Inman recently published this article by Randall Standard, CEO of VoicePad.
New Technology Can Break the Language Barrier
More than half of all new homeowners from 2010 to 2020 will be Hispanic households, according to the Urban Institute.
This rapidly growing market, which added 320,000 households last year alone, accounted for 40 percent of all U.S. household growth.
In fact, more U.S. households — nearly 38 million — speak Spanish at home, and that’s more than any other non-English language. It’s a massively underserved market.
With the Hispanic homeownership rate overall at just 46 percent, the opportunity is huge, especially when you consider growth projections.
The South Florida Solution
These facts are certainly not lost on Mike Pappas, president and CEO of South Florida-based The Keyes Company. Pappas’ brokerage firm serves one of the largest and most dynamic Hispanic markets in the U.S.
Keyes has a practical approach to serving their markets. When you visit the Keyes website and select the agent roster from “Realtors & Offices” on the top menu, the first thing you’ll notice is there are two search options.
You can search by the agent’s name or by a non-English language, which gives homebuyers and sellers the ability to find a multilingual agent who speaks their native language instantly.
When you select Spanish, you will find dozens of Keyes agents who are proficient in Spanish and English. That’s a fantastic feature. But Keyes recently figured out a way to extend its reach deeper into serving this market.
Pappas wanted to find a way to provide his agents with a mobile solution that was both easy to use and also had English and Spanish language capabilities.
“With a 70 percent Hispanic Miami population — we need to speak their language,” said Pappas. “The best customer is one who is in front of a home calling or texting for information on a sign. Speed and response are the differentiators in today’s technological world.”
There are several mobile products available for real estate firms that help real estate agents monitor and report customer activity back to agents, but multilingual options have been nonexistent — until recently.
Pappas wanted to enable his Keyes Company agents with tools that not only integrated Spanish capabilities with their point-of-sale advertising (yard signs), but also with their mobile Web tools and text search.
The goal was to market the entire local inventory in both English and Spanish wherever potential clients might be.
For years, agents have had two choices to narrate property tours: Take the time to do it themselves or hire the talent to produce it.
The Internet has made the ability to find voice talent easier than ever. Websites such as voices.com allow agents to listen to samples of voice talent with multilingual options, and a search function provides the capability to select from dozens of languages.
Voices.com lists more than 900 individuals, for example, who provide Spanish-language voice talent, and it offers quotes online.
Other options include such services such as FMP Media, which specializes in multilingual video and multimedia translation services, and internationalservices.com, which is used by major companies including Microsoft and Verizon.
For cost-savers, websites Elance and Fiverr.com also offers resources for Spanish-language translations.
The challenge remains that all of these services can add at least $25 — and often $100 or more — to the cost of each virtual tour translation.
Factor in the time that it takes to either hire bilingual talent or import translations in each tour, and it’s easy to see why the vast majority of video tours are not narrated at all even in English.
Pappas needed more. In fact, he needed the entire inventory translated and updated in Spanish — every few hours.
Breakthrough automated narration technology for MLS data
At VoicePad, we’ve spent several years developing our bilingual narration technology that we also license to virtual tour firms. The optimal solution for real estate does not use text-to-speech (a robotic type of narration); it uses a real human voice — in multiple languages — assembled on the fly.
At The Keyes Company, every listing has three tour types — all narrated:
A mobile-ready IDX slideshow for the Keyes’ mobile site.
A branded virtual tour for brokerage and agent.
A YouTube video of the property tour.
The “script” is created automatically from MLS data. Agents can also enhance the narration with just a few clicks.
Integration into a CRM is essential. Keyes CIO Wendi Iglesias reports that the integration into “Keyes Connect,” its CRM system that associates use, was seamless.
“We are getting the biggest bang for our buck with this technology and are driving 15,000-plus leads to our associates each year,” added Pappas.
The next stage for multilingual marketing in real estate: automation
For decades, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s mortgage funding sources, have provided consumers homebuyer information in multiple languages. Fannie Mae introduced its Spanish-language brochures in 1992.
Most of the major real estate franchises, both national and regional, offer buyers and sellers the ability to search for agents that are fluent in another language — but that’s about it.
But in terms of multilingual technology developed for real estate, there have always been a limited number of options. Automated narration solutions just didn’t exist.
But, what if you could take an MLS feed of property data and automatically create narration content in Spanish for every property on the MLS?
Many years in development, this new audio technology now automatically translates an entire residential MLS feed of property data into Spanish with high-quality diction.
This is not simply converting Web text into Spanish. That’s old technology and has been around for years. The new solution uses a natural voice technology that’s specifically built for phone inquiries and tour narration.
Think of what this means in terms of marketing to a Hispanic audiences.
A company can provide property information in Spanish by phone with live transfers that automatically route incoming Spanish-speaking inquiries to Spanish-speaking agents.
Bilingual speech technology removes the language barrier from the real estate sales process by allowing “English-only” agents to compete on Spanish-speaking lead generation efforts.
It means you don’t need to speak Spanish to participate in serving the Hispanic community.
In addition to cost savings of hiring voice talent, automated narration can also save agents, who narrate their tours, a lot of time and effort. It’s not just a few tours that will feature narration, but all the listings in the MLS can now have multilingual narration.
This new breakthrough in audio technology gives every agent new ways to help more buyers, especially Hispanics. Because if you can’t help a customer in their native tongue, you’ll either lose them to someone else at your brokerage who can — or worse, to another company.
Every day, we update 3 million property tours automatically from MLS data with conversational Castilian Spanish every 120 minutes.
The Hispanic market opportunity is huge, and we can use technology to serve one of America’s fastest-growing homebuying markets, even if you don’t “Habla Español.”