A Boston real estate company is harnessing a type of mobile technology to make it easy for home buyers to access its properties’ MLS information on the spot. It’s called texting.
Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, an independent real estate company with 200 agents, realized it needed to cater to the next generation of home buyers who are tech savvy, and who often prefer to do their own research before speaking with an agent.
The company partnered with Kwkly, a mobile real estate technology provider, and in March 2010 rolled out its text-to-MLS service.
When home buyers notice one of the company’s properties for sale, they’ll see on the sign rider this simple instruction: Text “Gibson” to 59559. If they text the service, they’re prompted to provide the property’s address, after which they receive the home’s MLS data via text almost immediately.
Home buyers with GPS-equipped smartphones can take advantage of their device’s technology.
Instead of texting the property’s address, they can click on a provided link which opens a map in their browser showing their position and the closest properties for sale, including properties from other realty companies. The company has also developed mobile apps for an array of smartphones, which provide home buyers a more enhanced property search experience.
When MLS information is sent to a home buyer, the property’s agent is notified of the lead via email or text. But Gibson Sotheby’s agents don’t sweep in for the hard sell.
“We’ve been training agents just to be resources. Instead of calling, our agents send a text to the person along the lines of: ‘If there’s any more information you need on this property please let me know.’ At this point, the person’s trying to gather information . . . so we try to keep it on their terms,” said Director of Marketing Collen Barry.
Last year the company brought in $650 million in revenue, and Barry said the service has had great success with both clients and agents. Gibson Sotheby’s was the first company to offer the Kwkly service in Massachusetts, and as a marketing tool she remarked, “you get way more bang for your buck as it really reaches a broader audience . . . the power is endlessly astonishing to us.”
But that’s not the extent of the company’s mobile push.
Four months ago, it made the switch to Google Apps and its agents are growing fond of the platform’s mobile access, especially since they’re constantly on the road. Through Google Calendar, they are instantly informed of new appointments on their smartphone, and the collaboration functionality in Google Docs allows them to edit and share forms and documents while out of office.
In a few weeks, the company will also be launching a revamped website, which includes a mobile version of the site. The new website offers seamless social media features like share and like, but what Barry’s really excited about is its new property search tool. The tool integrates a map locator with neighborhood information from services like Yelp.com and Education.com.
“If you’re looking for a house, what you’re really looking for is: ‘I’ve got a certain lifestyle and I want to find a house and neighborhood that suits my lifestyle.’ With the site’s search feature you can turn on the Yelp option to see all the cafes in the area, or pull up the schools and get more information on each school. It’s a much more comprehensive search. People at this point are not searching for homes. They’re really searching for communities,” she said.
Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty may be a 50 year-old company, but its mobile ventures prove it’s willing to incorporate any form of technology that helps it serve its clients better.
by Joseph Mutidjo, Reporter, Smallbiztechnology.com