How Real Estate Agents Are Using LBS to Connect Buyers and Sellers

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Real estate has always been about “location, location, location,” but that maxim is truer now than ever. Mobile apps and location-based services are increasingly becoming an important part of a real estate agent’s marketing arsenal, and an important part of the way prospective buyers find places to live.

Leveraging the Check-In
Facebook and Foursquare present interesting networking tools for location-based engagement. The ability to know where consumers are via check-ins or to identify others around you presents a great opportunity for real estate professionals.

For agents it presents the ability to broadcast their open houses and other events in real time to a quickly growing base of mobile-engaged users. Best of all, the cost of rolling out campaigns on Facebook or Foursquare is often negligible or even free. And prospective clients that see your updates in real-time can react immediately if they are interested in a property.

Real Estate Advertising on the Rise
“The agent of the near future is likely to be the most socially-savvy, mobile-connected business in town,” stated Borrell Associates’ 2012 Real Estate Advertising Outlook report. The report suggests that targeted display ads will eclipse email to be the primary ad format, making up nearly half (47%) of ad spending, while video advertising will double to 22%. Both ad types are expected to flourish as real-estate advertisers turn to emerging platforms, like social media and mobile, to connect with prospects and improve ROI.

An estimated 62% of real-estate agents maintain a social site, with an average of 535 friends and followers each — a third less than the typical small and medium-sized business. But the local media research firm expects social to play a growing role in advertising.

On the mobile front, agents are early adopters. They are 38% more likely than the average SMB to have used mobile marketing in the past year, and 53% more likely to be planning use before the end of 2012. Falling costs and off-the-shelf solutions should help more realtors establish a mobile presence in the coming years.

The Power of a Code
Xpress Realty, a Milwaukee firm, recently launched Xpress Connect, an online marketing program that incorporates Microsoft Tags (a QR code like feature).  Xpress Connect integrates a number of disparate methods for connecting home sellers and buyers through the Internet via mobile technology. Each property listed for sale in the Xpress Connect program has its own dedicated website, YouTube video feature, and social media listings along with various online advertising opportunities.

The social media marketing platform also offers Microsoft Tag signage through its Smart Sign program, directing customers scanning the Microsoft Tag directly to the property’s unique website. It’s location-based marketing at its finest.

Another company, FloorPlanOnline, offers an iPad app that allows potential homebuyers to interact with properties before they view them in person. Users scan a dedicated QR code that then links interested parties to the FloorPlanOnline sample tour. Homebuyers can then view floor plans, photos, videos, and more.

The app works on any tablet device, not just the iPad, and can also be accessed via the Internet. The company also offers advice for listing agents on how to maximize the experience for your property, and offers a scannable QR code directing to a sample tour. Integrating Microsoft Tags and QR codes allows real estate firms to create an online presence for their properties and reach potential buyers all over the globe with a single click or scan.

Layering Data on Maps and Beyond
UK-based is all about enriching the consumer’s experience via a mobile handset. Users of the mobile offering can open an augmented reality app on their iPhone, and by looking through their viewfinder at buildings directly around them, see property information is displayed on screen such as price, direction and distance from the user’s location.

Lastly, there’s PadMapper an apartment rental search engine in the market with over a million visitors each month. PadMapper’s offers real time filtering and a unique browser interface that displays apartment listings as the user moves around a full screen map. Zooming into the map loads more listings in that area, zooming out broadens the search. Listings are filtered out or allowed back into the results as filter sliders are moved. PadMapper delivers apartment listings from hundreds of Internet listing and classified sites, assuring its users a robust search experience.

No matter your choice, check-ins via Foursquare or Facebook, QR codes on your signage or augmented reality property finders, mobile and location based tools can no longer be ignored as valuable tools for the real estate marketing professional.

Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.