My Choice for Your Real Estate Tablet

Let’s dispense with it right up front.  The Ipad 2 is cool.  It’s light and thin and head turning and will make a fine Tablet for your real estate life (and more).  Having said that, I opted to go Android.

The Acer Iconia 500 Tablet is a wonderful device that operates like your Android SmartPhone, has thousands of apps – many free – available for download , and has expansion and storage capabilities the Ipad crowd can only dream about. It sells for about $425 at Costco with 32GB of internal storage.  I added a nifty leather cover with USB keyboard from Amazon for $40 (makes note taking an returning email a whole lot easier).  By the way:  I suggest, if the price is close, you should buy your electronics at Costco (or Costco.com) because of their liberal return policy.  If anything goes wrong, or if you just decide you don’t like your electronic purchase during the first 90 days, it is fully returnable and refundable, no questions asked.  It’s a nice added bit of peace of mind.

It’s not just that you need a Tablet for your real estate business;  I, for one, can’t imagine how you’re doing business today without one!  You need it for quick MLS access when you are out with a buyer or sitting with a seller.  It does what we used to do in the not-so-good-old-days when we carried a 15 pound MLS book with us everywhere we went.  You need it to display impressive graphics and stats when you sit with a seller during a listing consultation.  You need it (and the optional stylus accessory) when you are reviewing an electronic purchase agreement with a customer and need an initial here and a signature there.  And, Oh By The Way:  it also makes one heck of an ebook reader!

You need some mechanism for accessing the Internet when you are out in the field on any Tablet you might buy.  You might opt for a Tablet that gets online via a data plan through your wireless carrier.  I explored this option before I bought the Tablet and discovered that I wasn’t going to get out for less than $50 a month – not much for your real estate career but steep for me because I am cheap.  A better option might be to connect through your phone.  If you have an Android phone, with a small additional fee, you can use it as a ‘mobile hot-spot’, which means you can connect another wi-fi device to the Internet through it.  At Verizon, adding this capability to your SmartPhone costs about $15 a month.  I’d suggest you do what I did:  explore your options for Internet connectivity before you buy a Tablet.

What separated the Acer Iconia 500 from the rest of the pack for me at the time I bought it (about four months ago), was it’s expandability/connectivity.  It has full size and mini USB ports.  I can move files from my PC to my Tablet effortlessly via a thumb drive.  It has an HDMI port out so that I can view images or video from my Tablet on a big screen or TV.  It has a mini-SD card port into which I have a 32GB memory card filled with any file I might need on the road.  These are things the Ipad didn’t have (at the time . . . now, I’m not so sure).

The Acer is a great Tablet, but it’s not the only one.  Samsung makes a couple of terrific Tablets, a 10″ model (like the Iconia) and a 7″ model, which fits very nicely in your hand and in your purse.  HP got into the market for a Nano-Second and then suddenly got out and had a fire sale to dump it’s inventory.  Their mistake:  loading their Tablets with their own proprietary Operating System.  Don’t make that mistake: go Android or Apple.  For this reason, I’d avoid Blackberry’s version (but that’s personal; my last Blackberry Storm was so bad I dumped it early to go Android).  There are a couple of great places to play with a variety of Tablets:  Best Buy and Frys.  Each retailer has a full array of the latest and greatest.  However, I’d suggest you go home after a retail fact-finding mission and see if you can find your chosen device online (or at Costco).  Hey, wanna drive your retail salesperson nuts?  After you settle in a fall in love with a Tablet, pull out your smart phone, get online and shop for it right there in the store!  It makes them crazy!

STOP! Before you take my advice,, check out the date of this post: Oct. 6, 2011. That’s just a little more than a year ago, but in tech terms, that’s a lot. Much has changed or gelled since then and I’m not sure I’d be recommending Android for a REALTOR tablet today. It’s still true: I love all things Google and own no Apple devices, but I’m not in the street selling real estate every day. What has become clear is that the IPAD is the tablet of choice in our industry. There are abundant resources and training for it aimed at REALTORS. Can you still make excellent use of an Android tablet? Sure, especially if you are already familiar with the Android/ Chrome operating system and apps. But if you’re starting from scratch? And especially if you already own an Iphone – get an Ipad

Technology You Need

Realtors, there’s a ton of technological stuff out there vying for your attention these days, much of it pretty good, but most of it not worth the time and effort it would take for a good Broker or Agent to learn and master.  If you are good at selling real estate, it probably means your people skills are outstanding.  That’s where you need to focus:  doing the things that get you out in the field, meeting the people, putting this one together with that one and so on.  All this wonderful technology is just there to support that effort.  It is not the star, you are.

Because most Help-U-Sell offices are small in terms of agent population, we don’t often see the large number of bright young people who come into the business each year, quickly master all the technology, and never sell a thing.  It’s not about technology, it’s about people.

So what do you do?  You need to be up-to-date, and you need to be able to pick out the handful of tools out there that will be worth the time and effort it will take you to master them.  If you’re lucky enough to have some ‘Tweens’ running around, a great course of action is to let them do the investigation, let them organize the database, let them update your website (you stay in charge of content).  Pay them lavishly – what?  $10 an hour plus at least one meal a day (and all the bread and water they want).

If you do not have that biologically built in tech support system, let me give you three – just three – bits of technology I think you need to have today.

1.  A broadband capable Ipad, tablet pc or netbook.  What do they all have in common?  They are small, lightweight, connect to the internet when you are out on the road, and can access your MLS from anywhere.  Honestly, I don’t know how you work buyers today without one.  For example, you’re showing property and your buyer nearly climbs out the window when she spots a brand new sign (on a listing you knew nothing about) on your way to show a property.  With one of these devices, you quickly access the MLS, pull the listing and, bam!  you’ve got it covered.  Or, you’ve just shown the third house she hated.  It’s becoming clear that what she told you she wanted is not actually what she wants.  With mobile device like this, you can quickly stop, search and come up with a set of more appropriate properties to see.

I know you can probably access your MLS with your smartphone, but screen size creates all kinds of problems:  pictures are hard to see, typing is very difficult and despite recent gains, they tend to be slooooowww.

In this category, the Ipad has captured everyone’s imagination – a tribute to the excellent marketing Apple does.  But I like the Samsung Tab.  I know Verizon offers it and others may as well.  It runs on the Android operating system so has great expansion capabilities via numerous free and paid Apps.  Most of all, I like its size.  It’s narrow enough to fit in the palm of one hand so you can type with the other.  The Ipad feels cumbersome by comparison.  Both of these devices are, well, sexy . . . and are bound to turn a few heads if you’re into that sort of thing.  But if you just want something small you can use to access the MLS, check out some of the new NetBooks.  These are more like traditional notebooks with a lot of the power stripped from them.  You’re not going to use them to edit video, but if you get one with a wireless broadband card (or purchase a USB dongle from your provider), they can do the job of surfing the MLS quite well — and you don’t even have to give up the keyboard!

By the way, I didn’t mention the new device that’s getting a lot of buzz right now, the Motorola Xoom.  Sorry, I thought it was clunky and heavy.  Just my opinion.

2.  A notetaking system.  I’d love to give you a menu of options but the first one I tried I loved and I think you will too.  It’s Evernote (www.evernote.com).  You install it on your computer and on your mobile phone.  You can create ‘notes’ on your computer and sync them so they are available on your phone:  to do lists, pictures of your dog, voice memos, house showing itineraries, whatever.  You can also create ‘notes’ on your phone and sync them with your computer.  So you collect data in two places simultaneously (much better chance you’ll find what you want when you want it).

Most good Brokers and Agents I’ve known were a disaster when it came to note taking and organization.  I can’t tell you how many I’ve seen running around with a briefcase full of little scraps of paper each with a name and phone number scrawled on it.  I swear, one lady who worked for me – a good agent – spent 20% of her time just looking for stuff she’d written down . . . somewhere.  With Evernote, you can still write that number down on a scrap of paper, but then you immediately take a photo of it from Evernote on your phone and zingo! it’s stored on your phone and uploaded to your computer all at once.  Best of all, ‘notes’ are searchable.  You can even make voice notes in Evernote.  Push the button on your phone and say, ‘check out the new listing at 123 Elm’ and the reminder will be stored where you can find it.  How about this:  you meet someone who may want to buy.  Rather than writing their contact info down, ask for it, then push the button on your phone and record them giving it to you.  It’s also great for taking photos of business cards, which are automatically converted to searchable text.

Why not download your free copies on your phone and computer, spend a little time getting comfortable and then challenge yourself.  See if you can get through a whole week without hanging on to a single scrap of paper or note.

3.  A buyer incubation/loyalty system.   You know I love Listingbook.  It think it’s the most exciting buyer/agent tool I’ve seen in a long time.  When you give your buyer a Listingbook account, you’re giving them something better than Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com or any other aggregator website.  You’re giving them real time access to the LOCAL MLS.  You’re giving them the ability to search to their hearts content and giving them a means to keep you in the loop in a way that is not intrusive.  They love it and you stay in control.  Not all MLSs have Listingbook, but most have something.  Call your Board and ask:  ‘What tools do we have to help buyers in the search process, that they will perceive as being ‘high value,’ and that will help me maintain contact and control as they incubate?’

As with all technology, each of these three items has a learning curve, but it’s pretty gentle.  Take them one at a time, get comfortable with one before adding another; and see if your efficiency and productivity doesn’t increase as the year unfolds.