Real Estate CRM Software
BuyerView | 2014
Every year, Software Advice talks with thousands of real estate and mortgage professionals looking for the right customer relationship management (CRM) solutions for their agency or brokerage. This provides us with unparalleled insight into the needs of real estate CRM buyers.
We recently analyzed a random selection of 385 of these interactions to pinpoint the main reasons real estate buyers seek new CRM software, and find out which features they desire most when making a purchase.
To gain further insight on these findings, I shared them with Paul Hagey, who writes about real estate CRM for Inman News, and Justin Lee, co-founder and chief operating officer (COO) of TheSquareFoot, a commercial real estate tech startup. Their thoughts on the data are included in the report below.
Of the real estate CRM buyers we sampled, a majority (53 percent) were using basic methods such as spreadsheets, email clients or pen and paper to manage their customer relationships.
According to Lee, “This data indicates an alarming number of real estate professionals are in the dark not only about what new solutions are out there, but also about how these solutions can be used to [increase efficiency].”
Mortgage and real estate buyers in our sample were also much more likely than other buyers to have used industry specific software—28 percent were currently using real estate software, which was typically provided by their agency, brokerage or franchise firm. Meanwhile, just 8 percent of general CRM buyers seeking sales features were using industry-specific software, as reported in our 2014 Sales Force Automation BuyerView.
Of the buyers currently using real estate software, 51 percent were using CRM software specifically tailored to the real estate or mortgage industries, including proprietary solutions like Keller Williams’ eEdge. Another 37 percent were either mortgage brokers using loan origination software (LOS), or real estate agents using multiple listing software (MLS) with built-in contact management functionality.
A majority of real estate buyers (51 percent) said they were evaluating CRM software to improve efficiency and organization, with 16 percent expressing overt frustration with their current system. Those using manual methods commonly made remarks such as, “My email is a mess,” or “I missed out on $5 million in lost loans due to dropped contacts.”
Others found that their LOS or MLS systems were unable to manage all their customer relationships. According to Hagey, this is because the contact management features included in these systems tend to be limited and clunky. “CRM isn’t in their wheelhouse,” he says. “This leads real estate and mortgage professionals to seek cleaner, easier-to-use software that integrates with MLS or LOS.”
Surprisingly, another 18 percent of real estate and mortgage CRM buyers cited company growth or transition as a primary reason for evaluating software, compared to just 8 percent of all buyers sampled in our 2013 CRM BuyerView report. Many of these buyers were looking for a new solution because they had left their agency and no longer had access to the real estate specific software offered by their employer.
In addition, a large number of real estate CRM buyers who fell into the “Other” category sought to implement a system solely for themselves or for their agency in order to retain ownership of leads if they chose to leave their franchise firm or organization. As Hagey explains, “Brokerages and franchises are increasingly trying to get a company-wide CRM so they have that valuable client contact info. But some agents are resisting that.”
Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of prospective real estate CRM buyers requested basic contact management features. Fifty-two percent also requested features to keep records of interactions with current clients, and 39 percent asked for lead tracking and sales pipeline management.
However, 41 percent also requested some form of email automation—a feature that didn’t even make the top features list in our general CRM report. Digging into the data, we found that 24 percent of real estate buyers requested drip marketing, while 12 percent requested mass email functionality.
Lee explains why email automation features are especially desirable to real estate professionals:
“Real estate is a high-volume, heavy-touch game,” he says. “The more contact you have with a prospect, the more likely you are to maintain the relationship and eventually earn a commission. Without automating follow-up, most real estate professionals dealing with a high volume of clients would either lose track of their pipeline status, or worse, let potential deals slip through the cracks.”
Nineteen percent of the buyers we spoke to also requested real estate specific CRM features. Of these buyers, 28 percent requested integrated property tracking, which would do things such as send reminders when a client or lead’s property is about to expire.
Others were looking for MLS integration (28 percent), LOS integration (13 percent) or integration with real estate websites such as Zillow or Trulia (9 percent). According to Hagey, integration with these systems will become increasingly integral to real estate CRM buyers as agents and brokers increasingly look to unify their systems and improve efficiency.
Of the 77 percent of real estate buyers who expressed a deployment preference, all of them asked to evaluate only Web-based software—not a single buyer in our sample explicitly asked to evaluate on-premise solutions.
This makes sense, given that the vast majority of the buyers in our sample were individual buyers or very small businesses (more on this in the final section), which means few of these agencies or brokerages have access to the IT expertise necessary to maintain a system on-site.
In addition, “Agents are on the go,” Hagey adds, which means the ability to access a system while out in the field is especially desirable for these buyers. “It just makes so much more sense to go with Web-based software,” he says.
A significant majority of buyers in our sample (64 percent) also requested a best-of-breed solution (e.g. only sales force automation or marketing automation). However, this leaves 36 percent of buyers that requested an integrated suite combining multiple applications, compared to just 9 percent of all CRM buyers in our 2013 study.
Nearly all of the buyers seeking integrated suites were looking to combine marketing automation functionality with standard sales management features, such as lead tracking and follow-up alerts. This large chunk of integrated suite buyers reinforces the aforementioned importance of email automation and other more advanced marketing features to real estate CRM companies.
The vast majority of the buyers we spoke to either represented agencies with fewer than five employees (39 percent) or were themselves independent agents or brokers (38 percent). This leaves only 28 percent of buyers that had six employees or more.
The small size of these organizations is less surprising for real estate buyers than for other CRM buyers because many agents and brokers belong to small agencies, even if those agencies are part of big franchise firms, such as RE/MAX or Keller Williams.
Of the 385 buyers in our sample, 78 percent were in real estate and 22 percent were in the mortgage business. Digging into the data, we found that there was a negligible difference between their feature requirements or their reasons for buying. This suggests both types of buyers have very similar needs when it comes to evaluating CRM software.
Most buyers identified their title as “agent” (31 percent) or “broker” (13 percent). Also, 21 percent identified as the “owner” or “founder” of their business. This again reflects the small size of most real estate CRM buyers’ organizations. But it also indicates that these buyers often have the decision-making authority required to make a purchase.
Less common titles (constituting the “Other” segment in the graph above) primarily included other leadership roles, such as “managing director,” “vice president” and “CEO.”
Software Advice regularly speaks on the phone with organizations seeking new real estate CRM software. To create this report, we randomly selected 385 of our phone interactions from 2014 to analyze. If you’d like to further discuss this report or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.