In Tight Times, Virtual Real Estate Brokers Thrive

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While no longer in a free fall, the real estate industry is still in terrible shape, with business down for agents and brokers across the board. As large and small brokers look to cut costs any way they can, the notion of a completely virtual real estate brokerage is gaining popularity. Resonant Properties, a San Francisco real estate brokerage, has made this the heart of their new real estate strategy.

While no longer in a free fall, the real estate industry is still in terrible shape, with business down for agents and brokers across the board. As large and small brokers look to cut costs any way they can, the notion of a completely virtual real estate brokerage is gaining popularity. Resonant Properties, a San Francisco real estate brokerage, has made this the heart of their new real estate strategy.

"Real estate sales will always be about people, and there always be a need for a living, breathing real estate agent," notes Michael LaPeter, broker-owner of Resonant Properties. "After all, a home purchase is still the biggest financial transaction of most people's lives, and real estate is a local business."

Behind the scenes, however, it's a different story. Resonant Properties has moved more and more of the expensive admin and support functions online, saving thousands. As technology becomes easier to use and web applications gain in popularity, the need for a large office staff is shrinking. Here are just a few of the areas LaPeter used to save thousands in backend costs:

Brokerage Intranet

Whether virtual or bricks and mortar, real estate brokerages need a central place to store their office documents, manuals, marketing pieces, and to communicate with everyone. A range of online companies offer intranet solutions, some available for free or prices starting at $40-$50 per month.

Single Property Websites

Instead of expensive newspaper ads and wastefully printing hundreds of property flyers, brokers can use single property websites, which serve as an "online hub" for a listing, with unlimited photos, area info, agent info and more. They also come with a unique domain name that can be placed in ads and on sign riders to save paper and money. They make it easy for buyers to learn more about a listing, and are much less expensive than constantly refilling a flyer box. Providers such as My Single Property Websites http://mysinglepropertywebsites.com currently have a sale offering unlimited sites for all agents in the office for only $39 per month.

Brokerage Email/ Calendar/ Documents

Instead of paying an in-house IT person to individually set up each new agent on an exchange server, brokers can save money by switching to a hosted solution such as Google Apps. For a flat fee per user, brokers can save potentially thousands in IT costs, and it's simple enough that an admin or office manager could handle the process of setting up new agents.

Electronic Signatures

While still a very new technology, electronic signatures can save brokers thousands in printing costs, wasted paper, and courier fees. They also save agents and clients time, which can lead to higher productivity.

Broker & Agent Websites

Instead of sending agents off to figure out a website on their own, brokerages can set up a network of blogs using free solutions such as Wordpress Mu. This free solution lets every agent have their own blog, while keeping control and the look and feel in the hands of the broker. Best of all, Wordpress Mu is open source and free.

About Michael LaPeter:
Michael LaPeter is broker-owner of Resonant Properties, a real estate brokerage in San Francisco, and founder of My Single Property Websites, http://mysinglepropertywebsites.com. He has written several articles on real estate marketing and strategy on his blog, http://mysinglepropertywebsites.com/blog.

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