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Sold! First Team Real Estate has gone Google

Posted by Joe Desuta, Chief Information Officer of First Team Real Estate

Editors note: Our guest blogger this week is Joe Desuta, Chief Information Officer of First Team Real Estate, the leading real estate company in Orange County, Calif. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Ask any real estate agent and they’ll tell you that communication is essential for success in the business. If agents can’t communicate with their clients, they’re out of business. For our more than 2,300 agents and staff in and around Orange County, California, email is the most important business tool they have at their disposal. They’re on it every day, helping their clients through what is one of the most important decisions of their lives. So, when we decided to make the move to Google Apps in July of last year, it was a pretty big leap for the company.

Prior to Google Apps, we hosted a legacy version of Microsoft® Exchange Server for email, as well as Microsoft Office and SharePoint for collaboration. When I joined the company I inherited an unreliable email system and a cumbersome collaboration process that often required people to email several versions of the same document to one unfortunate soul who had to piece them back together, so making a change was warranted.

As the CIO, I recognized the transformational process I was about to lead, so the decision to move away from hosted Exchange was one that I took seriously. I worked for weeks with the CEO and CFO to find the right solution for us. After looking at a few other on-premise and cloud-based options, we chose Google Apps for Business because of the reliable email system married with collaboration tools no one else offered.

In real estate there's a really quick litmus test to see if we should invest in any product: Will agents use it to list or sell more homes? Now that our agents use Google Apps, it's easier for them to provide the information our clients need. Many of our agents use Google+ Hangouts to meet with clients and review properties they've recently visited. Our business is based on relationships and personal interaction and Hangouts allows us to provide great customer service to our customers. With Google Sites, instead of sending clients a bunch of brochures or links to properties, the team now creates and shares customized sites with property listings and virtual tours. We even have branch offices that are using Google Sites and a shared Spreadsheet to update their “listing board” in real time and present it on the large flat screens throughout the office. Not only is this a great way for agents to stay current, but it is also great for our clients to see the collective power of First Team. By using Google Apps to run our business, the biggest difference is the personal touch we're able to provide to our clients and the speed at which we're able to get them information. And, of course, the email. The now-reliable email that’s the lifeblood of our business is backed by confidence we have in the Google Cloud.

The collaboration tools are also incredibly important for our internal staff - particularly our office managers and administrators. Our IT Development Manager uses Hangouts to hold meetings with his team and contractors that are spread out around the Orange County and Los Angeles area, sparing them countless hours of L.A. traffic purgatory. We also have one person that manages the office administrators in all 45 of our branch locations who is responsible for keeping rosters for every office. This used to be a painful process - collecting 45 separate spreadsheets and then merging them once every few weeks. Now, it’s the master roster list is shared on Google Sheets and can be edited and updated instantly.

We’re in an industry that isn’t always on the cutting edge of technology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t lead by example. Google Apps has helped us do just that.