Top Qualities for a Contact Management System

By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

With so many different contact management systems on the market today, deciding which one to use can be overwhelming. And if you’re new to real estate, you may not know what features you’ll really need.

What are the most important attributes to look for in a system that manages information of clients and prospects? To find out, we asked real estate professionals to posts their thoughts on the REALTOR® Magazine blog on Active Rain. Here’s what they had to say:

Drip, Drip, Drip: The ability to send out e-mails to contacts at timed intervals—i.e., “drip” marketing—is critical for any contact management system. Unfortunately, according to many of the practitioners who responded to this question, several of the existing solutions leave much to be desired. Relenta ( and RatePoint ( were among the few systems cited as having good drip-marketing capabilities.

Low (or No) Cost: If expense is a factor—and it almost always is—then Outlook and Excel are obvious choices as they’re included in Microsoft Office, which comes installed on most PCs. However, they may be limited in functionality. For instance, Ruthmarie Hicks, a real estate professional in White Plains, N.Y. says she uses Excel right now because it’s free, but added that it’s “awkward.” “My volume of leads is getting to the point where this will no longer be practical. When I hit that wall, I’ll change,” she says.

Just for You: Customization was another important feature for many respondents. Specifically, practitioners like to be able to add all kinds of data and organize contacts accordingly. Several mentioned ACT! ( as being adaptable, including Kelly Dixon, a practitioner from Dunedin, Fla. “I was looking for a new program to use and the obstacle I found with so many was that they did not have input fields for spouse birthdays. I used ACT to keep track of birthdays for not just the primary contact but also the spouse and their children. It was VERY customizable in that regard,” Dixon says.

Beauty in Simplicity: User friendliness and intuitive functionality are definitely crucial, as most real estate pros aren’t technology experts and don’t aspire to be. Systems should be simple and require minimal training to get up and running. It’s a little more difficult to say definitively which systems will be easy for real estate pros to use, as it depends largely on the individual practitioner’s level of technical proficiency and desired applications for the CMS.

Want more insights and tips from fellow practitioners? Be sure to check out the dozens of lists we’ve compiled for our April issue.

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at

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  1. I have looked around at a lot of systems and always come back to Outlook 2007 using Exchange Server. Most people don’t understand the power of Outlook such as how you can relate contacts to each other, assign and track tasks, and never let any Emails or calls slip through the cracks.

    With Exchange Server your data is backed up automatically, you can share your contacts and calendar with team members, and Email access from where every you are is no problem.

    It is a great program and hard to beat it.

  2. Very good information, Bryan! I am very happy with Outlook too, but these interviews give interesting ideas to think on.

    A friendly system is the most important feature for Real Estate business and all the leads, information and stuff we have to manage.

    Thank you for sharing!