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The Internet of Things & Organized Real Estate

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In examining how the Internet of Things will change the way people buy, sell, and manage property over the next few years, it’s clear that the universe of Internet-enabled devices and beacon technology could also change the way the industry organizes itself.

In case you missed our print feature examining the Internet of Things (or IoT) and real estate, here’s a quick recap of how this technology works: Smart devices record and transmit data in a variety of ways, and many of these devices are focused on improving consumers’ interactions with homes and businesses. One familiar example is the Nest thermostat (created by a company recently purchased by Google). This device allows users to control the HVAC system of a home remotely, using a smartphone. But for a device to be truly “smart,” it needs to be more than a glorified remote control. The Nest learns a household’s schedule and programs itself based on its owners’ habits. Individual users can set baselines about how much water or electricity they want to use, but the device can also coordinate these commands with data from the National Weather Service or a city’s electrical grid to help conserve energy and save money. Beacon technology is another facet of the IoT world. These small devices, usually powered by Bluetooth low-energy technology, can be mounted virtually anywhere and transmit information about the environment to nearby receptors (usually to mobile devices via app software).

Organizations can also use this emerging technology to better serve members and event attendees. Beacon technology has already been used to enhance trade show and meeting experiences at the Las Vegas and San Diego convention centers, among others. Beacons can deliver location-based information to visitors, gather audience feedback in real time, and offer smarter, faster ways to register for and network at large gatherings.

Just as increased information about homes captured by Internet-enabled devices can help listing agents market properties better, and just as environmental data captured by municipal smart devices can help buyer’s agents determine the best neighborhoods for their clients, so can IoT help associations improve the member experience. The California Association of REALTORS® is building a warehouse of sorts that will merge some of the more traditional member information, such as designations and committee involvement, with data that tracks member behavior, like interactions with webinars, e-mails, and zipForms. The association hopes to use the data to help them make more informed, strategic decisions about member benefits and engagement.

“This year, we’re going to start looking at correlations between behaviors and trying to determine what we can learn about that in order to make our investments more effective,” says Josh Sharfman, CAR’s chief technology officer. “What can we do to make members more productive?”

Sharfman sees the potential in using beacon technology to proctor educational courses. Beacons can be set up to record when particular people enter and exit a room, allowing associations to set up a check-in process during a board of directors meeting or continuing education class.

“Of course, there is a creepiness factor to being able to follow a person around at all times. But when it comes to a committee member, who is being paid for their time, being able to account for whether or not that person is in the room when they say they are is a pretty reasonable use of the technology,” says Sharfman.

Technology experts at the National Association of REALTORS® are also watching these developments closely.

“I think NAR will get into the IoT game in the near future,” says Chad Curry, managing director of NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology. “It has the potential to improve member experience and value.”

Curry adds that IoT data could someday augment the research department at NAR or other associations. By using predictive analytics carefully, the tracking of industry trends could benefit from information gathered in real time by Internet-enabled devices.

“We might be able to see a recession coming faster if we notice that there’s less traffic on Michigan Avenue,” Curry says, referring to the iconic stretch of high-end retail known as the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. “Maybe there’s a specific store, even, that signals that.”

Making Listing Data More Valuable

Though beacon technology is still new, it’s already being used to augment home tours. Avid Ratings, a customer loyalty management firm for homebuilders based in Madison, Wis., launched an updated version of its home tour software at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas this January. Called GoTour Onsite, the new version uses beacon technology to enable house hunters to tour a model home on their mobile device. As they enter each room, customers can immediately access floor plans, options for customization, and videos that provide in-depth information about hidden aspects of the home, such as building materials and HVAC systems.

Folding this type of data into a multiple listing service feed could be game-changing. MLS listings could be augmented with data feeds from outside sources, perhaps allowing buyers who gaze out a “smart” window to see up-to-date municipal information about how much traffic goes by, or to have the area’s Walkscore pop up on their mobile device when they’re standing on the front porch. Sharfman says he sees this technology as an opportunity for MLSs to add real value to the home tour experience, especially for the luxury market in California. Such smart home tours could even be produced using information pulled directly from an MLS listing, making the home marketing task a bit simpler for individual real estate pros.

The data flow could theoretically go in both directions; while MLSs could provide and package new information about for-sale properties, they could also collect information about transactions that could prove to be useful for MLS members. An MLS could use beacons or Internet-enabled lockboxes to record how much time house hunters spend in each room, helping listing agents better position a property for sale based on real-time feedback from buyers. By having this data on all homes in the MLS, members could get an idea of how many minutes of attention their listing has gotten compared to other homes on the market.

Of course, the development of such complex data-sharing systems may be awhile off, depending on the pace of development both within the technology sector and in associations and MLSs.

“It’s going to take effort and investment to make it work on all sides of the deal. It requires a sophisticated real estate professional to add in data streams, as well as some of the narrative information about what it’s like to actually live there that sellers may tell the listing agent,” says Sharfman. “But it also requires a dedicated MLS to make sure all these data streams work together and feed up information in a useful way that home buyers will actually enjoy interacting with, rather than seeing it as a distraction.”

Todd Carpenter, NAR’s managing director of data analytics, also views this as a way to shift the value proposition for real estate professionals in the future.

“The piece of the pie that is MLS data is getting smaller,” Carpenter says. “If you’re selling yourself, you can say ‘I’m the one who can help you decipher this expanding data,’ instead of ‘I am the one who can show it to you.’ The person who only has the keys to the MLS is not going to be successful in the future.”

While the complexity of the task ahead is great, so too may be the rewards. Curry agrees that the Internet of Things is ripe for organizational investment. “This is a beautiful time to be working on this. Listing data is almost passé right now [and] home performance data and behavioral data are going to become key,” Curry says. “If the MLSs and the associations and portals were to get into this market, it could be a real boon for the industry.”

 

Credit to Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine

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8 Tips for Real Estate Investing Success

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As you prepare to become a successful real estate investor, I encourage you to take the following tips into consideration. They have helped me greatly as I have navigated my way through the world of real estate–and life in general. I hope these tips will make just as big of an impact on your life as they have had on mine.

Tip #1: Create a game plan.

Decide what you want to accomplish and outline the steps that you must take to get there. Who will be involved? How will you meet them and gain their cooperation? How much time will it take? Where will you find this time? How much will it cost, and where will you get this money? What’s the risk? How will you handle it?

This plan will serve as your guide each day, so you need to get it right. That brings us to the next tip…

Tip #2: Have an expert review your plan.

The first real estate investing plan I created involved me single-handedly buying 100 houses in a year. And it listed several different marketing strategies that were completely cost ineffective. I had a friend of mine (who isn’t even involved in real estate) review the plan, and he said it looked good. How silly of me!

About eight months into working this over-reaching and misguided plan, I had an expert investor review it. He tore it apart, and together we reconstructed a better plan with more realistic goals (buy 12 houses, not 100) and a more effective marketing plan. 

Shortly thereafter, I bought 6 houses, and I actually felt good about my progress. Six out of twelve feels much better than six out of 100!

Tip #3: Don’t give up.

The life of a new real estate investor is filled with countless highs and lows. You’re on a high when you think you have a property all locked up to purchase, and then you hit a low when it suddenly falls though at closing.

Or you’re on a high when you finally do close on that house, but you hit a low when you hit a 3-week dry spell and it feels like you couldn’t get a seller to agree to your price–even if you paid double.

I hit a personal low when I was jobless and $5,500 in debt from fruitless marketing attempts. But I got up early each morning and worked toward my goal of financial freedom. Even though a voice in my head told me to give up, I never did.

That’s probably the #1 key to success: Don’t give up. Even someone who’s as dumb as a box of rocks will eventually succeed if he doesn’t give up.

Tip #4: Take baby steps.

When you break it all down, big goals, big dreams, and big plans are nothing more than a series of miniature action steps or “to do” items. When you dissect the daily life of a successful investor, you’ll find that he or she does 8 to 12 things each day that are real estate related.

One item might be “Watch DVD #5 in the new investing course I bought.” Another item might be “Call the title company about the name on the warranty deed” or “Meet the inspector at the house on Watson Street.”

All of these little tasks each day add up to what is, or what eventually will be, a large and highly profitable real estate investing operation. So don’t toss that “to do” list by the wayside, thinking that your small efforts today don’t mean much. They mean everything.

Tip #5: Become comfortable with discomfort.

I was actually nervous at the first real estate investing meeting that I attended. I was wondering if I would say something stupid or if I wouldn’t fit in. After all, most of the investors in the room were 40 or 50 years old, and I was 22.

But by the third meeting I attended, I became comfortable with the crowd. Had I quit after the first meeting, I would have missed out on the very information that enabled me to buy so many properties.

I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to success is persisting though uncomfortable situations until they eventually become comfortable. This is where true growth occurs.

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Tip #6: Do what you say you’re going to do.

As a real estate investor, your reputation means everything. They say it’s a small world, but the world of real estate investing is even smaller. So be honest, be courteous, and for heaven’s sake, do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to buy another investor’s house, by golly, you better move mountains–if that’s what it takes–to buy it!

Otherwise, your name will eventually become mud, and you’ll have a tough time buying from not only that investor, but just about every other investor in town. Believe me, I can count at least 10 local investors of the top of my head who I will NOT do business with because their word means nothing. And I know several other investors who won’t deal with them either. You DO NOT want to be black listed.

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Tip #7: Be on time.

Showing up late is just about one of the most disrespectful things you can do to another real estate investor, inspector, contractor, or anyone for that matter. It shows them that you don’t value them or their time, and time is MUCH more valuable than money. Money can be replaced. Time cannot.

When someone shows up late for a meeting with me, they instantly lose credibility. And there are countless other investors who feel the same way I do. On the other hand, when an investor or business associate shows up on time or early, it makes me want to smile, reach out my hand, and strike a win-win deal.

So be on time. You’re much more likely to create trusted allies who can help you along your path to success.

Tip #8: Eliminate certain activities.

I’ll wrap up with one more tip that is closely linked to the first tip, “Create a Game Plan.” That game plan will involve a series of goals and steps or “to do” items that you must follow to become successful. But what many people don’t seem to realize is that for all of these things to happen, certain activities in your current schedule must be REMOVED.

For example, if you’re going to attend two real estate meetings and make five offers per week, what must go? Possibly TV time. Possibly a friendship. Possibly your workout plan. Of course, what has to go is unique to each of us, but you must realize that if you’re an extremely busy person, you’ll have to make some TOUGH sacrifices.

But these sacrifices are only for the short run. If you have to quit your exercise program to have enough time for real estate, for example, then so be it. You can resume in two years after you’ve achieved financial freedom through real estate. And you’ll have more time to exercise than ever.

Early on in real estate, I gave up friendships, exercise, sleep, vacations, and leisure time. How much you give up depends on how quickly you want to become financially independent.

It can be a tough to integrate all of these tips into your daily routine at once. So for now, I encourage you to focus on the one tip that you think can benefit your investing business the most. After you’ve turned that tip into a habit that’s part of your daily routine, then move on to the next. Keep moving forward and never give up, and you’ll be a successful and financially free investor in no time!

 

Credit to Doug Smith

Doug Smith has bought and sold over 40 properties using almost every method–wholesaling, rehabbing, landlording, subject to, lease options, and more. He is the founder and president of MyHouseDeals, a company that provides a constantly-updated list of bargain-priced investment properties in some of the nation’s largest metro areas.

 

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Agents: Stop Saying Buyers Are Liars

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People naturally go through buying stages as their lives change. Whether they’re aging, gaining wealth, expanding their families, or just maturing in their tastes, each potential client is going through an easily recognized cycle. That cycle puts buyers into three categories: those who are starting out and are truly just looking; the ones who have decided they are definitely going to do something, but haven’t decided what yet; and the ones who have a clear idea of what they want, including their price range and other details.

Stage one buyers are just toying with the idea of making a change. They’re not trying to be coy when they give vague answers to your questions about what they’re looking for. They legitimately don’t know. Agents can put themselves in a position to win their business down the road by taking on the role of adviser and asking them questions that move them forward mentally.

In stage two, buyers have chosen to make a change. They’ve put their houses on the market or have decided not to renew their rental agreement. They’ve already made a verbal commitment to each other or to friends and family that they are going to buy. They don’t know exactly what they want, but they do know a change is coming. Agents can distill two or three different options to help them narrow the field.

In stage three, customers come to the table knowing what they want — their price range, the features they can’t live without, and a notion of the type of floor plan that meets their needs. They are definitively in the market, and it’s only a matter of who’s going to win their business.

When agents fail to win that business, too often their response is that “buyers are liars.” They write them off as unserious people only interested in wasting their time. In truth, agents who are surprised by a customer going a different direction most likely aren’t asking the right questions to get inside buyers’ heads. When agents aren’t aware of what their potential buyers are thinking, they are the ones wasting their own time with the wrong people, losing business in the process.

On the other hand, when agents find out which stage buyers are in, they can meet them there. They don’t need to talk about price range if the prospects haven’t even decided whether or not they need a change. In this stage, buyers don’t need to hear specifics. They need to first understand the how their lives will improve if they make a change. In stage three, they don’t need to be persuaded that a change will improve their lives. They already know that and that’s why they came to the agent. Stage three buyers need to know why the agent, community, or home is the right one for their specific situation.

It’s important for agents to spend time with buyers in all stages of the process. This way, they’ll have a healthy pipeline of prospects as potential clients move through the stages. If agents are ever surprised by a customer’s decision, coach them to identify customer stages. That will allow your agents to meet customers where they are so they can move them into the next stage (and subsequently, their next home).

 

Credit to Jason Forrest

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer; management coach; member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group; and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. One of Training magazine’s Top Young Trainers of 2012, Jason is an expert at creating high-performance sales cultures through complete training programs. He incorporates experiential learning to increase sales, implement cultural accountability, and transform companies into sales organizations.

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Healthy Tech, Healthy Business

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Until it slows to a crawl, idles, or crashes, you likely take for granted that your laptop or desktop computer will do what you expect it to. But it’s risky to overlook regular computer maintenance and even worse to be in the dark about whether your backup system is functioning. The fact is your computer will give out on you one day; you just don’t know when. The average useful life expectancy of today’s computers is anywhere from two to five years, says Matthew Cohen, chief technologist for Clareity Consulting, a real estate technology firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz. But you’ll likely be able to increase the longevity of your devices—and eke out perhaps seven or eight good years—by following these tips. In short, a fast, fit, and trouble-free computer requires regular updates, cleanups, and backups.

Keeping It Clean

Your computer is probably covered with tiny dust particles, which can severely shorten its life span. “Dust is a killer,” says Burton Kelso, owner and chief technology helper of Integral Computer Consultants, a Kansas City, Mo., computer repair company. “When dust collects inside your technology, it can cause your devices to overheat, which will cause them to fail.”

To beat back interior dust bunnies, Kelso recommends his clients—15 percent of whom are real estate agents—clean the inside of their computers once a year. If you’re not comfortable with unscrewing the housing and zapping the inside with a can of compressed air, then hire a professional. The can costs less than $10, while professional help will set you back between $50 and $100 per hour.

Aside from keeping mechanical parts of your computer clean, you should also pay attention to software clutter. Delete programs and applications you don’t use. Cohen suggests using the “add and remove software” feature to cull old files and programs. “Always keep the hard drive at least 20 percent empty,” he adds. “If you have too much stuff, it’s time to upgrade your hard drive, with technical help, or remove unneeded files.”

Don’t install another program just to find out which programs to clean up. Cohen says practitioners should avoid utility apps that promise to optimize or clean your computer. “They cause more harm than good,” he says.

Older computers used to benefit from defragmenting, which basically compacted information on your hard drive, speeding up your system. Cohen says most Windows defragmentation utilities are set to run automatically. “However, sometimes, one needs to analyze and defragment the discs,” he adds. To do this, go to the Start menu, type “defragmenter,” and locate the “disc defragmenter” utility. Mac users “generally don’t have to defrag,” Cohen notes. “It does it on its own.” Finally, check your preferences and examine which programs launch automatically upon startup and which ones are constantly running in the background. You can almost always change the settings so that they use up less of your computer’s operating power.

Staying Secure

Kelso says malware is the cause of many computer issues, so Windows and Mac users need to take protective steps. Always download antivirus software directly from the vendor site, and don’t share your account information with others.

Part of keeping your computer secure is limiting access to it. Marc Catuogno, director of information technology for Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty in New City, N.Y., oversees 200 computers for 800 active agents and 23 offices. To keep data safe on corporate computers, Catuogno suggests centralizing important information and making it inaccessible to the general sales population.

“We keep our data in the main home office,” Catuogno says. “Anything really important we keep on our extranet, [which] is password-protected and limits the harm that agents can do to each other’s data.”

Keeping information stored this way can actually help agents’ computers run more efficiently, because the hard drive doesn’t have to store data locally. “There is very little information actually on the computers; everything is Internet-based,” Catuogno says. “We encourage the agents to keep their own portable thumbnail drives if they need to access things.”

And it’s not just other users you need to be careful about; be choosy about the web applications you use as well. Read their user agreements and research past security breaches before signing up. If you’re looking for a free e-mail solution, choose Gmail, Kelso says, over the less-secure Yahoo or AOL.

Keeping Up-to-Date

Sometimes computers are slow because you’ve been ignoring that box that pops up telling you it’s time to update programs, or even to get the latest operating system. If you’re really far behind, that can mean your software and hardware don’t have the patches they need to interact smoothly and safely.

However, don’t get too update-happy. Sometimes it’s best to wait a few days on major updates to make sure they work properly. United Real Estate Scottsdale broker Byron Short, who oversees information technology for 42 agents, warns practitioners against updating immediately. “There’s no reason to be on the bleeding edge,” Short says. “Let somebody else take the damage. Then come in when it’s proven and it works.”

Having an End Game

Everyone needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario: losing your data in a crash. Store critical business data on secure servers or using cloud-based systems like Carbonite or Dropbox. Even when your computer suffers a catastrophic failure, this doesn’t mean your business has to experience it as well. Kelley Skar, a real estate practitioner with CIR Realty in Calgary, Alberta, says the last time his laptop crashed in 2012, he lost 30 percent of his data. Fortunately, he’d backed the remainder up using online storage systems. Since then he’s spent about $300 to add a two-terabyte external hard drive that uses Apple’s Time Capsule program to back up his data locally once a month.

No matter how well you manage your computers, you’ll need to replace them eventually. Catuogno’s company uses Windows and Acer machines, but it doesn’t change out its inventory wholesale. Instead, he replaces the oldest machines with new PCs every 12 to 18 months. The company does keep older models that still have life in them available for agents who prefer to stick with what they know..

 

Credit to Michelle Hofmann
Freelance Writer

Michelle Hofmann is a Los Angeles-based freelance reporter who loves all things real estate. Connect on Twitter @realestatewritr or via LinkedIn or michellehofmann@earthlink.net.

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Improve Your Way to the Top

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In King of the Mountain, if you aren’t fighting hard, you aren’t really playing. And if you aren’t playing, you’re losing. In this children’s game, where the goal is to push whoever is occupying the high ground out of the way and take his or her spot at the top of the mountain, the only person whose success doesn’t depend on improving in position is the king.

But maintaining the status quo doesn’t benefit anyone besides the king. And even the king can’t just cruise along — when everyone else’s full energy is directed toward taking you down, you won’t last long if you aren’t constantly defending your territory. If you want your brokerage to end up on top, you have to make sure your sales associates are playing to win.

What percentage of agents on your team are sincerely playing to improve rather than playing to cruise? The answer is a telling indicator of your team’s potential. People who are cruising stick with what they’ve always done. They’re content with where they are. In contrast, those playing to improve constantly ask themselves “What can I do to get better?” They’re focused not on maintaining but on looking for the next opportunity and stepping into it. Just as King of the Mountain players can’t depose the monarch of the moment without stepping up their game, a team in cruise control is in no position to grow and reach new heights.

If you’re leading a team that has an abundance of cruisers, it’s time to shift to a new gear. Make it your 2016 goal to change people’s mindsets so that at least 80 percent of your team is operating in “improvement” mode at any given time. You won’t hit that target overnight, but you’ll start seeing rapid and sustainable improvement by making the following three adjustments to your team’s culture.

Build a Culture That Rewards Going For It

Too often, team cultures promote the “safe play”—put in your time, don’t rock the boat, follow the script, and, after x years, you’ll be in line for a payout. But you didn’t get into real estate to play it safe. Such a culture stifles innovation and puts your team in prime position to get lapped by the competition. Shake things up by finding ways to publicly praise your outside-the-box thinkers and doers. Make sure agents understand that the way it’s been done before probably isn’t some magic formula that’ll always work. Empower them to bring you any idea they’re willing to own — and to pitch the ones you approve to colleagues.

Challenge People to Set Big Goals

Use every coaching opportunity you have, whether a formal performance evaluation or a hallway high-five on a big sale, to lead your team members to dream boldly about what’s next. Let them know you’re pleased when they hit a home run, but don’t let them milk previous successes. You’re leading a team of people who have chosen a career in sales, so it’s safe to assume they’re okay with competition. Use that fact to snowball individual aspirations and successes into teamwide goals and big-time wins.

Only Add Team Members Who Raise the Bar

Building a team that’s fully on board with what you’re working toward is never more important than when you bring on someone new. Only hire people who will raise the bar. Think of each hire as an opportunity to add a piece you don’t have yet, and you’ll stimulate everyone to step up.

These three enhancements to your team’s culture aren’t rocket science, but they require a strong commitment to continuous improvement that starts with you. The results you’ll see aren’t hard to interpret, either. Your team should be either on top of the mountain or striving to get there. And either way, the fight to improve continues.

 

Credit to Jason Forrest

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer; management coach; member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group; and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. One of Training magazine’s Top Young Trainers of 2012, Jason is an expert at creating high-performance sales cultures through complete training programs. He incorporates experiential learning to increase sales, implement cultural accountability, and transform companies into sales organizations. Learn more at

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