While most Realtors are familiar with the fact that more than 90 percent of homebuyers search online for information and listings, they may not be aware of the explosive use of tablets and smartphones used during the homebuying process, particularly for newly built homes.
According to a joint study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Google published in 2013, “The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate,” homebuilder-related searches on tablets grew 362 percent year-over-year between 2012 and 2013 and real estate broker-related searches on tablets grew 300 percent year-over-year.
The increasing sophistication of these devices likely means that even more buyers are using them in 2015 to research their new-home options. The study found that new-home buyers particularly value virtual tours and videos showcasing properties and communities.
As a Realtor, this data should reinforce what you already know: tech tools and mobile apps are a requirement to provide the best possible customer service to your clients.
Apps to Support Your Customers
Whether your clients are determined to buy a newly built home or are ambivalent about a new home or an existing home, you can use the NewHomeSource New Home Search app to find new communities in your area. In addition, many regional and national builders have their own apps that you can peruse and share with your buyers.
Scott Dobos, a Realtor with Charlesgate Realty in Boston, also recommends downloading the NAR Realtors Property Resource app, which he says provides in-depth information and data about neighborhoods and developments.
“You can customize the reports to your clients and provide them as PDFs,” says Dobos. “I recommend using Dropbox to upload the reports and floor plans or photos of the homes that your clients are looking at or that you want them to see.”
When you’re visiting multiple new communities with buyers, it can be helpful to provide them with a shared tool such as Box to store documents and photos of fixtures and finishes, says Amy Chorew, vice president of platform development for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Madison, N.J.
“It’s great to be able to share photos easily of things you see in different homes even when you’re not with your buyers,” says Chorew. “You can even share a Pinterest or Houzz account.”
Jeff Martel, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Meridian, Idaho, recommends using Google Drive to share documents such as the floor plan, exterior façade choices and interior options. He also recommends using Evernote to get organized and to share information.
“If I were a Realtor working with a builder, I’d create a single property website with the address or name of the community that would merge community information, lifestyle information and the information about the home itself into one mobile-accessible website,” says Nobu Hata, director of member engagement for the National Association of Realtors in Chicago.
Hata says that since many buyers start searching for a neighborhood first, he suggests that Realtors create a folder on their tablet with Yelp, Google Street View and Google Earth sites for each area where their buyers may want to live. Those sites can provide varied information about points of interest in the community such as parks, shopping areas, schools and public transit options.
“You can essentially walk people through the community on your tablet so they can get a sense of what it would be like to live there,” says Hata.
Martel recommends creating a drive time map for each community using Google Maps to calculate the distance to 10 to 15 important places such as parks, schools, gyms, hospitals, libraries, restaurants and shopping centers.
“It’s an important piece of the puzzle for people to understand what’s around them,” he says.
Buyers often don’t have the patience or the vision to understand what a newly built home will look like, says Hata. To help buyers visualize the features of a home, Hata says builders often have photos or interactive websites. But Realtors can also experiment with their buyers with Autodesk Homestyler, an app that lets you take a photo of an empty room and then stage it with various colors of paint, flooring styles and counters.
Homebuilder-related searches on tablets grew 362 percent year-over-year between 2012 and 2013 and real estate broker-related searches on tablets grew 300 percent year-over-year.Chorew says that builders and Realtors can provide easy access to information for buyers if they develop an interactive site plan. “It’s helpful if someone can pull this up on their smartphone to show their friends or to get an update on a community by clicking on the lot number for a pictorial of construction progress,” says Chorew. “You can also use this to show someone things such as what the travertine counters look like by directing them to click on a particular lot in a community to see interior photos of the house.”
When shopping, Chorew says Facetime can be helpful to show out-of-town clients a home. She also recommends Join.Me to share computer screens for an instant meeting.
Supporting your customers shouldn’t end at the settlement table. Hata recommends Scotts’ My Lawn app to help new homeowners learn how to properly care for their lawn, and iScape to develop a landscape plan. In addition, he suggests sharing a moving checklist app with buyers.
Apps for Transaction Support
“Every Realtor should have a checklist app that can be customized and shared with their clients, such as Wunderlust or GoConnect,” says Hata.
Hata also recommends storing documents in a secure place such as DocuSign or DotLoop that can be accessible to your buyers. “This is particularly important with newly built homes because you want all the information stored securely while the home is being built,” says Hata.
Martel says, while it’s not an app, your best tech tool as a Realtor is the camera on your smartphone. “This is especially helpful if you’re working with relocation buyers, because you can take a photo of a home on a weekly basis to show them the progress on the foundation, the framing and the cabinets,” says Martel. “You can also use your camera to take photos in other homes to help them visualize their choices for finishes.”
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.
She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.
Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at Bankrate.com, HSH.com, The Motley Fool, DailyFinance.com, Insurance.com, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Investopedia.com, MoneyCrashers.com, GetRichSlowly.com and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.