Where sell meets cell in Edmonton

The listing-sheet box may be going the way of the $150,000 house.

You know the box. It’s affixed in front of homes for sale and holds brochures or sheets of paper with the property’s asking price, listing details and the realtor’s business card.

It’s being replaced, or superseded in importance, by a 21st-century- technology version that takes advantage of younger homebuyers’ love of text messaging.

Vancouver-based RealtyText is the latest text-messaging service to move into Edmonton. The company plans to move into Calgary as well.

After launching in Edmonton two weeks ago, it now has more than 20 realtors subscribing to the service allowing them to upload their listings to the system and add a special code to their for-sale signs, says president George Haddad.

Customers who see a home can punch the number on the sign into their phone. “All the information about the property comes up within seconds on their phone, including photos,” Haddad says.

Besides listing information such as specifications, customers get the option of seeing other properties and getting a call back from the agent, and realtors can easily track interest in a listing.

“It’s great for going green. There will be properties with those info sheets and they’re either empty or they’re all over the place. This way, you’re providing information 24/7 to the end consumer.”

Haddad, a contractor, says he came up with the idea after watching American Idol, whose viewers vote for contestants by text messaging. After 18 months of development, he launched RealtyText earlier this year.

Sara MacLennan, a Coldwell Banker Johnston Realtor, began using another text-messaging service, Homes on Mobile Phones, in August.

“We like the service because we want it to be as easy as possible for potential buyers to find out about homes of interest to them,” MacLennan says.

“Gen X and Y prefer text messaging to most forms of communication, so we’re trying to cater to everyone’s needs. The response has been fairly good — we get about 15 to 25 text message inquiries per listing, compared to 20 to 30 e-mails on average.”

She says the most traffic still comes from other realtors showing her listings through the Multiple Listing Service.

MacLennan’s agency also plans to shortly launch another high-tech innovation that will combine Google Maps’ Street View function to search the MLS. The company recently took photographs of Edmonton streets, but the feature — which shows stitched-together photos of street panoramas — isn’t available yet for Edmonton.

“Once Street View is live you will be able to virtually walk through the neighbourhoods where homes are listed for sale,” MacLennan says. “So, potential homebuyers can really get a sense for the neighbourhood before even driving by the home.”

That would be useful for out-of-town buyers, especially, to get a feel for where parks are or what the neighbouring homes and back alleys are like, she says.

Haddad’s company, meanwhile, is working on another application where home hunters can take virtual tours of properties on their mobile phones.

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