QR codes come to real estate listings

You can already use your smartphone to buy coffee so why not use it to shop for a home?
Vancouver startup Property Cloud Inc. has just unveiled its eponymousmobile service giving realtors the ability to create and send out homesale listings via QR codes to potential buyers’ smartphones.

The service has been beta tested by about 100 realtors across Canadasince late August and is now openly available to professional realestate agents who contact Property Cloud Inc. through its Web site.

The company is calling it a mobile service rather than an app becauseit “generates individual mobile Web sites for property listings,” saysProperty Cloud’s managing partner Ross Chandler.

“An app is something we’re looking at in the next beta stage and we’rein the process (of developing one),” Chandler says.

The service creates a QR code for each home an agent is trying to sell.The agent can then print the QR code on marketing materials and eventhe home’s ‘for sale’ sign, as well as post it on their own Web site,Twitter and Facebook. When a potential buyer scans the code with asmartphone, an individual Web site comes up on the phone’s browser withlisting details, photos, videos, GPS coordinates, and agent contactinformation.

Though many agents are already putting QR codes on brochures and lawnsigns, Property Cloud’s service drives traffic to more specific contentin a format that’s designed especially for smartphones, Chandler says.

“You find people scanning QR codes on real estate signs and it goes toa regular (brokerage) Web site, which is a nightmare to navigate on asmall screen.”

The real estate industry and its service suppliers are alreadyembracing mobile apps. CIBC unveiled its Home Advisor app in Januaryfor iPhone, iPod Touch and BlackBerry. Users can access information such assales trends and average home prices in certain neighbourhoods, shareproperty listings through social media, email or texts, access fourdifferent mortgage and down payment calculators, and request mortgagepre-approval.

Although Property Cloud is just one more entrant in the mobile realtyservices space, Chandler says its leg up on the competition is that itallows realtors to create, edit, delete and distribute separate Webpages for individual homes from any location on their smartphones. Thismeans agents don’t have to keep going back onto their own brokerage Websites or the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to modify and manageproperty listings each time, he says.

The service is free for a 30-day trial and costs $25 per monthafterward. Since most brokerages employ multiple real estate agents,group discounts can be arranged, Chandler says. The mobile serviceworks on iPhone, BlackBerry and Android phones and “almost any other platform with Internet navigation,” according to the company’s press kit. Since the listing data comes from MLS, real estate agents using Property Cloud must sign an agreement that allows that data to be used on the Property Cloud service.
Toronto realtor George O’Neill already uses a mobile app from theCanadian Real Estate Association that displays home listings inneighbourhoods using GPS data. O’Neill also uses QR codes to driveusers to his general Web site, but not to individual listings asProperty Cloud does. Still, even using general QR codes has boosted hisbusiness.

“Way back in 2007 we started using QR codes and we put them on the forsale signs of the properties we have listed. When we use them we see asmuch as 20 per cent of the (Web site) traffic can come from that QRcode,” says O’Neill, CEO of O’Neill Real Estate Ltd., which focusesmainly on residential sales.

That jump in traffic has convinced O’Neill’s firm to start developingits own mobile app to generate neighbourhood sales data, and it’s alsowhy he thinks it’s the wave of the future for the real estate industry.

“There absolutely is a market for this Property Cloud service,” headds. “I’m not sure I’ve seen anything as comprehensive from anyoneelse.”

Although O’Neill says the $25 monthly fee is “a fair price” and“comparable to other cloud services (fees) like CRM,” he’s not sure theservice adds long term value for the realtors who use it. That’sbecause it puts the focus on each property for sale instead of theagent, the brokerage and their brand.

“The reason we wouldn’t use this in my brokerage is because it doesn’tachieve the secondary objective which is we’re also branding ourselvesand building an online community around ourselves,” O’Neill says. “Oncethat listing is gone there’s nothing you can build (your brand) upon.”

According to the Property Cloud promotional site, however, its servicedoes give realtors the option of creating a QR code directing users totheir brokerage Web site rather than just to a specific listing.

Christine Wong Christine Wong is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow her on Twitter, and join in the conversation on the IT Business Facebook Page.

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Christine Wong
Christine Wonghttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Christine Wong has been an on-air reporter for a national daily show on Rogers TV and at High Tech TV, a weekly news magazine on CTV's Ottawa affiliate. She was also an associate producer at Report On Business Television (now called BNN) and CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos. As an associate producer at Slice TV, she helped launch two national daily talk shows, The Mom Show and Three Takes. Recently, she was a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca and is now a freelance contributor.

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