The iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab. The HTC Flyer. And recently, the Kindle Fire.
Tablets, with all the power that they pack into their slim, lightweight bodies, are perfect for real estate agents – and not surprisingly, they’re gaining momentum as the optimum tool of choice for today’s smart agents.
Agents can call up pricing information online. They can show clients detailed listing presentations and virtual tours. Even better than virtual tours, they can create video tours just by walking through a listing with their tablets, and upload them to their websites or YouTube accounts instantly. They can tap the power of a seemingly endless array of apps to access their office desktop computers while on the road, pull up the latest news from Realtor.com and snap, crop and send high-quality photos of contracts, homes or neighborhood amenities while on the go.
Most importantly, tablets give agents an edge with the growing number of tech-savvy consumers entering the home-buying and –selling market.
Mary Ellen Kuehl, broker/owner of Chicago’s The Kuehl Group real estate brokerage, for example, says she can’t imagine doing business today without the help of the iPad.
“My tablet is one of those things that has become a crucial part of my business,” Kuehl said. “It almost always assures me that I am going to get that listing I’m competing for, or that, at the very least, I’ll always be seriously considered. We use the tablets on our listing presentations to show clients that we are the best at what we do. Even when clients aren’t ready to bite the bullet yet and put their homes on the market, after seeing the listing presentations and information we provide through our tablets, they tell us that they will be calling us when they’re ready.”
Kuehl recalls several times in which her iPad helped her gain the trust of her clients. Once, a client was touring a multi-family building with Kuehl and asked for the floor plate of the units for their records. Kuehl took out her iPad, accessed her Genius Scan app – a PDF scanner – and snapped a picture of the building floor plate that was posted outside an elevator while touring the building with them. Kuehl used Genius Scan to scale and crop the image, then sent it by e-mail to her client.
In a separate situation, another buyer of hers once needed a copy of a land survey. The seller had a copy but wasn’t willing to send it to the buyer until the closing. Problem was, the buyer planned to renovate the home in question once the purchase closed, and the architect wanted the survey to finalize his plans. During the home inspection, Kuehl was able to look at the survey, then used Genius Scan to take a photo, scan and crop the survey, and send it to the architect by e-mail. Again, this helped Kuehl cement a relationship with a client.
Agents who want to distance themselves from the competition can purchase a tablet and master the many ways in which they can use this device to build their business. Just as Kuehl knows, having it ready and available can help situations and clients in a pinch. Agents might be surprised to learn just how effective this tech tool can be in impressing clients. They might even wonder, like Kuehl does, how she ever managed to do business without her trusty tablet.
The First Impression
Terry Penza, chief executive officer of the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors, said that a growing number of her association’s members are plunking down the money it costs to purchase an iPad, and many are looking forward to upgrading to the iPad 2. Others are investing their dollars in the Samsung Galaxy, which uses the Android operating system, Penza said.
Penza recognizes that tablets are an important technology for agents, both now and in the future. Clients seem to be instantly impressed when agents pull up a video tour of a listing instantly on their iPad, or that they can access the MLS remotely. It’s why she encourages her association’s Realtor members to stop in the North Shore-Barrington Association’s offices to test out the tablets that staffers use. It’s also why the association’s weekly e-mail news blast contains three to four recommended apps each week, apps that Penza herself has tried out and has determined can help her association’s members increase their efficiency.
“Tablets are such an amazing tool,” Penza said. “I think that more Realtors are finding this out every day. And when you look at the apps that are out there, not only are there many that are perfect for any business person, there are tons that are designed specifically for real estate. It’s amazing, the options that Realtors have today. Those that aren’t using tablets today will certainly be considering them soon. It’s that important of a tool.”
As Kuehl says, her iPad helps her make a strong first impression on her clients. They see her pull the tablet out of her briefcase and they know immediately that Kuehl isn’t afraid of technology.
By extension, clients understand that Kuehl will use every means at her disposal – from individual Web pages to virtual tours to high-end glossy ads in magazines – to help sell their properties.
This begs the question: why aren’t more real estate agents already using Galaxy and iPad tablets?
Gary Jacklin, broker/owner of RE/MAX Action in Lisle, thinks he knows why. Real estate agents are bombarded with new technology. Think back to 15 years ago. Most agents didn’t care about the Internet. The word “blog” meant nothing. And personal websites were unheard of.
Today, savvy agents blog three or more times a week. They tweet their listings, create panoramic video tours of their listings, post regularly on Facebook and boast dynamic, information-rich Web sites. They tote smartphones, and their digital cameras are of the highest quality.
Tablets, then, are just one more piece of technology to learn and master. It can become overwhelming, Jacklin said.
“It can get awfully frustrating to an agent,” said Jacklin, the proud owner and devotee of a Samsung Galaxy tablet. “They are constantly told that they need this latest piece of technology. They’re told they need a website. They need a smartphone. They need to be on Twitter and Facebook. They need to be blogging. Everyone is trying to sell them something new.”
Jacklin takes a simple approach at his brokerage. He tells the agents in his office who are interested in tablet technology exactly how tablets can benefit them and help them do more business. His job, he says, is to show agents how a tablet works, what apps are available to help Realtors nab more business and what features agents can safely ignore.
His hope is that his agents don’t let their tech-fatigue cause them to overlook the very real benefits of tablets.
“Technology isn’t like a microwave oven. When you get a microwave oven, you know to press the button and everything works,” Jacklin said. “But with technology, including tablets, it’s like you’re handed a puzzle. All the pieces are there, but it’s not put together. You have to figure out how it all works together. A lot of agents become frustrated because they see technology as something that they have to learn; it’s something that takes up time that they could instead be using to meet with and prospect for clients.”
For Celeste Barr of Keller Williams Success Realty in Barrington, the learning curve that came with her iPad – she received it as a gift last Christmas and admits that she paid little attention to the presents that came after it – was little price to pay for the benefits that it brings to her.
“Clients are impressed,” Barr said. “People don’t always know what they are entitled to as far as good service goes. Anyone can say that they are committed to technology. But to actually see that technology, to watch it happen, that is what impresses clients. Many of them interview other agents after they talk to me. I encourage them to do that. I know that those other agents aren’t using technology the way I am.”
Just as an example, using tablets for listing presentations today is not only impressive, but beneficial for the clients and the agent. Kuehl says that her iPad has helped her create powerful listing presentations that immediately capture the attention of potential clients. Simply put, her clients see what Kuehl has done for others, and want her to do the same for their homes.
Kuehl’s listing presentation, which she runs on her iPad, comes with multiple links. First, she clicks on a link that fills her iPad screen with a sample of a Web page that she has created to showcase another client’s property. She clicks, too, on a link that brings up a sample virtual tour and another to a high-definition panoramic tour.
Kuehl also uses her iPad to display an aerial view of one of her listings, a sample e-mail campaign and a sample graphic Craigslist ad. Finally, she’ll bring up an example of a full-color mailing that she’s used to market previous properties.
“Potential clients are duly impressed with my use of the latest technology, and the presentation is as smooth as silk when I showcase it on my iPad,” Kuehl said.
Kuehl, of course, was able to give the same presentation in the past without her iPad. But it was always a hassle. First, she’d have to determine if a home, coffee shop or office had Wi-Fi so that the links on her laptop would work. With the iPad, this isn’t a problem, because it’s possible connect to the Internet through either a wireless connection or a 3G connection. This eliminates any worries about holding a listing presentation in a Wi-Fi-free zone.
Kuehl also doesn’t have to worry about trying to use a potential client’s desktop computer to run her listing presentation. That would often result in slow connections or a meeting in an awkward location such as a potential client’s bedroom.
Jacklin relies on his Samsung Galaxy tablet, too, to nab more business. He chose Samsung and its Android operating system mainly because it is connected to Google. Jacklin no longer uses Microsoft Outlook. Instead, he turns to cloud-based applications from Google such as Gmail and Google Maps. He also uses the Google Chrome browser.
All of these applications work seamlessly with his Samsung tablet, Jacklin said, and make him a far more efficient Realtor. Jacklin no longer has to use the applications on his desktop computer, he says. As long as he has an Internet connection, he can immediately access his contacts, calendar, documents and forms through his tablet.
“This technology came along at the perfect time. We’ve been a paperless office for nearly two years now. All of our contracts and forms are already in the cloud. The tablets with the Android operating system are just the next step. Our agents already have Gmail accounts. They already use calendar. When you get an Android device and put in your Gmail account, everything you have with that account is automatically on your device. It’s all there, and it’s all done for you.”
This means that agents can easily retrieve documents, forms and most any other piece of information they need when meeting with clients or while sitting at the closing table.
“When writing an offer, you have everything there on your tablet,” Jacklin said. “When you’re showing homes, you can connect to the Internet to bring up the pictures and virtual tours of other similar homes on the market. When you are writing the offer, you have all your paperwork right there. You can then submit it by e-mail to the listing agent. It is all completely paperless. And you look very professional because you’re not scrambling to find that right piece of paper or that right document.”
The Wonderful World of Apps
What makes any tablet truly special, of course, is the many apps that users can download. These apps, many of which are free or cost less than $5, can dramatically boost the efficiency of real estate agents.
Both Kuehl and Barr recommended Dropbox. It’s a simple app, but one of the most important. With it, real estate agents can store all of their important forms, photos and files into one folder. If they then install Dropbox not only on their tablet but also on any other computer they own, any documents or images that they place in their Dropbox folder instantly appears in each device. This tool, then, eliminates the need for agents to ever have to search several folders on several computers and tablets to find a single file.
Other apps are simply necessary for all agents. Penza pointed to the Documents to Go app, one that allows agents to use their iPad to read all of their documents, everything from Word files to Excel spreadsheets. Penza puts the Keynote app in this same category. This app lets agents create slideshows and presentations quickly.
These basics, though, are just the start of the app goodies that Penza has found in her duties as chief executive officer of the North Shore-Barrington Association. She’s also a fan of SignMyPad, an app that takes the hassle out of filling out and sending contracts that come in the PDF format.
When agents today receive a PDF contract on their desktop or laptop computers, they usually need to print out the PDF, fill it out by hand, scan it back into their computers and send it to a recipient by e-mail. That is time-consuming. With SignMyPad, though, agents can simply fill out a PDF contract right on their tablet. They can then save it and send it by e-mail, all without having to leave their tablet – or their clients – in search of a computer, printer and fax machine.
“I used to hate receiving PDF files that you had to fill out,” Penza said. “Not anymore. It’s far easier to do this task with your tablet.”
Then there’s Teleprompt+, another favorite tool of Penza’s. Consider this app to be a mini version of the Teleprompters that politicians and celebrities use when giving key speeches. Agents can input a speech into their tablet. When they are then giving it, they can call up their words, which will scroll across the front of their tablet. It’s a good tool that agents can use to stay on topic when giving listing presentations, Penza said.
The Penultimate app can be a key one, too, for real estate agents. Agents who own a stylus can use Penultimate to draw. This allows agents who are touring a property to call up a sheet of virtual graphing paper and draw a rough sketch of a home’s outside, providing a measurement of the property for their clients. The program is also good for agents who aren’t fast typists and instead prefer to take handwritten notes. Agents won’t have to worry about losing an important piece of notebook paper filled with crucial notes.
Jacklin is a fan of the Realtor.com app. It allows him to search for open house listings, make quick price comparisons and search for properties for sale in specific markets. Barr, on the other hand, says that she couldn’t live without the Flipboard app. This app allows her to transform the messages, videos and photos that her fellow agents have sent her through social media sites into a magazine format. This makes it incredibly easy to read and scan Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts, she said.
Barr also counts herself as a fan of the Open Home Pro app, one that allows her to manage her open houses entirely through her iPad. Say one of Barr’s sellers has lowered the price on a listing. Barr can use Open Home Pro to immediately notify any visitors who signed up at one of that listing’s open houses. The app will also send “Thank you” messages to anyone who visited one of Barr’s open houses, and it does this automatically.
Of course, this is just a small sample of the many tablet apps that can make life easier for agents. Those agents who do make the investment in tablet technology will have to explore on their own to find the perfect apps for them.
“My favorite thing about apps is that they all do one thing,” Penza said. “Look at Microsoft Outlook. That is such a powerful tool. But I don’t know anyone who uses everything that Outlook has to offer. You’re paying a lot of money, then, for a lot of features that you don’t use. With apps, even the ones that cost $20 or more, you are getting a tool that does the one thing you want it to do.”
WORTH THE INVESTMENT
Barr recalls the time she brought her iPad with her to a meeting with a potential client, and got the listing, again, because of her iPad. Except this time, she didn’t even need to turn it on.
The client happened to be a past technology trainer for IBM. At the meeting, Barr took out her iPad and laid it on the table, but before launching into her presentation on the tablet, she started promoting her services and experience. Turns out, just seeing the iPad was all it took for this client, and she was hired on the spot – without Barr ever even turning her iPad on.
“That client absolutely loved technology,” Barr said. “Just knowing that my iPad was there, and that I use it in my business, made a big impression on her. She understood what I was doing and why that iPad was important to me. She hired me and didn’t even interview anyone else. She told me that she never even bothered to talk with another real estate agent. To me that says a lot. I think they knew I was able to provide them with the best service possible.”
Besides being able to use the tablet to further business, streamline processes and enable deals to go through, it seems that just having a tablet is impressive enough. Owning and investing in a tablet is proof enough that agents care about their clients and want to do their best for them – and their best means getting their buyers a home because they were able to e-mail a signed contract back first thanks to the tablet; sync all the documents stored on an office computer to also be stored on the tablet; and have access to all photos and documents about a property when writing up an offer. When clients see that you’ll do your best for them, they’re sold. C.A.