By Tom Bailey Jr.


Memphis Commercial Appeal


Posted August 4, 2010 at midnight


One real estate agent goes paperless as often as possible, having clients sign digital contracts with a stylus.


Another essentially carries his office in his smart phone, finding answers there to every conceivable question clients ask.


Another stays connected to her clients on Facebook and Twitter.


Still another regularly e-mails 1,500 past clients the latest sales data for houses in their neighborhoods.


Crye-Leike Realtors held a tech fair Tuesday for agents, but for some, like these four, it was preaching to the choir.


In the lobby of the agency's Quail Hollow office in East Memphis, vendors pitched their smart phones, cameras and computers.


After all, Tammy Deane of Wolf Camera said, photographs of bathrooms and kitchens are better with a wide-angle lens.


But just off the lobby in her office, agent Melissa Hayes was already plugged in, working at two computer screens. Every minute or so they emitted a sound that signaled an incoming message. (Any telephone voice messages are transcribed by Google Voice and sent to her by e-mail or text.)


An agent for 23 years, Hayes now uses a new database management system that allows her to add the social media information for all her clients, showing her what each has been posting on Facebook and Twitter.


Realizing Facebook is more social than business, Hayes uses a light touch in her postings.


At 10:48 a.m. Friday, for example, she posted some good news about mortgage rates to her 889 friends: "15 year conventional is 3.75%. Seriously??? Incredible!!!"


At 9:49 that night, a woman named Sandy responded: "Wow! What is a 20-30 year loan rate running?"


In the lobby, the dapper Stanley Mills, a Bluetooth phone headset attached to one ear, stood in his seersucker suit at Apple's booth to hear about that company's sleek products.


But Mills already has been using Apple's latest, the iPad. He was among the early agents to use computers and cell phones to make his work more efficient, and he's still riding the tech wave.


He has been with Crye-Leike so long -- 34 years -- his ID badge is No. 16.


His newest tech tool is a program to e-mail 1,500 former clients monthly reports about sales in their neighborhoods.


Mills even tells them the price per square foot fetched in the latest neighborhood sales.


A home is often a person's biggest investment, so keeping up with neighboring house values is like checking your stock prices, Mills said.


"I haven't found anybody who said, 'I don't care what's going on in my neighborhood. Don't send it to me,' '' he said.


The need for timely information and answers is why agent Chet Whitsitt keeps an iPhone in his pocket to access all his files.


"People want information and they want it now," said Whitsitt, an agent with Crye-Leike since 1985.


Even all the sales contracts he deals with are accessible.


If, after a closing, a client calls asking how many days she has to move out of the house, Whitsitt can check his smart phone and tell her.


If he's driving around with a client and the client expresses curiosity about a house they pass, Whitsitt picks up his phone, goes to, types the address and shows interior photos of the house. If the client is still interested, they arrange to go inside.


And since the phone has GPS, it shows every house for sale nearby.


Whitsitt looked at the smart phone he held in his hands and said, "It's phenomenal what this has done."


David Ernst, with less than six years' experience, is relatively new to real estate. To get his foot in the door, he specialized in selling expired listings. That's real estate's version of cold cases. Before long, he received other referrals.


Ernst brought to Crye-Leike a passion for going paperless. He brings his tablet computer with him everywhere and uses paperless software.


The multipage listing and sales contracts can be unwieldy, especially since multiple copies of each must be printed for all the parties.


When it's time to sign a contract, Ernst opens his tablet computer and hands the client a stylus to sign with. It's like signing for a credit purchase at a department store.


The technology also saves Ernst the trouble of hauling around copies of blank forms. As long as he has his computer, he never worries about forgetting to bring a form.


Going paperless, he said, "alleviates so much heartache and headache."


Each agent exploits technology his or her own way, said Landis Foy, managing broker at Crye-Leike's regional headquarters. But he identified one trait they have in common: They're all very successful.


-- Tom Bailey Jr.: 529-2388