Google Voice is now open for signup. You don’t need an invite. You might be wondering if getting a free Google Voice account is something you should bother with. I think you should. I’ve been test running Google Voice for a few months now. Like a lot of the Google products it is fantastic in some ways and limited in others.
I currently utilize it in the following manner:
Calls to our main office line are forwarded when no answer/busy, or out of office, to a (non-Google) hosted voicemail service that provides call options to reach Sylvia or me. (i.e. press 1 for Steve, 2 for Sylvia)
If the caller selects me, that call is forwarded to Google Voice which in turn rings my cell phone if the call is during a time for which I have it set to foward, which is pretty much all day every day until nighttime. If I don’t answer, Google Voice, takes the message, transcribes it into text, and emails it to me.
From my Gmail account, either at my desk or on iPhone, I see the voice message alongside my email messages. I can either click to listen, or just read the text. Sometimes the text is a perfect transcription, sometimes it’s a garbled mess, depending of course on how well the caller speaks and enunciates. Usually, it’s a mix but readable.
Below is a sample message which is typical, though slightly altered. I changed the phone number and the message slightly.
Take a look at this chart showing the number of homes that go under contract, or “Pending”, in Austin each month over the past several years. The green line is 2010. I could almost stop writing at this point and just let the chart tell the entire story. But have a careful look at the Austin real estate market behavior for the past several years, and then see what our government caused to happen in April and May with the $8K tax credit.
The writing was on the wall last month when I wrote about the Tax Credit Effect on the Austin Real Estate Market. We had a record number of homes go Pending in April, and May was looking pretty slow, and that didn’t change. So we end up with a record high followed by a record low month in terms of number of homes going under contract.
And in June, the hangover persists. As we head into the last weekend of what is historically the second busiest month of the year, the Austin real estate market is getting ready to lay another rotten egg. Thanks Tax Credit, for sucking the life out of the market, even with interest rates yesterday at 50 YEAR LOWS!. At present, we have about 1250 homes that have gone Pending in June, so even if we have a brisk next 6 days, you can look at the chart and see that June will remain substantially below the expected level under normal conditions.
What does this look like out in the field?
I just finished adding one of our new listings to the Austin MLS. Years ago, this took about 15 minutes. There was far less data included and only 8 photos with no comment space for photos, no pdf attachments, and far less space to type the general description of the property.Today, a nearly overwhelming amount of data, photos and attachments must be included with a properly entered MLS listing, and it takes a while to enter it all in.
How long do you suppose it takes today to enter a real estate sales listing into the Austin MLS, from start to finish, sitting down at the computer with photos, files and info all ready to go? This includes 25 photos to upload and type in comments for, several pdf attachments, 512 characters of description (both agent-only and another 512 for the public sites), and (I haven’t actually counted) what must be well over 100 fields and data-points, including driving instructions to find the property right down to trivial data such as whether the 2-car garage has one door or two and which compass direction the property faces.
The one I just completed took me about 70 minutes. I started at 7:42AM and completed it at 8:50. It’s best to do it late night or early morning to reduce interruptions. Sometimes it can take as much as 2 hours, or longer if interruptions occur, or sometimes we have to save as “incomplete” and finish later before posting live.
But it’s important to get it done, start to finish because not all of the listing feeds update properly. This means that if I add a half dozen photos to start with and decide to finish the rest later, the initial data feed that sends listings to the vast array of public facing websites will send out an incomplete set of photos.
Some photos will update later, but others will not, and those sites will retain only the initial set of pics. So, in the case of adding a new listing, first impressions are literally the only impression in many instances. So it’s important that your listing agent knows how to gather everything needed ahead of time, including all 25 of the best photos to be used, virtual tour links, and all of the data points needed so that every photo and every field on your listing is correct right out of the gate.
An impatient seller might ask, “what’s the big deal. Can’t we hurry up and get the listing in this weekend and add the better photos later?