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Technology Category

The Changing Role Of A Real Estate Agent: A Historical Perspective

The Old Days

The Old Days

Realtors as Gatekeepers

Prior to entering real estate as a career back in the mid 90’s, I spent nearly ten years working in the computer industry, using the most advanced PCs at the time.  When I first saw the tools available to real estate agents, I felt like I was stepping back in time.  If you were a buyer looking for a home, you couldn’t just log on to the internet and search.  Real estate agents were the gatekeepers of the data, and that made them an integral part of the process.  Back then, all of the homes for sale were listed in paperback books that came out every couple of weeks.  The photo to the left shows what the books looked like.  Depending on what area you worked in, you could have 3 or 4 of these books in your possession at any one time. Read the rest of this entry »

Cleaning can be sweet!

There is nothing sweeter than a clean home, wouldn’t you agree? But with today’s hectic lifestyle, who has the time?

Should I hire a housekeeper?

I live in an affluent area, surrounded by Hi-tech millionaires.  They have the disposable income to pay for nannies and housekeepers.  But, after that whole Meg Whitman – Illegal Alien debacle, I’m a bit leery about hiring a housekeeper.  Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’m generally frugal with my money. I have a hard time  paying someone else to do something that I can do just as good. That’s right, I’m a very thorough cleaner. But, I hate to do it! Read the rest of this entry »

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Is a picture is worth a few Thousand Dollars?

How about a few months on the market?

Back in 2008, I posted a 3 part series titled “Is it your agent’s fault“. In the articles, I spoke about many things that contribute to the successes and/or failures in the sale of a client’s home. There is no better time to look back and review these posts, especially since we are right in the middle of the worst housing market we will likely ever see. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cool Real Estate app for your Android phone…

I love technology. People who know me know that I love technology. I’m usually on the bleeding edge, and I’ve got the financial scars to prove it. In late 2010, I switched from my Blackberry phone to the new bleeding edge HTC Evo. I love this phone, but it has its own set of problems. I’m not writing today to discuss the phone itself, but rather, the real estate application that I recently downloaded for it.

First let me state that my Evo phone is based on the Google Android operating system. Don’t despair if you happen to have an iPhone or (God help you), a Windows Mobile phone. This app has a version available for those phones as well.

The app is Zillow. This real estate site aggregates data on homes, culled from various MLS cooperatives and public tax records across the nation. What I like about this app is that by using the GPS feature on my phone, I can view data on nearly every home around my current location, not just those homes currently for sale.  For example, let’s say you’re at a dinner party at a friend’s house, and the subject about real estate comes up (doesn’t it always???). Your host mentions that the house next door just sold, but she doesn’t know the final sales price.  You simply pull out your phone, click on the zillow app and Voila!, the information is right there on your screen! How cool is that???

Don’t have any of the smartphones named above? Don’t fret. You can also just visit Zillow’s website and pull up the same data. The screen will be easier and larger to view, but it doesn’t have that same wow factor!

If you have the new QR Code reader on your phone, just snap the image below for an automatic link to the free download. FYI, this app is ad based, so you do have to put up with a small banner ad at the bottom of your phone screen while using the application.

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Cool new technology!

Anyone who really knows me understands that I love technology. While I try and portray a sophisticated and cool dude on the exterior, I’m really a nerd at heart. Take this cool new project that Microsoft is working on as a prime example. It’s called Tagging.

Still in its Beta phase (aren’t all MS products?) this software is designed as a marketing tool for mobile products. You need to have the latest in phone technology (which I do), and download a small application that runs on your phone. Currently, the software runs on Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian S60 and J2ME enabled phones. Your phone also needs to have a camera and internet access.

The idea behind this software is to allow users to get additional information about products and/or services by taking a photo of a tag (or barcode).

Here is a tag I created and added to my email signature. If a user with one of the phones listed above snaps a picture of my tag, it will bring him/her to this Blog (try it! You need to put your camera really close to the screen).

How about this idea for a tag(s):

I negotiate an advertising fee with Microsoft and a bunch of retailers (restaurants, stores, etc…) in the UDistrict (that’s near the University of Washington where my son attends) who would be willing to offer some sort of discount to persons via the tag. I then make a T-shirt with all of the tags on it that my son can wear throughout the day, advertising the retailer discounts.

I see several benefits:

1. The advertisers have increased traffic and revenue in their stores
2. My son makes a lot of new friends and becomes famous as a walking billboard
3. I make money to pay for my son’s education

How would you use the tags in your life? Drop me a comment with your brilliant ideas…

The Death of Vanity Telephone Numbers

I discovered today that Vanity telephone numbers are on their way out. What do I mean by this? First a little history: In the 1960’s, the telecommunications industry created the DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency) system. This technology is the basis for our touch-tone telephone which replaced the old rotary phone systems. Long story short, it made dialing a telephone number much easier. Growing up, we had a rotary phone in our home (in fact, my grandmother still has one in her apartment!). Our telephone number was (415) 397-0973. If you are old enough to remember rotary phones, you’ll understand how difficult this number would be to dial (especially the 9’s and 0’s). It would often take me many attempts to dial home, as I would put my finger in the wrong hole, or forget which number I was on.

Alas, I digress… Back to the topic at hand…

So, today I was in my car talking to my insurance agent, trying to file a claim. My agent gave me the claims number and said ” just dial 1-800-allstate“. She even offered to do a conference call and dial the number for me. Being the independent person that I am, I declined and stated that I would make the call myself and hung up.

Here’s where the story gets interesting…

So, I’m driving in my car, trying to dial at the same time. On my previous cell phone, this would not have been a problem, as the keypad had the alphabet stamped on each number. You know the sequence right? ABC, DEF, GHI, JKL…

Guess what? I just got a new BlackBerry! Here’s what my new phone looks like:

Notice anything different about it?

Yeah. The letters under my keypad are different than my old cell phone.

So I’m driving in my car, trying to remember what letters are associated with what numbers. I’m trying to call 1-800-allstate by dialing 1-800-144-6717. I get a message stating “The number or code you have dialed is incorrect”. Darn! I try again. Let’s see, #1 is ABC, #2 is DEF, #3 is GHI… Still no luck. I then called my girlfriend for help. Only then am I reminded that the letters start at #2, not #1. How stupid is that? So the actual number I should have dialed is 1-800-255-7828.

With the BlackBerry phone’s rising popularity, maybe allstate should change their number to 1-800-EDD-ZXEX. On the other hand, maybe they don’t want people dialing their claims line anyway…

A new way to look at homes?

Trulia just launched a new site called Trulia Snapshots that enables consumers to graphically view homes in any given area, sorted by price range, or market time. I’ve tried it out, and it looks pretty snazzy. At a quick glance, you can see all the homes within a price range (slider bar at the bottom of the screen), and just by moving the slider, the graphical representation of homes changes instantly!

I think this new tool will put pressure on sellers because now buyers have a quick way of seeing how long a home has been on the market, thus spotting over-priced homes. What do you think?

Zillowed!

This past week I was contacted by a friend/client to whom I had helped buy a house several years ago. He was interested in selling and wanted to know how much his home was worth in today’s market. It had been awhile since I visited his home, so I asked the standard questions such as what improvements he had made to the home, maintenance issues, etc. I then proceeded to do a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) to determine a ballpark valuation.

When I gave him my results, he was a bit disappointed to say the least. He then proceeded to scour the web for his own comparables and sent me a long email with a list of addresses, sales dates, and Zesstimates from Zillow.com from which he used to create his own list price. That’s when the real fun began!

He mistook the Zesstimates as “actual” sales prices instead of what they really are, which are estimates of value based on tax data and other area factors. So, a home he thought had sold for $681,000 in reality had only sold for $635,000. In another example, he compared the $/sqft of his home with homes on Zillow only to later find out that the data on those homes listed on Zillow.com was off by several hundred square feet, which gave him erroneous results.

What’s my point in highlighting this situation? My client isn’t to blame for his assumptions (however wrong they were). He saw something on a website that he believed to be correct and relied on the data. Unfortunately, it is hard for the average consumer to know what is accurate and what isn’t. There is so much incorrect information available on the internet that even a very smart person (which he is) can be easily confused. Zillow.com, like other data analysis sites on the internet do the best they can to provide reliable information, but their computer modeling is only a small part of the equation when it comes to selling real estate.

My client then jokingly suggested that in order to “earn my commission”, I should be able to sell his home for what he thinks it is worth, not what I told him it is worth. My response was that I earn my commission by providing accurate and reliable data (and subsequent analysis) to my clients so that they can make educated and informed decisions instead of relying on Zesstimates.

What are your thoughts?

See your home from space!

I know for many folks who follow technology, Google Earth may be considered old news, but the coolness factor is such that I like to come back and check it out every now and then. Satellite images are nothing new, but how they are being utilized in the Real Estate industry is what is generating the buzz. Another site worth checking out is Zillow.com, where you can get a computer generated assessment on the value of your home. I know of many instances where the “Zesstimate” has been way off the mark (10% or greater error factor), but I applaud their attempt.

Many industry pundits cite this new wave of technology as the beginning of the end of real estate professionals. They obviously don’t understand or haven’t been educated to what extent we help facilitate the transaction and counsel our clients. Additionally, just because the information is out there, doesn’t mean that it is being interpreted or used correctly.

The best analogy I can come up with is this – You can learn how to do a heart transplant on the internet, but does that really make you a surgeon? My suggestion? Seek out as much information on the internet as you can, and use that knowledge to become a better informed consumer when dealing with a professional. It takes more to sell a home than just coming up with a price.

What are your thoughts?