Realtors’ Tech Budgets Exceed Marketing

Realtors are realizing that technology tools improve productivity and profits. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that their typical members expect to spend in excess of $1,300 on technology-related items in 2004, while also exceeding their yearly marketing budget.

The largest portion of the tech pie — $856 — will be allocated to products, while technology services and technology training are nearly evenly matched ($254 vs. $256). Comparatively, the NAR found that typical members budgeted $1,200 for promotion and marketing expenses for 2004.

The December 2003 survey of 11,800 NAR members revealed that virtually all work for firms that have Web sites containing real estate listings, and 50 percent have their own Web page — up from 43 percent in 2001 — while another 21 percent plan to have a Web page in the future. With Web surfers spending more than 11 minutes on sites pertaining to real estate in April 2004, according to Hitwise, realtors without sites would be missing opportunity.

Nearly all respondents use e-mail, with roughly half conducting one-quarter of their client communications via e-mail, while spending 4.6 hours per week corresponding and reviewing messages. Of the survey respondents that use e-mail, one-quarter use an account through their firm, and 62 percent have personal e-mail accounts.

Instant messaging (IM) for business purposes hasn’t achieved anywhere near e-mail’s high adoption rate, with 81 percent reporting that they don’t use the communication application at all for business. Only 5 percent of the respondents reported using IM frequently for business, and 14 percent only used IM occasionally for business.

“There is some evidence that realtors are starting to use IM for business. It may be small at this point but it may be one of those tech tools that more will use over time,” says Paul Bishop, research economist, NAR.

Among the high-tech tools realtors are using: 95 percent use a mobile phone; 77 percent use a digital camera; 41 percent have a DSL connection; 40 percent use PDAs; and 7 percent use GPS [define] technology.

Apparently, the more technology realtors use, the more they want. The NAR reported that their respondents would also like wireless and PDA access to Multiple Listing Service listings, online floor plans, neighborhood crime and school stats, and electronic delivery and tracking of consumer disclosure statements.

Realtors’ 2004 technology budgets mark a 52 percent increase over 2002, which is incrementally higher when compared to the tech budget increases for many small and medium businesses (SMBs). According to a report from the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA) that included findings from a Hewlett-Packard-sponsored study of 501 senior decision makers conducted by Penn, Schoen, and Berland in May 2004, 44 percent of SMBs will spend up to 10 percent more on new technology in 2005 than 2004, while another 17 percent will spend as much as 20 percent more.

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