Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Paperless Office. It Is Here.

Many of my clients know that I’ve been involved for many years in the software industry. As a Realtor, I’m constantly applying technology to help my clients stay ahead in the home buying and selling process. One improvement that my clients seem to enjoy is the use of electronic documents. Rather than carrying a thick pile of contracts for my clients to sign, I use a small tablet PC and an electronic pen. Documents can be signed, executed, and e-mailed wirelessly or printed on the spot. You can get paperwork delivered to your home, office, or anywhere around the world! In effect, you can buy or sell a home from anywhere!

6 comments:

Vinit Bhansali said...

Tony,

What markets do you work in?
The reason I ask ... I've been trying to develop the right kind of software that lets realtors make use of tablet pc's but we need more input from on-the-field people like yourself who aren't afraid of trying out the new thing.

We already did something with Hurricane Protection Salespeople, and now are planning for the realtors.

BoomKid said...

I am a certified property inspector and deal with Realtors every day. I am highly tech and mobile oriented, using a TabletPC, EVDO, and onsite printed reports. Most Realtors haven't a clue what I'm doing. I ask them if they have a flash drive with them so I can give them a pdf of the report. Most don't even know what that is! This bunch is on the whole, the most non-tech group I have ever met. This is a tough market to get tech in to. Most only grudgingly use computers because they "have to".

Be Mobile said...

Most realtors either don’t have a clue or don’t care. I am a vendor for a real estate type of company (will not disclose). I have visited probably over 400 real estate agents in the past year and I have only met 1 that had a tablet PC and he didn’t even use it to sign documents. I also met an agent who “said” he had two SBS 2003 servers at home but then didn’t know what SharePoint was. Of all those agents only 20-30% used an actual email address for their domain name. The rest are using @hotmail, @yahoo, or some other free email service and don’t even get why that looks so unprofessional. Come on people are you promoting your business or are you promoting yahoo, hotmail, etc. Then again the majority of people probably don’t care what your email address is as long as you check it. As for me I am VERY snobbish when it comes to tech relations, I won’t even deal with a business if they are using a free type of email or something that isn’t related to their company. I would also estimate only 40% of agents I have worked for don’t even use outlook. Most use outlook express and don’t care about using anything better. Earlier this year I did a 6 week outlook class for a real estate office and the response was mostly “what is outlook?” then when I showed them what it could do 50% would actually switch. Now the TOP Producers of the industry are more technically savvy but still they are not completely up to speed and have people (assistants) behind the scenes helping them keep their schedule and contacts up to date. For this reason I have started my own blog focused not alone on technology but how to make it work for the Solo Business person.

Anthony said...

Boomkid and be-mobile, you both hit it on the mark. For some reason Realtors are way behind even the most basic of computer skills. Of the hundreds of Realtors I've come across, I know of only one other fellow using a tablet PC. Granted, I'm somewhat of an exception being that I have a technical background but I am constantly startled and surprised of the level of computer illiteracy. About half of all Realtors that I deal with at the opposite side of a transaction can receive a PDF file. Probably 5% of those know how to create one. The fax machine is still the norm despite its ability to render illegible the fine print in our contracts.

Vinit, to answer your question, I work in the San Diego and Riverside markets. And I had to adapt to my tablet PC (HP tc1100) before I was able to use the pen to sign contracts. It would be great (especially for Realtors) to have things work out-of-the-box otherwise it won't be used. For example, I use an online contracts package called Winforms. However, I can't simply put pen to screen and write on the Winforms application window. I need to take an additional step of converting that to a Journal Note Writer format by "printing" to a JNW file. At that point I'll have a static document which could be signed with the pen. This is essentially true for all applications. I also receive the dreaded faxes on my tablet (via uReach.com) and I would have to convert those should I need to have my clients sign with the pen. Perhaps having a floating toolbar with a "convert" button would go a long way in making this process easier.

The adoption of technology in the real estate industry is being driven by clients who expect their Realtor to answer an e-mail, at the very least. I think the latest figure is something like 77% of all prospective homebuyers start on the Web. This should be another compelling reason for Realtors.

I think the industry is taking note. I see more and more effort by brokers to encourage the use of technology. My own broker has rolled out all kinds of new website packages and partnerships with yahoo and others. I really doubt if 10% of the agents can use this to its fullest.

Going back to the tablet PC, I think my tablet PC is cool and for the moment my clients think its a novelty, but in general they don't require it. I've had cases where we saved a trip back to the office and signed contracts at the home-- now that impresses them!

julie said...

Interesting... a friend sent this site to me. I am a real estate agent who spent the last 10 years in the corporate world and I can very much concur with the comments made here. I am one of the very few agents who is even somewhat tech savvy. I am the exception with a Blackberry- you would never believe the agents who think I am crazy for having such a device- yet I have everything including faxes at my finger tips. I don't have to use the "when I return to the office" line very often. I maintain my own website (for now because I am newer and was watching my dollars) and would love to hear any and all suggestions and feedback you have for agents! I am at a great advantage with a background in project management and systems support. I receive "how do you do this" calls all the time from other agents and have been asked to teach them Basic computing skills... Thanks in advance for providing any real estate tech advice or sites you have. Email- julie@julietalton.com

Anthony said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for the comment! I think your PM background will certainly give you an edge. It already sounds like you're eager to fold in the same techniques we've all used in our past professional business careers but for some reason not utilized at the same level in real estate. Have you been to the various RE seminars that we've all been bombarded with? Many seem to be talking about technology so I think thats a great place to start for getting ideas. I attended the Tom Ferry seminars and I thought that was helpful. Of course only a small percentage of the agents may take the time to execute on the knowledge they gained!

Anthony