techtools

The Tools Tech Employees Use to Stay Productive

If I know one thing it is that there is a plethora of apps and tools out there…all vying for our attention. Another thing I know is that there are a lot of distractions out there (take this gif for example…). So when I observed twenty-something developers and programmers plugged into their computers and hard at work in our office I couldn’t help but ask this: How?! Curiosity took over and I needed to find out what tools our tech-savvy employees depended on for staying organized and productive at work. The list was large, so here are a few favorites.

 

1. No matter what you’re planning, Wunderlist makes it super easy to get stuff done. Set due dates and reminders, assign to-dos, share and work on projects with colleagues and access your lists across all major devices. Wunderlist is great for keeping track of personal and work goals and tasks all in the same place. 

 

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2. Google Drive stores all of your important files, pictures and videos in one place that can be accessed from any smartphone, tablet or computer. Go ahead and share files easily with others and allow others to contribute to a document.

 

“Google Drive eliminates emailing attachments back and forth, making collaboration easy and fast. I can’t imagine working without it.”

 

3. Flycut is a clipboard manager for developers (but non-developers may find it useful, too). Every time you copy something, Flycut stores it in history. Later you can paste using Shift-Command-V and go through previous copies to select what you want to paste.

 

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4. Workflowy is like your notebook full of lists – minus the messy handwriting and distracting doodles. With Workflowy, you can organize your ideas and notes in a simple bulleted list, add tags to easily filter your lists, and share lists with others.

 

“Workflowy is awesome for note taking and making lists. I use it every day.”

 

5. Find an interesting article or video that you want to save for later? Put it in your Pocket. Save pretty much anything from your browser or from apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse and Zite for later with the push of a button.

 

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6. TextExpander saves your fingers and your keyboard (and your brain!) by expanding custom keyboard shortcuts into frequently used text and pictures. You can turn addresses, signatures and common typos into keyboard shortcuts that automatically expand.

 

 “TextExpander is the most useful app I have ever used. Hands down.” 

 

7. Trello is a project management tool that lets you make lists, create tasks, and add comments and due dates to help organize any project and make collaboration easy. The drag and drop format makes editing tasks and organizing calendars fast and simple.

 

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HomeSpotter combines messaging and home search in groundbreaking release

We’ve got news for you. Today, we released a new version of our mobile real estate app that seamlessly integrates chat messaging with home search. We believe every home search is a conversation, therefore, collaboration between home searchers and agents lies at the heart of the real estate process. The new HomeSpotter app makes it fast, easy and fun.

 

We saw that our users were copying, pasting, emailing and texting properties all over the place as they went through their home search. The process was still really messy. This didn’t make much sense, and our product team soon realized that every home search is really a series of conversations. There’s lots of communication during the home search process. Technology should reflect that reality, not get in its way.

 

We decided to combine our mobile property search experience with a familiar text message-like interface so that working and communicating with others through a home search app was simple. With HomeSpotter, users can now share property photo slideshows, not just links, have multiple conversations between friends and family and even facilitate chat between two agents that have full access to agent-only listing information. All of this takes place in one place within the HomeSpotter user experience.

 

We were ‘mobile first’ before that became a buzzword. Since our founding in 2009 we have worked with real estate brokerage companies and MLSs across the country to create a mobile search experience that rivals that of the big online real estate companies while delivering fresher, better property listings data. That foundation has set the stage for innovations like this.

 

Share, save, comment and chat…messaging meets home search – 100% mobile, 100% better than the old way. That’s what the next evolution of home search and HomeSpotter is all about.

 

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MetroList® and HomeSpotter® are the first MLS and vendor partnership to improve listing accuracy with RETS Data Dictionary 1.3

HomeSpotter® and MetroList® are pleased to announce an exciting new partnership, which is the first to utilize the new Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) Data Dictionary 1.3, to provide MetroList Subscribers and Sacramento-area home buyers with an industry leading mobile app.  Branded as HomeSpotter, the apps — available for iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets — feature MetroList MLS data, in-app collaboration and powerful search tools, ensuring agents and home buyers have access to local, accurate and timely listing information.

 

Data to power the HomeSpotter product is provided by MetroList through a RETS Data Dictionary 1.3 compliant server. This is the first partnership between an MLS and a third party vendor to create a commercial product that implements the Data Dictionary.

 

MetroList Subscribers will also soon have access to HomeSpotter’s new suite of collaboration tools. The new collaboration tools will allow agents and their clients to share and chat about listings within the HomeSpotter app, streamlining the home shopping experience.

 

The new RESO Data Dictionary 1.3 defines real estate data in consistent terms and data structures, ensuring that each system “speaks” the same language. The Data Dictionary is significant in many ways: it allows for data to move between systems without losing information, reduces data translation costs and is easier for MLSs, vendors and other third parties to develop new, data-driven applications and services.

 

“For MLSs that are Data Dictionary-compliant, the data mapping process is much more straightforward,” Mark Leverentz, CTO of HomeSpotter said. “This means we can quickly onboard new MLSs and eliminate a potential source of errors from having data mapped incorrectly.”

 

“Working together with the Real Estate Standards Organization, MetroList was the first to receive, the Data Dictionary 1.3 certification,” said Tom Beede, CEO of MetroList Services, Inc. “With today’s announcement, we are pleased to partner with HomeSpotter and to be the first MLS to deliver on the value provided by RESO standard compliance.”

 

Aaron Kardell, founder and CEO of HomeSpotter, said, “We are excited to partner with MetroList and look forward to providing their subscribers with a mobile solution that improves their efficiency and productivity, while enhancing the service they can provide to their clients.”

 

The addition of MetroList to HomeSpotter’s partnership roster puts the company’s user base at more than 250,000 real estate professionals throughout the United States and Canada.

 

About MetroList® – MetroList Services Inc. is the largest multiple listing service in Northern California headquartered in Sacramento, the state’s capital. Formed in 1985 by the Sacramento Association of REALTORS®, the Placer County Association of REALTORS® and the El Dorado County Association of REALTORS®, MetroList’s ownership group has grown to include the Lodi Association of REALTORS® and the Yolo County Association of REALTORS®, and California Real Estate Brokers, Inc. MetroList acts as a seamless real estate information network serving more than 17,000 real estate professionals in seven counties: Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and Yolo.

 

About HomeSpotter® – We’re obsessed with making apps that are beautiful and easy to use. They must also help real estate agents better connect with their clients, enhance their marketing and allow them to be more productive in the field. HomeSpotter delivers the best mobile search experience for iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, to more than 250,000 agents throughout the United States and Canada. The company was founded in 2009 under the name Mobile Realty Apps, then rebranded to HomeSpotter in 2015.

 

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HomeSpotter and ShowingTime partner on integration to increase the productivity of Huff Realty agents

HomeSpotter and ShowingTime announced a partnership to provide Huff Realty, one of the largest real estate firms in the greater Cincinnati area, with an integrated, branded mobile app that allows consumers to search for properties and increases agent productivity in the field by enabling them to schedule showings.

 The Huff Realty App – powered by HomeSpotter – is a home search app available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. The app features full MLS listing details, high-resolution photos, a GPS locator and an augmented reality feature to view nearby homes in real time.

ShowingTime, which is integrated into the Huff Realty App, streamlines the showing appointment scheduling and showing feedback process to improve efficiency. Agents can now request showings with their clients directly through the Huff Realty App.

“Our agents no longer need to go back and forth between devices, programs and applications to schedule appointments, as this integration allows the agent to connect directly to ShowingTime through the Huff App,” said Joe Carr, Marketing Director at Huff Realty.

“We are always looking for ways to increase agent productivity in the field,” Aaron Kardell, CEO of HomeSpotter, said. “ShowingTime has been a great long-term partner and we are pleased to extend this integration to broker apps with Huff Realty being our first partner.”

“We’ve worked with both Huff Realty and HomeSpotter for many years,” said ShowingTime President, Michael Lane. “This integration with HomeSpotter will provide Huff agents with added efficiencies to make them even more effective.”

 

About HomeSpotter – We’re obsessed with making apps that are beautiful and easy to use. They must also help real estate agents better connect with their clients, enhance their marketing and allow them to be more productive in the field. HomeSpotter delivers the best mobile search experience for iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, to more than 250,000 agents throughout the United States and Canada. The company was founded in 2009 under the name Mobile Realty Apps, then rebranded to HomeSpotter in 2015.

About ShowingTime – ShowingTime is the real estate industry’s leading showing management technology provider with 1.2 million active listings subscribed to its services. It equips MLSs, Associations, offices, brokers and agents with tools to schedule showings, generate feedback and report on activity. ShowingTime products are used by more than 53,000 offices nationwide and integrated with 200+ MLSs to manage 3 million showings every month.

 

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Is your mobile app ready for iOS 9?

Is Your App Ready for iOS 9?

HomeSpotter was just at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. Apple revealed their music streaming platform, Connect, as well as a new version of OS X and iOS and updates to their car, home and watch software. There are a few headlining iOS features coming, such as multi-tasking support for the iPad and transit direction in maps. But in many ways, iOS 9 may be a quieter release since a lot of features will focus on small enhancements and increasing security and stability. We are pretty stoked about the new features announced in iOS 9 and are excited to incorporate the features into our HomeSpotter applications.

 

Here are some of the biggest features that should delight customers.

 

Transit in Maps

Apple’s maps app and third party apps that use embedded maps will gain the ability to provide transit directions on iOS 9. This is a feature that was removed when Apple and Google ended their partnership when iOS 6 was released. While there are a limited number of cities that will be included at launch, Apple appears to be focused on the details that will matter most to transit users. Apple demonstrated an indoor blueprint of a subway station that provided directions to the nearest entrance.

 

iPad Multitasking: Beautiful New App Switching UI

The app switching screen is getting a design refresh. Rather than displaying a screen of apps running adjacent to each other, the new interface organizes apps in a stacked format. This is a little bit like flipping through a pile of cards.

 

Swipe Over

Applications on the iPad will no longer be restricted to running fullscreen. While apps on iPad will still take up the full screen, swiping from the right side of the screen will present the last app that was active in a sidebar. The active app will be dimmed slightly to indicate that the sidebar app is active. This is handy for quick message or email reply or quick checks of your favorite social networking apps. Perhaps you are searching for homes and you get an urgent email notification. Normally you would have to switch to the mail app in fullscreen in order to respond. With iOS 9, swipe to the left from the right side of the screen to bring up your email application of choice and respond. Meanwhile, the home search app will fade slightly into the background while you complete your task. When finished, dismiss the email app and the previous app is right where you left it.

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(Image source: macrumors.com)
 

Picture in Picture

While video at full screen is one of the things that gives the iPad its advantage over smaller touch devices, it has always been painful to have to pause video when switching to other apps to quickly take care of tasks. In iOS 9, apps that support the Picture in Picture (PIP) feature will be able to shrink down to a corner of the screen while another app is active. No more pausing videos to send a quick message reply. Just tap on a notification or hit the home button to engage PIP. Perhaps you are in a FaceTime conversation and you begin to talk about your progress in searching for your latest home. With iOS 9, you can place your FaceTime video call into PIP mode which will hover in a corner of your screen while you launch an app to begin your home search.

 

True Split Screen Multitasking

Finally, if you own an iPad Air 2 (or perhaps a rumored iPad Pro…coming soon?), you can run two apps side by side with both active. You can drag your finger on the margin between the two apps and change which app consumes a larger part of the screen. The iPad will snap the windows between ½ and ⅔ alignment for the two active apps.

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(Image source: Federico Viticci at MacStories. Follow him on Twitter @viticci)
 

iPad – Hardware Keyboard Support

When connected to a bluetooth keyboard, iPad will enable keyboard shortcuts for applications that build in support. Key combinations such as Command+Tab will engage the task switcher, just like on the Mac. Many other key commands will make editing documents much quicker, such as Command+B to highlight text. Third party apps will need to make an update to enable these commands. We expect third party apps to adopt these features quickly.

 

iPad – Text Selection

iOS 9 enables the user to turn the soft keyboard into a large track pad for text selections. Instead of tapping within the visible portion of the document and fiddling with getting the cursor, just place two fingers on the keyboard. The keys will dim out and move the cursor quickly to the desired position. iPad will gain some of the quick buttons introduced with the iPhone 6 plus, such as cut and paste buttons. These buttons surround the predictive text options that started with iOS 8.

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(Image source: Timothy Reavis at iDownloadBlog)
 

Device Intelligence

Apple seems to have placed a lot of effort into little, automated enhancements to iOS 9. For example, missed calls from numbers not saved in the contacts app will still show a name as a possible match if found in a previous email. It will attempt to identify usage patterns and present apps commonly used at specific times of the day as an icon at the bottom of the lock screen.

Spotlight search and Siri will be able to display local content from third party applications. Forgot who mentioned that tweet about cat sweaters? Ask Siri or search Spotlight by swiping all the way to the left on the home screen instead of launching the Twitter app. Apple was quick to emphasize that this data is all calculated on the device and not sent through Apple’s servers.

 

News App

iOS 9 will introduce an app called News that will aggregate content from publishers, major and minor. This appears to be in close competition with Facebook’s instant Articles feature that was announced recently. Apple is also adopting the same revenue sharing model as Facebook. If the publisher uses their own ad network, the publisher keeps 100% of the revenue. If the use iAd, then they adopt a 70/30 model with 70% going to the publisher.

 

Power Saving Mode

Despite introducing iPhones with larger batteries last fall, many iPhone users still run low on power by the end of the day. Devices will be able to enter “Low Power Mode” when the battery level drops below 20%. This mode conserves battery by opting out of more power intensive processes.

 

We are excited about the new features in iOS 9 and look forward to making our apps more powerful. We expect our apps to consume less space on your devices and take up less energy when using your location. We will be able take advantage of the iPad’s new multitasking features and better integration with core iOS services.

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How to stay relevant in the real estate industry

Three Ways to Stay Relevant in the Real Estate Industry

1. Be local. Have you tried that new brewery that opened down the street? Wait, which one? The resurgence of local, craft beer is overwhelming. What is it about this local shift that has us all growing beards, and how can we implement this in the real estate industry? Just like authenticity and uniqueness is appealing to today’s generation of beer drinkers, the same goes for home buyers. Millenials, who make up a large chunk of today’s homebuyers, don’t want to be marketed to; they want to feel independent and responsible for their own thoughts. Therefore, they tend to support small and independent businesses. Luckily, the real estate industry is a localized industry at its roots. What sets an agent apart from an app is their knowledge of an area. An agent can tell their client about the neighborhood, can offer information on an approved development plan, and can recommend that coffee shop down the street (probably because they have worked from it numerous time this week). Serving a small, concentrated group of people and having a niche will help differentiate an agent in the marketplace and appeal to the younger generation of homebuyers.

 

How to create a niche:

  • Attend local council meetings
  • Participate in school district meetings
  • Become a member of the chamber of commerce
  • Download the CO Everywhere app to follow social activity and news in the neighborhoods you serve so you are always aware of the happenings
  • Volunteer at local organizations and support local businesses and causes

 

2. Be found where today’s consumers are – on their phones. Nearly one-third of all homebuyers, and 68% of first-time buyers, were 34 years or younger last year. According to the 2014 NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, 58% of Gen Y (<33) and 53% of Gen X (34-48) use a mobile device to search for homes. In order to connect with the younger generation of home buyers, it is important to be found where today’s consumers are – on their mobile device. Consumers are still looking for homes, but, the way they do this has changed. This is the generation of looking things up on their phones. With companies like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, consumers can access a lot of information on their mobile device. Offering home buyers accurate data through a convenient tool and being available to them quickly will differentiate you from your competitors. This doesn’t mean you have to be a full-time techy. But, having some familiarity with emerging technology can strengthen your ethos in the real estate industry.

 

3. Be a solid communicator. With the emergence of smartphones and technology that can basically do everything besides eat for you, it is a little scary to think of what can replace humans. True – the needs for a real estate agent are changing, but agents are not replaceable. Think about it. Buying a home is not an easy purchase. Apparently, you can’t just go to the house shop and pick out a cute house, bring it to the register, charge it, and poof, you own a house now! It is a bit more complicated than that. Like, wayyyy more complicated. Because of the infrequency and complexity of the purchase, the high dollar value, and the uniqueness of every home, the agent serves as an expert to their client, guiding them through the entire process.  An agent should utilize their ability to clearly communicate and connect with their client and understand and accommodate to their needs. An agents knowledge about detailed local information that is not readily available on real estate websites, like local ordinances and future approved development plans, creates a strong bond with the homebuyer that will promote continuing relationships.

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No Meeting Wednesday at HomeSpotter

I have been lacking time to think. Substantial amounts of work and day to day activities to keep the business moving forward has depleted me. To effectively provide leadership and inspiration I need to take more time to think beyond all the “work” that fills my day. This morning I am working from a quiet corner at Caribou Coffee.

 A couple of months ago, HomeSpotter implemented “no meeting Wednesday.” This has been the best productivity hack we have had. Thank you, Aaron! Wednesdays have become not just a day to laser focus on important activities, but also a time to step away and think about our company and my team. Having this time allows me to ask questions like: Are we accomplishing the right things? How can I help us move forward intentionally? Am I helping my team thrive in the ambiguity of an accelerating software environment?

The real beauty of no meeting Wednesday is that I have time each week to plan and prioritize the things I want to work on. In the few short hours since I started this post, I listened to a Daniel Pink TED Talk, discussed a new course of action for customer success with a team member, revised a proposal, clarified a new app release with a customer and our development team. Okay, not everything was strategic, but everything was done on my terms this morning. I can’t wait until this afternoon.

So great to have a few hours of inspired work today!

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DIY marketing tips

5 DIY Tips to Market Yourself

June is Entrepreneurs “Do It Yourself” Marketing month, so we thought it would be fun to share with you some easy and effective ways to stay on top of your personal marketing and branding. As they say: Some people dream of success and other wake up and work hard for it. Spend June pushing yourself to try new ideas and take your success to the next level!

1. Start writing.  What better way to get noticed than to be a thought leader in your expertise. You’re the best person to talk about your neighborhood and the trends in the industry – you are living it every day! It doesn’t have to be a lot, just consistent. Start out by planning to write a short blog once each quarter and then once each month. Before you know if, you’ll be writing weekly and driving people to your site to get the most current information about their next move.

2. Become a social media wiz. Have you ever used Buffer? It’s a really easy way to stay active on social media by keeping you relevant to your followers and constructing all of your social posts for the week in just one sitting! Plan on spending one hour on Sunday evenings when you’re preparing for the week ahead to create your social media calendar.  Find and read articles relevant to your geography, your clients needs and don’t forget to boast your personal brand up a little too…write some social posts that link back to your personal website or blog. Not only will this app allow you to be active on social media, but it will also give you some time to make sure to keep up on the latest trends in your industry.

3. Have some fun with your open houses – and promote them as such! Everyone has boring old open houses on the weekend.  Pick a sunny afternoon and turn your open house out in the suburbs into a fun place for people to come in, check out the house and most importantly and meet you! Serve ice cream and have a “best toppings” contest with the kids.  Take pictures, and post them on social media – give kids little door prizes for participating (and gain points with their parents!). Have a great loft in the city? Host an evening out with appetizers, wine and live acoustic music.

4. Create new partnerships. Co-branding is a great way to get your name out to more people, and people that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet with otherwise. Mortgage brokers, inspectors, title companies…sure.  But let’s think outside of the box.  Maybe you could make a deal with that ice cream shop you used for your open house.  You promote them and they promote you! Take some time this month to think of those around you who could mutually benefit from a partnership of some sort.

5. Get mobile! If you read my last blog post, you know that 90% of homebuyers are on their phones to search for homes. Check out an app like HomeSpotter. For a monthly fee, your broker can get a stand alone branded app in the iTunes App and Google Play stores. And what’s even better is it can then be branded for each individual agent to be shared with clients.  Connect and market yourself where your clients already are – on an app!

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Technology, Customer Success and the Real Estate Industry

With the emergence of new technology, finding a new home from the comfort of your current home is becoming more popular.  In the May 2015 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine’s Publishers Desk, John Featherstone, the magazine’s CEO and publisher, discusses the importance of Realtors leveraging technology to be more productive while still maintaining a human element with their customers.  According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 90% of home buyers are going to the web to search for homes, meaning the importance of building strong relationships between Realtors and their clients will continue to grow as technology pushes the envelop.

What does this mean for Realtors?

It means they not only have to continue to be constantly networking and building relationships in the field, but they also need to have an online presence where their potential clients already are: on the web, on their mobile devices and on the go while searching for the right home.

Along with technology, an emerging business function has become Customer Success with the growth of recurring revenue SaaS (software as a service) business models that are booming in the real estate industry. From mobile property search, online mortgage calculators, google maps, document scanners, to mobile document signatures, real estate agents can carry their entire office around in their pockets with help of a few apps, and a few dollars.

Great! So…what is missing? 

If consumers have all the data they need to do their search and all the tools online they need to complete the business transaction, what’s missing? The most important part of the equation: the relationship between the Realtor and their clients.  Working in Customer Success- this is always on the top of my mind.  How am I interacting with clients?  Is what I am providing them adding true value?  Sure, I’ve given them a great tool and I’ve shown them how it can add value to their lives (and in their pockets), but do they know how to use it?  Do they have a place to go when they don’t know the answer? They were once engaged, but are they still engaged and are they still seeing value?

When it comes down to it, my focus with any customer I’ve had in my career has been communication. Here at HomeSpotter it’s communication with the multiple listing services, brokers, agents and agent clients who use our products. This translates directly over to the real estate industry and focuses on where and how the conversations between clients and agents are being had. It’s in this exchange where business gets done and relationships flourish.

 

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Increased Mobile Traffic and Agents as Employees

I attended the Association Executive Institute (AEI) last week in Vancouver, hosted by NAR. First of all, shout out to Carol Seal, CEO from the Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS®, for orchestrating an awesome event! As usual, many great discussions were had, both formally at the sessions and informally in the hallways (or perhaps the lobby bar, but whatevs).

 After taking a few days to reflect on the trip, two topics stood out for me this year — increased search traffic happening on mobile, and the questions surrounding the independent contractor status of agents.

Increased Mobile Traffic

According to Russ Cofano, Senior Vice President of Industry Relations at Move, Inc., realtor.com® experienced a 33% increase in search traffic, driven primarily by their mobile app. I can’t remember over what time frame that increase occurred, but regardless, it’s more proof that consumers are choosing mobile search over desktop.

While this idea is not surprising to anyone (I hope), many MLSs and brokers are just now beginning to consider their own mobile strategy. No bueno.

At HomeSpotter, we’ve seen the success that our customers have had in retaining (and growing) market share and brand awareness by using our branded, mobile app solutions. Especially when they promote the heck out of them.

Contractors or Employees

During the legal update from Katie Johnson, NAR’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, shared two cases where the status of real estate agents as independent contractors is being challenged, saying they should instead be considered employees.

If the courts determine that agents should be considered employees, running a brokerage could cost exponentially more and could change the typical model completely. Usually we expect these kinds of business model changes (should they occur) to be accompanied by increased fees or changes in the product or service experience.

And while most brokers operate on razor thin margins already, additional overhead costs could be devastating, or force them to change or increase fees charged to consumers or agents. Or… it could reduce the monies brokers have to invest in new technologies and tools that will improve consumer and agent experience. I’m just speculating here, but as I mentioned in a previous post — the more that brokers’ dollars get stretched, the less they have to invest in other areas.

But real estate is not alone in this.

Uber and Lyft are being challenged to view their drivers as employees. Could the lower costs and technological efficiencies people love about these companies — built completely on mobile platforms — have to change if something like this goes through? Who knows. But it’s important to watch other industries for changes that could impact ours. Especially as real estate migrates to mobile, and (some) brokers begin to reinvent their businesses to follow suit.

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