ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Realtors embrace the Web as way to reach customers

High technology and real estate agents typically are not thought of in the same breath.In fact, 12 to 18 months ago, few real estate agents, either locally or nationally, had e-mail or a presence on the World Wide Web. In that relatively short amount of time, however, the technology wave has begun to affect real estate agents.
National firms including the Better Homes and Gardens, Coldwell Banker and Re/Max networks all have a companywide presence on the Web.
And the National Association of Realtors has its www.realtor.com page. The Colorado Association of Realtors recently started its own home page, and several boards of Realtors are doing the same.
“In January alone, realtor.com had 33 million hits,´ said Chris McElroy, a broker associate with The Group Inc. “There were 12.5 million viewings of homes, and they figure it reached one million customers.”
Still, the spectre of technology and the Web may intimidate real-estate agents. One Fort Collins company, Optimization Resources Inc., has focused an entire segment of its business on the job of assisting agents in using the Web to help market themselves and their listings.
“We’ve been shadowing the real estate market for the last year, and we recognize that they have a need for technology,´ said Christina Sutton, director of operations and real-estate technology specialist at Optimization Resources.
Like many other statewide and national efforts to bring the Web to agents, Optimization Resources had hoped to begin working with the real-estate industry a year ago. Like the others, they discovered the timing wasn’t right.
Now, however, technology seems to have taken a toehold on the real-estate industry, and Optimization Resources plans to be there.
The company writes technology plans tailored to an individual agent’s needs. The benefit, Sutton says, is an improved image for the agent, the ability to deliver real-time information to customers and a quicker reaction time to clients.
The full-service Web-page development includes consultation on using a home page to increase sales, assistance with Internet access, creation of a Web image for an agent or office, creation and customization of a home page, placement of the page on the Web and training sessions on how to use the Web.
The Group’s McElroy has had his page, www.thegroupinc.com, for about one year.
“The fact that no one else was doing it pushed us to make the move,” he said. “It took us and our designer almost three months to get it going.”
Still, the former president of the Colorado Association of Realtors says using the Web has made a difference in his business, especially with out-of-state and corporate clients looking to relocate in Northern Colorado. His Web site is linked to several others, including the national realtor.com.
“The key to having a custom Web page is linking it to many places,” Optimization Resources’ Sutton said.
The company assists clients in finding appropriate links.
Doug Card, another Fort Collins-area Realtor who works for The James Co. of Boulder, said his four-month-old Web site receives about 200 hits a month at his www.ironlightning.com/dcard.html.
Card, who works in new construction, has floor plans on his Web site through which a viewer can take virtual tours.
“You have to market it and be committed,” Card said of Web sites. “You have to put your e-mail and Web site on your cards and brochures.”
He also exchanges links with mortgage companies, school districts, Colorado State University and companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co.
Both Sutton and the Realtors agree that selling real estate over a computer will never replace the human element in a deal. But it will facilitate it, they say.
“One of our clients had the goal of being able to spend more time with clients,” Sutton said, “so we put him on e-mail.
“We can help agents get a Web presence just by having an e-mail address,” she said. “It can add image.”
McElroy said that nationally, use of e-mail by real-estate agents has become much more predominant. On the other hand, it’s estimated that just 3 percent to 4 percent of agents have a home page.
All agree, however, that the time finally is ripe to match technology with real estate agents.
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High technology and real estate agents typically are not thought of in the same breath.In fact, 12 to 18 months ago, few real estate agents, either locally or nationally, had e-mail or a presence on the World Wide Web. In that relatively short amount of time, however, the technology wave has begun to affect real estate agents.
National firms including the Better Homes and Gardens, Coldwell Banker and Re/Max networks all have a companywide presence on the Web.
And the National Association of Realtors has its www.realtor.com page. The Colorado Association of Realtors recently started its own home page, and…

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