that storage space, or you can eliminate your office altogether and work from home and wherever you happen to be. The cloud is like having your office with you at all times. If you have a decent smartphone, tablet or laptop, you can work on the go. With Google Drive, you have access to the entire Google Docs suite so you can create, store and manage documents, spreadsheets and presentations even if you don't use Microsoft Office.
Once you create a document, it can be shared from Google Drive, Dropbox or whatever cloud service you are managing the document in. Let's say that you meet the client at the property they are considering buying or even at their home. With a tablet or smartphone, you can use an app like Docusign to legally sign documents right from the mobile device. So there is no reason for extra trips to an office (that you may not even have since you don't need one) and all the paperwork can be completed right on the spot. You don't even have to have the client physically there as documents can be emailed or shared with the client through cloud services, they can sign the document and send it back.
As with any confidential and important documents, security is a concern. The best option is to use a cloud backup service like cloudHQ
. The cloudHQ service replicates all of your data to a backup account in case something happens to any of your files or documents in your main cloud account. The replication is instantaneous so any changes you make to documents are updated in your backup account immediately. Data loss can be devastating but with a good, secure backup plan using a service like cloudHQ, you can rest assured that your data is safe.
Cloud computing is being used by many top real estate brokers as its uses in the brokerage far outweigh the negatives. Whether it's for a small brokerage with a few agents or a large brokerage with many agents, the cloud can be used to manage all aspects of listings and transactions while cutting costs on many ends.
- Utilize the latest technology in order to more efficiently serve clients
- Cost reduction by using Bring Your own Device (BYOD) for agents to remotely operate
- Marketing enhancement, increase in leads and increased profitability
- Less dependence on an on-premise office staff
The migration to the cloud can seem like an extremely complicated and time-consuming task, but it's really only as complicated as you make it. Basically, all information that flows through the real estate brokerage will be sent to the cloud and must be directed to various locations. Access permissions must be set as some data may be fine for all agents and staff to access while other data may only need to be seen by certain workers or agents.
Faxes will be sent as emails or online PDF files. Online access for clients to access their documents should be available as well. Digital signatures can be obtained through a service such as Docusign. Communication with clients, realtors, vendors and other sources can be securely set up online along with the ability to collaborate with multiple users.
Agents and other office staff will need to be trained on the best ways to operate remotely. By utilizing BYOD, agents can operate from wherever they are without the need for a physical office or physical storage space for files.
Google Apps is a great place to start. Google offers an entire suite of useful apps that can be used for the brokerage to run more efficiently in the cloud. Some of the apps include Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive. Google Drive includes the entire Google Docs suite which is similar to Microsoft Office with powerful document creation and editing tools, spreadsheets, presentations, word processing and more. There is also a complete business suite called Google Apps for Business which is more aimed at businesses and corporations.
Once you setup an intranet and complete online office through Google Apps or another similar program, you can decide what other apps will be needed. Dropbox or Box can be used for additional online storage, collaboration and sharing while Basecamp can be used to cover all aspects of project management. Evernote is perfect for creating notes and documents, snagging web articles and photos, and creating audio files.
As much of the data that is used in the brokerage is important and sometimes confidential, it is imperative that a secure backup plan is in place to protect data from accidental deletion or other mishaps. The best solution is to use one of the top cloud backup services such as cloudHQ
. CloudHQ offers a continuous replication of all data to a backup cloud account which provides a secondary copy of all data. In case an agent or other staff member accidentally deletes or misplaces a file, it can be instantly restored from the backup account. The best part about cloudHQ is that it syncs data between a wide variety of cloud services including Google Apps, Dropbox, Evernote, SkyDrive, SugarSync, Box and more. Any changes to data is instantaneous so if a realtor working remotely edits a file, the changes are instantly replicated to all other devices that have that cloud account installed.
Today's real estate agent doesn't have much in common with the real estate agent of 10+ years ago. Once upon a time people had no choice but to call a real estate agent on the phone, tell them what kind of house they were looking for and leave it to the real estate agent to find them a suitable house. Now people have access to homes on a variety of websites, they can search by area, by price, number of bedrooms, etc. And the best part- they can see photos of the house before they ever leave the house and go driving around to look at homes.
Formerly, real estate agents had nice, big offices (and some still do) but many of them now work directly from their home. All aspects of a real estate transaction can be handled from a laptop or even a tablet such as the iPad. There are even apps such as Evernote
that provide all the tools to create documents, edit them, and even have them legally signed when used in conjunction with Docusign
. Basecamp is the ultimate project management tool and has an array of tools that can be used to complete a real estate transaction. Everything can be completed form the agent's home or even a nearby coffee shop with wireless internet.
With the freedom to go mobile and paperless comes more responsibility over the client's confidential data. There's no need to store all these files in bulky file cabinets when the cloud offers so much cheap, secure storage. But as secure as it is, when dealing with confidential data you must always have some kind of backup plan in case the unthinkable happens and data loss occurs. This is where a secure, cloud backup service like cloudHQ
comes into the picture. The cloudHQ service provides continuous replication and a secure backup of all data on a separate cloud account which ensures that you always have two copies of your data. If data loss were to occur, the other account will still hold all data and the real estate transaction can continue uninterrupted.
Technology has changed the way the game is played, but it's made it much more beneficial for real estate agents on the go.
Real estate agents are constantly looking for new apps or tools that can help increase their productivity and sales. We have compiled a list of the top 10 apps for real estate agents. Some of these tools can be used by themselves to handle specific tasks while others can be used in conjunction with other apps in order to best achieve the needed efficiency. From document creation, signing and storage, these apps will help real estate agents in their bid to be able to handle their work without unnecessary trips back and forth from the office, unnecessary hardware, software and storage costs and much more.
- Evernote and Dropbox: Evernote is one of the best friends a real estate agent can have. It works best when used with Dropbox as Dropbox provides storage and easy file sharing while Evernote provides document creation and editing. Snapshots can be attached to documents, audio clips as well. The Evernote web clipper easily allows articles or web pages to be saved to Evernote. The tagging feature allows documents and photographs to be tagged with keywords for simple searching. Pretty much all aspects of a transaction can be handled within Evernote and Dropbox.
- Trulia: Trulia is a well-known real estate website and the free mobile app is just as great. It allows real estate agents to search by area, check out detailed listings and monitor the property history.
- Docusign: This app can be used to legally sign documents which can help immensely in situations where the real estate agent or client are mobile and can't travel to a specific location to sign documents.
- NearBuy: This free app allows real estate agents to search listings by area, bookmark listings and even color code listings for easy access at a later time.
- Dragon Dictation: This app can help when speech is needed and typing is not an option- for instance, when driving in a car. Ideas can be forgotten if not jotted down immediately and this free app provides an option for real estate agents to be able to take notes anytime, anywhere.
- Zillow: This free app allows real estate agents to search by location, price information estimates, price changes, sales, tax- all kinds of information is provided by this useful app.
- PowerOne Financial Calculator: This app is not free but it provides a valuable service. It allows real estate agents to determine mortgage payments, investment income, mathematical equations and compound interest.
- Around Me: This free app provides a wealth of information about local areas. For real estate agents that are creating a listing, this app provides much needed information such as banks, restaurants, coffee shops, schools, etc.
- Social media apps: Social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to help spread information to multiple people simultaneously. Listings and information about homes for sale can be sent out among many potential clients.
Going paperless has many advantages for real estate agents. The paperwork can mound up with long and complex transactions which can lead to long hours spent at the office or at home working overtime. Going paperless eliminates the need for all this paper and the work can be done on the go, from anywhere you have internet access at.
Documents can be created on your mobile device, shared with the client, signed by the client using signing software such as Docusign
, and if a hard copy of the document is needed, a cloud printing service such as Google Cloud Print can be used to print the documents from a mobile device, wherever you have internet access.
Paper storage fees add up, especially if you are a successful real estate agent with numerous transactions. Records and copies of documents must be kept, but file cabinets get full and then more must be purchased, and eventually larger office space may even be required. The cloud can be the solution to all storage needs as copies of every document can be stored in the cloud. Editing and revisions can be done while the document is stored in the cloud and replication is instant so all changes are automatically saved. Some signing software such as Docusign can be used to sign legal documents so even copies of signed legal documents can be stored in the cloud.
Going paperless saves time and money for real estate agents, especially busy agents on the go. With mobile technology reaching new heights, real estate agents can perform all of their work wherever they wish, you could practically eliminate your office to save money as well. No paper means better organization, better security and more time to concentrate on selling homes instead of the mounds of paperwork and frequent trips to and from the office.
Everyone has questions and concerns when contemplating moving their business to the cloud. This especially holds true for real estate agents because a lot of the documents and files are sensitive and must be protected by the best security measures possible.
- Cost-efficient: Yes, the cloud will save money- a lot of it! No need to worry about buying, upgrading and maintaining local storage options, the cloud storage provider will take care of everything for a small monthly fee. If you need to upgrade your storage space, just upgrade your plan and voila! You will instantly be granted more space. No need to buy and install new hardware. Switching to the cloud usually saves between 30-50% on IT costs.
- Storage: By moving all of your files to the cloud, you are reducing the need for paper files. You can cut back on office space and eliminate the need for large, bulky file cabinets. No need to worry about buying and installing local servers and hard drives, the cloud is all you need.
- Collaboration: The cloud makes it easy for you to collaborate on files and documents with other realtors, clients, lawyers and any other sources you may need input from.
- Project management: The cloud has many services that make managing your transactions a breeze. Basecamp is the ultimate organizational project management tool, but there are other such as Evernote, Google Drive and Dropbox that can help your real estate brokerage make the move to the cloud.
- Mobile: The cloud allows you to work from anywhere that you have access to the internet, and even offline when you don't have internet access.
- Time management: Since agents can perform all of their work in the field without constant trips back and forth from the office, this means a lot more time can be concentrated towards more important work- like showing houses and selling them. Wasted time can potentially slow your sales down, but working in the cloud can make much more efficient use of your time.
- Document management: With a variety of cloud tools such as Evernote, Google Drive and Docusign, documents can be accessed, created, edited, shared and legally signed from virtually anywhere.
- Flexibility: The cloud has many services and tools available that can help a real estate agent in the workplace. The best part- most of these services and apps have full integration with many of the most popular tools and services.
- Security: Cloud security has always been a strong subject of concern, but it doesn't have to be. By implementing strong security measures such as very strong passwords and two-factor authentication, the cloud can be more secure than any local storage you have in the office.
- Backup: Manual backup of all your files and data is a pain but if you don't do it you risk the possibility of data loss which can be critical when dealing with sensitive documents and files. Storing files in the office or on local hard drives is not the best solution as they are still susceptible to fire, floods or other disasters. When you move to the cloud your data stays on the cloud so no fire or flood will harm your data. However, it is still important to have a good backup plan in case your account gets hacked or you accidentally delete important files or data. There are many cloud solutions to handle this and you should pick one of the top cloud backup providers such as cloudHQ. The cloudHQ service runs in the background, transparent to you, providing continuous replication of all changes- if you add a file or make changes to a file, this is replicated to the backup immediately. A solid, secure backup plan is critical when dealing with documents of such a sensitive nature as real estate documents and files.
Docusign is an easy and efficient way to sign documents including legal documents from anywhere. For the real estate agent on the go this can make life much easier as it eliminates costly, time-consuming trips back and forth from the office to do paperwork. You can even save your signature in your account so you can sign even faster. No need to fax, print, scan or perform any other inefficient methods of getting paperwork signed.
Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage providers and its drag-and-drop file feature makes it perfect to integrate with Docusign as it is designed to be efficient for quick access.
As a real estate agent, it seems there is never enough time during the day to get everything done anyways. By integrating Dropbox and Docusign together you can at least stop worrying about how documents will get signed as it can be done in seconds from anywhere.
When a contract needs to be signed, it can be sent to them through Docusign. All transactions are encrypted so security is not an issue either. Documents can be stored in Dropbox and signed through Docusign. The process is pretty simple, you just have to import your Dropbox (or Evernote, Google Drive, or Box) account into Docusign and follow the on-screen prompts. Here is a detailed page that explains the process
Real estate agents can take advantage of this great combination of apps that can make life easier; just one less thing to worry about during the hectic work day.