The real estate industry has been at the forefront in using the internet to help customers. House hunting no longer consists of getting into your land rover, bundling in the kids and dog, and making the rounds weeks and months before finding that dream house. Now, you just get online, enter search criteria per your desires, and have a short list of properties to sift through.
The human element still remains important. Buyers still prefer to be showed around by a warm all-smiles agent, who chats you up, tells you about the house’s history (whether it is haunted or not), and helps you through documentation may you decide to buy.
But all is not perfect behind the smiles.
Although real estate pioneered using the internet for customers, technology to streamline internal operations lags far behind. Ensuring a smooth property visit is often preceded by frantic phone calls for the right information, muddled schedules, and scores of emails to get hold of the right marketing materials and documents.
A paper just issued by Deloitte listed adoption of technologies like cloud computing, enterprise mobility and social media as one of the “top ten issues” for commercial real estate companies in 2013. Current adoption, however lags – a 2012 study by the WAV Group put adoption of appointment software at 49%, document management at 39% and mobile software at a mere 9%.
Canter Brokerage, the real estate brokerage subsidiary of leading San Diego, CA based real estate investment firm Canter Companies, chose to be a leader than a laggard.
With a fast growing team of agents, Canter found that communicating and sharing information through email was increasingly inefficient. Having heard of cloud based collaboration services as a more efficient way to operate, Canter’s research lead them to HyperOffice, a widely recognized provider of cloud based communication, collaboration and mobility software.
Although the initial intention was to set up an online sharing environment for agents, when Canter and HyperOffice’s teams got together they discovered that HyperOffice’s collaboration technology could address multiple aspects of Canter’s real estate workflow. The initial impression that an online collaboration solution was “one-size-fits-all” was soon dispelled, as Canter found that it could create an environment custom built for its own workflows and branding experience.
Here are some highlights of Canter’s implementation:
1) Canter used web database capabilities to automate the process of agents submitting properties. Now, agents can use a simple online form to submit property details. All this information is collected in HyperOffice, and a notification sent to managers every time a submission happens.
2) Canter uses document management capabilities to allow agents to access and even work together on marketing materials, templates and forms.
3) Group calendar capabilities allow everyone to manage their own schedules, and also have a view of the schedules of colleagues and managers to avoid scheduling mix-ups.
4) Latest social collaboration features like profiles and walls, allow agents to freely interact with each other, share materials and experiences, and importantly, motivate each other and build camaraderie.
5) Canter set up an “agent onboarding system” which is a self-learning environment with training resources and videos that every new agent is given access to.
6) Mobile capabilities allow agents to communicate and access contacts, calendars and documents even when they are making a field visit. Since HyperOffice is compatible with most mobile phones and tablets, agents can simply use their favorite device.
7) Project management features allow Canter to manage task assignments and timelines in projects involving multiple people.
“The best part is that everything is available in a single interface. We tied it all together with a custom build intranet page, which points everyone in the right direction, and gives them a branded Canter experience,” said Jenna Balegno, Executive Brand Manager at Canter Brokerage.
“Switching to cloud collaboration has indeed been a vast improvement over email, allowing our agents to be more mobile and agile. And in our market, speed is everything,” Jenna added.
Once the implementation was completed, both HyperOffice and Canter Brokerage decided it was an exceptional implementation that the entire industry could learn from. They got together to publish a whitepaper showcasing the story.
The whitepaper can be downloaded for free at http://www.hyperoffice.com/cloud-collaboration-real-estate/