Real Estate Webmasters report on the industry.
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The VR experience on Vision is going to the next level in the latest REW CRM release.
Enhanced listings can now feature fully stereoscopic images and videos—taking your site visitors deeper into the places and properties they love.
Virtual reality is an emerging technology that is rapidly becoming more accessible and expected in the real estate industry. Property seekers today have increasing time and affordability constraints that make property purchases a high stakes game.
By employing VR, agents can help buyers choose which properties to view in person or make better decisions from afar without an in-person inspection. For sellers, VR offers another opportunity to create an emotional attachment between potential buyers and their property, increasing the chances of multiple offers.
Real Estate Webmasters is the first company to offer Virtual Reality capability out-of-the-box on our Vision website. We have made it easy to do by employing 360 photography and Google’s VR platform.
It really couldn’t be easier. All it takes to capture these wonderfully immersive images is your smartphone and a free iOS or Android app. For a higher resolution experience, a relatively inexpensive 360-degree camera such as the Ricoh Theta can be used to capture fully VR photos.
Once uploaded to your site, these 360 VR images can be viewed from most virtual reality device, including Google cardboard or any VR headset.
How Does It Work?
Uploading this next-level content to your website is virtually as easy as 1, 2, 3.
The best part of Vision’s new VR experience is it won’t require you to purchase any special equipment whatsoever. Although you can use a 360-degree camera like the Ricoh Theta to capture higher resolution photos and videos, you can capture VR photos simply and easily using your smartphone.
All you’ll need is your phone’s camera and free app called Cardboard Camera, available for free from either the iOS app store or Google Play Store. You can even convert existing 360-degree photos into an immersive and stereoscopic virtual experience.
- Create the Image
Download the free Cardboard Camera app, available for both IOS & Android devices and take a 360 photo using the app
- Convert the Image
Use Google’s conversion tool to create a stereo 360 image
- Upload the Photo to Your Enhanced Listings In the REW CRM
Enable 360 Image under the Google Card VR Setting section of an enhanced listing and upload the image you created using Google Cardboard camera.
That enhanced listing will now display a VR goggle icon right next to the “View Gallery” link near the top of your enhanced listing. Upon clicking that link, your leads will be transported to an interactive, virtual representation of your listing.
It’s that easy!
06/29/2018 05:22 PM
Look out for some exciting improvements coming to how leads can be prioritized in the REW CRM.
At Real Estate Webmasters, our goal has always been to make following up with your most valuable leads as quick and intuitive as possible. We want you to spend your time on the highest quality leads that are most likely to engage with you.
As part of the upcoming 2018 Spring C REW CRM update, we’re introducing two brand new ways for you to sort leads, so you can get in touch with your website’s hottest leads first.
The new update will allow you to arrange your website’s leads from highest to lowest based on two advanced metrics: Score and Value.
But how will Lead Score and Lead Value change the way I view my leads? We’re glad you asked!
A lead’s score ranks your leads based on how likely they are to be engaged with you or your company.
Lead score is calculated using a series of factors based on the lead’s activity on your website and the quality of the information they’ve provided. These factors include:
- Number of returning visits
- Number of viewed listings
- Number of favorite listings
- Number of saved searches
- Number of inquiries
- Is the phone provided valid?
- Was the lead agent added?
- What is the average price of the listings viewed
The first 5 are based on lead activity while the last 3 are based on lead attributes.
Additionally, the administrator is able to assign how much weight is given each one of these factors on a scale of 0 to 10, based on which lead activities you or your team values most.
The weight of the lead score factors can be adjusted in the CRM’s Lead Manager Settings, under Lead Score Settings.
As the lead score is meant to capitalize on the most engaged leads of your website and the hottest leads, the score will naturally degrade over time, starting 3 days after a lead has first registered.
Lead value is the median listing price of the properties viewed by the lead This metric sorts your leads based on the value of the properties they are searching for.
So you’ll now be able to sort your leads by those looking for the highest-value homes first.
The value is calculated based on the median price of all viewed listings, and will be generated as soon as more than one listing is viewed by a lead.
For example, if a lead views 3 listings priced at $300,000, $600,000, and $800,000, that lead will be assigned a value of $600,000. This information will only be available for leads active within the last hour.
Both the Score and Value sort options will be accessible from the top of your REW CRM lead manager screen.
Now get to work converting those high-quality and engaged leads into happy clients.
06/29/2018 05:22 PM
It’s time for another platform update, REW’s third release of the Spring. This update brings with it some dramatic enhancements as well as another series of requested fixes to our web products. We’ve committed to ensuring your REW CRM, Vision design, and REW mobile apps keep getting better, and I’m excited to share that our product development team have bundled your most requested changes into this release.
Here are some of the biggest updates you’ll see over the next few days:
Newly Designed Leads Manager
We’ve totally revamped how the REW CRM leads manager works by streamlining the interface so that it puts the most relevant information and actions at your fingertips. Though you can still dig deeper into the details of a particular lead if you desire, our goal was to make it easier for clients who make data-driven decisions to view, sort, and prioritize leads according to their needs.
The new leads manager features a cleaner look that displays contact information, your communication history, and lead search history, all on the same page. Leads can now be instantly sorted by score, value or the last time you interacted with them. Additionally, you can add quick notes for you and your team, log calls, send email, or text directly from this screen making the new leads manager a powerful ally when it comes to simplifying your workflow.
Whether you are working with ten or ten thousand leads, it’s important to be able to quickly browse and organize visitors to your site. That’s why we’ve also introduced a new filter function that allows you to call up the leads you’re looking for directly from the lead manager screen.
When you click the magnifying glass in the upper right corner, a fly-out menu now appears that allows you to filter using dozens of criteria. Want to see leads assigned to a particular agent or lender? Looking for leads that come from pay-per-click sources? Trying to call up only leads with verified email addresses? Would it be helpful to know your leads came from your branded IDX app? You now can display only the leads you want with a few simple clicks. Other options include joined date, current lead status, action plans, subscriptions, search preferences, lead activity, and many more.
Another time-saving addition to the REW CRM is the ability to take action on multiple leads at the same time. By using the new multi-select tool, you can assign more than one lead at a time to a group or action plan. You can also delete unwanted leads in a single step, and you can even send an email to a group of people. When used in conjunction with the new filters and other features of the new leads manager, this is a game changer.
Stereoscopic 360° Support for Vision
Vision was designed to help you make a powerful first impression with the introduction of high-resolution visuals, including 360° photos, videos, and panoramas. Less than a year later, your Vision site now supports true stereoscopic 360 images right out of the box. When used in conjunction with Google Cardboard or Google Daydream, this enhancement allows you to easily showcase properties and stand out from the competition.
Stereoscopic 360° in Vision is definitely “see it to believe it” territory, but you can imagine the possibilities: when added to your enhanced listings, these images allow users to look around in virtual space. In doing so, they’ll be getting a better sense of what it’s like to be in a room, and they can check out a great view or inspect minor details that might go unnoticed in traditional real estate photo graphy. If you’ve been looking for a way for your prospects and Clients to explore properties remotely, this is it: a cutting-edge addition to the Vision’s VR capabilities.
Best of all, it’s very, very easy and requires no special equipment to set up. If you have a cell phone, you can implement stereoscopic 360° images on your site today.
REW IDX App Updates
Available on Android and iOS, the newly redesigned REW IDX App is a great tool for clients who want to create a branded app for their business. This update focuses on improving your clients’ experiences by introducing a number of popular features.
We’ve also added three features that will increase user engagement with your REW IDX App. First, people can now drag-and-drop to rank properties on their favorites list depending on what they like best. This tool is easy and fun to use, and it encourages your clients to think about your app as their resource during their home search.
We’ve also added the ability to turn on push notifications for favorited listings whenever there’s a price or status change. And, finally, the much-anticipated introduction of Google Street View for iOS allows people to see all properties right from their mobile device, and the image pans as they move their phone around.
REW CRM & Vision Template
The third spring release closed 75 tickets with Vision, the REW CRM, and REW Apps. These tickets include a variety of new features and optimization as well as dozens of bug fixes and resolutions to client-facing issues. As always, we’ve taken your suggestions into consideration, and all updates reflect your feedback.
Here are some of the more notable updates with this release:
- Your site can now instantly send an email to a lead after a saved search has been created.
- REW CRM now includes Google Analytics reporting.
- Site logos can now be installed directly from the backend, with separate uploaders for the header, footer, and cover pages.
We have even more exciting enhancements planned in the upcoming months, including the official launch of Discover, so keep reading this blog.
If you have any questions about this release, please ask in the comments below!
06/29/2018 05:20 PM
Virtual Reality is here, is your company ready to take advantage?
I was just looking through some of the websites of real estate companies I admire, but don’t serve ,since we are in the technology business, and I was amazed at how many great companies have substandard websites. Most, but not all, are at least responsive now, but beyond that many designs are so dated and the user interface is so cumbersome and they just look old. Today, the truth is, if your website is more than 3 years old , it is old?
Technology and design is changing exponentially today and companies today need to understand that websites should be looked at like a three year car lease. When you lease a new car, you know it’s only for the term of the lease, you don’t even own it. With a website it’s really the same thing. You don’t buy a website, really, you just pay someone to create it so you can use it for a couple of years knowing, from day one that it’s life span is limited and it will need to be upgraded. Unfortunately many companies don’t upgrade their sites and their brand suffers.
Exponential Change and Game Changers
When we talk about exponential change in technology we aren’t exaggerating in the least. Hardware is getting smaller, faster and less expensive, bandwidth is increasing and things that seemed like futuristic dreams a few years ago are now a realty. These are game changers and like the fax, email or the Internet, if you aren’t prepared to make them part of your business technology, you are going to be playing catchup or losing altogether. One of these Game Changers today is Virtual Reality. All you have to do to believe this is to look at who is investing heavily in the future of VR.
Facebook purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014 and now Oculus VR headsets are some of the most popular n the market with more being introduced in the last few months. Besides Oculus, Facebook has invested heavily in VR technology and rolled out its own VR hangout called “Spaces” though the reviews I have read aren’t too great, just yet. That said, is there any doubt the hiccups will be ironed out? I don’t think so, VR is here to stay!
Other companies like Sony and Nvidia, big in the gaming industry are also full in along with many others, but we are in the real estate industry and is there any technology more suited to our industry than Virtual Reality? VR was made for real estate, which is why Morgan Carey, CEO/Owner of Real Estate Webmasters, created the first VR site for real estate, “The Vision Site”.
Virtual Realty and REW – How’s it Work?
The best things in technology are simple to use and that is true for REW’s Vision and Discover website frameworks. They allow users to have VR imaging on their sites on both pages or for their own listings and there is nothing difficult about it.
With VR images you can use VR goggles, your mobile phone or just your mouse to move around in all directions.
You can see an example of VR on “The Vision Site”. Go to the site with your mobile phone and just move your phone around to look around the example. Or, if you are on your Mac or PC, just use your mouse to move around the room. Of course it works best with VR googles!
Note that all REW sites can be designed to your specifications. Here are a couple of examples of sites that are using the Vision framework, that chose video or still images for their home page, but they all still can use VR on their listings, single property sites or change the home page anytime they want.
360 degree cameras now can be bought for less than $500 and VR images can be uploaded onto the REW system in seconds, just like any other image and instead of a static image, slide show or even a video (though all are supported on the REW sites) users can use a headset or just their mouse to move anywhere they want on the VR image.
VR at REW Summit a Big Hit!
Recently, at the REW Summit held in Toronto this year, we had an exciting presentation by the CEO of Immoviewer (https://www.immoviewer.com/), Jeff Turner, where he created a VR video while he was talking at our event and posted it on Facebook live as he was giving the presentation…pretty amazing, but what’s even better is the REW websites are fully compatible with immoviewer. So while you can take a VR image and add it your home page or listings in a snap, with a product like immoviewer you can create full house video tours in minutes and also create floor plans automatically. The key though, is having web technology that will enable you to take advantage of VR without having to link out to another site to view it on their platform.
REW and Virtual Realty
REW has been an innovator since it was founded in 2004. We were the first to have responsive websites and now, even our backend CRM system (REW CRM) is fully responsive. We are leading the way in Virtual Realty as well which means that companies who use REW now have the power to incorporate multiple media options on their site and their listings, including 360 degree, VR images as well as videos, tours and slide shows and they can take advantage of these same media tools when they create Single Property Websites. Single Property Websites are included with our framework at no extra cost. The example behind the link in the previous sentence shows a VR image on the main Single Property Website page and then a full gallery of still images. The example above is a VR image on a property as it would look on an IDX search result. The left and right arrows show there are also additional gallery images! 360 images like this are truly impressive and valuable to consumers and will set your company apart with online viewers that come to your site.
Another game changer introduced by REW in the last 12 months is REW CRM. Our CRM platform is first and foremost an attractive, fully mobile design that is easy for the average agent to use while providing outstanding tools to service their clients. What else do you need?
The biggest issue for real estate companies and technology is getting their age nts to actually use it. We understand and have spent many years creating a platform that makes it fun and easy for agents to use and get results from their technology on their phone, iPad or computer.
REW CRM has way too much for us to detail in this article but in addition to the VR and the media tools already mentioned it comes with a full CMS system, CRM, Drip Marketing, Lead Management, Action Plans, Task Manager, Calendar, Blog and more. We will be happy to give you a tour at your convenience.
To learn more about our Virtual Realty websites and REW CRM technology, please contact us at your convenience. We will be attending the INMAN San Francisco conference, and would be happy to set up an in-person meeting. We can also set up an online demo and call at your convenience.
We look forward to speaking with you.
For more information or to set up a meeting with myself or Deirdre LePera at the upcoming INMAN conference, please contact us.Michael Audet VP Enterprise 716.984.9009 firstname.lastname@example.org Deirdre LePera Enterprise Business Development Manager 562.682.6047 lepera.deirdre!realestatewebmasters.com
06/27/2018 06:16 PM
To find out exactly what our latest site design is all about, I interviewed two of the clever minds behind Discover. Designer Brendan Katernick and developer Evan Seabrook tell all about the making of Discover.
Q: How would you describe the style of the new website? Who do you think it will appeal to?
Brendan – The Discover site builds on our design for Vision with some more modern enhancements. I think it will appeal to single agents and smaller teams because it will provide them with a feature set that will allow them to compete with some of the larger corporate sites.
Evan – I agree. It's built on past sites such as the Fredrik and Vision, but because of the new product work that's gone into it, it feels more cutting edge. In terms of appeal, I think more about the intent of the real estate professional; if someone is trying to emulate enterprise organizations or compete with the portals, they will be attracted to this site.
Q: Tell us about the new IDX side-by-side map and listing search. Why will consumers love it?
Brendan – There have been advances in our industry, but also outside our industry, where searches now deliver information in real time. Consumers expect to get information faster than ever before, and this expectation drove a lot of our work with the new IDX map and listing view. On Discover, as consumers search for a property, they can find what they are looking for without having to leave the page or wait for data to load. We changed the way that the site loads data so that people can get this information faster in real time. We want our customers to be able to deliver a site experience that is just as good as, if not better, than some of the big industry players.
Evan – Speed and performance were at the front of our mind, as it always is. Usability was also a major consideration and we want consumers to feel it’s intuitive and acts as they expect. We also built this feature in a way that will enable us to use the technology in future designs.
Q: What do you think about when designing for mobile use and what makes a good mobile experience?
Brendan - A good mobile real estate site should have the same features as the desktop, and it should be easy to find those features and fast to use. A consumer shouldn’t have to think too hard about what they are trying to do, it should feel natural.
With Discover, the new IDX search experience maintains functionality on mobile; it will allow you to switch between the two different views. We also try to incorporate actions like swiping instead of tapping for actions like viewing a slide show of pictures because that’s what people expect to do.
Evan – From a development point of view, data usage, performance, and responsiveness are my priorities when building for mobile. We need to ensure that the website scales down to limits of the device’s screen while maintaining clear and easy access to the most important controls. When it comes to performance, we need to carefully balance things like photo quality, with load speeds and data usage so that consumers who visit our customer’s sites are not surprised by large phone bills. It’s a capability that REW has collectively learned over the years and we apply these principles across all of our mobile products.
Q: Our websites are known for their search engine friendliness. How do you ensure that each new site design is both appealing to consumers and search engines?
Evan – The first job of search engines is to crawl the web and build an index. We need to ensure our websites are built in a way that allows search engine crawlers to read and index the conten t. This means that we need to balance static content which is easily read by crawlers, with dynamic content that is dependent upon the user’s input. We also need to design our sites so that our clients can easily create and update meaningful content, which will impact the popularity and relevance of the site.
Brendan – There are a lot of things that we do to all areas of our sites to ensure they are well optimized and user-friendly, so I'll mention two which I feel are really important. The first is images; they need to look good on every screen size and not be too large in file size. We do quite a bit of work on the backend when our clients upload an image to optimize it. The other is site structure and page structure; when people can find what they are looking for where they expect it to be, then they stay on a site longer, which also tells the search engines this is a quality site.
Q: What’s your favorite new feature?
Brendan – My favorite feature is the new community details page. We put a lot of focus on making the pages stand out more. They have a similar feel to the enhanced listing page, with a large cover photo as well as scrollers on listings, and a more modern data display. We’ve included space for more images, so my hope is that our clients embrace the use of imagery to tell the story of a community.
Evan – My favorite feature is the hybrid IDX search for sure. It pushed the envelope for REW technology and having a cool, responsive new IDX search makes us more competitive on the market.
Thanks Brendan and Evan!
Learn more about Discover here.
06/22/2018 06:43 PM
One of the things we love about our work at REW is that no client is the same—everyone has an interesting story to tell about their market their business or their personal journey into real estate.
In our interview with longtime client Jolenta Averill, we share her fascinating journey into real estate and how she became a successful, independent broker in Madison, Wisconsin. Jolenta surpassed $100 million in personal sales volume in 2017.
Q: While most brokers come into real estate as a second career, your background is particularly interesting. Tell us what you did before founding Lake & City Homes?
I was raised in this Norman Rockwell neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin, but was always thinking how much I’d love to live somewhere else. As a kid, you don’t appreciate what you have! I actually left home when I was 19 but ironically, I moved in with my mother in Vienna, Austria. She had returned to her birthplace for the first time since 1938 when she and her family of nine fled the Nazis just prior to the annexation of Austria during World War II. My grandfather was the vice mayor of Vienna and an outspoken critic of Hitler. The Gestapo came to their apartment twice to arrest him so when it became too dangerous the family used their connections to escape to the US and were taken in as political refugees.
As a very young child, I had a deep love of languages so living in Europe as a teen gave me the opportunity to further my studies in Spanish, French, German, and Russian. I returned to the U.S. to finish my undergraduate studies but then won a contest that landed me back in Europe a few months later. While studying Russian at the Oriental Languages Institute, I was offered a job with Apple Computer at their international headquarters in Paris. I put my studies on hold to manage Apple’s Independent Marketing Companies who were selling Macintoshes into international schools in 45 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean Europe. At 22, it was, of course, the opportunity of a lifetime.
In 1988 I returned to the U.S. to finish my undergraduate degree in Economics at the U.W.-Madison, then worked on Wall Street in New York City for 7 1/2 years, returned to France to complete my MBA at #1 ranked international business school INSEAD, moved to Hong Kong to work for several investment banks & “dotcoms”, and then was transferred to London after 9-11. After all those years of travel and working for large corporations in both IT, marketing, and account management, it was time for me and my then four-year-old son to move closer to family, settle down, buy a house, and stop worrying about working in the tallest buildings (it was a scary time to work in tall buildings). But mostly I wanted to go to work for myself, control my own destiny, and derive more meaning from my vocation. I knew real estate could offer that, not to mention unlimited earning potential.
Q: How did you get started in the real estate industry?
A: I studied for my real estate license while I was still working in London, then joined a local brokerage in Madison to learn the ropes. After a few years, I found that my brokerage wasn’t delivering value for the commission splits and decided to figure out how to branch out on my own.
Q: What gave you the confidence to become an independent broker?
I couldn’t think of anything my broker was offering that I couldn’t deliver myself and I had enough IT knowledge to build myself a basic website. Although it w as essentially “brochureware”, it got the ball rolling. When I needed help to get to the next level, I researched the market and found that with a REW site I could generate my own buyer and seller leads and that it would meet my technology needs as a solo broker.
When I came across the REW forums back in 2008, I thought, wow this is the smartest group of Realtors I’ve ever run into. They seemed light years ahead of me (and anyone in my market), so I figured if I could learn even one percent of what they were talking about I’d be golden. It definitely gave me the confidence to move ahead with my solo plans and provided me with the advice and guidance on technology issues that I wasn’t getting from my broker. I could tap into the knowledge of this vendor (REW) and their clients, get help, learn, and feel like I was part of a community. Now with the REW community on Facebook, it’s even easier to jump in and interact, read through the posts, and dive through the comment threads on the posts that interest me most.
Attending the REW Summits has also been an integral part of the experience. I can trade information with non-competing peers and there is a great sense of community and camaraderie. I can always get caught up quickly on new developments as the information sharing takes place in-depth over a 3-day period. I’ve even had some tough love advice at times and got the push—and support—I needed to make difficult changes. Meeting reality TV real estate stars and especially hearing Barbara Corcoran’s life story were memorable summit highlights.
Q: How else do you keep up with technology in real estate?
Realtors and brokers tend to be inundated with technology offerings. So I tend to utilize REW as a filter. If REW hasn’t “blessed” the product and isn’t investing in integrating it into their websites, I don’t sweat it too much. I don’t have time to evaluate everything so I’d rather be a little behind and integrate things more carefully than be struggling to make all the pieces fit together. I’m content with REW deciding, with client input of course, what pieces are most critical to integrate.
Q: How do you generate leads?
My website has been my primary marketing channel. I deliberately wanted to see what I could accomplish by primarily leveraging my IT background. I receive several hundred leads per month on average and get solid continual business from working those leads which require a full-time ISA to process. I’m able to give my clients attentive, personalized service which consistently enables me to win plenty of repeat and referral business. Plus, I like having the time and flexibility to work on the 50–acre organic farm I run with my husband. We’re also integrally involved in remodeling homes for our clients, tenants, ourselves, and our farm.
I rarely do paid advertising but I do invest time in building content on my site and using social media. I try to blog regularly, update and maintain neighborhood pages and community pages, and run a Facebook group called “365 Things To Do in Madison, WI”. When you show people what you know and share that information, the search engines reward you. The website is where everything starts, however, so the focus always has to be, “How can I point more traffic in that direction?”
Q: What advice would you give to people looking to invest in a website now?
A real estate website has to be a solid lead generation system, have useful tools on it, and offer a great user experience. If it’s static “brochureware” it simply won’t produce leads. I’m confident when I speak to people who signed up on my site because I know I’m offering a set of tools with tremendous value. For folks who are active in the market, by far and away the vast majority are delighted when they land on a site that’s both responsive and has the real-time listings they’re looking for. Regardless whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer, my REW site automatically formats itself to fit the viewer’s screen. The CRM—built right into the backend— captures the information we need to help get a meaningful dialogue going. Not only is allowing the leads to come to us far more efficient than joining clubs, attending networking events, or going door-to-door, we’re able to help a far greater number of people buy and sell real estate to achieve their financial goals.
See Jolenta's site at http://www.lakeandcityhomes.com
06/12/2018 10:56 PM
One of the big reasons I joined Real Estate Webmasters four years, ago after consulting with them for 2 years prior, was due to their ability to take on any custom project, no matter how big. Over my earlier career working with a number of very good software companies, not being able to customize software to a client’s needs was one of the major challenges I experienced,. We were always trying to convince any potential customer that our software, our technology, was the right fit and that they should adapt their business practices to our vision of their world. The problem was, it wasn’t always a perfect fit. In fact it rarely is!
Enterprise Companies Need Control
Large, Enterprise companies, didn’t achieve the level of success they have today, by doing things exactly like their competition. They were able to actualize their unique vision to the industry, in ways that made them stand apart from their competition. When looking for technology solutions, it is the same story. They may like 90% of what your technology is and does but I have never been in a situation where they weren’t also asking whether we could change something. With REW, I am so happy to say, the answer is always yes! We like to say the level of customization you can have is limited only by your imagination and budget. But customization comes with a price, and while I think it is absolutely necessary in some situations, it should be done with a clear understanding of what you are buying into as it will have long term consequences. If you understand them, and plan for them, it can be a great solution, but if entered into it without understanding, you may not be prepared for what you have taken on.
The Custom Software Story
When you customize software that is on its own standard development track, you are taking a turn off of that standard track. Now you are running on a road that will never intersect with that original, standard road again, unless you build roads and bridges back to it. Putting that in software terms, that means, if you begin to customize software on a standard platform that is at release 1, for example, you veer off from that standard development track. Your customized software would start with release 1 and then you would do your customization. In the meantime, that standard development track you left at release 1, may now be at release 3. Unfortunately, because you have veered off and are operating on a custom track, you can’t just drive over and pick up release 3, and whatever cool features might be in it, at least without building roads and bridges.
What that means is, when you do a customization to a standard product, it is very possible that the customization will not allow your vendor to simply plug in the latest upgrade to your customized version of the software. Things may have been moved, or added or taken away that were part of the standard system and so roads and bridges (software speaking) need to be built to allow the upgrade to work with the customized version of the software. Can this be done? Definitely! But there is cost. The cost is based on the time and effort it takes to marry the customized software with the desired upgrades.
Maintaining Custom Software
When you create custom software, you are creating something that you are responsible for, that falls outside of all standard support agreements. With our standard support agreement, for example, we warrant that our standard software will operate as promised and if it doesn’t we are responsible for fixing it, at our costs.
With custom software, however, the vendor will create the software for you for a fee and over time, even after working perfectly fine for many months, y ou may discover issues with it. When this happens, it is the responsibility of the client to pay to fix this software. The vendor simply looks at this as an “incomplete” project, as there is no way to know, other than testing and deployment, whether any software will work correctly.
This can even mean there might be charges if part of a vendor’s standard system doesn’t work correctly as a result of being tied together with custom software. It is not the vendor’s responsibility to know in advance that things will work perfectly. It is the vendor’s responsibility to fix the issue when it arises, but again, there may be fees the client has to pay as they are using a custom solution that they must support.
Standard vendor support may also not be able to help you when problems arise, if the nature of an issue is a result of highly customized software. This might mean fixing the issue would require a programmer to be assigned to the project, which means it may take more time and it will certainly be chargeable.
So, does that mean you shouldn’t consider custom solutions if needed? No, not at all, but as the largest custom real estate software company in the world, we want you to enter into customization with your eyes open, aware of the pros and cons.
Do I Need to Customize?
There is a big difference between customizing the “look and feel” of the consumer facing website and customizing functionality on a system. Having a customized look that portrays your brand and image effectively is a critical aspect of any real estate, web technology. All of our website frameworks allow for customization of the look and feel.
This is drastically different from changing core functionality on the website or backend system. Changing the design is like putting on a new dress, while changing core functionality is more akin to have a bypass operation, where core features have changed forevermore.
In our experience, most customizations that clients want to do are not going to significantly improve what we see as the purpose of websites, which is to capture more leads and increase your ROI. Often, during system builds, we find requests being made to change core features of a system, that while they can be done, they will also impact the ability to do upgrades in the future, may create added support costs and won’t truly impact the user experience. Will we do these changes? Of course we will, if the client really wants them, but we will also make sure to point out the pros and cons of the changes. We want to work with you to give you what you want but also to make sure you know what the impact is, long term.
What’s the Best Way to Go? Customize or Not?
Personally, I would never choose a vendor that did not allow me total freedom in terms of customization if I wanted it. That’s one the key reasons I mentioned I love REW and came aboard four years ago. Having said that, we know that no matter what software you put in front of your agents only a small portion will use the majority of features. Our new REW CRM system is powerful and incredibly intuitive, but it still takes time to learn, like anything, to get the most out of it. You may want to consider a Phased Approach to get the most out of your new system before doing major customizations!
So here is my recommendation if you are moving to a new REW system.
Use the Phased Approach!
1. Start with Style - Work with your REW consultant to detail the stylization of your website and agent subdomains to elegantly reflect your brand! Our core functionality now lets you take advantage of Virtual Realty images, video, Panoramic images, Single Property websites and more. Make sure you are using all of the core features to the max before you wor ry about spending money on adding custom features. Take money you might have spent on custom features and put them toward online marketing….that’s something that will pay for itself!
2. Use Our Free Consulting - Have your REW consultant review and understand any “non-standard” features you may currently have that you wish to keep on your REW system Your REW consultant can help you understand if similar features are available, perhaps in a slightly different approach, or what your custom options are. Perhaps there’s an alternative approach we can discuss. We are here to advise.
3. Used a Phased Approach – What we mean by this is to work on the consumer facing portion of your system first while taking time to learn and use all of the core features of our REW CRM system. At REW, you can do customization any time you want, it doesn’t have to be at the start of the agreement, so we recommend using the system for a while before investing heavily in customizations that will have long term impacts. The truth is, until you have used a system for a while, you really aren’t in the best position to know what you need. Take some time, kick the tires, and then make more informed decisions about the level of customization you may or may not need!
4. Enjoy Your Upgrades – If you installed any of our core framework sites with our REW CRM 12 months ago, and waited 12 months before doing any core customizations you would have enjoyed a number of free upgrades! We tend to do major releases every 3 – 6 months, so as you learned the system and thought about making changes we would have offered you several great upgrades, at no cost! Often, things you want can turn into suggestions that may be added to our core product, that you don’t have to pay for. Always ask yourself, before paying for a custom feature, “Is this feature really going to make me money?” If, it isn’t, what’s the point?
06/05/2018 08:22 PM