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.
Technology has changed the way many realtors perform their real estate business. Advances in mobile technology, cloud computing, communication methods and many other useful features have helped make real estate agents' work easier and much more efficient.
- Cloud computing helps real estate agents by cutting costs in many areas such as storage, hardware costs, office space, etc. With documents stored on cloud servers, there is no need for those big, clunky file cabinets that take up so much space. There is no need for a huge paper cost as many documents can be created and even legally signed on an electronic device such as a computer laptop, tablet or smartphone.
- Mobile technology has practically created real estate agents on the go. There is no longer even a need for an office, many agents work directly out of their homes. With devices such as smartphones and tablets, real estate agents can complete all aspects of a transaction wherever they may be. Documents can be created, edited, collaborated on, shared and legally signed directly from mobile devices. This eliminates time and travel costs of numerous trips to and from an office.
- Communication methods such as social networking has helped in real estate marketing and in spreading information. Facebook and Twitter have been proven to be effective methods for marketing real estate listings, as well as being a wealth of information and sources for real estate agents. The more views a listing receives, the bigger chance it has of garnering interest and being sold quickly.
As technology continues to improve, the real estate agent on the go is the agent in charge of his or her future. Less time spent on one transaction means more time spent on other transactions (for increased sales and revenue) and more time to spend with family and friends, as work no longer consumes every part of the day.
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.
Google Maps has a variety of features that make it perfect for real estate agents. Although Google no longer officially supports Google Maps as a real estate tool, there are still many features and functions within Google Maps that makes it a useful tool for showing homes, neighborhoods, listings and more.
Street View allows prospective buyers to scope out the property and surrounding area from a unique view that has been taken from the street so users can check out the home as they would see it from the street.
The Google API allows users that visit your site to browse listings and perform searches by utilizing the Google Maps innovative search function directly from your website. This allows prospective clients to perform searches and check out maps for certain areas.
Agents can create custom maps for differing areas and for differing reasons. Color codes can be used to specify specific areas or functions. Multiple users can collaborate together to create maps that are more efficient for all users. Maps can be used to create itineraries to be used for showing homes while other custom maps can use input data from your clients to display listings that tailor more to the clients' interests.
Google Maps certainly has many useful functions for real estate agents and conjoined with other apps that perform a variety of other relevant functions to the real estate business can make your real estate business run more efficiently while bringing in new prospective clients.
A real estate agent must maintain a professional reputation online at all times. To be successful, a variety of online tools can be used to maintain this reputation and get the word out. A good website, frequent usage of social media and much more can be used to accomplish this. The competition is stiff in the online real estate market so agents must be prepared to be a little bit better, go a little bit farther and do a little bit more than the competitors. Hard work pays off but it can slip away if the reputation you build up is neglected and not consistently maintained.
Ask yourself questions to determine what you want your real estate business to be known for and what you can do better than your competitors, then start building your online reputation based on the results of those questions. This is the beginning of your online persona and this is what your reputation will be built on.
Create accounts on a variety of social media and networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. You may want to use other services such as image services like Photobucket, Flickr and Picasa. For video, you can use YouTube or Vimeo. To create a blog, there is WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, Tumblr, etc. Make the most out of the online services that are available. While it's true that he more accounts you create, the more work it will be to maintain them, but the results will be worth it once you realize you can reach more people.
If you really want to look professional, create a landing page. This page can provide all the information about you, about your business and can have links to every online account you are a part of. You can create a landing page by utilizing the services of WordPress, about.me, dooid.me, flavors.me or you can have a copywriter create your page for extra zing. You should use a domain name, it can be anything you wish, such as joesrealestateblog.com, or any name you can come up with that relates to your site. Be as creative as possible.
Create links to your social media sites on your landing page and create links to your landing page on all your social media accounts. You should also create links on your business cards, flyers, brochures, etc. Be sure to keep your accounts updated with fresh content on a constant basis. This will keep people coming to your blog, your landing page and your website to check out your new content. More people to your site means more potential clients.
As noted above, frequent fresh content will keep people visiting your sites. Google Analytics can be used to keep up with how many people visit your site, where they are coming from, etc. Every so often you should search your name and your real estate name to check for comments or posts on social media sites or forums. If you see negative comments about you or your business it would be wise to respond and attempt to rectify the situation. You want to keep your online reputation as clean as possible.
With all the data that real estate brokers can pile up, you need somewhere to store it. Online cloud storage is the optimal solution but because of the risk of data loss, you simply must have a secure data backup plan. There are great cloud backup services out there such as cloudHQ
. The cloudHQ service provides a continuous replication of all data that you store on a cloud server. So if you use Evernote for creating, editing and storing real estate transaction documents, you can have all this data backed up securely to Dropbox, Box, etc. This way if data loss was to happen, you will still have a secure copy of all data on your backup account and this can be especially critical when dealing with confidential and sensitive transaction documents and information.
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.
As a real estate agent, getting your listings out to as many people as possible is one of the strongest options. Listing options can sometimes be expensive, but there is a listing option from dwellagent.com
that is completely free. Real estate agents can take advantage of the web-based software that allows real estate agents to publish listings, a blog, website, and more.
The free listing allows real estate agents to publish one property listing at a time. If more than one listing is needed, the agent can always upgrade to a premium account. This allows agents to publish up to 25 listings for under $10 per month with the Basic plan.
The DwellAgent app integrates with Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and more for a complete social networking experience. It also incorporates video integration to listing and agent websites for better visual marketing. Google Analytics provides site statistics. DwellAgent is the complete real estate marketing package.
If you're not sure, try it out. Take advantage of the free listing and see how the service works. If it works for you, you can always upgrade to the Basic plan, the Professional plan or the Enterprise plan
. The Basic plan allows real estate agents to post 25 listings for $9.95 per month. The Professional plan integrates a primary website, blog and listing websites into a single website. IDX/property search can be added by signing up for the Enterprise plan which is an additional $39.99 per month.
Free listings from a quality service don't come along often. Check out the great service DwellAgent provides and see how well their free listing service will work for you.
Among the top security concerns of real estate agents is security in the cloud. When dealing with sensitive information, it's important that the data is kept safe. When Evernote was recently hacked
this forced over 50 million usersâ passwords to be changed. This hack joined a rising number of recent incidents that have included such large corporations as Dropbox
. For real estate agents, this hack means that strong security measures must be implemented and maintained for complete data protection.
In this analysis by Troy Hunt on the science of password selection
, a more in-depth look at how the common internet user creates a password is explored. As can be reasonably determined, longer passwords are harder to crack as it takes longer for desktop computers to process the number of possible passwords before reaching the real password. The truth is, itâs much better to have a long password that you can remember
than a shorter password that can be hacked by a powerful computer. SplashData offers these tips
for the creation of secure passwords:
- Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. One way to create longer, more secure passwords that are easy to remember is to use short words with spaces or other characters separating them. For example, âeat cake at 8!â or âcar_park_city?â
- Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Especially risky is using the same password for entertainment sites that you do for online email, social networking, and financial services. Use different passwords for each new website or service you sign up for.
- Having trouble remembering all those different passwords? Try using a password manager application such as 1Password that organizes and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites. The downside is that using a password manager isn't always possible and it isn't always practical either.
Some cloud storage providers such as Google Drive
and Dropbox offer extra security measures such as 2-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is a measure which requires the presentation of a minimum of two out of the three authentication factors:
a knowledge factor ("something the user knows"),
a possession factor ("something the user has"),
and an inherence factor ("something the user is").
Here is how it works: Once you enter your password as you normally would, a code is sent to your mobile phone or an app that you have previously approved to be used for this purpose. As soon as the code comes through, you enter it and can access the account. How does this protect your data?
If your password is accessed by hackers (keylogger, sniffer, steals your laptop, etc.), they will still be unable to access your account because they will need your mobile phone to complete the secondary authentication. Strong password creation and keeping your passwords secure help prevent any unauthorized access to your data and this is important since, as a real estate agent, a lot of your data is confidential and needs to be protected. The 2-factor authentication measure handles this in the majority of situations, keeping your data secure.
Dropbox 2-factor authentication setup instructions: https://www.dropbox.com/help/363/en
Google Drive and other Google services setup instructions: http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=180744
Weak password creations and other poor security measures contribute to the majority of unauthorized accesses. Unfortunately, even with the best security measures in place, circumstances can still happen- for instance, if a hacker steals your laptop and your mobile phone, he will then be able to bypass the secondary 2-factor authentication measure. If the hacker deletes your data, this can be a huge blow to a real estate agent with multiple transactions and contracts stored in the cloud. This data doesnât have to be lost, it can be securely backed up with one of the leading cloud storage backup services such as cloudHQ
CloudHQ provides a secure backup of all of your data. The replication process is automatic and operates silently in the background, invisible to the user. It is continuous replication which means it automatically updates in real-time as changes are made to data, so you never have to worry about losing any data.
Let's use an example. You have anEvernote
account and want to use cloudHQ to protect your Evernote data. You simply create two Evernote accounts. One is your primary Evernote account and the other is your backup account. CloudHQ provides a continuous replication of all data from the primary Evernote account to the secondary Evernote account. If a hacker gains access to your primary account and deletes your data (including from Evernote trash), the backup account will still hold a complete second copy of all of your data.
Strong passwords and security measures are usually enough to keep your data safe from unauthorized access. But if it does fail, the results can be devastating. You can keep access to your data at all times by utilizing the superior backup methods of cloudHQ.
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.