Realtors gain edge watching television Satellite network keeps professionals in tune with business

November 05, 1995|By Daniel H. Barkin | Daniel H. Barkin,SUN STAFF

William Holman typically braces himself for 12-hour days selling real estate by relaxing in his kitchen with coffee and Good Morning America.

Last Thursday, he was still lounging in his Hampstead home watching TV, before commuting to his office near Westminster. But now he was learning about new computer databases that help agents find buyers for houses. And he was getting tips on legal responsibilities of Realtors to disclose lead paint and radon problems.

Mr. Holman, a retired federal employee who has sold homes for 10 years, was watching RealNet Direct, a national network that was launched Wednesday in a ceremony at the National Association of Realtors' Washington headquarters.

The network bills itself as the first direct-to-home education and information service aimed at career professionals using the DirecTV satellite service. It is a joint venture of the NAR and the Washington-based Member Direct Television.

But it is just the latest in an array of video and on-line services targeting the more than 750,000 real estate agents and brokers in the United States who have found rapid change to be the norm. New laws and regulations redefining the roles and responsibilities of agents and technological innovations demanding greater computer-literacy are boosting Realtors' training needs. Also, the influx of more than 200,000 agents over the past decade has made the business fiercely competitive.

"Real estate's evolving so fast," Mr. Holman said. "This gives me a foot up."

RealNet Direct will offer three to five hours of programming a day, five days a week, consisting of industry news, sales training, and technology and continuing education programs. They are received through the same 18-inch direct broadcast satellite dishes that have been competing with cable television for more than a year.

DirecTV, a Hughes Electronics Corp. subsidiary, is the larger of two programming providers for the new pizza-sized dishes, the other being USSB. DirecTV offers up to 175 channels of news, sports, movies and other entertainment, and the RealNet Direct channel costs Realtors $16.95 a month if they get it at home with the DirecTV programming package. There's also, of course, the price of the dish, which runs from $600 to $800. Offices pay

$49.95 a month.

Member Direct Television is the operating name of CxChange, a company whose owners include the founders of The Learning Channel.

Edmund G. Woods Jr., president of the NAR, said last week that he believes the new network "will help our members build their bottom line."

That's what motivated Mr. Holman, an agent with Century 21 Able Realty Inc., who was one of the international real estate firm's top producers in the Baltimore area in the third quarter. He was one of 30 Century 21 agents recently awarded the Sales Achievement Gold Award, given to the top 5 percent in the company's Greater Maryland District.

Mr. Holman estimates he sells $4 million to $5 million worth of homes annually. "I want to do some more," he says, and he sees the satellite network as a way to learn how to be more productive. He says he can watch some programs live, but he can also program his VCR to tape them when he's not home. If he sees something he thinks will benefit other Realtors in his office, he'll make a videotape.

"And if I don't like it, I can cancel it," he says.

For some agents, the network may provide a cheaper and more convenient alternative to attending regional or national conventions, particularly if it can meet continuing education requirements, described by RealNet Direct as one of its main goals.

Other satellite services have already been feeding news, information and training to real estate offices. The Real Estate Television Network (RETN) went on the air in August 1994 to provide three hours of daily programming to offices.

RETN is a subsidiary of Jones Naughton Entertainment Inc., and the cost is around $195 per month, including all equipment and programming.

The RE/MAX Satellite Network sends six hours of programming into more than 1,000 RE/MAX offices worldwide. The RE/MAX network also receives a 30-minute program from NBC Desktop Video.

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