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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anthony Gilbert August 29, 2012 at 11:49 am

LOL… I’m sure you’ll get push-back on this one! :)

But, not too much from me… other than using the iPad instead of walking around with all those MLS sheets. I do print the client version of the MLS sheets for the client’s folders – but I can’t stand fumbling over my own sheets as well.

The NWMLS has a pretty fantastic map-based iPad App with saved client searches. Thus, I simply place the day’s showings into their “cart” for the day, and I’m set. And, if we’re out and about, I can quickly call up any other nearby listings on the iPad using GPS. (The iPad 3 with 4G is a big help – in fact, I just upgraded to new one specifically for this purpose).

But otherwise, I agree with you. Writing an offer at the home?? Huh? Why on earth would I want to do that? And yes… it would take longer.

And, I personally don’t care for doing listings presentations on the iPad. Instead, I print a copy for the client (or a copy for each spouse), and use my iPad myself as we’re going through it together. I think the screen is too small for presentations – and I don’t want to breathe on anyone as I try to scroll from page to page.

2 Tim August 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I still think iPads are primarily used as personal TVs. Which is why every other purpose seems so like a solution in search of a problem.
I have a tablet and I really don’t use it much. I either want to type and thus want a keyboard, or my phone works just fine.

3 Jason Grote August 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Steve,
I am living the very debacle you are trying to avoid! As a real estate investor, I thought purchasing a tablet (don’t do the Apple products) would help me step up my game. So far it has collected dust and when I need something done on the road, I bring my heavy laptop and my Verizon Jetpack and I can do it all. I don’t think you are being old fashioned. You are just not swept up with every piece of technology to hit the market. Time will always tell what is truly practical and what we try to make practical.

4 Tim Hendricks August 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I generally bring my iPad with me when showing homes. I agree, it does not replace the printed 1 pagers, for me or the buyer. It does not do most things that I need a PC for very well. But it does provide adequate (not great) on the fly MLS access. It’s been helpful when I’m with a client and they ask about a house across the street, and why that one did not show up on their search criteria. I can quickly pull up the listing, and tell them “It’s smaller than your minimum” or “Priced higher than your max” etc. Granted, I could do that from my iPhone, but the client often likes to see the pictures, and the iPad makes a much better presentation.

I also use it as my nav system. Again, could do the same with the iPhone, but more cumbersome. The iPad is on a mount that keeps it easy to see but out of the way of me or a passenger (helpful to have a large vehicle). It works as a great nav system, and allows the client to see where we are relative to major highways, roads etc (often helpful if you are winding through a lot of secondary roads between listings). It easily pops out of the mount and in to my arm or center console when not needed.

5 Robert Grunnah August 30, 2012 at 8:48 am

I have really only one consistent use for my iPad: reading newspapers (New York Magazine and The Week are my favorites) while traveling. When traveling, you can’t get the latest printed copies of the magazines, so you can get them on the iPad (and not on laptops or the iPhone). Also, when you’re at the gym (if it’s not one of those sucky gyms that don’t put a lip or magazine holder on the ellipticals), it’s handy to have the iPad there to read from, whereas you couldn’t do that with a laptop or iPhone. Long story short, I use it, but only about 1% of the overall time that I use a gadget.

6 Phill August 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Our iPad basically belongs to our 3-year old. It’s also handy to pick up for a quick web lookup. I’ve thought of mounting it in the kitchen somewhere – like under the cabinet. You’re allowed to get a 3rd device – you don’t need to carry it around with you!

7 Jeff Harris August 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

I’m with you on this one. Enough stuff to cart around when showing and most people don’t need a slide show before they look at homes. They have already viewed all that on line. I prefer the print it and write on it method myself. Works just fine. Same with listings, who wants to sit through all that? Look, listen, discuss. I have the printed data with me as backup in case they want to see it, but it’s raw and not pretty.

8 Garreth Wilcock August 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I use my iPad as I like using it. And I use it as a TV as Anthony says. And as a mobile shopping platform – which gives me the ability to keep Apple shareholders in the style to which they’re accustomed.

This March I had a listing – an agent called to find out there were multiple offers and he did whip out a contract and put it together in the house (I know this as the sellers were waiting outside). Then he called me and he drove it to me and put it in my hand. On paper. Which I then had to scan. While I prefer to receive things electronically, the paper solution can be faster and just as effective. I never write contracts on my iPad.

9 Anthony Smrke September 20, 2012 at 9:55 am

As the Broker of Record for Milestone Silver Realty Ltd. ; I am always interested in what other Real Estate practitioners have to say. Just thought I’d let you know that I came across your blog and really appreciated the content and time that you have put into it. It’s really tough to say that we are more productive with I Pads as opposed to without. The more I’m around the more I’m feellng that its about keeping up with the Jones’s with respect to all the gadgetry thats available. As we all can appreciate: Real Estate continues to be “High Paying Hard Work and Low Paying Easy Work” Thanks for posting. Keep up the fine work.

10 roger October 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I sometimes wonder if I’m too old school, but after reading this I don’t feel so out of date…..I have my PC and a Blackberry, that’s it, been in the biz 14 years and always print out mls short form for my buyer and full form for me, give them their copies and we are on our way to see property, simple and effective .I either meet my buyer at my office or visit them to write offer. I prefer my office, can offer them a cup of coffee and not get interrupted like at a public place.On the Listing side, straight talk, no electronic devices on my appts. So really good to hear I’m not the only one still printing everything, Oh , also GPS, have one, and I prefer my good ole Thomas Guide, works faster for me. I’m sure these devices out there will work for some , but I’ll pass for now. Great post Steve, thanks.

11 Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX October 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Update on the Windows Tablet: Haven’t bought one of those either, but the hybrid/convertible Ultrabooks look very interesting. The Lenovo Yoga 13 is a full fledged laptop that folds up into a tablet. Still waiting though. In about 3 months the Windows Surface Pro will be out which, unlike the recently released Windows Surface RT, will be a full fledged Windows 8 machine built into a compact tablet sized form factor.

Meanwhile, the 3+ year old Dell laptops me and Sylvia work off of are still chugging along reliably.

Steve

12 David Grbich - Orange County Realtor February 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

Hi Steve,

I thought I was the only one who did not have one!! I have contemplated getting one for a long time and share many of your concerns. I use my wife’s iPad on occasion and if I am close to my laptop or desktop I quickly go there – simply more productive for me. I did consider for listing presentations but just can’t see fully grown adults huddled around a tiny screen. I do like the idea of portability in the field and looking up listing detail in the field as my smartphone is not my preference for accessing my MLS. Enjoyed your post!

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