Should Every Realtor Have an iPad ?

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on August 29, 2012 · 12 comments

Steve Jobs with iPadSylvia and I have two children. We didn’t want three, only two. So after the second daughter, I visited Dr. Chopp (really his name) and that was that. Although I admire and love my friends with bigger families of 3, 4 and 5 kids, I like having just two offspring. We didn’t want a third, for many reasons.

What’s this got to do with iPads? Well, I don’t want a 3rd digital device to haul around either. I have a laptop and an iPhone. I don’t want a 3rd electronic thing, simple as that. Enough is enough. I have enough digital overload, I don’t need something else to plug in and care for. I refuse to add a third device, period.

That said, the geeky side of me really, really wants an iPad, but I can’t match the emotional desire to have one with any relevant productivity benefits. To me, it would have to prove itself as a productivity tool, first and foremost. I don’t need a toy. Until a tablet can function like a laptop replacement, I have no use for one.

Does this hurt our productivity as Realtors? If you believe all the hype, yes. But as I’ll explain in this article, no, there is nothing that Sylvia and I need to do as Realtors that would get done better, faster or easier with an iPad.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of iPad for Realtors that I see and hear about most often.

Listing Presentations Tool
In the old days, Realtors used notebooks and flipped the pages while sitting with a seller. Later, PowerPoint came along, which required a laptop. And now, agents can dazzle prospective clients with presentations on the iPad.

Question: Do Realtors using iPads for listing presentations win more than their fair share of listings? For that matter, do sellers and buyers want to see canned presentations at all anymore? I would need to see the data to be convinced that an iPad presentation results in more clients choosing the agents who use them.

I don’t “present” at listing appointments. I just show up and ask questions, look at the house, listen, and help the prospective client decide if what I do might be a good fit for what they need. I don’t have any presentation materials at all. Not one single thing. I even ran out of business cards for about 6 months last year. Didn’t matter.

So I don’t need an iPad to help win more listings. Sylvia may be a bit more willing to consider an iPad as a listing presentation tool, because her personality type and presentation method is less freestyle than mine. But I remain unconvinced of the effectiveness of canned presentations. I don’t think most people want to suffer through that. I think most people prefer a consultative, eye to eye, discussion.

Write buyer’s offers on the spot, in the Property
This is another one I just scratch my head about every time I read about it. “With the iPad, when my buyers find the home they love, we can start writing the offer right there, in the property”, is a typical proclamation of the iPad’s greatness.

Oh brother. What problem does writing an offer “right there, in property” solve? If I thought it was important to be able to do that, I’d carry around blank paper contracts and do it that way. I can write an offer faster on paper than any agent can get it done on an iPad. But I’d rather go to a nearby coffee shop to do it. I don’t want the seller, or another agent with buyers walking in on us writing an offer, so I think it’s best to leave the house to write offers, not stay there pecking on an iPad.

In 20+ years of real estate, I have yet to have a buyer say to me inside a home, “I want it! Can we write the offer right here and now, in the house?” So, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on that iPad “benefit”.

Use as Home Tour instead of Printed Sheets
As outlined in this blog article, another hyped benefit I hear about a lot is:

“With an iPad in hand, you no longer need to print MLS sheets for showings. Instead, save the sheets as a PDF and either email them to yourself or put them in your preferred “cloud” (aka online) data storage system. Dropbox and box.net are commonly used. Once at a home you are viewing, use an app such as iAnnotate, Noterize or PDF Expert to open the PDF and take notes directly on it.” 

Sounds complicated to me. Then what do you do with those notes anyway? And what notes anyway, on 90% of the homes I show? The buyer didn’t like it, isn’t interested, it’s off the list. I don’t usually need to make any notes about that. We’re done, and on to the next home.

Printing is cheap and easy. The consumption costs for our monochrome Brother laser printer/copy/scanner are about 2.4 cents per page. I don’t even have a color printer anymore. I print the listings in showing order, along with a map showing all the listings, staple the map on top and have a copy for me and a copy for the buyer. We average about 8 listings per showing tour, so that’s less than $0.50 per outing in paper costs. An insignificant amount, especially compared with the cost of gas. When we meet to see homes, I hand the buyer her packet to keep, and I use mine to stay organized and to know where I’m going next.

If any notes are needed, they are scribbled on the paper listing. Sometimes I’ll write stuff on mine, something like “stinks like dog”, or “over priced, poor condition, small yard”, or “very nice but priced high”. Then I keep my packet in my pile of stuff on my desk for reference, mainly for “showing feedback” inquiries from listing agents. After about a week, it goes into the shredder.

I don’t see any benefit in replacing the above system with an iPad, and fumbling around with that every showing. Plus, if I drop my paper packet, no biggie. And it folds up in my back pocket. And where do you agents put the iPad when you’re fumbling with the electronic lockbox key to get into the house? Sorry, to me it just seems dumb and inefficient compared to my paper way.

Summary
There are a host of other iPad “benefits” for Realtors that I read and hear about. I’m not going to list and rebut them all, but if you think there’s one that can’t be ignored, I’m all ears. Please leave a comment and convince me.

I’m patient. The Windows 8 tablet may actually be a practical laptop replacement device. I fiddled with one at the Microsoft Store at the Domain a couple of weeks ago. Eh, it was ok. Sort of confusing to me. But I want to see the full production version coming out later this year.

Also, an ultrabook with 4G running Windows 7 would, to me, be a more robust and capable productivity tool than an iPad.

Meanwhile, we will have an iPad in the house next week. My 10th grade daughter will be issued one from Westlake High. All high school students at Westlake will have iPads this year. This is a wonderful application of this technology, for students, as I’ve been to the demonstrations on how they are utilized in the classroom and by students at home.

My older daughter in college at TCU says she doesn’t see many iPads on campus. Everyone has laptops and smartphones. I offered to get her one if she thought it would help her be a better student, but she said she doesn’t need it, that her laptop and iPhone combo are fine. Like father like daughter I guess.

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