Can the World Get a Good CRM for Real Estate… Please?

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There are quite a few things that I find curious in Real Estate.  Independent contractors, substandard training, and why buyers are liars and sellers are worse… just to name a few.  One of the most curious and incomprehensible things to me is why there isn’t a super amazing CRM (that’s  Customer Relationship Management) tool for real estate.  So I ask you… collectively, “Can the World Get a Good CRM for Real Estate… Please?

We’re in the People Business for God’s Sake…

It seems everyone thinks that Realtors are in the home selling business.  I think it’s rather obvious we’re in the people business.  99% of the time, you can’t sell a home without intimately dealing with people.  So how do we keep track of them?  Here’s a few typical Realtor responses:

  • I have an address book.
  • I keep everyone in Outlook.
  • I keep an Excel database.
  • I use Top Producer.
  • I use my MLS’s integrated tools.
  • Why would I keep up with them?

See what sorry shape we’re in?  We can’t even keep up with the most valuable resource we possess… information.  Now, after you’ve those responses above, how many people do you think do any of those things (save the last one)?  The quick answer is not too many.  I’ll tell you why:

  • Realtors are reactionary by nature… doing things that are important but not urgent (like keeping a database) get pushed down the list.
  • Realtors, as a group, are not tech savvy.  I’ve met at least a dozen within my own MLS board that don’t even have an EMAIL ADDRESS!  figuring out some fancy, feature rich, less-than-urgent database management software just ain’t happening.  Yeah, I said ain’t.  I have to remind you I’m from Arkansas occasionally.
  • The last one is a doosy.  There isn’t a program out there that covers all the bases.  Argue with me if you want.  I know what I’m talking about.  I’ve used A LOT of them.  A truly comprehensive CRM does not exist for real estate.

Imagine with me…

Imagine, if you would, a web app so devilishly clever, so demonstrably  useful, so diabolically mobile, Realtors signed up for the service in droves.  This would have…

  • Smart capture technology fully integrated within your website and social media outlets whereby, if you get a lead from ANYWHERE, it automatically gets filed, categorized, and followed up with by the system.
  • Comprehensive usability on your desktop, laptop, and mobile phone… online or offline.
  • Reminders and task management send to agents through their preferred media.  Want your CRM to text message you about your next appointment?  Done.  Want it to sync with Gmail or Outlook?  Want an all-in-one system where you can go to one place and do all of your business, paperwork, prospecting, and marketing?  Done.
  • Complete brokerage solutions by managing showings and feedback, accounting and payables, and keeping close tabs on your Realtors’ ability to convert leads into sales.
  • Cool tools.  I want to be able to embed videos in my email marketing campaigns.  I want my clients to be able to login to my system and see all of our upcoming appointments, favorite listings, and be able to use it, on their phone.  I want a complete tracking system that tells me when my prospects read my email, what links they clicked on, and keep notes on when they responded.  I want to know intimate details of my clients’ lives and be able to recall them with one touch on my phone.

In my humble opinion, this is what real estate needs.  A Killer CRM for a relationship business.  It would go a long way towards professionalizing our industry and kicking us up in the pecking order.

I know a lot of you are investors.  Wouldn’t your Realtor be more valuable to you if they knew exactly what you needed all the time?

Realtors… how much more money could you make in how much less time with an application like this?

Photo: mandyxclear

About Author

Ben's an 'out of the box' Realtor and Internet Marketing guy. He's recently started a brand spanking new Training, Coaching, and Marketing company for Realtors called The Exit Pro. He likes all things blogging and teaches Realtors to be more professional through training. He spends most of his time getting the word out about his cool new real estate company and writing guest posts for great sites like BiggerPockets.

32 Comments

  1. Great great post. Preach on brotha man, preach on.

    Then again, I’m probably singing in the choir….

    One thing I’d like to add, however, is that before a good CRM system can be implemented, the brokerage in question would need to actually put together a CRM process. And the broker would have to put in resources (like her own time for example) to actually use the CRM system and to monitor it.

    I’d venture that even the brokers who have powerful CRM solutions use perhaps 10% of the capabilities of any system, and they have broken processes that result in suboptimal performance. You can’t blame the tool in those situations.

    And a good CRM system in the hands of a data-conscious marketer can be a powerful source of behavioral information, market segmentation, and the like — but not if you don’t have a marketer on staff who can do such things.

    So yes, on the one hand, the industry definitely needs better CRM software. On the other hand, the industry definitely needs better CRM wetware (aka, “humans”).

    -rsh

    • The 10% rule has been a hard and fast one for a long time. You’re absolutely right. That said, I’m happy to say that that number is changing. Thousands of agents have come to me over the years saying “I don’t want a lot of features. I want something I can learn quickly.” My response has always been the same. “I can sell you something that doesn’t amount to much more than a Rolodex, but how much is that going to help?” It used to be that most would still opt for a simple CRM. So be it. You want it. I’ll provide it. More recently though, people are finally starting to understand that if you want to truly be more organized and efficient, that you need more. I wrote recently once again that you should not even bother to get a CRM unless you first sit down and commit. First sit down and understand what it is you can accomplish, and what you want to accomplish, and that it is going to take time and a concerted effort. If you do that; if you truly commit, you can transform your business into a much less stressful, more efficient, more service oriented business. And the great thing is that more agents are doing just that.

  2. Jeff I just checked out REST and I’d say you’re right. I think it’s still missing some functions to make it a system-wide brokerage management platform, but it looks like a great product. If you read some of my previous posts, I’m a big believer that systemic real estate is the future and a product like this is what will make it one step closer to reality.

    Rob… Dude, you’re taking words out of my brain and putting them on the page. As the ‘coordinator’ for my company’s CRM efforts I know all too well how tough it is to make brokerage-wide CRM a reality when dealing with independent contractors.

  3. Great post Ben,
    I use Agent Achieve which is provided by my Broker. It is fair product but I feel that it’s at least 5 years behind the times. I am pretty tech savvy and the features you mentioned would be great. One issue is that there are very few Realtors who understand where the market is going so getting them to pay for something like this may be challenging.

  4. Ben,
    Great post. Couldn’t agree with you more. Rob Hahn and I have been discussing this for nearly a year now. Why is it that CRM systems have been around since the 1980s, yet it’s 2009 and no 50k+ agent franchise offers a CRM system to their enterprise?

    I have two major pet peeves in our industry. 1) That 85% of buyers say they will probably or definitely use their agent again at closing, yet only 6% do. 2) Entering the same data more than once, EVER! So I know exactly where you are coming from…. What if there was a system that brought the data right into the mortgage person’s system, and right into the title / escrow system as well? What if it was all typed in just once and what if it auto monitored all facets of a clients interaction with you including IDX, drip emails, phone calls, scheduled showings, etc? What if it was smart enough to give your clients a score based upon what they were doing on your site so you knew who was really interested and who was just 12 months out from a purchase (i.e. we know that a client who does a search for Los Angeles Real Estate from 500k-1m is probably 12 months out while someone searching in Beverly Hills Flatts (a neighborhood of Beverly Hills) from $2-2.25m is ready to see properties today)? What if it was accessible anywhere anytime from any internet enabled computer OR cell phone?! What if it integrated with not just your main site, but any data or blog that you might have by just dropping in a link? What if it included monitoring all facets of a transaction including documents, checks, etc?

    “A truly comprehensive CRM does not exist for real estate.” 8 years ago when I started in real estate I thought the exact same thing you are thinking-This is ridiculous. I decided to change that. Without being salesy let me know if you’re interested in seeing what we have. In my opinion when you’re done, you’ll agree what you’re looking for is our system.

  5. Awesome post. I think CRM’s are a great way to stay on track and remain organized and efficient.

    I use salesforce.com. It is completely customizable and you can create almost any type of field or relationship imaginable. Leads go directly from my website to the database, I can also track communication with my contacts, (even through google apps mail), and the calendar function can also be used with google, which translates well to my android phone.

    There is no perfect database for every type of real estate, and if you want something that is perfect for your situation you can expect any basic crm solution will need some tweaking. For those who have a tight budget, checkout zoho crm at zoho.com. They have a few good solutions, and their CRM, while not highly customizable, is FREE.

  6. Hey Ben, have you ever heard of Masterkey? Check out their website. It will make all of your CRM dreams come true. http://www.gomasterkey.com

    -No more paper-intensive real estate businesses. No more multiple separate systems. Masterkey provides a web-based online platform that can be used at anytime and anywhere with an internet connection.
    -Masterkey’s online platform provides SaaS solutions with real estate inventory included by default. The software is fast and easy to deploy when working from home or on the road.
    -Masterkey comes complete with marketing solutions, which includes tracked and targeted email campaigns, web portal marketing and SMS messaging.
    -The software allows you to track payments and expenses. Use this tool to coordinate work orders or tend to tenant suggestions. Managing accounting is included as well.
    -Based in Dubai, UAE , but the company is expanding globally. It’s been build for over 10 years in a developed environment.

    Masterkey offers a solution for Real Professionals- Brokers, Property Managers and Developers. Check out the website, Ben. I want to hear what you think.

  7. I’m still new to the company, and I didn’t even realize I did that. When I read this blog entry I thought Masterkey’s product was a good match. I wasn’t really try to advertise anything, but now that I read it again it does look that way. I was just trying to help out.

  8. Actually, the information technology industry has struggled mightily for the better part of two decades to come up with a good CRM solution for other industries, and CRM history is littered with implementation disaster stories. The problem is that so much customization is required. It’s hard to come up with anything approaching a cookie-cutter solution. And I suspect that as the companies implementing CRM get smaller and smaller (and real estate businesses are often quite small), individual differences actually get bigger and bigger. Business school dogma has forced some order and standardization on the big enterprises, making it more likely that a single CRM product can work across different companies. If Masterkey really works well as a customer relationship management system for any real estate business that makes an earnest effort to apply it, then its developers have achieved quite a CRM breakthrough.

  9. I’ve been using Mark-It Advantage for a few months. It has many more features than say something like ACT, but its not perfect. I’d like to have my leads put in automatically, haven’t figured out how to do that. I tried Top Producer – what a dog. The only people I know that use Top Producer have an assistant who’s sole responsibility is to take care of the database. Its just to difficult to use for a busy agent.

    I used http://www.garydavidhall.com to help me select a new program. I definitely recommend him. He sells most of the different CRMs on his site for the same or less than you can buy elseware. He’ll give you presonal advice and guidance for free — he only asks that when you buy you buy from his site – that’s how he gets paid. Everyone has different requirements. I for one, wanted something that was local since I’m in my car a lot and I don’t have a cell-card for my laptop. Of course if you do that, you better make sure you backup your data! I also need something fast — which Top Producer is decidedly NOT.

    When someone makes the perfect CRM for real esate, let me know — I’m in!

  10. Great post and responses on this topic. An area I’ve followed since the 90’s from a market analyst/geographer’s perspective and carried over to commercial real estate and now investing and current market.

    It seems CRM should be viewed in terms of being comprehensive as someone mentioned and having intelligence which you allude to.

    There seems to be an emphasis on sales information side rather than the “customer” side of the equation. I would agree with comment that there are many tools and yet most “systems” fall short due to data side primarily as well as “overkill” on certain tools while missing out on “intelligence”.

    Recently it seems the data side has gained with web 2.0 approaches and mobile applications etc.

    What has been missing in terms of real estate is a “smart” location component ironically which is where I’m focused on with demographics and GIS (geographic information systems/computer mapping) which with a robust sales/system side will make a comprehensive real estate CRM I believe.

    Looks like a good group for possible joint venture projects on information products I’m working on.

  11. I’ve used Market-It Advantage, Top Producer, Heap and a few others. None are a comprehensive solution for real estate. I’ve almost given up trying to find one. Given that this is the Information Age, the fact that real estate brokers/agents don’t have an application that integrates their MLS, contact database, IDX, website, email, transaction management, AdWords, and all the other components that make up a real estate business confounds me to no end.

    • Advantage Xi does everything you mention except MLS & IDX integration, oh and AdWords. Adwords? That’s a stretch even for a major market industry.

      The answer to your question about why there isn’t one solution that does it all is basically supply and demand. There are a number different aspects to it.

      With regards to MLS intergration, the primary reason is that too many MLS’ want an annual or monthly fee from the CRM vendor, which is not a viable business model for them. Top Producer does integrate with a great many MLS’ and they are the only one that does, but it is because they started many of those relationships almost 20 years ago. For the rest of todays CRMs, the market share they serve is far too small to pay MLS’.

      There are not enough agents who purchase simple CRM software to keep all the CRM solutions out there in business. I’ve watched three go down so far and expect many more in the next two to three years. If you were to develop a product that does everything you want, and charge what would be necessary, virtually no one would buy it, and it would not last very long. There may be one or two million real estate licensees out there, but there are only maybe 200 or 300,0000 of them buying this software, at the very most. That is a very small market in a very competitive market place. Our industry is just not big enough to support super slick software that is cutting edge and frequently updated like products that are used by many millions like Quickbooks, MS Office, etc.

      For the relatively meager rewards our industry offers CRM developers, we actually have a few pretty darn decent ones. I see many people make false assumptions about what appear to be a lack of features because they don’t spend enough time to evaluate the product properly. Make sure not to blow something off before asking the right person the right questions. I am here to help.

  12. Eric Michael on

    Has anyone checked out RealtyJuggler.com? I’ve been trying to find something to use myself, and for $99 a year, it’s supposed to be way better than Top Producer, tons cheaper, and with all the bells and whistles. Hope this helps.

  13. Full Disclosure Again: I own a real estate specific CRM company.

    The issue with REST though is that the service is based upon another piece of software, FileMaker. It’s confined within the rules of what FileMaker would allow much in the same way that you’re confined in what you can do with SalesForce. The expansion capability of the system relies on FileMaker’s capabilities. Our system for example we can write to do anything a user could possibly ask for. We consistently get questions requesting some way to make a user’s life better. We can execute on that immediately. Furthermore, after a certain number of total records in a FileMaker Server database, it really gets bogged down. When I used to do FileMaker development, the system would slow to a snail’s pace after about 20,000 records. Especially using over the internet server connections.

    The bigger issue though is that you have to have a desktop client to make this system work. A Realtor’s life is mobile. A CRM should sync with the phone book of the client’s mobile device when requested. It should have all the data at their fingertips to create notes, etc. You can’t be using an iPad etc. You can use an iPhone but you have to pay extra for the usage. You can’t use it mobile on a Blackberry (the dominant phone used by Realtors).

    Most importantly though the expansion capability. Our system is written to be the first open platform in real estate it can connect up to any IDX, any outside service provider, anything. Additionally, I think REST misses what I believe to be the most important tool to any Realtor drip and blast email. Consistently over 5 years, I’ve seen that the absolute best place a Realtor can spend time is in having quality drip and blast messages to their clients and building opt-ins to those lists.
    A good CRM should have that functionality built into the system so you don’t have to export names and put them into ConstantContact every week when you send the messages out. It should have the same systems in place as constant contact and more to ensure deliverability and find out how many opens and bounces you had etc.

    What about a deal room that clients can log into an upload documents on their own and see notes about the transaction thus saving the Realtor time with the phone calls “what’s going on with this or that” It should be hooked into the lender and title / escrow company so they can make notes as well.

    What about social? Why not have the social sites plugged in so that when a user is looking at a record they can get a quick glance at what that prospect’s last few tweets, Facebook messages, and LinkedIn status changes have been.

  14. Jeff Brown

    Eric — Thanks for the info. REST can do those things too. I’ve not even been able to use all the stuff it has available, cuz I’m such a techtard. 🙂 Still, I don’t hafta sync anything, as syncing is so 2005. 🙂 It’s automatic. I’m in AZ doin’ a seminar, and my asst adds something new. I’m on the browser checkin’ stuff out, and it adds the info instantly. I can’t beat that.

    So far I haven’t seen any limitations from either the REST design or its use of FileMaker.

    Have a good one.

  15. Quick note: When a CRM vendor says they will integrate with your MLS, what they probably mean is that they are RETS compliant. See http://RETS.org for details. It is essentially the national data format for MLS’. There are many CRMs that are RETS compliant. There are none to my knowledge that have already established relationships with more than a handful of MLS’, other than Top Producer, and one other I will not name here.

    So the question to ask is, “How many MLS’s do you already have a working relationship with, that if I were a member of that MLS, I could have it working tomorrow?” That will give you the real answer. If the answer is that they can go through an approval process and get it to work with your MLS, don’t hold your breath. If it were that easy, and the CRM had very many users, they would have a lot of MLS’ in their fold already.

  16. Pingback: CREOutsider | Mobile CRM for CRE

  17. Salesforce seems to be the CRM to have right now but not sure if it works well for real estate or not. I know Lasso CRM is meant for the home building industry but I’m not quite sure if that includes real estate.

    • SalesForce is really not good at all for Real Estate agents. It is made for B to B and is company centric, where what we need is a CRM that is contact centric. Propertybase is based in Force.com/SalesForce, but is modified for agents. The problem is that it is a 4 license minimum. I think REThink is still doing single licenses which is a similar product.

  18. This isn’t a crm for realtors per se as most of the posts have leaned towards but more for investors. It also is actually a customisation of Zoho CRM rather than a stand alone product, but it seems to fill an enormous gap that investors have and I’m currently researching it amongst others as a back end system for my investment business.The name of it is “1 Click Zoho For Real Estate”. A real eastate investor in Jacksonville, FL developed it. You can find out more info at http://propertymob.com/zoho-crm-for-real-estate/ . I’ll let y’all know how it turns out.

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