Essential iPad utilities for realtors and consumers alike
IPad Tools that Can Help Buyers and Realtors Alike Navigate the Field
A lot of my clients and folks who I meet at open houses always ask me what apps I use when I’m in the field. Realtors often ask the same type of questions too given the fact that I am the agent with the reputation of taking videos, photos and video conferencing during an open house or on broker tour for absent clients. Because I’m in the field a lot I’ve had a good chance to suss out the apps that work best for me. Of course everyone will have divergent opinions, but here are mine.
Is Anyone There?
One fundamental question we should address first: Namely, how do I get to these apps while away from a Wi-Fi zone?
For the past few weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to finagle and use a loaner iPad with AT&T’s LTE 4G service. At first, I was a little skeptical because of upload speeds, reception issues and all the other complaints I had about the original 3G iPhone.
But since then, I’ve grown to be rely upon this mobile accessibility as a utility. Either it’s improving in speed and coverage, I’m growing more patient, or a combination of the two; probably the latter as I am the inpatient type.
Verdict: it got better. Being able to access MLS data through Safari, being able to access dropbox documents easily, updating my website, social media and, of course, being able to use the apps I’m going to talk about here is addictive.
(Note: AT&T does prevent an LTE enabled iPad to tether – i.e., creating your own Wi-Fi hotspot using the LTE network as doing so would cannibalize their for-fee data plans).
Because Wi-Fi networks are not yet ubiquitous throughout the city unlike places like Mountain View, we’ll have to rely upon these LTE-equipped devices or other solutions such as mobile hotspot using LTE networks in the interim as these applications push and receive large amounts of data.
Now, for those apps.
I use three categories of applications when I’m out and about.
First, is notetaking; next, is reporting and dissemination; and last, are further research applications.
Penultimate – this is the simplest of all apps as it mimics having a notebook with you using your finger or stylus as a pen, marker or eraser. It allows you to select different types of “paper” like graph paper or wallpaper as well as allowing you to have different colors of “marker.” This app is great for those walk-through inspections, initial meetings, or times we need to draw something on the spot. The good thing is that you can PDF the documents and email them straight away from the app itself.
Notes – this is the native notetaking application in the iOS suite. It’s simple, a bit annoying when you enter addresses as it’ll automatically link them to maps, but nice to use because you can use Siri or the iPad version of Siri when taking notes. Again good for those thoughts that occur to you while you’re driving or when you need to dictate a long email or note like this one for example. But it does get a bit buggy when notes go on for a long time – better to use separate small notes. And, if you synchronize it with iCloud will have access to your notes on your desktops and email like. Also, Dragon Dictation is a great option for non-dictation-enabled devices.
Photos and Camera – self-explanatory really. Having the ability to take pictures for clients, colleagues and yourself, is essential for visual thinkers like yours truly. That said, always practice ethics when taking these types of pictures because some people will definitely mind if you do. Be sure you get permission first. One important thing is to have a photo editing application that is not your Instagram novelty type of application. Being able to crop, adjust brightness and contrast and save those changes is important. The simplest and easiest tool I’ve used is PS Express from Adobe. It essentially accomplishes all the above with the options of enhancing a photo even more. Also good that you can email and edited photo for save the photo to your camera roll
Magic Plan – this application uses your camera to take photos of a room that essentially will be able to be translated into – well, a floor plan. The application takes some getting used to and calibration. It’s continually improving by adding new features like adding photos and being able to compile all the plans into something cohesive. You can spend a lot of time trying to get this right – or you can still ask an expert plan maker to do it right the first time.
Face time – using this or Skype gives you the opportunity of being able to bring clients or relatives of clients into a place that they can’t make in person. Still the technology and network capacity is developing to meet the types of challenges streaming video and audio present, but Iimagine one day we will be able to broadcast 3-D – isn’t that a thought. The one thing I would say is it recording and or broadcasting video from the iPad camera is a bit cumbersome. Disconcerting also is that the default camera view is extreme close up!
Moving on into the research category explicitly there are two apps I especially rely upon: My Theo and Realtor.com.
My Theo is realtor-only tool for now in San Francisco but is one created by former realtors who lived and worked in the city. It’s attractive, graphical and easy to use application that was designed for realtors and consumers alike. It allows you to browse the MLS by map and access current information seamlessly. It also shows past market data, analytics and integrates broker tour an open house times as well. The latest version the good folks there have released allows agents to import and begin using customer relation management tools from iPad contacts. Plans are the works for a web accessible version for consumers and I’m sure the future is bright for these guys.
Realtor.com this is the granddaddy of the in-the-field, on-the-market apps. Why? It could do with that realtor.com has been pushed by the National Association of Realtors, who would arguably have the most access to the most MLS databases throughout the country.
Did I mention it’s free?
That said the information is a little truncated by design so that you will call your helpful agent to learn more. One example is that it won’t allow you to search for homes in or out of contract separately. The app allows you to share, browse, and do limited research for market comparables in a given area either defined by the user on a map or through GPS. It integrates GPS to create saved searches that can be e-mailed to you on a daily basis.
Yelp, Walkscore, Maps, Craigslist – when you’re on the ground and you want to figure out what the heck is around you. The apps are only as smart as data will allow. Maps and Walkscore, for example, are a little buggy sometimes. Yelp’s information can be dated or just plain wrong. But with crowd-sourced information can be tricky too: you can always come across bad opinions about a place or building, but these insights allow you to learn a whole lot about a neighborhood from just browsing what’s near you – good and bad reviews alike. Also important with these apps is being able to discern where public transit is and what other properties are available for rent or sale that might not otherwise be publicized generally.
WordPress & Facebook – If you have a blog, a Facebook page or any other social media accounts like Twitter, LinkedIn or whatnot and you’re a realtor then obile versions of theses services is a great way to reach your network that trusts you, right? By the way, in case you didn’t hear, social media is going to be a force to be reckoned with and has already become one. Enough said.
Elevation – this is a fun app that shows you what your elevation is based on GPS location. Useful for such things as microclimates, views and general paranoia about tides and rising sea levels.
Dropbox, DocuSign, Mortgage Calculator, Chicago Title Lite NorCal – These are the hard-core real estate agent apps that will help agents manage business while away from their offices or computers. Dropbox has great utility in fact the paperless revolution has reached the real estate industry but nevertheless documents, disclosures, forms, contracts and all the like should be stored somewhere accessible by everyone involved. Dropbox allows you to access that data remotely, and synchronizes it with your desktop computers, iPads and iPhones alike. You can also access it via the web. Most importantly it allows you to select certain folders to be shared with certain parties – your clients for example. DocuSign allows you to manage signatures and electronic signature collecting and is integrated with Dropbox and other services like Google documents so that you can coordinate an entire signing while standing in the park on your phone. Having a PDF Reader application is also useful for the times you need to read PDF documents as well as the times where you need to mark them up or complete them as this application generally allows you to do so. And, of course, the Mortgage Calculator and Chicago Title apps allow agents to provide clients information about additional costs related to title insurance, mortgage lending and property taxes.