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Special Briefing - April 12, 2010

Wallace Want Your Real Estate CyberSpace Society releases periodic special briefings prepared by experts in various fields of interest. This briefing was prepared especially for Society members by Wallace Wang who is the author of several best selling computer books including "Microsoft Office for Dummies," "My New Mac," and "My New iPhone." (This entire article was written on the virtual keyboard of the iPad, using the $9.99 Pages word processor program from Apple.)

How Real Estate Agents Can Use the iPad

By Wallace Wang

Apple recently released the iPad and right away people are wondering what they can use it for. First of all, the iPad isn't a replacement for a smart phone or a laptop. The iPad is actually in a class by itself wedged somewhere between the capabilities of the iPhone and a laptop computer. By looking at the iPad as such an in between device, you can better define your expectations for how the iPad can work for you.

Like the iPhone, the iPad can run thousands of apps available in Apple's App Store. Besides the obvious screen size differences between the iPhone and the iPad, the second major difference is how you interact with each device.

Because of its smaller screen, the iPhone is more of a personal device suitable for viewing by a single person, such as looking up map directions or browsing through e-mail messages. On the other hand, the iPad can be both a personal or group device capable of displaying information for a single person or for a small group. Thinking of the iPad as a group presentation tool is the key to using the iPad to its greatest advantage.

Suppose you're an agent, showing a potential client a piece of property. To highlight the amenities near the property, such as easy freeway access, nearby parks, or the location of shopping centers close by, you could display a puny map on an iPhone or other smart phone. However a better solution would be to use the Maps app on the iPad that displays a much larger map on the screen, easily allowing two or three people to view it comfortably. The iPad's 9.7-inch screen lets you scroll, shrink, or zoom out the map details so a client can see what's in the surrounding area.

Download the $9.99 Keynote presentation program and you can create Keynote presentations on your iPad, highlighting the benefits of a particular piece of property. Now when clients show up and view the property in person, you can add their concerns and ideas to your presentation, then email that complete presentation as a PDF file to the client afterwards. Such a presentation could remind the client what they saw and what they liked about each property you've shown them.

When considering the purchase of any property, clients naturally want to know possible mortgage payments or cash flow from rental properties. Scribbling this information on paper is clumsy and inaccurate. Propping up a laptop screen and showing a client a spreadsheet can be equally awkward and difficult to see. Instead of forcing a client to squint at the tiny screen of a laptop computer, just download the $9.99 Numbers spreadsheet or the $5.99 Mariner Calc spreadsheet on an iPad.

Now you can show a client various spreadsheets that let the client enter in numbers representing interest rates, down payments, cash flow, etc. By letting clients actively manipulate numbers on the iPad screen, rather than passively watching an agent type in numbers on a laptop, clients can feel more in control of their financial options. Pass an iPad to a client, show them how to enter numbers into the spreadsheet, and let the client run through different financial scenarios without the pressure of an agent interfering with their decision.

By using an iPad as a presentation tool and a financial planning tool, real estate agents can provide potential clients with more information presented in a fun and engaging manner. Obviously an iPad alone can't automate the sales process, but it can be yet another tool to separate yourself from other real estate agents and emphasize your commitment to serving the client's best interests.

With the iPad's status as a new, inexpensive ($499 and up), and exciting technological marvel, consider giving away an iPad with every house you sell. The iPad's minimal cost may be trivial, but the impact of getting a free iPad with their new house will certainly surprise and delight your clients, and happy clients can lead to referrals, which ultimately can lead to happy real estate agents as well.

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Wallace Wang is the author of several best selling computer books including "Microsoft Office for Dummies," "My New Mac," and "My New iPhone." (This entire article was written on the virtual keyboard of the iPad, using the $9.99 Pages word processor program from Apple.)