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Can You Define “Tech Savvy Agent?”

Graphic Credit: Scott Adams – Dilbert

Self Proclaimed

I teach a lot of technology classes for real estate agents.  I’ve long abandoned asking agents to grade themselves on their own technical prowess, each person who seemed to judge themselves “savvy” really weren’t, yet know just enough to be argumentative.  It seems when an agent titles themselves tech savvy or has their ego inflated by others calling them that, they feel it necessary to debate anyone with more knowledge.  I’ve actually had a situation recently where an agent argued with me that ListServ’s are better than Blogs, because “I’ve just finished e-PRO and they spent more time on one versus the other.”

Setting the Consumer Expectations Too Low

It seems to me that consumers do want “Tech Savvy” agents because many of them are using the internet and feel that they want to work with someone who is at least, if not more, knowledgeable than they are.  Many agents are dubbing themselves as technically proficient because they can use the bare minimum technologies required to “be an agent”, but they may do so just a little bit better than another in their office, making them the “expert”.  An agent who can use MLS and doesn’t have to pay another to load their photos, who can read e-mail on their phone (who someone else setup for them) or who can clear the jam out of the copiers are being deemed the “experts”.

Let me be clear (as someone who holds the designation) e-PRO is not the industry standard or technology education.  It’s maybe even less than the minimum needed education.  No single program or class can educate you to all the aspects of real estate technology.  Typically technology training that is gained is archaic a year later.  It is for this fact that most agents don’t even make an attempt, because they don’t want to be constantly learning.  But I can honestly tell you that the skills that are archaic now, are the foundation for today’s necessary skills.  Case in point:  I recently had to go to a DOS prompt to fix Vista 64…

What Does It Really Take?

Knowledge.  Simply put – more information and learning it constantly.  Knowing how to build a FrontPage webpage in 1994 doesn’t make you a tech savvy, today.  In my opinion an agent who knows how to work out problems connecting to a network, how to build their own videos, widgets, CD’s with information as opposed to Homebooks, how to search MLS on their phones, to get an e-mail attachment to their clients – regardless the size, how to use mapping software to find the most efficient way to show properties, etc… are valuable.  In other words using today’s technology to serve their clients in the best possible way.  Checking e-mail is the status quo, not being savvy.

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How Do You Get there?

By far, finding and taking training on the basics is a good start, I actually like the “Dummies” series as well.  I hate to sound like an old broken record, but I can’t think of a better way to keep up to date on industry technologies than services like Twitter, and blogs such as AgentGenius.  Not only do these services give you information, and allow you to ask questions, but also have folks support you in the process.  WAY too few agents understand that they are hired by their clients for their KNOWLEDGE.  Lack thereof is to fail at the only task that you are hired to provide.  Most agents spend time learning contracts and negotiation tactics, but fail at all the other areas of the job that they are also expected to provide proficient services to.

Knowledge is power and is only gained through effort…. constant effort.

Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Rocky

    August 16, 2008 at 7:56 am

    I admit it, when it comes to technology I really am an “idiot savant.” There are a couple of things I get, and I get them really well. Anything else, you get a “uh… duh.. um… Let me call John Lauber!” I am constantly getting how on top of “technology” I am, what I really do is regergate what I see from my online community. That is where I really learn what I am doing.

    With that said, please define

    P.S. Please keep this between us that I am not a “tech savvy” agent, I only play one online!

  2. Rocky

    August 16, 2008 at 7:58 am

    P.S.S. “regergate” is a mispelling of “regurgitate” Like a dummy I hit the submitt button when working on cut and paste. That will teach me to have the 2+2 = 5 pre loaded and not to use a mouse!

  3. Jim Duncan

    August 16, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Being “tech savvy” is also knowing what technology not to use, and recognizing the limitations of technology.

    Being tech savvy also means recognizing that e-Pro (which I too hold) is a laughable “standard.”

    Being tech savvy means knowing where to find information – whether it’s on or offline – and how to best educate yourself and your clients.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    August 16, 2008 at 8:12 am


    “Being “tech savvy” is also knowing what technology not to use, and recognizing the limitations of technology.” — Is a great point! I use this premise when telling agents to NOT use PowerPoint during listing appointments…. or not using a “listserv” and assume that clients will find you 🙂

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    August 16, 2008 at 8:59 am

    ….. Let me be clear – I am not against PowerPoint in listings; however it needs to be appropriate. I believe that listing appointments should be two step. The first is visiting the property and just listening to the Seller. The second is the presentation and the agent needs to figure out in the first meeting if the Seller is going to be receptive to a “show” for the presentation or they would rather just interact with you…

  6. Amy Webb

    August 16, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Couldn’t agree with Jim more, and Twitter is where I draw the line. Maybe it is generational, but to me Twitter is all bling and no substance..not to mention, narcissistic.

    The other thing one needs to watch out for it mistaking the ability to employ technology with the ability to communicate. You may be hired for your knowledge, but if your client cannot understand what you are saying, the knowledge is useless: sometimes being too far ahead of a client on the tech curve can be alienating. Technology gives you the tools to deliver your message but it is up to you to deliver it well.

  7. Judy Peterson

    August 16, 2008 at 10:34 am

    The whole tech savvy moniker is meaningless. The day is gone when one course, class, or e-book can tell us how to use the tools of technology to get the job done. Change is so rapid. Funny, we don’t praise a mechanic because he’s socket wrench savvy. But still we need a standard of measurement so that consumers can make an educated evaluation. Many agents don’t care to learn even the minimum though. I’ve seen multi-million dollar properties with nothing more than an MLS sheet for marketing materials. Go figure!

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    August 16, 2008 at 10:36 am


    I suppose I am cautious about folks who draw lines based on assumptions, rather than experience. It’s not for everyone, and I am not nearly as active on Twitter as I was at one time. I don’t agree that Twitter isn’t any more narcissistic than writing a blog, having an opinion or commenting on a blog.

    I FULLY agree that agents need to know how to communicate ALL knowledge in a way that the consumer can handle. This is no different than explaining a complicated offer to purchase in layman’s terms or telling a consumer that they have right to choose the title insurance company, as opposed to reading Title 9 of RESPA to them.

    Communication with consumers is a entirely different post 🙂 However it’s a good reminder!

    Oh yeah…. “Generational” isn’t really the cause, personal preference is. It’s why I think MySpace is useless and rank right up there with floor duty and open houses. Several of the best tech writers and users of Twitter are considerably older than I am and the folks who I learn the most from on twitter and many other venues.

  9. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    August 16, 2008 at 10:50 am

    “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” -Aristotle

  10. Brad Nix

    August 16, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Your ‘Tech-Savvy’ tips are perfect details for Item #9 on my list of 10 Advanced Skills:

    I echo what Jim said about “knowing what technology not to use” and further add that you can hire many of these tech tools to be done for you. But also know that ‘authenticity matters’, especially when sending emails, blogging, or using twitter. Having your assistant do these things may not help you build a community of business opportunities.

  11. Amy Webb

    August 16, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Greetings Matt:

    When I said “draw the line: I meant, of course, where I personally draw the line. If you find value in Twitter, that is great, To my mind, it is not a useful business tool with a good return on the effort: I have difficulty envisioning how it might 1) add to the quality of the service I provide a client or 2) contribute positively to the image I project as a professional.

    And I do think there is a large substantive difference between the content of a blog or website ( even one heavily weighted toward opinion and commentary which not all blogs are ) on one hand and twitter on the other..Twitter might be fun, but I see it more as a diversion than a vital tech-tool or a meaningful platform for sharing ideas and information.

    Again, just my 2cents!


  12. Matthew Rathbun

    August 16, 2008 at 1:33 pm


    Ok, I completely see where you’re coming from now. Twitter’s value to me, other than fellowship, is that it let’s me connect with other RE folks, but I RE folks are my clients, as an instructor. When I was a Realtor, I don’t know that I would have seen it as a tool to aid my business either. Least not one that I couldn’t have done without.

    Great conversation! Thanks for joining in the conversation.

  13. Bob

    August 16, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I have difficulty envisioning how it might 1) add to the quality of the service I provide a client or 2) contribute positively to the image I project as a professional.

    @Amy – Twitter is used by some as a modern day party line. For many of us, adopting twitter for that purpose doesn’t seem to have much ROI, but Twitter can be leveraged to increase your online image if you have online content that people who follow you find valuable enough. That is the real value of micro blogging. Get your recent content out to people who may find worth linking to.

  14. Amy Webb

    August 16, 2008 at 3:18 pm


    Yes, I can see the value of twitter for networking and “google juice” for sure…I think the distinction I am making is between
    A) skills/tools which enable me to do a better job for my client, research, communicate, problem solve and market properties for sale effectively and versus
    B) skills/tools which benefit my career/self-promotionm

    A real estate client who is looking for a “tech savvy” agent ( the subject of the original post ) is probably a lot more concerned with the former than the latter!! …Whereas as agents – particularly tech savvy ones 🙂 – we see the need for A) and B) !!

  15. Bob

    August 16, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I don’t think as many purposely seek out “tech savvy” agents as some would have you believe.

  16. Todd Waller

    August 16, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Matt Thanks for the article! Once had an agent “challenge” me on my lack of E-Pro designation. After showing the agent 650 Google indexed links to one of my listings, the brow-beating ceased.

    Bob Consumers may not purposely seek out the “tech savvy” agents, but they sure love the results when they “trip” over us! [and by “trip”, I mean find us through some active marketing efforts ;-)]

    My two cents: agents these days are now called on to be data filters/miners and marketing gurus. With , point #9 about where consumers go for information could not be more poignant! Real estate agents NEED to have a grasp of data flow, data structures and technology simply to ensure they are doing everything possible to meet client needs.

    If we as agents are not utilizing the low or no cost tools that web2.0 has coughed up for us to assist in getting the word out about our business, listings, properties, buyers needs, etc, we are simply not “doing all that we can do” in this rough market.

    And that’s what our clients want and deserve: our best.

  17. Elaine Reese

    August 16, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    I’m supporting Amy’s position. I’m one of those that considers myself pretty “tech savvy”, but I became distracted last year with too much time spent around the water cooler of social media, thinking it would help my business. My business suffered greatly because while I was connecting with other agents, I wasn’t connecting with those wonderful people who actually pay my bills – home buyers and sellers.

    I had a wake-up call, so I went back to basics by incorporating my WP blog as ONE of the new tools in my marketing plan, albeit the most important and most effective tool. I do everything in my blog that the “experts” say to not do. All I care about is providing information that keeps the public coming back … and some of them even comment. But most importantly, it’s generating business (up nearly 40% vs 07).

    It’s not enough to KNOW the techie toys, it’s knowing how to use them to actually put money in our pocket. Otherwise, the ROI is very poor.

  18. Ginger Wilcox

    August 17, 2008 at 12:37 am

    “Tech savvy” is not one point in time, it is an ongoing process. If you don’t continue to learn new technologies, you can quickly become a dinosaur. Perhaps the e-Pro designation would be better if designees had to get continuing education each year on the latest tools to enhance their business.

  19. Bill Lublin

    August 17, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Matt; Great Post – technology is something that needs to be investigated and assessed so that each person can use the tools that work for them.

    The use of power point on a listing is a great example – there were tech companies with very complex slide show presentations available a few years ago. I think that they failed to really gain traction because the technology was the focus instead of the relationship building and information exchange that needs to take place in a listing presentation.

    @Ginger You are proof that you can be lovely and smart! – Being tech savvy means playing with new toys as they come out and knowing what you want to keep and what you want to discard (and knowing that those things change as time goes on)

  20. Kim Wood

    August 17, 2008 at 7:04 am

    RE: Twitter from the comment stream…….. if you read my twitter stream, you will quickly find that I am very “me”…. with that said, I have received three leads from Twitter. One sale closing in October. Yep. It’s worth it to me!

    RE: Tech Savy – My Ginger bud said it almost exactly the same as I was going to…… You must be a quick learner to constantly stay on the top of technology and the “new” thing. Evaluate platforms/programs/etc as they come out and know which ones to discard.

    Adding one more thing, however, is that you also have to stay where your consumers are…. I’ve found this last week, that many of them are just getting facebook accounts. That’s sort of “old news” to me, I guess I’m glad I didn’t discover it was myspace!

    The moral of my comment……….. you have to stay ahead, in, and a little behind the “norm” for tech to reach consumers.

  21. Judy Peterson

    August 17, 2008 at 7:49 am

    I agree, Bill, that the technology can get in the way especially in the circumstance of Power Point Listing Presentations. Yuck.

    We should always keep professional goals foremost so that technology is one of the tools we use to help our clients and consumers. That’s only possible when there’s a high degree of mastery though. Trust me I love my toys as much as anyone, but technology should follow not lead.

    The term, “tech savvy” in real estate was once a point of differentiation, but it’s become neutralized, in part because there are not enough performance standards. The really exciting news today is the growing value of “community” and the area I’m interested in growing my skills. Thanks for this discussion. It’s really central to what’s happening in the real estate profession.

  22. Matt Wilkins

    August 17, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I also agree that part of being tech savvy is knowing which systems will save you time and money while keeping current, future, and past clients wanting to come to you to use your knowlege and services.

    One of the most useful tech investments I have made this year is a Tablet PC. I can now create an offer, have the clients sign, and send it off to the other agent without ever having to print off and rescan a document. This definately saves time in the field (while keeping the offer halfway legible).

  23. Jeremy Hart

    August 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Amy, I’m on the other side of the fence of your comment – at least as it relates to things like Twitter. I don’t know when I first signed up, but in the grand scheme of things it’s been about a year, I think. In that time, I’ve closed two pieces of business, lined up another buyer AND am working on a new business idea with one of those folks. So to me, definitely worth it. In fact, in the last two weeks I’ve had six appointments with both buyers and sellers, all from Twitter and my blog.

    I can say that for a while, it really seemed like a drain because I wasn’t seeing any activity from my efforts (at least from a dollars and cents perspective). The education I was receiving, however, was having a tremendous influence though. I guess it doesn’t truly matter WHAT you do, as long as you’re willing to just get out and DO.

  24. Doug Devitre

    August 19, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Knowledge is power. I see too many people struggling either because they don’t know what they don’t know about technology. A client expects a level of service and the agent cannot deliver. I also see agents struggling because of the curse of knowledge. They know too much about technology as the curse absorbs time, money, energy, and creativity from getting the job done i.e over-participation in social media (I suggest find one or two and that is it).

    Profile of home buyers and sellers reports a mere 5% of agents are chosen because of their technology skills sadly behind honesty, reputation, and neighborhood competence. What does that mean?

    Technology makes agents worker smarter, learn faster, save time, and creates a unique experience for the buyer/seller client but why isn’t technology at the top of the survey?

    My two cents

    Learn how to use technology, implement the technology, define rules how you will use the technology, and outsource the technology if you can. Go to classes, conferences, blogs, and suck everyones’ brain. Ask this one question, “What is the best thing you learned from this?” Take the stuff you will implement and eliminate the rest.

    If you can’t figure out the details find someone who can.

    Stop thinking about it.

    Go sell a house and thank me later.

  25. Daniel Bates

    August 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I don’t twitter, never even been to the site and I’m certainly am not an E-pro. I do, however, run two successful blogs (one of which I created by myself) and incorporate the internet in ever level of my real estate career. The problem with saying you’re tech savvy is that most of the public isn’t savvy themselves and are just as impressed with a E-pro title. Results are the only way to prove the difference to them and that’s what the truly savvy do.

  26. Missy Caulk

    August 27, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Matt, I guess “tech savy” is in the eye of the beholder. To the consumer, that is just looking on the web for a home, they have never heard of most of these sites. I am actually surprised at Todd’s comment where I consumer was questioning the e-PRO designation. No I’ll say shocked, most consumers have no clue what those things mean. I know we’ve had that discussion before.
    Yea, I have it but never helped, the class when I took it was way too easy.

  27. Melanie

    September 27, 2008 at 3:30 am

    As a technically savvy individual, I come from a technical background and spent time as an Estate Agent, the level of mis-information and lack of knowledge of even basic computer systems in South Africa is frightening. Some estate agents cannot see the value of a decent website, never mind email.

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