Choosing the Best Real Estate CRM


What is the best real estate CRM?

I hear this question all the time from real estate agents across the country. Frequently, this question is followed by “What’s a CRM?”

Let’s get that second question out of the way first.

CRM stands for customer relationship management. To some, CRM means the software designed to help manage clients. To others, CRM is more of a philosophy or strategy for how to run a business. Others view CRM as a process that involves strategy, software and systems to gather, nurture and ultimately convert contacts to clients. For other variations of CRM definitions, see 21 experts define CRM in their own words and pictures.

This post is about using a CRM software solution for managing contacts, whether they are current or prospective clients. So, what is the best real estate CRM?

My usual response to that question, and this is in no way meant to be as flippant as it might sound, is:

The best CRM is the one you use.

The simple fact is that using any CRM requires time, effort and commitment. It’s one of those things that doesn’t typically provide immediate rewards. Human nature being what it is, many people start using a CRM, receive no instant gratification, and slowly slip back into their old ways of doing things.

But if you use a CRM consistently, you can increase your efficiency and conversion rates. Turning your database from a list of contacts to a list of clients is profitable. Yes, it requires some setup work and continuing effort to maintain, but it can pay off handsomely over time.

Basic CRM features

CRM software can range in price from free to thousands of dollars. Regardless, all CRMs usually contain:

  • A database for storing and viewing contact information (name, phone number, email address, etc.)
  • The ability to attach notes or files to contacts
  • A method for organizing and prioritizing prospects
  • The ability to forward or distribute contacts to another person
  • Tools for following up with contacts

Advanced CRM features

Beyond the basics, some CRMs offer advanced features such as:

  • Lead aggregation. Do you have leads coming in from multiple websites? You might want to look at a CRM that connects to your lead generation websites and automatically pulls in contacts from them.
  • Integration with other software like your email client, cloud storage sites and social networking tools.
  • Availability across multiple platforms, so you can access your CRM from different desktop computers or a mobile device.
  • Calendar management. It’s one thing to store a date in a database. It’s another thing for a CRM to automatically send an email to a client on the fifth anniversary of their home purchase.
  • Transaction management. Some real estate CRMs not only handle your prospects, they also help you manage buyer and seller transactions from first contact through (and beyond) closing.
  • Team management.

As you research CRM platforms, determine which features you must have and those that would be nice to have but aren’t crucial to your business goals. Check the features that each CRM offers and make notes of what’s available. This can help you narrow your choices from a daunting list to something more manageable. Ask your broker and fellow agents which CRM they use, including the features they find most useful and the ones they never use.

CRM products to consider

There are dozens of companies that offer CRM software. Some CRMs are generic — designed to be used in any industry — and some are specifically designed for the real estate vertical. If you search the Internet for “real estate CRMs,” you’ll get pages and pages of results. For example, Top Producer, REThink, Propertybase, AgentOffice, WiseAgent, RealtyJuggler, TORCHx, BoomTown, Contactually, Tribus, and Zurple.

Fortunately, most CRM products have a trial version. A trial lets you give the product a test drive before making a purchase. Some trial versions won’t let you try out advanced features and most limit how long you can use them. Take advantage of these trial versions to refine what you’re looking for in a CRM and to get a feel for the ease of use and interface each offers.

Other considerations

Besides determining the features you need, you should consider other factors such as accessibility, fee structure and support. Do you need a mobile app? Do you want to install the CRM on your laptop? Do you want to access it from anywhere using an Internet connection? Do you prefer a one-time payment or a monthly subscription?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what Zillow has to offer in the CRM arena. Available at no additional cost to Zillow Premier Agents, the Zillow Contact Management Platform offers basic CRM functions, agent-branded drip email campaigns, and contact forwarding.

Are you already using a CRM system? You can automatically sync your Zillow contacts to your CRM. Check out the Zillow Tech Connect program which does just that!

The best real estate CRM

What’s the best real estate CRM? The the one you use. Consistent use of a real estate CRM can go a long way toward converting more prospects to clients and improving your business overall. Take the time to find a CRM that’s right for you.