Technology Makes Its Mark Real Estate Agents Find New Gadgets, Internet a Two-Edged Sword

Article excerpt

Home buyers still need to visit houses, but new technology is making the purchasing process quicker and easier.

Abandoning the old days of using books provided by multiple listing services with homes for sale, many real estate brokers and agents have embraced technology. Like much of society, they use the Internet, e-mail, laptop computers and cell phones to make their clients' and their own lives easier.

However, agents and brokers insist technology - even the potential of the Internet - will not put them out of business.

The big question is, since home buyers can learn what houses are available and for how much without the help of real estate agents, will there still be a need or demand for agents.?

The industry is being brave.

Experts argue agents will be needed to interpret all the information out there, advise customers which houses to buy and how much to pay, market homes for sellers and negotiate for buyers and sellers.

This is according to a recent report, "Real Estate Confronts Technology," by Stefan Swanepoel. Based in Southern California, Swanepoel is chief executive officer of Associates Group, which owns 10 offices franchised by Coldwell Banker.

The real estate agent's job still involves helping the whole process come together, according to the report, released in November.

Customers also are going to want the process to cost less, the report warns.

Up-to-date listings

Verdell Williamson is an administrative nurse who attends graduate school and is computer savvy, but she appreciated the way her broker, John Veneris of Realty Executives Pro/Team in Downers Grove, used technology.

She found Veneris through an ad and gave him a list of her requirements for a condominium or townhouse in the Bolingbrook, Downers Grove or Naperville area.

The broker has a program that grabbed new listings with these features overnight from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois and e-mailed them to Williamson.

"Before I started my work day, I opened my e-mail and checked the listings," Williamson said. "Whenever I saw something I liked, John and I would visit the property."

She wanted a home with two bedrooms, two baths and an attached garage for about $100,000.

"I tried all the online things by myself," she said. "At one point, I gave John a list I had pulled from the Internet. Ninety percent were already sold a long time ago. His listings were more current."

When she found two different homes she liked, she used Veneris' Web site to research the neighborhoods so she could settle on one.

"John's help saved a lot of time," she said.

Two other agents who are technology savvy are Tom and Mary Zander of Prudential Properties Northwest in Arlington Heights.

Besides the e-mail that sends clients homes they might be interested in, they will have a downloadable slide show on each home they have listed.

Signs in front of homes they have listed carry their Web site name and an 800 number. A call reaches a recording about the house and how to get faxed information about it.

"A fax is less scary," said Tom, who specializes in Mount Prospect. "There's not a buyer out there who hasn't run into pushy salespeople.

"Every year 600 people dial to listen to those recorded signs. It's pain free."

One of their clients, Polly Gilloghy, was impressed with the way the Zanders sold her family home in Wheeling.

"They took digital pictures of all the rooms in the house and put them in a brochure. Everybody who walked through got a colored picture. Their business card had a picture of my house on it."

While she thinks the brochure helped sell her house, she knows the one the Zanders made for the house she bought helped her convince husband, Tim, a plumber, to hurry to see it.

"I looked at this house alone and picked up a brochure and showed it to him and said, 'We have to see this tonight. …