EDITOR’S NOTE:The business apps, software, and platforms listed in this article are recommended by these sources alone and provided as a service to members. Inclusion of these apps, software, and platforms does not imply any endorsement, approval, or certification by Texas REALTORS®, and their use is completely voluntary. Furthermore, Texas REALTORS® does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or efficacy of information obtained via such sources and is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of their use, reference to, or reliance on.

Scott Culberson is a broker associate with CB&A, REALTORS® and a certified real estate instructor based in The Woodlands. He is the author of Jack and Jill Go Up the Home Ownership Hill: The Home Buyer Checklist You’ve Been Looking For. He developed a course utilizing voice assistant technology for real estate, created the first Alexa Skill—an app for use with Amazon’s virtual assistant—for real estate in The Woodlands, and has received the Alexa Voice Skill Award.

Mac McFarland is director of agent development for RE/MAX Elite in Mission. He is a Texas REALTORS® senior instructor who teaches GRI and e-PRO certifications among other technology classes. He was named 2020 REALTOR® of the Year by the Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS®. He has 39 years of sales experience.

You tweet. You Zoom. You collect digital signatures with the greatest of ease. You can lead property tours from the comfort of your living room.

Have you taken a step back recently to consider what is working well and what needs work?

Technology is always changing. While you do not need to be on the cutting edge to succeed in real estate, it helps to know what’s out there and how to make the most of what you’re using.

Technology experts Scott Culberson and Mac McFarland offer their thoughts on tech in real estate in 2021.

Better Social Media

Track engagement, not likes. What, where, and how often you post on social media make all the difference. If you aren’t getting comments on your posts, you aren’t getting interaction with your content.

Video attracts more people. Magisto and Animoto are platforms for making quick videos. Even a 10- to 15-second video will get more interaction than a text post, McFarland says.

Livestreaming is even better. Livestreaming video through platforms such as Facebook Live brings immediacy to your video, and that is appealing to prospects and clients.

“Often, agents will post a picture of a buyer who just closed on a house,” McFarland says. “If they had a livestream of those buyers talking about how we bought a house … and that Mac was our agent … and this is what we think he did really well, that would carry more weight than a picture or a text post.”

Don’t waste time there. It’s easy to lose time monitoring social media platforms. Post or research and then move on to other income-producing activities.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Culberson says. “You feel you have to do it because everybody is doing it. But you may be more effective with direct marketing to your sphere of influence than just spending more time on social media.” Cast a wide net and monitor your return on investment.

Better Education

Utilize formal—and informal—training. Agents should ask their brokers about available training opportunities. Local real estate associations host courses such as the GRI and newly revised e-PRO certifications. Join Facebook groups about real estate technology.

Agents and brokers can stay tuned in to what’s next by following real estate industry websites and blogs. McFarland suggests learning from popular and trustworthy online resources such as the Real Estate Technology Institute and broker/instructor Matthew Rathbun.

Don’t jump on board too soon. Culberson doesn’t think real estate professionals should be early adopters. “Get some basic knowledge on what’s coming and let other people test it. Then move into it when you feel comfortable.”

Find a mentor. Partner with an industry professional you want to learn from. Your mentor could also be in a related industry, such as a lender or title agent.

Better Security

Protect yourself. Both experts recommend using a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your internet traffic. This is especially important if you are working from home or connecting to Wi-Fi in a public place.

Protect your messages. One of the most likely ways to be hacked is through email, Culberson says. Learn how to send an encrypted email and educate your clients on how doing so helps them. Popular email services such as Outlook and Gmail offer optional encryption.

Better Future

Voice is the next frontier in social media. Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and their competitors are trying to make voice-based social networks the next big thing, according to Culberson. Users sign in to listen and participate in live conversations, akin to a voice-only chat room or conference call.

Voice interaction will be very important. The popularity of smart speakers and virtual assistants means there is a large potential customer base already using voice-activated technology. Many people are managing their personal and professional lives through these systems, Culberson says. The real estate uses for voice interaction are just beginning. Agents and brokers are creating applications to be able to work with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant, among others.

Truly all-in-one systems are coming. Many systems allow you to do most of your real estate work in a single place, but completely integrated real estate platforms are not yet widespread. For now, you may still need a few systems to do everything you want, according to McFarland.

Better Understanding

Does your tech help you? The test for a system is not whether it is the latest and greatest, but does it help you do your job of buying and selling real estate? “If it saves you time or creates a better transactional experience for your client, it is definitely worth it,” Culberson says. Take a year to evaluate new systems. Look at how you use them during slow and busy times.

“The best customer relationship management system is the one you use,” McFarland says. “If you’re not going to use it, why have it? Some are too cumbersome, too much work, or take too much time.”

Go where your clients are. Ask your clients how they want to be contacted. Phone? Email? Text? Something else?

Be flexible, Culberson says. Do not turn down a less tech-savvy client or try to get them to use something they’re not comfortable with. Don’t try to bring them to your level.

McFarland warns that you are going to have people who still want you to call them. “We have to do whatever they want to make it work. There are people I work with who I reach through Facebook Messenger. We as agents need to be able to cover all of that. You can have the best technology in the world, but if it’s not what your clients are using, it doesn’t do any good.”

Better Programs

Technology experts Scott Culberson and Mac McFarland recommend the following apps and systems to complete common real estate tasks.

Marketing: Facebook Marketplace, Instagram

Scheduling Social Media: Buffer, Hootsuite

Networking: LinkedIn

Prospecting: REDX, Vulcan7

CRM: RealtyJuggler, Streak

File Sharing: Dropbox

Notes and Organization: Evernote

Presentations: Keynote

Customer Service: Bond for handwritten notes

Don’t Overlook These Powerful Apps

Tools provided by your MLS. These local tools may be unique to your area. Research and adopt the ones that provide you the most value.

REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR) Mobile is an app that brings NAR’s powerful data and analytics tool to your phone. The app is available on Apple and Android devices.

Form-fill providers: Texas REALTORS® forms are available through zipForm, Brokermint, Jointly, DocuSign, Dotloop, Instanet, Flow ROI, and SkySlope.