10 Reasons Why iPads Are Great News for Estate Agents

I have to confess that I am a gadget freak.  Pretty much every bit of tech that has come out in the past few years, I’ve wanted to be an early adopter.  Usually being an early adopter ends up being a bad move: the first Blackberry email devices were pretty clunky and the first iPhones weren’t anything like as good as the second generation ones that were released quite shortly afterwards.  So, with that in mind what on earth was I doing buying not one but two iPads for my business within a few days of their launch in the UK?

As anyone who knows me will attest to, I am rarely half an hour early for any meeting so I can’t even justify it as a useful business tool when waiting for meetings.  The gadget freak in me of course just wanted one but the business owner demanded some more justification.  It’s early days but has the iPad shown its worth already?  The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.  Why?  Here are the reasons why iPads are brilliant news for estate agents:

  1. Wow Factor – You spend a small fortune on your office and personal appearance to make sure that clients are suitably impressed.  Even if the iPad was a complete waste of space, it looks gorgeous and it’s new and hyped enough to induce a little bit of ‘wow’, ‘gosh’ or ‘what’s that?’ from most people.  First impressions count!
  2. But I’ve Got a Phone and a Laptop… – The argument from non-owners is often that it falls between these two stools and is therefore rather pointless.  But a laptop takes 2 minutes to boot up, has a battery life of 4 hours if you’re lucky and has a habit of crashing just when you need it most in a hurry.  And a phone just isn’t much cop for proof-reading documents or checking photos.  Netbooks start to fill the gap but have tiny screens that you can only read a few lines of text on at any one time: they’re essentially small, not very good laptops.  However, with a battery that will last 10 hours during heavy use, several days on standby and the fact that it’s ‘always on’, it’s perfect for checking things quickly on the go.  For reading documents, keeping in touch with the office and occasional email it’s better than a phone or a laptop.  Apple aren’t stupid: they don’t have a history of releasing tech that we don’t need: they have a knack of releasing tech that we just didn’t know that we yet needed!
  3. Connected to the Office Without Eye Ache – Want to check your emails on a screen that doesn’t induce a migraine?  We’re so used to Blackberry and iPhone these days that we take it for granted that checking emails on the go means that we have to squint awkwardly at a tiny screen.  The iPad has a 9 inch screen and lovely email, calendar and address book apps that work seamlessly with Microsoft Exchange and (for us) Google Apps.  So no excuses for not checking your email out of the office.
  4. Quicker Turnaround for Clients and Reduces Visits for Re-Shooting Photographs – You’ve just taken photos as a client’s property.  You want to select the good ones and get them to the office.  Time is of the essence as the client leaves on holiday tomorrow morning.  Do you (a) wait till 5pm when you get back to the office, find out that there was grit on the lens for all the exterior photos and get yourself ready for a roasting from your (soon to be ex) client, or (b) check the photos on a good-sized screen in the car outside the property, find out there’s a problem, go back and reshoot those shots and then fire them straight off to the office so that they can start working on the property schedule?  Hmmm…!
  5. Whizbang Presentations – You’re running your client through the different marketing options available and the breakdown of costs.  There’s a 6 photo, 2 page schedule layout; a 6 photo, 4 page; a 9 photo, 4 page; or maybe a bespoke, custom-designed schedule too.  Then you’ve got floorplans.  You also want to show them other examples of schedules you’ve done in the past.  And perhaps you want to show them your lovely offices and give them a quick presentation on the places that their property will be advertised on the internet.  And of course you need to run them off that report of comparable house prices to back up your valuation of their property.  So you have little choice but to go out armed with an entire ream of paper.  Or you can just go out with an iPad that has all of that information in a lovely little slideshow.
  6. What Does Paper Say About You (Part 1 – Environmental Impact)? – You go to the potential client’s house armed with various printed examples of past work, comparable property prices and your fee structure and they’re impressed at how prepared you are?  Well, not always.  We’ve all been in a client’s house, armed with all of that information, when the potential client tells us that they hate printed schedules because they’re harmful to the environment and we wish we could hastily eat the laminated cardboard and get rid of the evidence of our shameful ways.  Needless to say, unless they have a problem with the suicide rate in the factory in China that manufactures the iPad (alarmingly high according to a recently article in The Guardian) then they shouldn’t have much of an issue with one single electronic gizmo.
  7. What Does Paper Say About You (Part 2 – Do You Still Think That the iPad Is Something You Write On With a Pen)? There was a time when people sent each other emails with Yours Sincerely at the bottom, they printed them off and communicated everything else by formal letter.  Those days are over, although you would sometimes doubt it when taking a glance around much of the Scottish legal profession.  If you’re portraying yourself as a modern company who embraces technology and uses it to the client’s best advantage (which of course we do) then what does a bundle of paper say about your ability to embrace modern technology?  On the other hand, what does the latest piece of gorgeous Apple technology say about you?
  8. Your Important Documents With You Wherever You Go – You’ve been asked a question about your Terms of Business by a potential client and you just wish you had the answer there and then but sadly that document is safely tucked away in a sub-folder on your PC.  You could call one of your colleagues (assuming you are not self-employed) and ask them to have a look but then you’d need to talk them through your password and exactly where you saved the document (you DID save it there, didn’t you?).  If you work in a larger business, this is a pain.  If you are self-employed, it’s impossible.  Well, now you have all of your documents with you all of the time.  Apps like Dropbox and Sugarsync allow you to access, and indeed edit, all of the crucial documents on your office PC whilst you are on the move.  It works passably well on the iPhone.  It’s brilliant on a screen the size of the iPad’s.  I honestly can’t imagine being able to work without it now and completely take it for granted.  Even when I’m abroad on holiday, if necessary I can access documents, send a logo or picture to somebody or answer a fiddly technical question and all within a few moments rather than hours.
  9. Your Entire PC With You Wherever You Go – So you’re not happy just having access to your documents?  You want access to your entire PC in the office or at home whilst you are on the move?  With the free Logmein App, you can do just that. You’re on the other side of the world on holiday and remember that you forgot to send your client’s floorplan to your Property Manager just before you left?  Two minutes later you’ve just done it.
  10. Infinite Possibilities – For the time being, the iPad is limited only by the range of Apps available for it.  I’ve mentioned a few of these above and that only scratches the surface of useful productivity tools for business.  Yes, most of these are based on iPhone Apps.  But they are hugely more useful and useable on the much larger iPad.  And the iPad is in its infancy.  There is already a huge software upgrade due in late June that will make the iPad fundamentally more useable by introducing multitasking which will make it feel more like a normal computer.  As time goes on, more and more Apps will be introduced.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the main estate agency software companies launched iPad Apps for their own programs to give remote access to estate agency staff.  As it is, the iPad’s usefulness is beyond what I’d have ever expected.  As time passes, that can only get more so.

I believe that we will soon see every estate agent in the UK walking from meeting to meeting with one of these under their arm instead of the current Regulation Issue leatherette zipped binder.  For the time being, I’m delighted that, just for a change, I haven’t been stung by being one of the early adopters.

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