Top 5 Realtor Apps

Top 5 time saving apps for realtors

Realtors are a busy bunch. Sales, marketing, project management, and even some accounting to keep on top of those expenses are all part of a long, continuous to do list. To make sure you’re spending more of your time working on your business, rather than in your business, we’ve rounded up some of the best apps available to maximize your time, systemize your tasks, and get you in control of your day.  Here are our recommendations:

1. Boca Video

boca mobile

This slick little app is an entire production studio in your pocket. A virtual walk through is a must for most homebuyers, and Boca Video lets you represent your properties in style. Boca Video lets you capture and import photos, layer captions and voiceovers over the images and then merge everything into a top quality video. You can edit within the app and add filters to individual photos for visual continuity. In addition to sharing instantly on Facebook, Dropbox, Youtube or via email, you can also embed the final product on your personal website or into an individual listing. Cost: Free with in-app purchases

2. Mileage Log +

MileageLog+

Mileage Log+ is the evolution of an old favourite, Trip Cubby. This iteration of the app is optimized for the latest version of iOS. It has a clean interface and various useful features, such as frequent trips for drives you make often, predictive text for faster entry, and grouping options that let you sort trips in a way that works best for you. Best of all, it syncs with Dropbox so if you need to edit details from the comfort of your laptop or do some formatting to a report before submitting your expenses, you’re not tied to your phone screen.

Cost: $9.99

3. Evernote

evernote

Evernote is an app we cannot recommend enough. This app is the Cadillac of taking notes on the go. Anything from receipts to business cards to photos, and even handwritten notes can be filed away in this digital filing cabinet. You can assign relevant tags to each note for easy reference and you can even search inside of photos and documents by keyword. Yes, really, it’s that good. A novel application of this for realtors is to keep a Notebook for each neighbourhood you service. It’s hard to keep track of all your intel: restaurant openings, school catchment boundaries, community initiatives. Keep on top of what’s happening in each part of town with Evernote and give your clients the freshest information available. Check out Evernote’s own “5 Ways to Use Evernote with Your Buyers” guide for more ideas. Evernote offers a mobile, a cloud based and a desktop solution, so you can even access it offline if needed.

Cost: $0.00 – $10.00/month

4. AwayFind

AwayFind

Do you hover over your email inbox compulsively hitting the refresh key or mindlessly sliding your thumb down the screen of your email app? Riddled with anxiety about missing out on something extremely important or impatiently waiting for a reply to an email you sent out? Yeah, we all do that. AwayFind is an app that gets you away from your inbox and lets “urgent emails cut through the clutter, and find YOU.” Highly customizable, you can set alerts based on a number of variables including time frame and the email author.  AwayFind syncs to your calendar to ensure you don’t miss or show up to a meeting that’s been rescheduled because the notification is buried somewhere in your 567 unopened emails. This smart app also recommends people to “follow” based on your historical response time to their emails. As an agent, this means you can set up AwayFind to text, call, send you a push notification or a pop up on your desktop if a critical email, such as time-sensitive legal documents, or a hot lead lands in your inbox. You must sign up for the service through their website, and once you do, download the app. The cost varies from $5-$15 a month for personal and pro use, and each tier of the plan comes with a 30 day free trial.

Cost: $5.00 – $15.00 per month

5. Keycafe

Keycafe - Key Exchange Simplified.

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Keycafe, which we admit, we’re quite partial to. KeyCafe for realtors lets you manage home access to multiple properties all over town with just a few taps and swipes of your home screen. It saves times and money for busy agents and helps you cement relationships in the communities where you do your work. If you haven’t yet, check out our article on how Keycafe lets realtors work smarter and this post about the merits of using KeyCafe vs. traditional lockboxes.

Cost: $0.00 to $12.00 per month/key To try it out, register for Keycafe here.

Did you find this article helpful? Are there any apps you can’t imagine your life without? Tweet us at @key_cafe.

Keycafe-did-i-turn-the-stove-off

Did I turn the stove off?

Some version of this panicked thought has flashed through everyone’s mind at least once. Did I close the window? Did I let the cat back in? Did I lock the door?!

Whether it’s on the drive to the office or on a plane out of town for three weeks, we’ve all wished that a neighbour or a friend could just pop by and check in on the place.

When we conceived Keycafe our goal was to service Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway hosts with a solution to the most cumbersome yet the most essential part of the process – handing off the keys. Trains run late, cars break down, emergencies happen and lo and behold, your guest is locked out of the place you promised they’d have in the city. What a hassle.

What we’ve learned along the way is that access to your home and a safe and secure key exchange method has much wider applications than we envisioned when we first dreamed up the idea. And the people who showed us just how diverse our service could be are our early adopters here in Gastown, our home base.

The Realtor

A local real estate agent has deployed keys at locations throughout Vancouver and North Vancouver. He is able to be at a personal showing at the Lonsdale Quay, while letting in another realtor to show one of his properties in Coal Harbour. He has let us know that Keycafe saves hours of driving time and stress each and every day.

The Frequent Flyer

One of our clients, Philip, a local photographer, has people coming and going from his studio on a regular basis. Cleaning crew, collaborators, and business associates regularly need access to his space and last year he had to FedEx his keys from Toronto just so his assistant could stop by and grab a file. Now he has a set permanently parked at a local coffee shop and wherever he is in the world, he knows who is in his apartment, when they got there, and when they left.

Sharing Spaces

Jeff, a gym owner, has a set that lets numerous personal trainers use his space whenever they book clients. No need for complicated coordination and flurries of text messages to figure out if he is around to let them in, and no need to have 10 sets of keys floating around between everyone who might need access on short notice. From the feedback we’ve had, safety, security and trackability have consistently been the most valuable aspects of the service.

No Booking Left Behind

Another favourite story is from Kathryn who had an her apartment listed on Airbnb. A prospective guest was looking to book that evening. The notification arrived as she was halfway down to Seattle, a solid two hour drive from home. In the past, this would have meant driving back or turning down the request to host the traveller. Having a set of keys waiting for the person to arrive while she herself was out of town didn’t just allow her accept the booking, it saved her precious time.

We love hearing these stories, it’s very gratifying. If you have an experience to share, please email us at stories@keycafe.com. If you’d like to try Keycafe out for yourself, you can register here in minutes.

Keycafe-Vancouver-realtors

Vancouver Realtors, Work Smarter!

The Vancouver real estate market is always hustling and bustling, and it’s not about to slow down.  We’ve got the mountains and the ocean in our backyard, the rainforest and the ski slopes. Who wouldn’t want to make Vancouver their permanent home?

With over 7000 realtors operating in just the Vancouver area, the best and the brightest are always on the lookout for technology that will make them faster, better and more effective.

Time Makes Money

Real estate agents are solopreneurs. While a brokerage or a head office might assist with marketing and branding guidelines, much of how the daily workflow is managed is up to the agent herself. It’s up to her to optimize her time, make an impression and network in her community and serve her current clients’ needs, all in a day’s work.

Whether it’s a subscription based real estate website solution or an intuitive lead management system, every bit of technology that lets a realtor squeeze more time out of the day puts her steps ahead of the competition.

Remote Customer Service

Keycafe for realtors does just that. Home access management usually involves driving all over town to accommodate requests by prospective buyers to see a property on their schedule. Flexibility is both advantageous and courteous. But have you tried to get from South Cambie to Edgemont Village at 3pm on a Thursday? On short notice? It takes awhile.

Most buyers, especially first time buyers, appreciate the freedom to check out a property at their leisure. With Keycafe their realtor can get access to the listed properties keys quickly and efficiently. By picking the keys up at a nearby cafe, realtors can also show off the neighbourhood surrounding their listings.

Some real estate agents manage key access via lockboxes. While that’s certainly a more secure option than leaving a set under the doormat – it doesn’t afford you trackability and real-time knowledge of if and when a potential client is taking a look at a condo. It’s also very difficult to do in a dense metropolitan area such as Gastown or Downtown.

The time saved, the security guaranteed and the novelty of the experience for the prospective buyers are all great benefits.

Above and Beyond with One Little Step

Keycafe recently partnered with Waves Coffee, which means our service is accessible in nearly every neighbourhood in Vancouver. What separates a good realtor from a great one? The element of surprise and delight. Try out Keycafe to see how you can save time and increase the number times your listings can be shown in a day.

KeycafeFob-realtor

Home Access Management for Realtors – Lockbox vs. Keycafe

Logistics, logistics, logistics – ask anyone running a business or working for one, a lot of time is lost or mismanaged in an effort to run a mean, lean, efficient machine. From the Kaizen philosophy to the Pareto Principle, sustainable success comes down to utilizing great tools properly.

Lockboxes have long dominated the market for realtors. They are not without their advantages of course, but we believe the system could be improved. This is a quick summary of what problems we tackled with the Keycafe solution.

For the Realtor
For realtors, there are a number of further benefits.

Control: Modern lockbox access is managed through a keycard coded to a lockbox, which can be conveniently placed in your wallet. However, keycard validation is mostly managed at head office, which means that even if it wasn’t on your radar that day, in order to show your listings and do your work you have to go into the office to re-activate your card. Wireless capability is available, but additional equipment is required. Some offices collaborate on re-validation, but a trip is still necessary. Some systems offer 24 hour pass codes without the need for a card as a workaround solution, but this still amounts to a lot of administrative work, coordination with multiple people, and a high chance of communication breakdown.

Sounds complicated? It is.

With Keycafe, once the keys are in the system at a Keycafe location, your phone is the only tool you need.

Where Are the Keys: The feature realtors love most is real-time tracking. Lockbox systems provide data on when a box was accessed through the cards we mentioned earlier. However, that data needs to be downloaded, and weeks can go by without anyone reviewing it. With Keycafe the reporting is instant – you know precisely if and when your listing has been shown and can take action accordingly.

No Hardware Required: Another huge disadvantage of lockboxes is that they are not optimized for apartment buildings in a dense urban area. You can’t exactly hang it on the front door of a condo tower on Robson Street, so many agents get creative. And by creative we mean:

Courtesy http://www.torontorealtyblog.com/archives/lockbox-lament/2165

Courtesy http://www.torontorealtyblog.com/archives/lockbox-lament/2165

Then, there is the management of lockboxes. As a realtor with a stacked schedule, leaving a lockbox behind is not unheard of, and it leads to scenes like this:

Courtesy http://www.torontorealtyblog.com/archives/lockbox-lament/2165

Courtesy http://www.torontorealtyblog.com/archives/lockbox-lament/2165

Aside from being a pretty aggressive form of littering, it’s unsightly, unprofessional and wasteful.

A streamlined process cuts out all of these headaches. We’re not gonna lie, we’re very excited to offer a solution to realtors that lets them work smarter and faster. If there’s an easier way to manage home access than stopping by your neighbourhood coffee shop, we haven’t figured it out yet! Find out more about Keycafe here..

P.S. For further reading, check out this hilarious article by Toronto realtor David Fleming about his lockbox experience.

The Rise of the Sharing Economy

SharingEconomy

Why dive deep into your pockets to pay for something when you can rent it at a much lower cost from somebody online?  Sharing is fast becoming a global business trend as people all over the world are using the Internet to share all manner of goods from cars, bikes, and tools, to clothes, couches, and apartments.

This is the sharing economy, also known as peer-to-peer marketplaces or collaborative consumption. The central tenant is that access to tools, goods, and services is more important than actually owning them.  It’s being driven by a combination of factors: the global economic crisis, environmental concerns about producing too much stuff, the rise of social media, and sheer common sense practicality.

Sharing of course is not a new idea; it is a basic human activity. But what has changed is that it can now be done on a massive scale.

We are used to such classic forms of sharing as libraries and video stores.  But these are fast fading into the background as individuals can easily share their property and possessions with the help of the web.

Benefits of the Sharing Economy

There are numerous benefits: it promotes a flexible lifestyle, there is less financial outlay, and relationships can form between people who wouldn’t have met otherwise.   For the consumer, sharing is an efficient way of getting the things you want when you want them.

The sharing economy is also unlocking the value in things we already have and in some cases where none previously existed.  For example, a depreciating asset such as a car can now be a source of income for the owner.

The environment can come out a big winner too.  By sharing more we ultimately produce fewer things which results in less waste and lower carbon emissions. Resources are finite and there’s more than enough to go round.

The sharing economy faces one challenge that vexes and concerns many people, and that is trust.  Will someone trash my home, steal my possessions or damage my car?  These are of course legitimate fears, and whilst there are no industry security standards most sharing communities are self-policing and many sharing platforms have security measures in place.  Most, if not all require detailed profiles of both parties and some have community rating systems, similar to how people rate sellers on eBay.

Sharing Platforms

The poster child of the sharing scene is Airbnb.  Founded in 2008, it allows people to rent out their apartment when they’re not in use.  Whilst people have been renting their primary residences and vacation homes for years, Airbnb removed many of the logistical problems to make it a streamlined and cost-effective process.

Other popular companies on the sharing scene include Car2go a car sharing platform in North American and European cities. Wheelz allows you to rent cars from people in your neighbourhood, lyft is on-demand ride sharing, and TaskRabbit connects you with people in your district who will do jobs and errands for you.

The Key to Sharing

There’s no doubt about it the sharing economy is picking up steam, but one of the things that is missing is keys. They are fundamental to many of the things we do and share.  You need keys to unlock cars, homes, bikes, and storage facilities.

When it comes to sharing homes with strangers arranging for the pickup and drop off of keys can be an irritating process.  You arrange a time, but have to wait around for ages as people get caught up in traffic and turn up late. Or you risk your valuable by leaving keys under a doormat, or rock in the front yard.  Thieves love it when people do this.

Step in Keycafe, a new company on the sharing scene that is solving these problems.  The service is easy to use.  If people need access to your home whether it’s visitors, family or friends you can attach your keys to the NFC enabled keychain and then drop them off at a participating café.  Your guests pick them up at any time and maybe grab a coffee in the process.  It’s convenient for you and them.  For visitors to your neighbourhood, what better introduction to an area than dropping into a local coffee bar.

Win-Win Scenario

Sharing is contagious and it’s moving us all toward a place where we waste less and utilize our assets more.  It also brings people and societies closer together. Sharing is a win-win situation all round that will help to create a fairer and more sustainable world.

How NFC is Changing Our Lives

nfcBlog

Meet the three letters that are heralding a revolution in the way we shop, pay, and commute – NFC. They stand for near field communication, a smart piece of technology that can turn our cell phones into wallets and may make purses, credit cards, and cash redundant.

But that’s not all.  NFC is much bigger than just being a smart new payment system.  In the near-term at least it allows us to interact better with our physical environment.  NFC-enabled devices can pull information off tags on objects, thereby bridging the gap between digital and physical worlds. We become hyperlinked to our surroundings.

The aim is to make our lives more convenient by improving how we make transactions, connect to devices, and exchange content.

The Next Big Thing

For years NFC has been the next big thing. Even though it’s fitted as standard in most smartphones, consumers have yet to take it to heart.  However, according to many within the mobile industry that will soon change.

That’s largely due to the technology’s many possible applications.  These include mobile payment, data transfer, ticketing, key cards, electronic identity documents, and access to information.

What is NFC?

The core technology is simple – it’s a short range wireless link, using radio frequencies. It enables small packets of data to be shared between two NFC-enabled devices over a distance of less than 10 centimeters.

From a user’s perspective an NFC device has two components – a reader and a tag.  A tag can contain information, such as text, maps, and URLS. And a reader is exactly that.

Unlike other mobile communications technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, NFC can communicate with non-powered devices.  There are three operational modes:

Tag Read/Write – your device can communicate with tags on posters or products.

Peer-to-peer – two NFC-enabled devices generate their own RF (radio frequency) fields allowing them to exchange data.

Secure Card Emulation – this supports a ‘secure element’ allowing a mobile phone to be used to pay for goods and services.

The promise and potential of this relatively new technology is proving to be an ideal ground for start-ups, with new companies emerging all the time.  Here are just a couple of examples:

Tapestry is a UK-based start-up that is currently piloting its Tapestry app in a Diesel store in West London.  Shoppers tap their cell phones on NFC stickers on clothes and digital content about the item such as photos and sizing and color are displayed on the app. In this way shoppers are able to create a wish list of items.

Social Passport marries social media with NFC to allow users to instantly like, follow, and check-in with their phone when they visit a store.  All they do is tap the phone against a store window or signage.  Additionally, they can be rewarded with coupons on deals for using social media.  The advantage for retailers is that they can get real-time access to consumers’ social media networks and therefore communicate deals to a much larger audience.

Ubiquitous Technology?

NFC technology is still largely in the trial phase, but according to ABI research it will be commonplace by the year 2017.  By then, the technology market research firm predicts that 395 million devices will be NFC enabled.  In other words it will be everywhere.

Best practices for Managing Your Next Airbnb Guest in Gastown, Vancouver

Managing your next Airbnb Guest

Your guests are out of towners, possibly strangers in an unfamiliar city.  They’ve read about our fantastic neighborhood, seen pictures of the steam clock and heard about gassy jack and our legendary warmth.  But they don’t know the area.

As an Airbnb host you have a wonderful opportunity to live up to our friendly reputation by giving them a stellar experience.  Here are a few tips and suggestions:

Build a rapport – get in touch with your guests before they turn up. Introduce yourself and ask them if there is anything if they need anything in particular.  This will make them feel at ease and more comfortable when they arrive.

Provide a warm greeting – when your guests show up, buy them a coffee at your favorite Gastown coffee bar and give them a rundown of the neighborhood.

Use Keycafe – if you’re not around when your guests arrive, consider using Keycafe.  It’s a safe and convenient way to get your keys to your guests.  Just secure your keys at a participating Keycafe location, use the online app to assign access to your upcoming guest during their stay.  Your guest will then be able to pick up the keys and let themselves in at a time that is convenient to them.

Provide a guide to your home – you can navigate your apartment, condo or house with a blindfold.  But your guests will need some help with the lay of the land.   Does the bathroom window jam and need an extra push to open it?  Will a fuse blow if the toaster and television are on at the same time?  What day is the garbage collected?  Write down every peculiarity so that your guests are fully informed.

Create a guide about Gastown – give your guests the inside track on what’s great about Gastown.  Include the addresses and telephone numbers of your favourite restaurants and haunts.  You could also add maps, bus timetables, and guidebooks.  Your aim is to create an accurate and informative picture of the area.

Leave some storage space – most likely you don’t like clutter, and that’s probably true of your guests too.  Ensure they have some adequate space to store their clothes and belongings.

Keep in touch – email, text or phone your guests to make sure everything is going well for them.  Don’t worry this isn’t harassment, not unless you call them every hour.  Airbnb is a community and a little bit of contract demonstrates that you care about your guests.  Be available.  This all helps to create trust.

Prepare your home – before your guests arrive have a thorough clean and declutter.  Make sure there are clean towels and toilet paper.

Provide some free stuff – a freebie is just about as welcoming as it gets.  Depending on the length of stay consider providing a jar of coffee and some teabags, or even a toiletries kit. Perhaps you could leave a nice bottle of wine for their first night.

Go the Extra Mile

Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and go above and beyond the call.  Under promise and over deliver to make your home one of the most enjoyable parts of their trip to Gastown.

Digital Technologies are the Key to Your Home

key-to-your-home-small

The ubiquitous door key has served us well for centuries, but there are some who believe it’s looking distinctly passé and that a raft of innovations could eventually make it redundant.  Pockets, wallets and purses may soon be getting lighter as these shaped pieces of metal disappear, to be replaced by a technology that merges smartphone innovations with traditional door locks.

Advances in the digital lock space are already familiar to many of us who open our car doors remotely with a key fob, or wave a card over an electronic pad to get into the office.

Key-Free Convenience

Now these enhancements are moving into the home.  From a user’s perspective the technology is simplicity itself.  A smartphone app can send signals through the Internet to a converter box by a door knob or deadbolt. Then all you have to door is touch the lock and the door opens.

As most people possess a cell phone and have it with them 24/7, a large number of firms are entering the digital lock space to develop concepts and products.  Among the most prominent companies are Lockitron and UniKey.

In addition to the convenience of not having to fumble in your pockets for keys, there are a number of fascinating features.  If you have visitors staying with you, they can be sent a text message that contains the key to your house.  It can be revoked at any time and you can also place limits on how many virtual keys are issued.  Cleaners, gardeners and service personnel you may employ can be sent keys that are only valid for specific hours.

However, it’s not quite game over for keys as these systems provide a physical key just in case of problems.

Digital lock innovations are particularly useful for people who rent out their homes through services such as Airbnb.  They can save them the hassle of having to make lots of physical copies of keys and arranging to leave them with guests.

Drawbacks

However, as fabulous as all this sounds there are some drawbacks. The key is likely to be around for some time yet.  First of all, digital locks can actually be quite cumbersome to use. There are buttons to be pushed to connect to the service, and problems if batteries drain and cell phones lose power.  Then there is the cost of installing the converter box.  This may be prohibitive to some consumers who nonetheless want the convenience of a digital lock.

Three Cheers for Keycafe

Here in Gastown, Vancouver, Keycafe provides all the benefits of digital locks, but with none of the expense or fuss. There are zero upfront costs, no machinery to install, and our technology is compatible with existing keys.

If you are renting out your place you just simply attach your keys to our nifty NFC-enabled key chain and drop them off to a participating café.  Then you pop online for a minute to give visitors permission to pick up the keys.  When they do you’ll receive an update by SMS. It’s a cost-effective and advantageous marriage of digital and traditional.