Survive the Housing Crisis: Open Source Will Open Doors

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with API Network

During an undeclared recession like this one, it can be advantageous to reassess your business strategies. The phone may be ringing less, and you can use that time to take inventory of where you are and where you would like to be in terms of technology. Take advantage of this opportunity to cut costs and increase efficiency so that you’ll be able to take on as much as you want to when business picks up again. Here are seven excellent tools to aid you in your improvement endeavors:

1. Joomla - A Content Management System

Joomla is an open source CMSJoomla allows you to quickly build professional websites and intranet sites. Every detail can be customized and you have full control of everything that goes on the site because you manage the source code. The Joomla extensions database has almost 4000 existing plug-ins, allowing it to do just about anything you could possibly need it to do. Joomla costs nothing to obtain; you will, however, need someone to install and support it.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive super-hacker, though – anyone who operates a Wordpress site or a Facebook page can become a Joomla webmaster in a pinch. Should you need real technical help, Joomla pros are now easy to find and inexpensive to hire.

2. Taskhopper Dingo - Juggling Many Tasks for Many Clients

Dingo runs inside of JoomlaIn an office where there are more projects than people, some type of online task manager is a must. Taskhopper Dingo is a plug-in for Joomla that’s truly ideal for keeping track of who needs to do what – and when. Imagine an admin answering the phone: rather than writing down the details of the call on paper or sending an e-mail, the message is placed into Dingo. If the note is about a particular client, an e-mail (or text message, if you so choose) is automatically sent to the agent-in-charge so follow-up can be swift and effective.

Using Dingo can keep client information separate if that's a requirement, but it also allows you to share information so that different project managers can communicate with one another.

3. Property Listing Plug-in

The Listings plugin runs inside of JoomlaThis tool allows you to quickly and easily publish your properties to the web; from there, your customers can view unlimited photos, use mortgage calculators and take virtual tours, schedule a showing, use a comprehensive search engine to discover different properties, and more. This plug-in offers you the opportunity to manage your office as well as individual agents, who can assume online ownership of their properties.

Customers can even e-mail a friend when they come across a property of particular interest.  This is a must-have for real-estate agents who want to stay ahead during these tough times.

 

4. vTiger - Client Relations Management

vTiger is an amazing CRMThis is where you keep all the names and numbers that make your business world go round. This is not a Joomla product, but that’s okay because you really don't want to mingle your CRM with your public website – that could be confusing.    What does vTiger do? Essentially, it performs the typical CRM tasks: lead management, account & contact management, opportunity management, campaign management, mass mailing, e-mail templates, Mail Merge templates, “to do” lists, meetings and calls, shared calendars, e-mail notifications, Outlook plug-in, Thunderbird extension, 20 pre-built reports, custom fields…you get the idea.

Remember, all these tools are open source, which means that you’re free to take them in whichever direction you choose.

5. gnuCash - A Quickbooks/MS-Money Replacement

Run your entire financial life with gnuCashThis tool will help you keep track of income and expenses from all of your accounts. Small business features allow you to manage customers, vendors and projects, and help you with invoicing as well as accounts receivable/accounts payable. gnuCash can even communicate with your bank (using the same technology protocol as Quickbooks). Everything can be extracted into reports and presented as graphs. Switching to gnuCash from other accounting software is easy because it can import data from MS Money and Quicken.

6. Open Office 3.0 - Spreadsheets, Writing, Presenting

OpenOffice -- way better than the MS versionDump Microsoft Office! OpenOffice provides a great alternative to existing commercial office suites. It comes with the following tools: word processor (Writer), spreadsheet (Calc), presentation (Impress), drawing and graphing (Draw), equations and formulae (Math) and a database tool which also builds reports and forms (Base). All components are multi-platform and multilingual.

This is not an online product – rather, it’s one that you download and install on your PC. It works great in Windows and Linux.

7. Ubuntu Linux - A Windows Replacement

Try it -- you'll be amazedDump Windows! If you purchase a new laptop at just about any retail store you have one choice: Windows Vista. But that doesn't mean you have to keep it. Ubuntu runs Firefox, OpenOffice and everything else above. Why dump Windows? Because it's loaded with bugs and lots of other nasty software designed to force you to upgrade constantly. It's an endless loop of expensive frustration, but there’s a better way!

Here's the tricky part of all this: Change.

Asking people to change their behavior patterns is no easy task. Habits and routines can really hinder technological adaptation, but that doesn’t mean that technology will stop evolving. We’ve just got to roll with the punches.

I've been involved with hundreds, maybe thousands of projects and the failed ones share a theme in common: the end users didn't want to change their ways, or what was delivered was not compelling enough to make them switch.  Most unsuccessful endeavors are characterized by uninvolved stakeholders and general ennui.  Yuck.  Nobody wants that.

We’d like to help one agent become bigger, better, and more efficient, so we’re offering the following:

  • An analysis of your current technology
  • Hosting and installation of the open source products listed above
  • Support and training to help make sure everything runs smoothly

We will provide these services, at no charge, to the agent who proves that s/he wants it most and will put it to the best use. This will be no obligations, no strings attached, nothing for you to pay, no Fear Factor-like hoops for you to jump through (I don’t want to see you eat a scorpion any more than you want to nosh on it).

So give it some thought and comment about what makes you an active stakeholder in the revamp/overhaul of your existing office technology. We'll choose the winner in early December, and if it’s you (and it very well could be), you’ll be on the path to technological nirvana in no time.

PS.  We have intentionally not included a blogging product because we know the really good agents do that here!  :)

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Rainmaker
492,227
Richard T. Dolbeare
Keller Williams Realty Maui - Kahului, HI
R(B), ABR, CRS...Hawaii Multi-Island Specialist

Ummm, you might want to think twice about dumping Microsoft Office.  Microsoft is the standard for the business world.

Oct 23, 2008 07:43 PM #1
Rainer
26,353
Kasey Kase
API Network - Mequon, WI
I'm not really a pirate

Richard:   I stopped using MS Office in 2004.   Can honestly say I've not used Word, Excel or Powerpoint since then.    OpenOffice is a full replacement, offers more, costs nothings and can open/edit and save Microsoft documents with no problem.   There was a time when Wang was the business standard.   Standards change.

Oct 23, 2008 08:46 PM #2
Rainer
336,110
Chip Jefferson
Gibbs Realty and Auction Company - Columbia, SC

Open office can and will replace the standard of Microsoft. I love it. Thanks for some new things to check out. I may need some help.

Oct 23, 2008 10:22 PM #3
Ambassador
920,196
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

thanks Kase, I'll call you, I'd like to do some changes. ARe you surprised?

Oct 23, 2008 11:50 PM #4
Rainmaker
1,373,597
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Open Source software programs are getting better every day. They are no longer simple programs, but professionally developed. There were a couple here I will check out. Thanks.

Oct 24, 2008 12:13 AM #5
Rainer
8,742
Bill Pryor
HELPMESELL.com - Clearwater, FL

You like Joomla???

Take a look at my new beta site. Everything works except for the webmail in the CRM.  PLEASE give me your feedback.

Public pages: http://beta.financethishouse.com
Username: admin
Password: demo

You can login as admin on the public pages or in the back office area. Only because this is a beta site you'll find an admin link at the top of all the website pages that goes to...

http://beta.financethishouse.com/administrator

Username: admin
Password: demo

Dec 29, 2008 05:57 AM #6
Rainmaker
416,365
Mesa, Arizona Real Estate Mesa Arizona Realtor
Homes Arizona Real Estate LLC - Mesa, AZ
AzLadyInRed

Love this information! I have a WP blog and a Joomla website. Website is still in the works...had someone helping me work on it, and they fizzled out. Typical. Cool stuff you have here.

Nov 24, 2009 04:10 PM #7
Rainer
26,353
Kasey Kase
API Network - Mequon, WI
I'm not really a pirate

@ Teri:   Your Joomla site looks good!    What part is undone?   Drop me a note if you need any detailed feedback.

Nov 25, 2009 02:43 AM #8
Rainmaker
416,365
Mesa, Arizona Real Estate Mesa Arizona Realtor
Homes Arizona Real Estate LLC - Mesa, AZ
AzLadyInRed

Thanks so much....I absolutely will call on you, especially since you're Joomla savvy. ;-) Any feedback is always appreciated. ;-)

Nov 25, 2009 03:08 PM #9
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