Sussex County realtors are wired for business

December 6, 2012

The Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) helps its 1,551 members from 215 real estate offices stay at least one step ahead of their technology-savvy clients. 

Multiple listing service (MLS) is a given. "Most of the clients I work with already have access to MLS to keep in touch with what's going on in the market," said Trina Joyner of Coldwell Banker Resort Realty, who is 2012 SCAOR president. For those who don't already know, anyone can see listings at www.delmls.com. There are about 4,000 active residential listings. Realtors have access to additional information and are able, for instance, to do a comparative market analysis for their clients.

At its headquarters in Georgetown, which was remodeled in 2009, SCAOR has a facility as diverse as its membership and the community it serves. There is space where an agent can set up a temporary office to meet with clients while on the road, as well as larger rooms for education purposes, complete with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment. Up to 100 students at a time can have access to wifi.

Members — Realtors, brokers and associate brokers — enrolling in continuing education, however, can often take classes online, saving them time and travel.

The public is welcome to use the internal kiosk at the Georgetown office to search for properties. Being "green friendly," SCAOR does not publish or print all listings, but they are readily accessible on the Internet, Joyner explained.

Voting in annual association elections is also done online. E-commerce enables member fee payment and event sign-up. An e-billboard is used to disperse information on home sales figures and local events. The staff uses interoffice instant messaging to communicate in-house.

"We're big on social media," Joyner continued, listing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (a news board that allows people to receive up-do-date information and announcements), all methods of networking to communicate with members and the public. There's even a YouTube channel. SCAOR creates podcasts and has provisions for video conferencing. Discrepancies in the MLS can be immediately, electronically flagged and reported. Through the MLS, Google Chrome — the updated tech version which runs websites and applications with lightning speed — is available so agents can use it for their own businesses.

Joe Maggio is perhaps the most tech-savvy SCAOR member. He was in IT with the government in a previous position. "You need IT to be a good agent. You need a smart phone, a website, Facebook page and blog. Without those tools ... well, 85 percent of buyers find a property online before they even contact a realtor. If you don't have those tools, you'll be left out.

"It's important to know that in order to sell a house in this market or to purchase one, you'd better have a realtor who understands this technology.

"First, (your Realtor) should have a smart phone or smart device like a tablet. It's almost essential to bring a smart device to quickly show a buyer what's available on the market, also to crete a presence on the market for a home (someone) wants to sell."

To find a Realtor, he suggested using technology — Google search, Bing or Yahoo, to see who are the top 10 Realtors in your area. Maggio noted that his own web page has been up for 15 years now so he is "more endearing" to Google. That helps him rank higher in search results, he explained

If you search for Joe Maggio in Delaware, within the first few hits you'll find "Maggio Shields Real Estate Brokerage and Café." The café is not a mistake; it's an actual coffee shop within his real estate office on Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth where visitors can "have their cake and condo, too."

Maggio said, "We're selling homes one expresso at a time — and the food is good here."

His idea was to provide a café where agents could come and go, meet clients, avail themselves of print services or a fax machine and have a good cup of coffee. Locals and tourists alike stop in, and that starts a relationship, Maggio said. Perhaps they'll come back next year and list their house.

"It's a dynamic way of gaining market share. People don't know what to make of us. People don't traditionally just walk into a real estate office, but they do walk into cafés."

Maggio has a Facebook page for his brokerage with 1,500 followers. When he gets a new listing, he posts it on Facebook and they share it with a cadre of their own followers. "That's how we gain high visibility," he said.

A recent Twitter feed pick up by Sotheby's International Realty was retweeted to 20,000 agents. "Imagine that many people looking at a property in a country club," Maggio said. "That type of exposure you won't get with an open house and flyers. Local print is a thing of the past. People love to see their house in the paper, but in truth, everything is happening online.

DocuSign is another innovation. No more couriers running around getting signatures. New software makes it possible to sign and send documents electronically.

A sentry lock program has replaced lock boxes with combinations or picking up a key from a brokerage. Each agent has a card which gives access and, at the same time, logs who has visited the home and when. The wireless device sends a message to the board office upon each visit.

Maggio noted there are two voluntary committees at SCAOR, one on ethics and the other on MLS. The committee has discussed adding new construction. "For a long time we didn't have builders participating with Realtors," he said. "Now we have several builders working with us. We give them a presence on line. We know we need one another. We're helping them sell homes."

Maggio said the board is pretty up to date about the tools available. For example, if you're a buyer, your Realtor can set up a search for you, setting parameters such as cost, type of building, and so forth, and email the link to you. It alerts buyers as to the type of inventory available, and those clients can email their agent asking him or her to set up a showing.

"Almost all agents are using this," Maggio said. "I can't imagine not using it. It just keeps the buyer or seller very aware of what is going on in the market."

The good news is, according to Maggio, that for the first time in a long time inventory is down in small towns at the beach — anything east of Route 1. "And that makes the price go up," he said.

For more information, visit the SCAOR office yourself at 23407 Park Avenue in Georgetown or call (302) 855-2300.

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