Dont Sit on the Geo-fence

David Murphy

Chris Thorman from Software Advice, a website which has reviews of property management software, looks at the potential for location-based real estate marketing

Estate agent thing chris thorman March 2010 Its Saturday morning. Joel and Rebecca are walking their dog through a neighbourhood in Austin, Texas. As they walk, they chat about the movie they saw last night, what theyre going to make for dinner, and the big trip they have planned for next weekend. You wouldnt know it by listening to their conversation, but the couple are also house hunting.
They cross Brodie Lane when Joels phone buzzes in his pocket. Its a text message that reads: 3BR 2 BA single-family home w/ fireplace available at 714 Longview Rd, List price: $219,000. Come take a look!
Joel says to Rebecca, Weve got a match from our real estate company. Its only four blocks away. Lets go see what the house looks like.Within minutes, the couple are outside the house. It happens to be exactly the type of home they wanted, in the exact neighbourhood they wanted to live in. They call their real estate agent to set up a viewing.
How did this happen? How was the couple instantly notified of the opportunity, perfectly merging buyer requirements, location and timing? The answer involves a combination of geo-fencing, mobile phones and GPS technology.
If youre a tech-savvy real estate agent or property manager, this powerful combination of technology represents a great opportunity to gain new clientele. Many real estate buyers do not have the time to review new listings online, travel to viewings or patrol their desired neighbourhoods for opportunities. But the vast majority of real estate buyers do have mobile phones they carry with them nearly all the time.
This technology would help real estate and property management companies capitalize on business that may otherwise slip through the cracks. Software Advice would like to see this type of mobile marketing become a permanent feature in todays property management software systems to help advertise real estate and rental properties. Lets see how that could be done.

Geo-fencing + Mobile = Powerful Real Estate Marketing
What if a buyer looking for a place to live didnt have to do anything beyond choosing what features they wanted in a home? What if a buyer was automatically alerted to nearby properties that matched their needs? This is what were talking about with the next generation of mobile real estate marketing.
The use of geo-fences surrounding properties really drives the location-based marketing engine. A geo-fence is a virtual boundary surrounding a geographic region. When a person with a mobile phone crosses a geo-fence boundary, a notification is automatically issued to that mobile phone. Traditionally, geo-fencing has been used to send alerts when users exit a certain area, instead of entering one.
Geo-fencing has been used in conjunction with GPS technology for a while now and for a variety of uses, such as tracking senior citizens with Alzheimers; and monitoring hazardous cargo, to name a couple of examples.
Were confident that someday, well be able to add market real estate to that list. Heres how we see this new form of mobile marketing working in the real estate industry.

Create geo-fences

Before real estate and property management companies set up their online portals, theyll need to create geo-fences around all of their properties. This will ensure that if a qualified user crosses the geo-fence with their mobile phone, that user will be notified about that property.
Wed like to see geo-fencing modules built into todays property management software, allowing companies to quickly create geo-fences around their properties by drawing them on a digital map.

Collect buyer needs online
Real estate and property management companies can create online portals on their websites, where prospective tenants and buyers set up notifications tailored to what they want in a property.
For example, a user could create an alert based on square footage, number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, special amenities, and zip/post code, to name just a few of the myriad of options available. Once theyve entered their mobile phone number and submitted those housing preferences, all they have to do is carry their phone with them to receive notifications.
Wed also like to see todays property management software vendors integrate these online portals into their systems. Many property management software vendors offer website design and hosting packages to their customers. A geo-fencing module could be another module thats presented as an option to a management company when they buy the software.

Let the notifications begin
The notifications are where this entire concept of location-based mobile marketing comes together. The geo-fences have been set up. Users have entered their housing preferences online to receive notifications. All that is left is for the users to go about their normal lives, with their GPS-enabled mobile phones, of course.
When they get close to a property that matches their wants, theyll be automatically notified on their mobile phone. Property management software can then integrate all of these contact points with customers into their CRM system, to track the effectiveness of the messages and review properties with clients. House hunting couldnt get much easier than that, could it?

The benefits
Hopefully by now, the benefits of this unique marketing method are clear. First, since the user opts in to receive these marketing notifications, there is no feeling of intrusiveness or annoyance as with unsolicited messages. This type of marketing is perceived as a service, not an intrusion.
Second, from a marketing standpoint, notifying the right person, at the right place, at the right time about your product is powerful. Its the holy grail of marketing: you have a desirable product; you have identified the person that wants your product; and you can automatically tell that person that your product is nearby.
Finally, this marketing method is scalable. A real estate or property management company could theoretically have dozens (or more) of users taking advantage of this service at any given time. Beyond taking calls to schedule viewings, it wouldnt require any extra labour on the part of the management company.

We dont expect this spin on mobile marketing to be installed in every real estate and property management office tomorrow. But whether through geo-fence triggers or other GPS-centric methods, the real estate industry will undoubtedly continue to make a huge effort over the next few years to connect with buyers and renters through their mobile phones. The technology is too compelling to ignore.

You can see the full version of this article, complete with graphics, here.