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Buyer's Guide

by Craig Borowski,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: February 16, 2017

Residential and commercial real estate professionals face unique challenges when it comes to choosing a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This type of software helps:

  • Manage clients
  • Manage showings
  • Manage open houses
  • Mangage closings
  • Manage other activities in the property buying and selling process 

Depending on the kind of properties sold or the business size, buyers might require everything from sales and marketing automation to property listing management features.

We created this guide to help buyers find the best real estate CRM for their needs. Here's what we’ll cover:

What Is Real Estate CRM Software?
Market Trends to Understand
Benefits of Real Estate CRM
Pricing: Web-based vs. On-Premise

What Is Real Estate CRM Software?

At its core, CRM software for the real estate industry manages client data, tracks interactions and automates workflows. This increases efficiency and organization and enables buying and selling agents to close more deals, faster.

Here's a scenario of how real estate software can help a selling agent. Let's say a homebuyer fills out an online form requesting to see a property listed on your website. With a real estate CRM system, this lead might show up in the user dashboard for the corresponding agent, then automatically convert the form data into a contact profile for that buyer. A manager might at the same time be automatically alerted that an agent opened a new lead.


An account dashboard in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

The selling agent will then call the prospective buyer to learn more about their interests, timelines, financing situation and other pertinent information. The agent will capture all of these details, plus the contact information for their buyer's agent, in the CRM system. The date and times for both the phone call and the subsequent email to the buyer's agent are also recorded.

Next, the agent might set a task to follow up the next day if they haven't heard from the buyer's agent about arranging a showing. The agent ends up hearing back within the hour, so they set a date for the showing and share the calendar appointment with the property seller, buyer and their agent all at once. Finally, they set a new task to follow up the next afternoon after the showing to see if they've submitted an offer.

In this scenario, management can see immediately where the lead is in the buying process without having to call, email or set a meeting with the agent. They can also see how the team performed that day overall (how many properties were sold, for example, or the number of showings the team conducted).


A reporting dashboard in Salesnet CRM

In addition to the core functionality described above, CRM software for the real estate industry might have some or all of the following differentiating capabilities:

Email marketing This module allows agents to automate newsletters and other email marketing to leads and existing clients. This includes daily emails to buyers with new listings. These can be customized with logos, headshots, email addresses and other details.
Listings management/MLS integration Some real estate management software provide a plugin or integration that links the software to REALTOR.com, Zillow, Trulia and other Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data. These modules can automatically import listings for email marketing, client portals and buyer/seller presentations.
Web lead management These modules capture leads from the user's website, a listing service and email marketing campaigns. These leads might be distributed directly to an agent, or fed into a queue in the CRM dashboard.
Commission/payment tracking These modules can calculate or track agent commissions and other payments against predefined schemes and negotiated payment plans. This functionality is sometimes provided through an integration with commissions tracking and payment software.
Client access portal This module provides an online portal for clients to log on and view their property matches, upcoming showings, contracts and other files. These are often password protected and can be customized with the brokers' logos and other branding elements.

Benefits of Real Estate CRM

Better client tracking and organization. Realtor CRM systems increase organization by providing a single repository for agents to store leads, client information and documents. The software also automates workflows with task lists, dashboards and alerts. Together, this functionality ensures that agents stay organized, on task and that nothing falls through the cracks.

In addition, being able to see at a glance where a particular client is in the buying or selling process helps agents focus their time on the warmest prospects, while others are nurtured with email marketing tools.

Improved oversight. Reporting tools give managers insight into the sales pipeline. If they see key metrics moving in the wrong direction, they can use the software's reporting tools to drill into possible causes. For instance, average number of days properties spend on the market, or average price per square foot of active listings.

Market Trends to Understand

Mobile CRM capabilities have become critical to the real estate business. From showings to inspections, agents spend a lot of time in the field. They depend on tablets, smartphones and laptops to stay on top of work while they're out of the office. For this reason, many software developers have created robust mobile applications.


An iPad dashboard from IXACT Contact

Users can perform many of the same activities they would in the office, but from a mobile-friendly interface. Some products also offer GPS-powered features, such as a report showing neighborhood trends for the area where the agent happened to be at that time.

Social media integration is becoming increasingly important. Many products integrate directly with Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms so agents can automate sending updates and tweets about new listings. Some vendors also allow agents to reply to their clients' social media updates. If a client posts a Facebook update about their birthday, for example, the agent could see this from their CRM system and instantly reply.

Some real estate contact management software offer social listening capabilities. Agents use these features to mine for conversations that mention their brand, neighborhood of interest or other keywords that might signify a potential business opportunity.

Pricing: Web-Based vs. On-Premise

In most cases, real estate CRM software is priced according to the deployment models described here:

Larger organizations might incur additional costs to integrate with standalone property management, ERP, HR or accounting software.

Cloud-based software, also called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), is typically priced on a subscription basis determined by the number of "seats" (brokers and managers who need to access the software). This type of software is housed off-site on servers managed by the software company.

On-premise software usually requires purchasing a perpetual license upfront, with no recurring subscription cost. But users might also pay additionally for upgrades, customizations and maintenance. This type of real estate software is housed on the buyers’ servers.

Free Download:
CRM Software Pricing Guide

Free Download:
Ten Steps Guide to Selecting the Right CRM Software


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