Realtors ride Internet wave – Calgary Herald

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Realtors ride Internet wave (article)
Package allows clients to ‘manage their world online’

Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald

Friday, August 19, 2005

More Calgary realtors are going online these days as competition in the city’s red-hot real estate industry continues to heat up.

“It’s so important as far as marketing properties using the visual ways of doing it through these websites because a lot of people are just too busy. This gives maps. It gives total virtual tours of the interior of properties,” said Akbar Nimji, with Re/Max Realty Professionals, who has been a realtor for about 10 years.

“It is the wave of the future. . . . This is the future.”

Vancouver-based Combustion Listings, a software development company, has been in Calgary this week selling its software package specifically designed for realtors. It is capitalizing on a growing trend in the real estate industry as more realtors are using personal websites to sell property.

“We’re expanding into the Alberta market,” said Steve Jagger, co-founder of the company.

Jagger said about 4,000 realtors throughout North America have bought the package, with the bulk of the company’s customers — about 1,200 — in Vancouver. It has about 80 to 90 clients in Alberta. The basic plan costs $347 to set up and $37 a month.

Nimji has been using the Combustion Listings service for about 11/2 years.

“It’s been a huge, huge difference with just the amount of business I get,” said Nimji.

“(The websites) are easy to use for realtors that aren’t really computer-savvy to put in information, update it yourself whenever you want and it’s live immediately,” he said, adding he gets 3,000 to 4,000 hits on his website each week.

Combustion Listings started about six years ago, hosting various websites in more than 20 countries.

But about 21/2 years ago it got out of web hosting to focus on real estate, and got into the business of building software packages specifically for realtors. The idea began with realtors in Vancouver asking if the company could build a package so they could better manage their listings.

“That (request) spawned us into this business,” said Jagger. “It opened our eyes to this market.”

The package offers a realtor the ability to do various things by listing properties he or she has for sale. Pictures, floor plans, virtual tours, Google maps, voice-overs and booking of appointments are among the many features available.

“It gives the realtor the ability to manage their world online,” said Jagger.

He said the program just doesn’t provide realtors with websites, but also educates them on Internet use.

He said with the average realtor now just over 50 years old, “our role is trying to push the envelope of what realtors do online.”

“The benefits we give them is ease of use. All realtors need to be online,” said Jagger. “More and more people are looking for real estate online. They’re searching the web. All realtors need to have websites.”

Fred Ferguson, with Re/Max Central, has had the package since January.

“I got to understand how to market on the Internet. They actually taught me how to get people coming,” said Ferguson. “I can gauge how many people are reading my blog. . . . I can tell you that 1,800 people a week are reading my blog. I can tell you what stuff they’re looking at, what page they’re looking at, how long they’re staying. I can tell what’s doing the job and what’s not.

“I can tell you that four transactions this year have happened because people found me on the Internet. There was no other way we would have got connected. That represents a ton more income to me than what it cost me to have that website built.

“You’re judged in today’s market much faster than ever before even before you get an opportunity to speak to it or address it. If you’re not on the Internet, there’s a good amount of people that are going to pass you over,” added Ferguson.

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