by Laura Matiz
Anyone currently working in real estate knows that it is a technology-driven business. Pick up any trade magazine and it's clear that real estate companies differentiate themselves by their technology offerings. Social media, custom apps, tailored ads, websites and blogs are all part of the technology-driven marketing and promotion side of the business. As a broker working in the 21st century, I have to ride that technology wave, but I also like to use simpler technologies that optimize the way I exchange information with my buyers during their apartment search.
There are numerous apps and web sites that offer property search compilations, but I find that they all have a few drawbacks: (1) they require the creation of accounts; (2) some only work on specific devices; and (3) my communication with my buyer is mediated by a third party.
For one-on-one communication, there is email and text messages, but for organizing and exchanging information I use two simple technologies: Google Sheets and BatchGeo. This article, I will explain how I use Google Sheets to help my buyers stay on top of their search. In a follow up article, we'll take a look at the mapping tool, BatchGeo.
Google Sheets for Buyers
Real estate brokers have been using spreadsheets for a long time, primarily Microsoft Excel, a staple of the office software suite. To track my buyer's search I use Google Sheets, part of the free web-based Google Docs service. Because it is web-based, I don't have to worry about Mac versus Windows issues. I settled on Google Sheets because it offers two key features: it allows me to maintain a live document that I can share in multiple ways with my buyer. Let's explore these two points.
A Live Document
A live document or dynamic document allows for continual shared updates by one or more parties, similar to a Wikipedia entry. In a live document, changes I make are immediately available to my buyer. There is no need to exchange static files via email attachments. If you have ever tried to maintain multiple copies of a document and merge changes, you know how tedious that can be. Once you have worked with a live document, it is hard to go back to sharing files via attachments.
The sharing part goes hand-in-hand with the live document. If my buyer has a Google Account, I can share the file so that my buyer can make edits directly on the sheet. Similarly, any changes my buyer makes are also immediately reflected on the sheet. Mostly, I ask my buyers to edit the "Notes" field with their reactions to the different listings. While it is true that my buyer could make destructive edits by mistake, Google Sheets has an archive option where I can return to an earlier version of the file very easily, saving me from any worry. I can also choose to publish the sheet to the web so that it is as a web page. This is useful for quick, on-the-go access, but also useful for my buyers who don't have a Google Account.
Organizing the Search
With Google Sheets, my buyer and I share a (growing) set of rows, each representing an a potential property. I have a custom template with column headers for basic information such as address, price, and maintenance (see image) to get started. I also make use of customizable columns such as a monthly-cost field that takes into account the buyer's down payment and current mortgage rates.
I make liberal use of data sorting to organize the information just right. For example, I use a Status field on which I can sort to separate listings still under consideration from those listings that have been ruled out.
An apartment search can be unnerving and complex for many buyers. Using this simple technology, I help keep my buyers organized and focused on their goal of getting a fabulous new home and investment. It is part of my full-service outlook and support. In Part II of this article, I will describe how I make use of the buyer's Google Sheets data to create custom maps to visualize and plan viewings.