08 Mar The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Cloud Based Real Estate Brokerage
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We created The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Cloud Based Real Estate Brokerage because it’s predicted that the cloud computing market will eventually grow in size to a whopping $150 billion.
This new phenomenon is no fad. It is here to stay. People and businesses are tired of being tied to one device and demand flexibility and integration of their resources in the field. Cloud computing allows brokerages to increase their efficiency and recruit and retain agents at the same time.
However, before you decide to become a cloud-based real estate brokerage or a cloud-based real estate agent, you need to understand cloud computing in all it’s glory and pitfalls.
Note: I’m going to stay neutral in this post and not mention any products. I’ll be doing a review post later this quarter.
What is cloud computing
Cloud computing is the delivery of computer software over a virtual platform instead of a physical platform. For example, instead of using Outlook on my home computer, I can use Gmail on any computer, on my phone, on my Android, etc.
That’s it. Not as complex as you thought it would be?
Why cloud computing for real estate?
The purpose of becoming a cloud based real estate brokerage is to save money on overhead, provide the latest technological advances to your staff and agents and to increase productivity. Cloud computing is a great way to reach all of these goals. By moving your real estate brokerage into the cloud you can:
- Allow your agents to work remotely cutting the square footage needed in a physical office, saving you money
- Get rid of landline phones, paper and multiple printers by utilizing online document storage and internet based communication solutions
- Spend more money and time on marketing and lead generation increasing your ROI
- Attract and recruit more agents efficiently and effectively
- Reduce operating expenses related to office staff, increasing your bottom line
- Have piece of mind knowing you have a automatic backup system in process
Still need convincing? Inman connect in New York this January gave us a look into the mind of tomorrow’s real estate agent (aka agents who make over 100k today).
- 92% of agents that make 100k or more today in your office less than 15 hours per month (17% aren’t coming to the office at all)
- 42% of agents that make 100k or more today never attended an office meetin
- 35% of agents making more than 100k today do not pay a an office fee or technology fee
- 83% of people making the money in the industry want you to communicate to them digitally, email, text, social. Only 17% wanted the phone
What are the components of a cloud based real estate brokerage?
- It’s beneficial to your agents. This is the most important component of building a cloud based real estate brokerage. Why? Because without agents, you won’t have a brokerage. Before you get started you should sit down with your agents and ask them what they want from the cloud. You might be surprised at their answers and it will save you money in the long run. I cannot reiterate this enough. I’ve seen cloud based real estate brokerages switch systems over and over again, having to retrain agents who get frustrated and eventually move on to other brokerages.
- It’s beneficial to your clients. What do clients want? They want to buy and sell houses. That’s it. Make sure that your cloud based real estate brokerage solutions remember that. Anything that makes that process difficult shouldn’t be considered. For example, your agent should be able to pull up listings, paperwork and contracts on the go at a showing. If they cannot do that, everything else worthless. This is the foundation of a successful cloud based real estate brokerage.
- There is an email solution that is easy to implement and accessible everywhere. Hopefully you’ve already done this! If not, there are some things to consider. Emails should include your domain name and they should be accessible online. That means you should be using a web based email client like Gmail, Yahoo, etc.
- Everyone can receive all their messages and phone calls no matter where they go. In real estate, the number one reason brokerages don’t profit is the bleeding of leads. You have to be able to answer your phones and respond to voice-mails and then get those calls to the agents. As a cloud based real estate brokerage this becomes easier. There are a number of solutions available that forward your office number directly to your cell phone and that rings a certain cell phone when an extension is entered. There are also efax solutions so that you and your agents receive and send your faxes through email.
- There is a place online where everything is accessible. You can do all of the above and all of the below, but if you don’t have a centralized place where everyone can get important links and information, you are setting yourself up for becoming a 24/7 help desk. Enter the company intranet. I strongly suggest this be the last step in your transition into becoming a cloud based real estate brokerage, but a necessary one. Your company intranet should include links to documents, frequently asked questions, phone numbers, logos, processes, etc.
- There are office and personal calenders and tasks that can be accessed anywhere. This is my favorite part of working at a cloud based real estate brokerage. I setup a calendar system at one brokerage where everyone, including the office, had a calendar that was accessible and editable online and synced to their phones. The result? Everyone knew where everyone was, everyone immediately knew when something was canceled. Everyone knew when and where trainings were. Everyone had access to everyone’s calendar. It was pretty efficient. You could even get GPS directions immediately from your phone. This was very affordable and saved the broker precious time when it came to updating and marketing events internally. However, its important that some things can be private as well. A good solution should allow that option.
- Everyone can access all files no matter where they are. Does an agent have to come to the office to print a contract? Do they have to email themselves a contract in order to have it ? Cloud solutions eliminates these issues by providing a place where all documents are stored and can be accessed anywhere. This is one of the greatest benefits of being a cloud based real estate brokerage.
- Signing documents and delivering them to certain parties takes a few clicks from a ready device. Another key aspect of doing business as a real estate agent. We all sign a lot of stuff and ask people to sign a lot of stuff. Being able to accept signatures digitally in the field is important.
- Everyone can access their contacts and information about those contacts wherever they are. Customer relationship management is key to the success for your brokerage and to agents. Cloud based real estate brokerage solutions that work should include a way to track every encounter with a particular clients, it should allow you to be able to distribute leads and see who is following up, and you should be able to do all of these on the go.
What about installation, costs and risks?
- There is no installation. Just log on to a particular website and sign in, everything is housed online
- There is something for every budget. Depending on the size of your brokerage and how much space you need will determine your costs. Many services start out free and charge if you need more storage. Some solutions allow you to pay per user.
- Prepare for security now. As long as you store information online, you are at risk for a potential security threat. As a result, you should make sure that you prepare for security. Make sure you and everyone at your offices uses a strong password that is changed frequently. Also make sure that whatever service you use, they have the personnel and know how to encrypt your information and protect it from hackers. Additionally, Make sure you mange who has permissions to what. Lastly, make sure you have a backup of your information. What if servers go down for a day or two, could your office function? I always suggest that new cloud based real estate brokerages stick with well known solutions and stay away from new services that are popping up. In this case, experience speaks volumes.
Okay, so how do I get started?
Think you are ready to convert to a cloud based real estate brokerage? I highly recommend finding a cloud consultant to help you decide on what solutions will be the best fit for your office (hint… shameless plug). But if you are going to forge ahead alone, here are some DIY precaustions to take:
- Analyze your current situation. Most likely you are already using cloud based real estate brokerage solutions (virtual tours, email, esignatures, etc.). Take a look at those services and figure out what is missing and decide what your next steps are. Write down what you do during a typical day and then ask yourself what would be beneficial to you to be able to access in the field?
- Find solutions that work. Call around and ask for free trials and demos. Use it for 3 days or a month to test it out. Make sure it’s the solution that is a best fit for your future cloud based real estate brokerage. Make sure that you take the time to master the features of each solution so you can be a role model for your real estate agents. Also, accept that you will have to piece together solutions, there is no all in one solution yet.
- Be secure. Always remember “backup” and “encrypt”. Interrogate your provider about security features and how your cloud based real estate brokerage can protect yourself from thackers.
- Consider mobility. Is the solution you chose accessible from your mobile phone, from your clients mobile phones, from your agents mobile phones? Are there mobile apps available? These are great questions to use as you research solutions for your cloud based real estate brokerage.
- Commit to TIC (Training, Integration and Consitency). If you did your due diligence, then you have solutions that work. Make sure that you have the ability, time and resources to train your agents. Make sure you have the skills and patience to integrate it into your current situation. Make sure you can commit to consitstently implementing the solutions, otherwise you have just wasted time, money and put a damper on company morale and trust.
What’s your experience with cloud based real estate brokerage solutions? Which do you recommend?
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