As with all technical operations, most of us don’t care about the detail, we just want it to save us some time. Estate agency software certainly does that. When the software developers launch something new, we gaze in wonderment – once we understand it. To my mind it’s getting ever harder to understand, so I asked some leading estate agency software providers to tell me, in simple terms, what’s new – for you – and how it can be a game-changer in your business.
The estate agent’s needs
The demands on an estate agent seem simple, get houses to sell – sell them. But the reality is being ahead of the competition, offering a better deal, a better service, a better result.
You have to be attractive, welcoming, friendly, all of which must be blindingly obvious on your website, which requires a whole raft of time to make your ‘front of house’ brilliant. So you need the back part, the operations end, to take the strain.
Today’s systems aim to do just that. They handle sales as well as lettings in one package, though there are single options too.
Fiona Frost, Sales Manager at Brightlogic says that their package, Acquaint CRM “seamlessly runs your property stocks, whether residential sales, lettings or indeed commercial properties as well as property management, contact management, marketing, social media, portal uploading, diaries and client accounting.” This is, even now, pretty phenomenal, to have a fully connected business, running all those areas and functions in one place.
The bright ‘Cloud’ on the horizon
Even more amazing is the way that some suppliers now offer Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) which means that their software is cloud-based – stored in the ‘sky’ somewhere, not on big servers in your office which are difficult to access and can be vulnerable to all sorts of damage. SaaS is a licensing and delivery model where the software is licensed on a subscription basis, centrally hosted and accessed by you (the client) via a web browser.
Today’s software is helping estate agency businesses, but tomorrow’s is transforming it. The question is, “Are you keeping up with it?
This means that you no longer have to ‘get back to the office to check on the computer’ you simply whip out your iPad, tablet, laptop or phone and your entire company system is there to access. This is the future, available now.
Property Software Group (PSG) is one of the bravest in launching Cloud software, their product Alto is described by James Toogood, Group Sales Director at PSG as, “Continuously delivering cloud-based software innovations to the UK’s progressive agents.”
Alto certainly has many standout features to delight agents but their latest innovation in Alto is Email Integration, “A seamless email synchronisation allowing agents to stay in contact with their clients easier than ever before. Simply stay up-to-date with email communications directly from Alto – there’s no need to go anywhere else.” Which must save a lot of work!
Meanwhile at Dezrez, Kristina Grimes, Sales Director, told me that Saas is changing the way their customers see their future, “It’s a level playing field if you’re looking for cloud based software with centralised functionality to reduce duplication, reporting for business intelligence, automated processes to reduce admin, and mobile productivity.
“But any agency needs to quickly adapt to a volatile market, future threats from online agencies, and the complications of growing whilst retaining a personalised local service. That’s where a lot of software is limiting; it only does what is says on the tin.
“Software as a Service (SaaS) is changing the way our customers see their future. As a cloud based software platform Rezi does everything an estate agency needs. But inside it has an open API and workflows to streamline systems, services and processes into a single efficient organisation that meets regional needs.
“Because we’re able to do this, we’re shifting the expectation of software from pure functionality into a platform that supports accelerated growth through acquisition and service improvements. Our customers value the ability to control their commercial flexibility, which is why they focus on software that delivers return on investment for life instead of the false economy of potentially low set up costs.”
Simon Whale at Reapit also has his eyes on SaaS, with a focus on the Service element. “Our latest innovation brings together the best of the Reapit service culture and our strong technical skills. The Value Reports which we introduced this year identify opportunities in our clients’ databases and advised on how best to maximise them.
“At a time when motivated vendors are in short supply we’ve been working with clients like Robinson Jackson and we’ve been able to help generate 4.1 per cent of their completions over the last year. Not through doing anything ostensibly ‘clever’ but a real back to basics review of those contacts already in their database who weren’t being picked up as opportunities.
“With our increased focus on bringing together sales and lettings disciplines under one system this approach becomes even more valuable; you can clear away the Chinese walls that happen in many businesses – with data squirreled away blocking your ability to leverage those valuable contacts it already has!’
“At CML our theme is all about our customer’s customer”, says Al Chetwode, Commercial Director, CML Software. “We are bringing together the disparate strands of agency to provide a joined-up experience for the agency’s end-customer… this means innovations like the ability for vendors and landlords to sign up to terms and conditions online, to bring their portal leads and their own-website leads directly and automatically into the software for review by office managers, creating opportunities for these leads to cross-fertilise with other parts of their business – be they sales /lettings applicants who are potential vendors or landlords or who might also become sales or lettings applicants.
“As agency moves between high street and online and the likely hybrids in between, property software innovations need to support this transition.”
Another area of innovation that is now available satisfies the modern need of having as much information about every aspect of a property transaction at your fingertips. Gone are the days of waiting for letters to be written, checked, revised and posted. We want to know about everything now! Enter the information portal. Eurolink’s Veco Vendor and Applicant Information Panel is very clever. It works through a secure area that is accessible by login from the estate agent’s website and it details all the activity in the selling and buying process.
It provides information, including those crucial milestones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at what can be a stressful and emotive time for both parties, and allows feedback through the portal. Nigel Poole, Director at Eurolink says that the portal can also, “Drive more traffic to the estate agent’s website (rather than to the property portals) which can be used to cross sell or up sell other services and opportunities.
“With the benefit of interfaces (APIs with the estate agent’s own database and third parties) it will be possible to provide extensive information specific to the property. This will also be an opportunity to demonstrate just how much work is being completed in the background to market a property and administrate the progression and completion of a sale.
“In a time where high street estate agents are under increasing pressure to justify their fees compared to online estate agents this could be a very strong tool to pitch or as an objection cover when perceived comparable fees don’t compare in terms of service. The information portal will also be available as a customisable white label service based on the estate agent’s requirements and data restriction preferences.”
A similar idea with a different application is PSG’s MoveIT. Described by Mark Goddard, CEO at PSG, as “The biggest gamechanger in property software since the industry made the move to the cloud,” MoveIT, is, he says, the property industry’s answer to Money Supermarket. “You can earn more money with the most seamless referral tool in the industry. MoveIT is kicking off with conveyancing services and Jupix agents are first to access it.
“Together with MoveIT, Jupix offers agents the most seamless integration with ePropertyFile, the vendor and landlord login system built exclusively by the experts at PSG. With everything your vendors will need to access, through Jupix agents are offering their clients much more than just software,” he says.
Vebra Live users will be next in line to use MoveIT and while it is being launched with conveyancing referrals, they will soon to be followed by removals, mortgages, utility bills and more.
VTUK recognises that agents really need more instructions. Adam Rackham, Operations Director, says, “Our innovations are about gaining instructions and incorporating big data. Creating opportunities pre-appraisal, investment properties, shared instructions and giving real value, through communicating “local” expertise with all an online agent can offer through 24/7 communications.
“To add the desktop-tech aspect to this greater innovation we have re-engineered the completely customisable element of our system, enabling process automation and management by exception. This creates not only time with clients but gives a huge moral boost to your admin-beleaguered staff.
“To explain, let’s say your normal system advises you of where and when a negotiator appointment is. Our solution would not only email the negotiator all of the relevant information for the meeting, but SMS the applicant to confirm the meeting, turn the heating on in the property, plot the most efficient route for the days meetings, produce the feedback and advise the vendor of the live data through their client portal log on.
“This is just one example of virtual proactive management – that’s our innovation!”
Adam isn’t exaggerating, today’s software is helping estate agency businesses, tomorrow’s is transforming it. The only question is, “Are you keeping up with the opportunities it brings?”
CML Software www.cmlsoftware.com
Property Software Group (PSG) www.propertysoftwaregroup.com