Housing markets are heating back up with new home sales reaching their highest level since the financial crisis and market crash of 2008. Trulia’s Housing Economist, Ralph McLaughlin, determined the hot 2016 markets to watch accounting for key factors such as: affordability, job growth and vacancy rates.

The the top five include: Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan; Charleston, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and San Antonio, Texas. Here in Boston, a new apartment building or renovation is under construction every few blocks.

Although Boston didn’t quite crack the top 5 active real estate markets, it is a technology market to keep your eyes on. Boston and neighboring Cambridge have more software developers per capita and more research and development investments, in part due to their top 10 technology firms, than anywhere in the world.

It’s no secret that technological advancements are steadily seeping into the roots of the housing market and will assuredly have a large impact on both real estate agents and clients. The good news is: you don’t have to be the biggest fish in the pond to leverage these innovative tools.

Early-adopter agents are already changing the way they advertise and sell and are moving toward more personalized communication. Even in markets where buyers outnumber sellers, the customer-is-king motto is making a comeback.

“Whenever we take on a new client, we want to build trust by making sure that we have a complete understanding of their needs and goals and keep them involved throughout every step.”  – Josh and Matt Altman, “Million Dollar Listing” stars and two of LA’s leading agents

You can leverage a bevy of new tech-centric business tools to help you focus on growing and maintaining your client base. Mobile apps are filling a previously unknown need while inbound marketing tools are being rethought to leverage online outlets. There are still other tools that are in the infancy of their distribution namely, property management software solutions.

It’s time to take a look at three big mediums helping to drive innovation in the real estate industry. Let’s get started, shall we?

Mobile apps

Today’s buyers and renters expect immediate responses and intimate attention from their real estate agents. So, it makes sense that today’s most successful agents leverage mobile technology to make communication with leads more efficient.

In hot urban and suburban rental markets, renters respond to sites such as Zillow the day the listing is posted — this means agents need to be vigilant.

Today’s buyers and renters expect immediate responses and intimate attention from their agents.

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“Being able to respond within five minutes or less is critical to earning that client’s business, so having the right apps working for you can mean the difference between gaining a new client and hearing ‘I’m already working with someone.’” – Randy Horn, Bushari Real Estate, Boston

There are some great apps out there that will help you communicate at the speed necessary to land great clients and manage a monsoon of new business — without compromising your sanity and sleep.

The hardest part of evaluating them is combing through the blizzard of options to find the ones that will help you immediately. To save you some time, we recommend:

Add a business line: Download the Flyp app to add multiple real phone numbers to your smartphone and avoid paying for and carrying multiple devices. Better manage calls, texts and contact information for all your clients and prospects while you’re on the go.

Communicate faster: SwiftKey, a predictive keyboard, boasts that its users have saved 10 trillion keystrokes reclaiming 100,000 years of typing time. If those numbers don’t sell you on it, I’m not sure what will.

Maintain client relationships: Use HomeKeeper to help and build referrals from your homeowner clients. This clever CRM app will let you set up a list of your preferred vendors and share them with clients, which shows your local expertise, as well as send helpful home maintenance reminders.

“Mobile apps allow realtors to multi-task at a higher rate than ever. Time is a valuable commodity for brokers, the more time available, the more clients can be served.” – Boris Sharapan, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

These great tools not only help agents serve more clients, but they also create more time to connect and maintain relationships with existing customers who might some day become repeat business.

The key is to stay top-of-mind for clients to either refer you or use you again. Avoid being a one-touch real estate agent by establishing yourself as an ongoing resource and helping to add value — even after a client has rented or purchased a unit.

Avoid being a one-touch real estate agent by establishing yourself as an ongoing resource.

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Property management software solutions

There is a niche market forming between property managers and end users (buyers and renters). So, new software solutions are popping up to help management companies track and fill their units, often in parallel with real estate agents.

“Buildings in lease-up (filling units for the first time) struggle the most since they can’t rely on referrals of current tenants to fill vacancies.” – Daniel Tewfik, co-founder of Sumu

Let’s use Airbnb as a quick case study. It initially launched to help homeowners connect directly with short-term renters to make money when the property would have otherwise gone unused.

While the service mainly disrupted the travel and hotel market, the platform has scaled to the point that even real estate agents are working with clients to help list their properties on Airbnb for both short-term stays and extended periods.

Another interesting startup in this space is Sumu. It aims to be a version of Airbnb that’s trying to disrupt the long-term rental and buying market.

It’s working with luxury building management teams to list all available units on Sumu’s site. Not only does this help the luxury buildings advertise and fill units quickly and inexpensively, but it also provides a nice online community and a one-stop shop for the client.

Zillow, HotPads and Craigslist will face new competition, and sites such as Sumu have the added bonus of lending credibility to any real estate agent who work exclusively with the site.

It’s important for agents to find their place in this changing landscape. Although these new property management solutions still need agents to show apartments, they will end up edging out the lowest tier of agents (certainly those who don’t utilize new tools). So, here’s what you should be focusing on:

Build your network: Work on growing relationships with building owners, managers and leasing agents, so you can be their preferred real estate agent.

Use established companies in new ways: Airbnb could be a great source of new leads. Once you’re familiar you can offer recommendations to management companies or your clients on how to best use this platform to list their properties. They will be surprised by the knowledge and creativity you bring to the table.

Try new companies: Technology trends change fast. Stay ahead of this by familiarizing yourself with new sites such as Sumu that are working to help customers more easily find apartments.

Focusing on long-term renters or buyers in small apartment buildings and individual homes is one way to sidestep this growing trend — for now.

If you aim to be a real player in the luxury real estate market, forming partnerships with a building’s management team, or directly with companies such as Sumu, can solidify your spot showing these luxury units.

Online strategies for inbound lead generation

Being relied upon for thought leadership is coveted by many and hard-earned by few. Now that infinite knowledge is at our fingertips (assuming our fingertips are hovering over a computer, tablet or smartphone keyboard) the question is: how can you leverage this access to information into growing and maintaining leads?

We’ve got a bright idea for you: inbound marketing.

Being relied upon for thought leadership is coveted by many, and hard-earned by few.

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What is inbound marketing, you ask? It’s an alternative to paid marketing strategies, focused on building customer relationships by creating quality targeted content (blog posts, podcasts, newsletters) before you try and make the hard sell.

HubSpot, the gurus of inbound marketing and sales, simply defines inbound marketing as how you “delight your customers.” This can be as basic as having professional social media accounts that you update regularly with your personal rental or sales accomplishments.

“I cannot emphasize enough how powerful apps like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be. I have received several new leads from my network simply because they noticed I was posting often about my real estate transactions.”  – Boris Sharapan, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Take your inbound marketing a step further than social media by following these steps:

Build a strategy: Customers are fickle but, at the end of the day, you know their needs are the priority. Ask yourself: “What is important to my customers? How do they want to be spoken to? What value can I offer them?” Devising a thoughtful strategy about how to talk to your audience will help you engage them with your content, and turn them into paying customers.

Find your outlets: Blogging and email marketing go hand-in-hand. If you don’t already have a blog, WordPress is one of the more straightforward platforms to learn. You can integrate it with a host of email services including HubSpot and MailChimp. Keep your blog subscribers informed by setting up an RSS campaign to send them clever welcome emails immediately after they join your list.

Do your research: Find inspiration, ideas and subjects you can blog about. Set up a few Google Alerts using relevant keywords. Google will email you news updates straight to your inbox. You can also sign up for the free version of Feedly. Once you subscribe to the appropriate real estate feeds, Feedly will curate the content for you.

Write: Most often this is the true roadblock, but if you’re an experienced real estate agent, chances are you’re already a great communicator. Try subscribing to Neville Mendhora’s newsletter or check out his blog to keep your content fresh. HubSpot also updates its blogs multiple times a day, which can be a great resource to draw inspiration from on style and tone. Don’t worry about long-form blog posts written to optimize for SEO. Informative, succinct material, about 500 words, will land well with your target audience.

Keep your blog subscribers informed by setting up an RSS campaign

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Although blogs have been around since the 1990s, inbound marketing has only become a buzzword in the past few years. Buzzword or not, it’s effective.

Providing additional value to potential customers will prove intuitive once you jump into the above outline. It’s all about showing how knowledgeable and capable you are in the real estate space.

Real estate agents are all about the hustle, and the aforementioned tools are designed to help you grow and manage more leads than you ever could have before.

Mobile apps offer new, powerful communication tools for the modern agent; property management technologies open up exclusive partnership opportunities to help you land profitable clients; and sharing unique content with prospects is easier than ever before.

With technology, clients, and competitors moving forward so quickly, take a page out of Fredrik Eklund’s and John Gomes’s book:

“We are living our lives out loud and we don’t look back as there is so much to see that’s in directly in front of us.” — “Million Dollar Listing” New York’s Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Top real estate agents don’t dismiss or complain about new up-and-coming tools and technologies. These tools are becoming popular for a reason: they make your life easier, and they make you more successful!

So get active about adopting any and all of the tools mentioned here, as well as doing your own additional research for other great resources. The tools are out there waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

If you have questions or any interesting ideas to add to our list, please comment on the article.

Tori Farley is the marketing strategist for Flyp, a Boston-based communications startup. Follow Tori or send her a message on LinkedIn.

Email Tori Farley.

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