This article appeared on November 19 and distributed by the Associated Press to newspapers throughout U.S.

By Karen Spiller
Telegraph Staff

Realtors, buyers using Internet to connect

NASHUA (AP) – Not long ago, real estate broker Rudy Mayer got a call from a man in Paris who saw a $650,000 Concord Street home listed on Mayer’s Web site.

“He flew in on Saturday and bought it on Saturday afternoon,” said Mayer, of the Masiello Group in Nashua.

That would have never happened if it wasn’t for Mayer’s Web site which went up seven years ago.

“I probably get 75 percent of my customers from the Web site,” Mayer said at a recent open house. “You don’t get any walk-ins anymore. That’s gone.

“If I didn’t have my Web site, I’d probably be dead in the water.”

Real estate has gone from days of paper listings to virtual Web sites, and industry professionals are adopting the latest technology.

Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Fred Light, left, of Nashua Video Tours, looks on as Rudy Mayer talks about the Internet technology used in his real estate business, while showing a condo online Wednesday in Nashua. Mayer uses video on his Web site, Rudymayer.com, to let clients walk through homes without having to leave their own homes.

Brian Moses, sales trainer and recruiter for RE/MAX Properties in Nashua, gets more than 50 percent of his business from the Internet. He said the Internet is the future of the real estate business.

“We’re going to have real estate training that you can download to your iPod or mp3 players,” Moses said. “In the early days, I used to have to get on a plane and fly to California to get trained.”

Progressive marketing

John Sobecky, 57, of Nashua, found his Regent Drive condo on the Internet. He financed the sale over the phone and only spent about three hours on the walkthrough, inspection and closing, he said.

“I never even met the listing broker or the mortgage broker,” he said.

Sobecky is not alone. A recent National Association of Realtors survey showed that 80 percent of homebuyers used the Internet to search for a home in 2006 compared with 2 percent a decade earlier. That consumers can get the information they need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is a great thing for real estate professionals and buyers, they say.

“Consumers don’t really have a great fondness for sales people in general,” Moses said “They don’t want to talk to salespeople. In the old days, if you wanted information on a property, you had to call the sales person.”

While technology in real estate meant agents carrying bag phones and pagers, today they’re text-messaging clients on cell phones and Blackberries and carrying laptops.

But newer technology is emerging, too. Mayer is one of the first Realtors in the country to video-podcast the properties he sells, according to Mayer’s Web designer, Fred Light, owner of Nashua Web Design and Nashua Video Tours.

Mayer started turning his listings into downloadable audio and video files just 11 months ago, but recently upgraded to high definition.

His video podcasts are automatically downloaded to an iPod or other mp3 player of anyone who’s signed up for the subscription, which is free. Potential buyers can download Mayer’s real estate listings and view the audio and video movies anytime.

Or, they can watch them from their computer.

When Mayer gets a new listing, it automatically gets downloaded. The technology, Mayer said, has sped up the selling process altogether.

Mayer also provides video tours on his Web sites. Unlike typical 360-degree virtual tours or slideshows, video tours make the viewers feel like they’re in the house, Light said. Mayer said being able to see the interior of properties allows clients to pick and choose what they like before they even place a call to him.

“It makes them more comfortable and it makes me more comfortable,” Mayer said.

The result? Transactions are quicker and smoother.

And that’s important these days, industry experts say, because of the slow real estate market. Existing home sales fell 1.9 percent nationwide in September, while a 1.1 percent drop in private residential construction spending led to a drop in total construction spending to $1.2 trillion.

Mayer’s Web site even features video tours of Nashua, Manchester and neighboring towns including Amherst, Bedford, Hollis and Hudson. The tours – complete with narration and photos – give a flavor for what makes each different from the other.

“I just had a person come in from California,” he said. “She looked at every single town, and she knew what she wanted.”

More people aren’t going to the extent that Mayer has, Light said, because the technology is so new and people aren’t sure of the payoff.

But there’s also the price involved. Mayer said he invests 25 percent of his income into his Web site. “I used to advertise in The Telegraph and real estate books,” Mayer said. “I’d rather spend the money there.”

And he’s seen the results. Mayer, who used to draw five or 10 people to an open house now gets as many as 50, he said. Mayer even sends out his invitations via e-mail.

Friend or foe?

The Internet’s popularity in real estate can be viewed two ways – as either a help or a hinder to real estate professionals.

“For decades, the Realtors kind of controlled the gateway to real estate because they had all the information tied into MLS (Multiple Listing Service),” said real estate consultant John Doran of Nashua. “That all blew apart a half a dozen or more years ago.”

Now, the consumer can go to the MLS and view any listed property. “It’s created an opportunity for the consumer to do a lot of the work.”

That’s good news for agents, said Doran, who has 26 years experience in the business.

“When a consumer gets in touch with you, they’ve done a lot of the work. They’ll say, ‘I’ve been looking at properties. I’d like to go see these six. Are you available?’ ”

Mayer agreed. “You’ll always need a Realtor,” said Mayer. “In the beginning, I thought, maybe we’ll become obsolete. There was a little scare there.”

But real estate professionals are still needed to do the negotiation, counseling and inevitable paperwork along the way, Doran and Mayer agreed.

Another great thing about the Internet, said Doran, is that it levels the playing field for real estate agents.

“An unaffiliated broker can have a pretty robust Web site and create a place to interact with people and generate leads,” Doran said.

The danger for some people, Doran said, is some agents get so wrapped up into the Internet that they become computer people instead of real estate people, he said.

Moses said the key to maintain balance in your life and not go overboard with the technology.

“I was in the bathroom moments ago, I’m standing at the urinal and there’s a guy talking on the phone using a Bluetooth,” Moses said. “It’s pretty bad today if you can’t go to the bathroom today without being on the phone.

“Technology’s a good tool, but at the same time, I think the challenge for some people, is it impacts the quality of your life.”

Doran’s advice to agents? “Never forget you’re in the real estate business,” he said. “That’s the business of building knowledge, building relationships and working with people one on one. I don’t think those qualities are going to lose value just because there’s an awesome tool that allows people to get information.”

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