Five technology-related questions to ask every REALTOR® you interview

Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you know a thing or two about the Internet and understand the role it plays in today’s marketplace. Selling a home is much different today than it was even 2 years ago; sellers have more choice of services in the form of DIY tools, they are more informed about the marketplace, and new gadgets, communication mediums and technologies have arisen. Some REALTORS® have been adapting to (and surpassing the limitations of) these changes, other’s haven’t. Agents should have exceptional answers to all of the following questions. If they don’t, ask yourself “is this agent and/or brokerage going to provide me with the best possible service and market my property to the widest possible audience?”

1. How will you market my property online?

You’ve heard this statistic before and the figure is increasing by the day: over 90% of buyers search for properties online before taking further action. How will your property stick out from the crowd? Will it be accessible to the maximum potential pool of buyers? What is the agent doing that is different from others?

2. How do you stay in touch with me and other agents?

Is the agent carrying a laptop, tablet and/or smart phone to every appointment? Will he have the time and resources to respond to your and other agent’s requests while on the road? Realtors spend a lot of time in their cars – their mobile office and ability to access information anywhere, anytime is crucial!

3. How do you transmit agreements and other written correspondence?

Unless it is out of absolute necessity, “via fax” is the wrong answer here. It may seem like a small consideration, but deals can get snagged up over something as simple as illegibility or missing pages. Also keep in mind that your lawyer probably charges by the hour; don’t let her spend extra time scrutinizing an agreement due to the fact she needs a magnifying glass to read it. It’s nearly 2012 folks; by now all agents should be transmitting documents via PDF files over secure FTP or encrypted email systems. Furthermore, at the end of the deal, wouldn’t it be nice to have a searchable electronic copy of all documents (as opposed to a messy file folder with wrinkled/missing pages?)

4. What special tools do you use that will help me as a buyer or seller?

Every agent claims to have a trick up their sleeve – a unique method or tool that no one else has access to. This is fine, but does this really add value, and is it something you could get access to yourself on the internet? Ask your agent if he uses proprietary technology such as GIS (mapping & measurement), CMA (market knowledge & analysis), cloud computing (information sharing & distribution), mobile targeting (text and QR codes), eCRM (automatic updates to her pool of buyers), and more. You might not know what half of those things are, but your agent darn well should.

5. I understand that technology is a big part of your business, and that’s great, but do you employ traditional methods as well?

 My grandfather, a very wise man, always likes to remind me that “face to face wins the race, phone and mail take second place.” Despite my urging that you choose an agent who has entered the 21st century with confidence, you should also look for someone who is personable, punctual and a competent negotiator. A fistful of gadgets are worth nothing if your agent doesn’t have the professional and people skills to back himself up. That said, here is my litmus test suggestion. Initiate correspondence via email, and if the reply is quick and friendly, pick up the phone to see what he’s like on the line (his number is in his email signature line, right?). If he passes this second test, move onto the third – a face to face interview. You’ll know soon enough if this is the sort of agent who likes hiding behind a computer screen instead of going out and publicizing your property to real people in real environments!

– Colin