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Coldwell Banker Burnet uses mobile to close last-mile gap with homebuyers

Coldwell Banker Burnet, a real estate brokerage targeting Minnesota and some surrounding areas, debuted a new real estate information service offering access to home-for-sale details.

The firm tapped CellSigns' Mobile Agent tools to launch three phases of this service for homebuyers. The new service is designed to cut reliance on the wired Internet through computers in favor of quick and more personalized delivery of information through mobile.

Homebuyers can access property information by using their mobile phones to run a text message search of all homes on the market by property address, street name, MLS ID number, neighborhood and other criteria. They need to text 353052 to 74362 or Text 4368 Vernon to 74362, for example.

Another option is to use their mobile device in conjunction with Coldwell Banker Burnet's Home InfoLine to electronically retrieve detailed property descriptions and photographs.

Homebuyers can call the Home InfoLine, key in a property ID number and receive property information on their phones. For example, they can call 952-844-3000 or 888-844-3002 and enter 353052.

The third option is to access property information through a mobile Web site at http://m.cbburnet.com. Consumers can search by address, city, ZIP or MLS ID.

In addition, CellSigns' Mobile Agent offers a click-to-call feature to immediately contact the Coldwell Banker Burnet sales person.

The tool will allow activity tracking of all the homes viewed and mapping of the properties. Brokers can visit http://mymoag.com and login with their mobile number.

Mobile Agent is said to work on all mobile phones without requiring downloads or special browsers.

Based in Edina, MN, CellSigns is a wholly owned subsidiary of QWASI Inc. The mobile marketing company offers SMS, MMS and WAP services, powering more than 1.1 million real estate listings and 1.5 million mobile ads and alerts.

Client Coldwell Banker Burnet brings mobile marketing to its 27 offices and 2,300 real estate agents. The brokerage has more than 40,000 property listings.

In this Q&A, CellSigns cofounder and president Dave Geipel explains his company's work for Coldwell Banker Burnet, the challenges address and how the real estate brokerage business is turning to mobile to stimulate sales in a moribund economy.

Who's the target?
CB Burnet is targeting homebuyers in their market who want easy access to property information.

Since homebuyers inevitably leave their computers from doing their research on neighborhoods and communities, they need easy access while out and about.

First time for Coldwell Banker Burnet to go mobile?
Yes. CB Burnet has been a leader in their market to provide increased interactivity with their clients from their Web site and improving internal office efficiency and communication with their agents.

Why the need for Coldwell Banker Burnet to go mobile?
There is a growing trend in real estate to close that last mile for agents to better assist their clients even when they are not with them.

By giving tools that provide ease of access to homebuyers who are working with their agents or providing better property details on their homes for sale, they are set to win over trust from their buyers and new ones alike.

What does mobile offer that other marketing channels don't?
It comes back to the fact that real estate is about location.

Homebuyers drive neighborhoods and look for homes for sale and check comparable homes for sale, also known as comps.

The Mobile Agent mobile search allows homebuyers to do just that -- get property information while the buyer is standing in front of a property and details on homes for sale around the corner that the buyer may not be aware is for sale.

Has mobile proven itself in real estate?
Brokers and agents using CellSigns' mobile services -- mobile search plus mobile codes -- are seeing conversion rates between 6 percent and 10 percent, on average.

Conversion rates in mobile have been higher than in other mediums including print and even the Internet.

The key for mobile solutions in real estate is in offering a multi-modal approach to reach all homebuyers and sellers. CB Burnet has done just that by providing mobile tools for home buyers and sellers.

If a buyer is driving around neighborhoods and searching for homes for sale, they can use the WAP site to search for homes for sale.

Over the weekend, they can search for open houses to visit. If they want to schedule a showing, they can do that through the mobile real estate site.

For new homebuyers not working with a CB Burnet agent, they can use their mobile search, but without knowing about it, they have a different option.

On each CB Burnet home for sale is the ability to get information from the for-sale sign and elect to receive details on the listing without having to speak with an agent.

What's the goal here with this mobile initiative?
The goal is to extend their real estate services from their Web site to the customer's mobile phone so they don't have to be tied down to their computer.

One key initiative for CB was to extend their existing 800-number InfoLine to also deliver information via text message to their customers.

For those who prefer not to call, the customer can just text the number to get home information.

From there, the buyer can also use SMS text messaging or mobile Web to search while they are participating in the active search process of driving around neighborhoods.

How is Coldwell Banker Burnet promoting it?
They are promoting it through their agents to bring it directly to their homebuyers.

In addition, it's promoted on signage on each property for sale and [the] Web site.

On each property listed by CB Burnet, they offer the homebuyer full details on the home, including price and photographs, to help the buyer make a decision if they would like to schedule a showing to see the home.

What challenge is mobile addressing for a broker such as Coldwell Banker?
Mobile provides the agent and broker the ability to offer a higher level of service in their market.

Since the appeal in mobile is centered around connectivity, it allows the agent to attract more buyers and sellers to them through better marketing and tools. It addresses those buyers who rely on mobile accessibility.

Home shopping is both an online and offline process. Mobile addresses the offline portion of the home search process by providing access to information on every listing in the market on the buyer's phone while they are out and about.