Aug 22 2013
set up your virtual office

How to Set Up Your Virtual Office on a Shoestring Budget

A real estate business requires a cadre of software to run the various aspects of the business. From financial software to tools that manage the intricacies of the transaction, it is hard to find tools that work well together, and sync with various mobile devices.

Because most real estate professionals spend a large percentage of their time outside the office and in the field, or working from home offices, it is important to be able to run your business no matter where you are or where your customers are.

This is where the benefits of cloud computing can be a life saver! They can help you run your business efficiently no matter where you are or what time it happens to be. They will help you maximize your time, enhance your productivity, connect with your clients, manage your transactions and save you money.

Steps to Set Up Your Virtual Office

The Benefits of Cloud Computing

With traditional software, sales associates saved data on their laptops, USB drives, or portable hard drives. Computers get stolen, programs are rarely backed up properly and many times updates are not done in a timely manner. Access to the most up-to-date information was limited.

The benefits to cloud computing are many. Because the majority of programs available to real estate professions today reside on the web, there is no longer a need to install new updates to your computer. If updates are made, they launch when you open the program online.

The software also works cross-platform, meaning whether you are a MAC or a PC user (or some combination of the two) the program remains the same, working seamlessly within each web browser as well.

Cloud computing is available to iPad and Smartphone users making this an easy-to-access platform whether you are working from home, on the road, or at a client’s office. You now have an “e-Office,” one that is accessible wherever you are as long as you have Internet available.

Types of Tools for Your e-Office

Today’s mobile agents need to be connected to their clients with the ability to manage their businesses on the go now more than ever before. Software and/or web applications are needed to aid real estate practitioners in all areas of their business. This includes:

A few ways cloud computing is being used in the real estate industry:

  1. A brokerage Web presence that fosters agent individuality with a social network intranet component where agents actively engage and share knowledge.
  2.  Lead management solution that allows remote access, agent management of their leads, and reports for their brokerage CRM (Customer Relationship Management) making it easier for sales, marketing, technical support to work together to ensure the best experience for your customers and client Email along with calendar and contact management is at the Clouds core. Access from any device multiple calendars, contact information and email.
  3. Document storage, including, forms and paperwork, transaction management paperwork.
  4. The ability to fax from the computer – which includes creating PDF files for delivery via email.

For managing your day to day, there are multiple options. A few of my favorites are:

  • Box.net (http://box.net)
  • Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)
  • Sugarsync (www.sugarsync.com)
  • Huddle (www.huddle.com)
  • Cartavi (www.cartavi.com)

To incorporate email, calendars and contacts you will need a cloud solution like:

  • Microsoft Office Live (www.officelive.com)
  • Google Apps and Google Docs (www.google.com/apps)
  • iCloud (MAC)

These products allow you to connect and sync your email, calendars and contacts across all your devices and platforms. If you use Outlook, you can use Google Apps as well.

Cloud products that incorporate electronic signatures can also be incredibly useful. The next time you are driving around at 11 p.m. getting initials remember, if you used electronic signatures, you could have been home already!

While these cloud computing tools only scratch the surface, they are all easy to implement into your business immediately, making you and your business far more efficient.

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Amy is the Vice President of Platform Development at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Amy – great tips! I recently had to rebuild my laptop and couldn’t locate my MS Office disks (keys) so quickly,… I found myself in a pinch because I had to edit a document in MS Word that was sent to me and my computer was not able to open it. Skydrive (OfficeLive.com) offers a very robust version of MS Office in the cloud, including MS Word, Excel, and Power Point. Skydrive was my “life” saver that day.

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