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Drones in Real Estate – When Technology Surpasses Policy

July 22, 2014

Author: Tom Flanagan, Vice President of Technology, Alain Pinel Realtors
This article ran in the July 11th, 2014 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes, pg 10.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Camera
When looking at some of the latest real estate tech trends, one that has the potential to have a significant impact in the industry is the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Photographers typically use these small remote controlled drones with a camera to take stills and video of a property, and their use is becoming increasingly commonplace in the real estate industry.
The use of drones for real estate purposes gives consumers, buyers in particular, a unique view into, or over, a listing. They are able to tell a story about a property that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved with traditional photography, and are wonderful for displaying waterfront properties and listings with a lot of acreage. From their vantage point of about 100 feet above a property, they are able to capture images that an airplane or helicopter would not, offering a truly unique perspective.
However, as an emerging technology, there is a tremendous amount of inaccurate information and confusion regarding their usage. Grey area and misinformation surrounding the legal use of drones abounds, and they have become a polarizing topic that often conjures images of military use or spying.
In reality though, UAVs and drones have been used with good intentions, primarily by hobbyists, for decades. But when it comes to commercial use, drones are an example of technology surpassing policy. Technology is moving at such a fast clip, it is difficult for government bodies to introduce legislation around them.
To date, there has only been one UAV pilot fined by the FAA. While the FAA did lose that case, they appealed it, which negated the win for the pilot. Additionally, a New York real estate brokerage was just subpoenaed by the FAA for drone use. Legislation surrounding use remains nebulous though, and Congress has issued a deadline to the FAA, requiring the agency to issue regulations and guidelines by 2015.
While government issues and questions about privacy remain, this medium offers tremendous value to real estate consumers, offering a sneak peek into a property that wouldn’t otherwise be available. There are safety concerns as well, and ensuring each drone operator is licensed after being properly trained, as with a motor vehicle, would be a responsible course of action. Finding this fine balance between legislation and innovation though will definitely pay off for the real estate consumer in the long run.

About Author:

Tom Flanagan is Vice President of Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors and is responsible for overall technology strategy and implementation throughout the company. With over a decade of experience in the technology industry, he brings a wide range of knowledge in technology, online platforms and new media, with an emphasis on design and usability. Tom is also a syndicated columnist for Inman News, the leading source of independent real estate news and information.

Business Planning Insights Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Where Do Buyers and Sellers Find Agents?

March 18, 2014

According to data in the 2013 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)’s annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, home buyers and sellers consistently report that they truly rely on referrals from friends and family to find an agent or they use an agent they have worked with before.
Take a look at these stats:

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of buyers and sixty-four percent (64%) of sellers found their agent through a personal referral from neighbors, friends or relatives or they used an agent they had previously worked with.
  • The next closest way a buyer or seller found their agent was through an online website; however, this was merely nine percent (9%) of buyers and four percent (4%) of sellers.

With these statistics, it’s more clear than ever that an integral part of your business’s success relies on good relationship with your past clients. How are you staying in contact with your past clients to build your relationships with them? Here are some ways:

  • Connect on Social Networks. Are you connected with your past clients on social network? Did you just add them but never interact? Social media opens a wealth of opportunities to interact with your clients in ways that was previously impossible. Learn about their interests, connect on a different level, and at your convenience. Dropping a comment, sending a gift, or even “liking” something they post – keeps you on their radar.
  • Monthly Newsletter. Are you regularly sending out information that is beneficial for your past clients? Are you keeping them up-to-date about their community and market?
  • Drip-Email Marketing. Staying in contact and making yourself a resource is crucial. Putting together a strong homeowners drip email campaign can be useful and establish yourself as an expert.
  • Be personal-able. While newsletters, email campaigns, direct marketing does reach consumers – often your clients want more from you – especially if they’re going to refer you to their friends. When’s the last time you reached out on an individual-level? Do you ask them about their families? Do you remember their hobbies? Did the birthday card you sent them include more than a generic message? No one likes to feel like they’re getting cookie-cutter service – so prove to them you’re not.

There’s many ways to reach out to past clients, but there’s no denying how important it is! Finding new ways to connect will ensure your business continues to grow.

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Connecting Clients and Technology

January 30, 2014

Author: Jolene Quinn, eBusiness Manager of Alain Pinel Realtors
As a sales associate, you need to be flexible and have a breadth of knowledge. In today’s market with limited inventory and tight credit standards, working with a buyer will most likely be a long-term process. Yes – you will be looking at homes with them, but you also need a way to stay engaged with them should nothing come to the market that fits their needs for any extended period of time.
In 2014, I suspect we’ll see many changes in the real estate industry – especially when it comes to technology in the home. You can use this as a benefit and use these developments as a reason to stay in touch with your clients.  No matter how much or how little technology a client is familiar with, show them that you’re the expert with all of today’s home advancements. With technology moving so fast, you won’t run out of material!
To stay on top of the latest developments, check out and Both are great resources for information on the latest technology in real estate and smart devices around the home. You can subscribe and get daily emails – plus it’s free.
How many of you attended or read about the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that took place in Las Vegas a few weeks ago? Some items I read about that were a hit at the show were wearable technology and smart devices around the home. Take a look at some of these examples:

  • Door knobs that’ll know when someone is at the door
  • Toothbrushes will tell people how clean their teeth are
  • Refrigerators that can text you a shopping list
  • Drones that can give aerial images of properties that aren’t too far away like helicopters
  • Bendable TV’s that enhance viewing
  • Curved glass phones – flexible so it fits your face and lies flat on a table
  • Self-healing glass surfaces (scratches magically disappear!)
  • Washing machines that you can run from your smartphone
  • Smart light bulbs that can save energy, slowly put you to sleep, and more
  • Health monitors that track eye strain, glucose, asthma etc.

These are just a few – and more are being developed every day. If you can name it, someone has or is creating a device to help monitor it, track it, watch it, park it, or even create it (like 3D printers)!
We already see Nest (great closing gifts!) and Floored starting to influence the home and real estate – we can only begin to scratch the surface of what’s next. Start telling your clients about them!
Remember, no matter what is going on in real estate and technology, establishing a long-term relationship is key. The most important things to your clients are honesty, integrity, knowledge and responsiveness to their needs. Building qualities still need to be at the forefront to building a good relationship.

About Author:

Jolene Quinn is the eBusiness Manager at Alain Pinel Realtors. She has almost 20 years in real estate and over 13 years working directly with internet leads. Prior to working with APR she managed the eBusiness department of a large real estate company that spanned 3 states. She was responsible for taking the department from ground level to one of the most successful eBusiness departments in the nation. 

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

New Year Social Media Clean Up

January 7, 2014

Take the time right now to look at all your online and social media profiles – and I mean ALL:
LinkedIn, Facebook, Zillow, Trulia, Twitter, Google+, your profile on your broker’s website, YouTube, Trulia, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever else you’re on (google yourself if you can’t remember!).

When is the last time you did this? Often times, even active users of social media create their accounts, fill out their info, and never look at their “profile” or “personal” information again.  I’m not talking about how many times you post a status or connect with someone on LinkedIn – I’m talking about the actual meat of your profile.  What do people that are looking at your profile for the first time see?
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is your first impression of your profile? Does it look like how you remember it? Did they change the layout from last time you were here and you haven’t adjusted accordingly?
  2. Is your contact information updated? There are a lot of wrong phone numbers, broken website links, and bad email addresses out there. Make sure yours isn’t one of them!
  3. Is your “About Me” or “Bio” updated? Does you real estate bio say what everyone else’s does? Does it mention the areas you specialize in? Does it reflect your experience in the industry – or do you mention things from decades ago?
  4. Is your education / work experience updated? Does it have your current brokerage? Your current position? It’s shocking how many agents don’t change their profiles, logos, etc. when they have career changes.
  5. Does your picture look like you? Sorry folks – your 80’s hairdo and shoulder pads need to go. Still holding on to that old picture because you look younger? People notice. Don’t become a joke.
  6. Most importantly – does your profile reflect who you are? Do you seem just like any same-old, all-the-same REALTOR®? Or does it show a bit of who you are as an individual? Start connecting with people on that level. People are buying homes – it’s a personal process. Be personable.

Chances are as you went through this list, you found a few things that are out of date, no longer reflect you or your business, or just things that could use a little freshening up. Whether you plan to take yourself to the next level this year on social media (you should) or your just want to get your feet wet again (jump in!) – make sure you’re starting 2014 off right. Reviewing and updating your profiles on (at the very, very minimum) an annual basis is necessary. Happy New Year.

Alain Pinel Realtors Insights Announcements Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

New Private Cloud Infrastructure

January 6, 2014

We are excited to announce the recent deployment of our new private cloud infrastructure. This new infrastructure fosters collaboration, security, and increased productivity among all of our agents to help better serve their clients – including fast and efficient document sharing, smoother electronic transactions, faster access to broadband media services for online marketing, and unrestricted access to online real estate technology services at all times, from any location with an Internet connection.

Business Planning Insights Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights Sales Insights

Update Your Skills in 2014!

January 2, 2014

Author: Diane Bravo, Director of Technical Training at Alain Pinel Realtors.
Is your New Year’s Resolution to improve your professional skills and brush-up on industry knowledge? Are you unsure quite how to go about accomplishing this daunting task? Not sure which training resource might best help you reach this goal? As a longtime trainer, this topic is on my dashboard all the time. The answer, unfortunately, is not so simple. What works best for some, doesn’t always work for others – people learn better from different styles. Below are five eLearning tools I’ve found to be most effective. Start using one today and find out which one maximizes the return on your time.
5 easy ways to update your skills online 2014:

  1. Grovo – Grovo is the leading online learning platform that trains users on Internet tools with 60-second personalized videos. The base video offerings are free, with advanced videos offered at a premium. The folks at Grovo are adding lessons at the rate of about 15 per day. What is even more impressive is they do it with down-to-earth style from communication ideas to management tips and more. Sign up and try it today – you can only win with this tool.
  2. Industry News and Newsletters  – No matter what your industry or niche, there is a source for you. These can be newsletters you sign up for with your email address, or groups you join on a social media site you are active on. For example for my real estate news, I follow Inman News – Real Estate Connect on LinkedIn. Not to be left behind in the Training Industry, I follow many groups including my newest addition – Instructional Design and eLearning Professionals Group. But here’s the catch, you have to read whatever newsletter or summary from any group you sign up for. And I get it – we are all overwhelmed and inundated with mail and messages these days and it is tempting to ignore eNewsletters. However, isn’t investing in your skills and staying on top of industry knowledge important? You owe it to yourself.
  3. – This is a little different from the freemium model at Grovo. Instead, Lynda is available in a monthly or annual subscription, but well worth the investment if you’re looking for a more in-depth training. With abundant topics including Microsoft and Google products to Project Management and web design, you can learn to use software right at your desk. It is an online virtual library and the expansive offerings are amazing.
  4. Your Network – Never underestimate the power of your network. With LinkedIn being one of the top social media sites today, it’s easy to keep track of where your contacts are working. When you see them, talk about it! It’s amazing what you can learn and take back to share at work, if you just ask your friends what they are doing in their industry.
  5. Attend a Seminar or Training Course – There are a lot of seminars out there – from free online webinars to all-day in-person trainings. If one comes recommended to you, is about a topic of interest, or has an engaging keynote speaker, it is often worth the investment. Sometimes companies will even help you attend these if you ask – especially if you are willing to share what you learn when you return.

Whatever method you choose, remember investing in yourself is important. Learning will ultimately lead to more opportunity and influence over your sphere. Do something today to improve your skill and lead to a better, more prosperous 2014.

About Author:

Diane Bravo brings 20 years of technical training and implementation experience to Alain Pinel Realtors. In her current capacity as Director of Technical Training, she is responsible for helping all APR agents improve their business through the use of real estate software. Before moving to APR, Ms. Bravo worked for Integrated Device Technology as Business Systems Analyst.

Business Planning Insights Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights Sales Insights

Staying in Front of Your Clients Online This Holiday Season

December 12, 2013

Author: Diane Bravo, Director of Technical Training at Alain Pinel Realtors.
Did you know that according to the National Association of Realtors® surveys of buyers and sellers in 2011 that over 90% of real estate consumers never hear from their Realtor again after closing? Be different. Get more future business by keeping in touch!  The holidays are a perfect time for you to reach out to past, current and future clients in a natural way –and with online tools, it has never been easier.
Here are 5 easy was to get more exposure online this holiday season with the click of a button:

  1. Send a holiday card from your contact management tool.  Want to avoid the religious connotations of some of the season’s holidays?  Select a classy New Year greeting to ring in the New Year!
  2. Post a holiday tip on your favorite social networking site.  This can be anything from a decorating tip, to gift ideas, to recipes, to general entertaining ideas.  Just Google “holiday tips” and the possibilities are endless.
  3. Send a Facebook Gift. Facebook Gifts were launched late last year as a way to send gifts to celebrate the special moments millions of people share on Facebook each day.  It couldn’t be easier and can cost as little as a $5 for a Starbucks gift card. This is a thoughtful and easy way to really surprise your clients and connections in an unexpected way. And it’s simple for them – a message and redemption code is emailed directly to your friends.
  4. Share an online magazine or article. The Autumn 2013 Exquisite Living magazine is the perfect example of an online read to share. The magazine was designed for ease-of-use for the consumer to flip through luxury trends, market updates, community spotlights and some of Alain Pinel Realtors most impressive homes and estates.
  5. Sharing local holiday happenings in your area is another great way to touch base, while at the same time providing useful information. If you don’t already know some in your area – try checking out your local Chamber of Commerce, community events calendars and local news sources and papers. From holiday wine events, art exhibitions, parades and lightshows, to visits from Santa, who wouldn’t want to see a list of nearby events at a glance? In today’s fast paced environment, people seldom have the time to go out and look for things to do. Do it for them!

Whatever method you choose, remember keeping in touch ultimately lead to more sales. Do something today to cultivate more business and fill your pipeline for 2014.

About Author:

Diane Bravo brings 20 years of technical training and implementation experience to Alain Pinel Realtors. In her current capacity as Director of Technical Training, she is responsible for helping all APR agents improve their business through the use of real estate software. Before moving to APR, Ms. Bravo worked for Integrated Device Technology as Business Systems Analyst.

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights Sales Insights

How Do I Convert My Internet Leads?

December 3, 2013

Author: Jolene Quinn, eBusiness Manager of Alain Pinel Realtors

The most common statement I hear from agents is:

“My online leads never pan out!

It’s the most misunderstood type of “client” in the real estate industry and yet, it is probably now the most common!  So how do you turn an internet lead into a sale?  Build a relationship! All the statistics say that clients are starting their search anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years prior to actually purchasing their home. They use the internet to research and get facts. Many are first-time home buyers who don’t fully understand the process and they are very hesitant to give out their contact information. So when a client does contact us, it’s usually an email with no phone number or a quick call to ask a few questions. Consider this first contact like the first “hand-shake” when you meet someone face-to-face.
First impressions are everything! And you have but a moment to make it a good one “virtually”! Delivering a wonderful experience from the first phone call, email or text is very important if you want to turn a lead into a client. Clients no longer choose an agent for information. Information is just a click away! If you manage to make that first impression a good one, chances are you will have a client you can build a relationship with and will be loyal to you for the long-haul.

  • Learn how to make a good first impression virtually. Generally just be cordial and knowledgeable.
  • Take them seriously even if they aren’t pre-approved. Most don’t understand the importance of pre-approval until they build a relationship with an agent, then they get it.
  • Respond as quickly as you can to calls, emails and texts. Even if it’s a quick note to say you got their message and will get back to them.
  • Ask how they would like you to correspond and how often.
  • Have the skill and knowledge of your area. They don’t realize you viewed most of the homes in your area or know what the home next door sold for.
  • Don’t automate everything. Mix in personal text and calls.
  • Don’t give up and think the client isn’t serious just because you haven’t heard from them in a while. Let the client know it’s okay to contact you no matter how long it’s been.
  • Be patient. It may not be a quick sale. Each client is unique and has their own timeline.
  • Build a good relationship with your client. This is important if you want them to be loyal to you and not seek another agent when they’re ready.
  • Build your relationship with other agents! Agent relationships are just as important as client relationships. Everyone wants to work with an agent that is well-liked and respected.

Use this information to build a better relationship with your internet leads. Distinguish yourself by providing clients with great service! Pretty soon you won’t need to chase your clients, they’ll already be in your pipeline and converting to a sale as time goes on.

About Author:

Jolene Quinn is the eBusiness Manager at Alain Pinel Realtors. She has almost 20 years in real estate and over 13 years working directly with internet leads. Prior to working with APR she managed the eBusiness department of a large real estate company that spanned 3 states. She was responsible for taking the department from ground level to one of the most successful eBusiness departments in the nation. 

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights

Home Automation Case Study: Nest

November 27, 2013

Author: Stephen Skinner, Vice President of Information Technology of Alain Pinel Realtors
As REALTORS®, it is important to stay on top of the latest housing trends – not just the market, but also amenities. When it comes to technology, there’s no doubt we have seen an increase in home automation. While once only a luxury, technology is making it more mainstream and accessible. Even AT&T is running advertisements like “Cabin” – which features how with a click of a button on your smartphone, you can lock your doors, turn out our lights, and close the shades – no matter where you are.
Home automation and the “house of the future” are exciting ideas that have literally been around for decades; much longer than the Internet. In the 1960’s, Disneyland built a (plastic) House of the Future. Today, there is a Home of the Future on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA.
The idea is simple: How can technology improve the way we live?

To answer this question, let’s look at Silicon Valley startup Nest, maker of the well-known Nest Thermostat and their latest product, Nest Protect (a smoke detector).
While a thermostat of smoke detector might night be the most exciting devices in your home – Nest has taken the design sensibilities of the iPhone and is changing the way we think about these everyday household products. These products are beautiful, easy to use and really smart. By smart, I mean they feature artificial intelligence in their programming and include sensors to monitor the environment in the home. They are connected to the Internet and you. They learn how you like to live and help you save money or save lives by automating some of the most mundane aspects of running your home. AND they are a great closing gift to really impress your clients.

About Author:

Stephen Skinner is Vice President of Information Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors and is responsible for overall technology strategy and implementation throughout the APR organization. Since becoming APRs VP of Information Technology in 2007, Skinner’s accomplishments have included the introduction of new consumer and agent tools such as advanced map-based property search and new agent websites.  

Industry Insights Marketing and Technology Insights Sales Insights

What Buyers and Sellers Want in 2013

October 24, 2013

Author: Diane Bravo, Director of Technical Training at Alain Pinel Realtors.
Do you know today’s home buyers and sellers expect from their real estate agent?

I recently attended a real estate conference in San Francisco, Inman Connect, where various types of home buyers were represented in a panel.  While listening to the seven panelists needs, common themes began emerging which I’ve classified into 10 categories.  If you take a look, you will see just a few simple things can WOW your clients if you choose to practice them.
10 Things the Modern Home Buyer and Seller Wants from their Agent 2013:

  1. Communication – Communicate, communicate, and communicate! Some of these panelists weren’t getting calls back from their agent for days.  Same day call back is a must, but within a shorter timeframe really shows a level of dedication that is appreciated by clients today.  Today more than ever, the early bird catches the worm.
  2. Professional Photos – Let’s face it, if the photos aren’t professional, the home is not being presented at its best. If you are a listing agent and are not displaying high-quality professional photos, you are behind the times.
  3. A Full-Time Agent –Every panelist wanted a full time real estate agent! Gone are the days when a part-time agent adds full service value. Buyers want agents who have the contacts, know the tools and have the time to commit and respond quickly.
  4. An Agent with a Smartphone – Some clients prefer a phone call, some an email, and almost the entire “y” generation wants a text!  Whoever you are and whatever your age, you need to know what your buyers prefer – and  they need to know you have the technology to communicate the way they want. This multi-generational home buyer group was tricky, but one thing they were sure about – no flip phones please.
  5. Teamwork & a Game Plan – These 2013 home buyers are ready and willing to pitch in and help with their search. All they want is a plan of attack, carefully assembled with their real estate agent. Not too much to ask, right?
  6. Pocket Listings – This may be specific to certain markets, but those who mentioned it like to feel they are getting the inside scoop.
  7. Quarterly Statistic Reports – While clients have access to lots of information on the internet, they want to get market reports from their agents.  Regardless of your technical skills, it can easily enough be done with an automated tool.  At APR, agents have access to weekly Altos Market Reports that can be sent automatically to their contact database.
  8. Weekly Inventory Newsletter – This may be the most time consuming of the lot and may pertain mostly to listing agents. The idea was to get a simple list of homes available, from all of the different sources the real estate agent has, combined into one communication. Sellers want to know what else is out there.
  9. Customized Service – This may sound complicated, but really it does not have to be. Know what they like to drink? Have it already in the car when you go to show them homes. One example that was given was an agent who arranged a private showing for the prospective buyer’s mother.  This meant the world to the buyer!
  10. Gifts – Oh, the gifts! Most favored gifts included show tickets, game tickets, expensive bottles of wine, or even dinner.  A dinner accompanied with their agent topped the list! If you’re giving your clients what they want, they will enjoy spending time with you – working or otherwise.

Are you giving your clients what they expect?

About Author:

Diane Bravo brings 20 years of technical training and implementation experience to Alain Pinel Realtors. In her current capacity as Director of Technical Training, she is responsible for helping all APR agents improve their business through the use of real estate software. Before moving to APR, Ms. Bravo worked for Integrated Device Technology as Business Systems Analyst.