As a real estate agent, there is a lot of software out there that can make your life easier.
And every day, you are reminded of this, as you turn on your laptop or jump on your phone and find at least half a dozen new, unsolicited emails from software companies pitching you their latest solution.
There are programs for business management, finance, property management, listing management, data – all the basics you need to run your business.
Then on top, there are nice to haves, like systems that look after your social media for you, send automated texts to potential buyers, or produce fancier, more interactive listing presentations.
Needless to say, signing up to everything can cost an arm and a leg. As business managers, we need to ensure we have all of the software we need to get the job done and grow our businesses, but that we operate within our means and our budgets.
With so many options and such an array of ‘perfect solutions’, how do you shortlist and sign up only to the right software for your business?
1. Take a more strategic approach to real estate software
A lot of the time when new software pops up, whether it comes to us via an email or in the form of a request from a staff member, we react to the information we have in front of us.
It does this and this, and it’s this expensive. We should get it.
Unfortunately for many agencies, making decisions based on this limited information, often results in subscriptions to multiple platforms that do the same thing, and unnecessary, ongoing monthly fees, with contracts that cost a fortune to break.
Decisions about software should not be made in isolation – they should be made based on a thorough understanding of the business and its needs.
When creating an initial business plan, or updating the annual business plan, an important focus of your operations section should be your software requirements.
This starts with defining the different departments within your business, what they are responsible for, what challenges they may experience, and what general software might be needed to overcome those challenges.
- Sales: listing management, contact management
- Property management: listing management, contact management, maintenance, finance software
- Payroll: finance software
- Marketing: email campaign software, social media management, signage subscription
2. Find software that solves all your problems and meets your challenges
Now you know the responsibilities of each department and the general software required, start researching to find software that doesn’t just meet one of those needs, but meets multiple needs at once.
For example, there is no point buying separate software subscriptions for a distinct platform that manages sales listings, another that manages contacts, another that manages property management listings, if there is a comprehensive Client Relationship Management (CRM) platform that can do it all, and do it well.
Once you have grouped together needs that can be met by one piece of software, you’ll end up with a smaller list of requirements. For example: CRM, finance software, marketing software.
3. Do your platforms talk to each other?
In chatting with our members, we know some offices are using in excess of 15 different software platforms every day to manage the requirements of their busy office.
So each day, agents are logging into one system, doing what is needed, logging out, logging into another system, then logging out, and so on and so forth, over-and-over again, just to get the job done.
These days, so many software platforms are built with integrations, and many of those integrations aren’t difficult to plug together.
As an example, a WordPress website (Content Management System software), might have plugins from Agent Box (CRM), Xero or MYOB (finance), and Mailchimp (email), so you are able to manage more tasks in one place, and automate a lot more processes for your users, buyers and sellers.
When assessing your technology requirements, with your shortlist in hand, consider which platforms will plug in to each other, to make a more streamlined experience for you (saving you time and money and improving productivity) and for your customers.
4. Create a software register
The trouble for many of us is that software is continuously evolving, and new platforms are being introduced all the time.
We want the best!
Because of this, we are tempted to update our platforms from those originally selected. And if the new option is better and more cost-effective than what we have, that’s exactly what we should be doing!
When initially selecting all your software, and every time you introduce a new platform, or replace an old one with something more effective, keep a register. In the register, name the software, exactly what it does for you, what else it can do, what it integrates with in your business, how much it is and the contract terms.
If you are approached to consider a new platform, your register is an easy way you can see if you already have software that meets the same need as this new software, and how the two look on paper next to each other.
During market downturns of recent years, we talked to so many members who were desperately trying to cut overheads, and when they reviewed their monthly subscriptions, realised they had doubled up on a lot of subscription software functionality.
Keeping a record minimises functional and spend double up, enabling assessment of new software quickly and effectively.
5. Read and set the terms
If you do no other research when selecting software, read the terms and conditions of using the software and of any subscriptions.
Some companies provide very favourable terms that cater realistically to the moving and changing property space, while others, for example, require 90 days (that’s 3 months!) written notice for a subscription cancellation, in the hopes of getting some extra fees from you, or better, having you forget to cancel altogether.
Likewise, most software has an ‘auto-renewal’ clause or a function in the online account management centre of your subscription.
This means at the end of your agreed period, often 12 months, if you forget to give the required notice, you are stuck in a whole new 12 month contract. Simply click that toggle button and ensure your renewal is manual only!
BONUS: Always do the free trial
Time is valuable in real estate, but using a little extra now, can save you a lot later!
Sometimes, software just doesn’t do what it says it will, or it does it in a way that doesn’t suit your business.
Unfortunately, often you won’t know if this is the case until you’re locked into a contract and using the platform.
Many software platforms in real estate and other industries offer a short, free trial – ALWAYS take it if you can. Have one or two members of your team spend even half an hour having a look around the platform to see what it does and how it works before you sign on the dotted line.
Image by Austin Distel