What is geo-fencing?
Geo-fencing involves setting up a virtual perimeter around a geographic area. Geo-fences have been used for tracking senior citizens with Alzheimer's disease, tracking mobile employees, and even monitoring hazardous cargo.
The idea is that once the person or object that is being tracked leaves a certain area, or crosses outside of the geo-fence, a notification is sent to another party.
Is geo-fencing being used by consumers now?
Advertising company Placecast is one of the first companies to actively work with retail chains (North Face and Old Navy to name a couple) to use "location-based mobile marketing" as they say.
Essentially what Placecast has done is set up geo-fences around those retail stores and when consumers get close to those stores, they're automatically sent a marketing text message to their smartphone specific to that store. Placecast has a video on their web site that explains the concept very well.
How can geo-fencing be used for marketing real estate?
With that retail store example, hopefully you can see how geo-fencing could be a very effective marketing tool in real estate.
Real estate companies could set up geo-fences around the properties they are selling. Potential real estate buyers can come to the real estate company itself or head to their web site to input their specific home requirements.
From there, all the real estate buyer has to do is keep their smartphone with them. Once they get close to a property that matches their requirements, they're automatically alerted on their phone with marketing message:
"3 BR 2 BA ranch-style home available for $219,000. Big yard and a pool. 719 Longview Rd. Come take a look!"
It's the perfect merging of buyer requirements, location and timing.
How close is this technology to being a reality?
Like I said before, Placecast is doing this for retail chains at the moment. Xtify.com is another company doing geo-fencing marketing. Their service isn't real estate specific but it could easily be altered to market all types of properties.
I imagine the major obstacles to using this technology in real estate isn't the accessibility of the technology but rather needing the local MLS data to input into the geo-locating database. Obtaining that data and using it in this manner could prove to be an obstacle.
How is geo-fencing different than other GPS based real estate applications on the market?
There are plenty of mobile apps out there that let you fire up a program and find real estate for sale near your location. The beauty of using geo-fencing for mobile marketing is that it makes the consumer's search for real estate passive instead of active. All the consumer has to do is go about their normal routine and be notified of properties that match their needs.