Future Shock

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

Industry heavy-hitter and President of John L. Scott Real Estate, J. Lennox Scott has a proven track record in fusing technology with real estate. So, when he talks about how to improve customer service through technology, people listen. His new book, Next Generation Real Estate (Dageforde, 2002; $9.95), written with Shelly Rossi, provides an overview of current applications available to real estate professionals, as well as some predictions on future technologies.

According to Scott, buyers and sellers are searching for “Agent Now,” the salesperson who offers immediate information and responds to communications the same day. In recent years, pagers, fax machines, cellular phones, voice mail, and PDAs have allowed salespeople to provide speedier service. However, salespeople will need to integrate even more technology into their arsenals to compete in the twenty-first century. An increasingly tech-savvy audience will require salespeople to use the Internet to provide information to consumers on demand. The book advises adopting faster Internet connections (such as DSL access), wireless e-mail, and wireless laptops.

One of the book’s strong points is that Scott’s ideas and recommendations come from practical experience with systems that John L. Scott Real Estate has successfully implemented, such as:

  • Automatic E-mail notification of new properties on the market. The Home Delivery system allows buyers to enter a list of criteria online. The system then automatically sends them a message when a property meeting their needs comes onto the market.
  • Online open house schedules. The “Open this Week” section of the company’s Web site allows customers to conveniently track down open house info online.
  • Real-time demonstrations on laptop computers. With a laptop computer, digital camera, and a properly trained support staff, a salesperson can create an online listing demo with multiple photos in less than an hour. The demo can be instantly converted to a live listing at the click of a button.

Some salespeople may resist innovation, fearing that the technology that they support today might replace them tomorrow. Historically, this fear has proven groundless, the book argues. A decade ago John L. Scott Real Estate initiated an interactive voice response system, known as ScottLine, that let customers dial up information about properties over the phone. Rather than usurping salespeople’s importance in the sales process, it developed a better educated, loyal customer base.

An intriguing aspect of the book deals with technology yet to come. Some of Scott’s suggestions, such as wireless e-mail, are already available. Others, such as an ear piece that can provide a salesperson with voice notification every time a new listing fitting clients’ search parameters comes on to the market, may sound like science fiction, but aren’t too far off, according to the book. Eventually, these technologies will allow salespeople and buyers to connect to what Scott calls an “Evernet” of constantly updated information and communication. Though you can’t use this information in your business today, it offers an intriguing peek at what your business might look like tomorrow.

Although the book lays out a strong vision of technology’s power to transform the real estate industry, it leans heavily towards the conceptual. Readers looking for nuts-and-bolts answers on how to initiate these systems will walk away disappointed. It’s interesting to know that John L. Scott Real Estate has a program to automate client’s online searches. However, knowing the name of a specific, commercially available program would be helpful.

On the other hand, readers looking for a cohesive strategy for bringing technology into their businesses will find some juicy concepts to ponder. Overall, Next Generation Real Estate provides a compelling overview of what the next generation of real estate will look like, but not how to get there.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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