Tech Talk: Answer Men, Part 2

Is your hardware gathering dust? Not sure how to manage your contacts? Let our tech experts e-mentor you.

March 1, 2000

Q&As continued

Q: Though our office is considered very progressive and extremely successful in our area, we're very rural and out of contact with other real estate office trends, which makes your magazine, specifically the question-and-answer section, invaluable. Thank You.

I've read the questions and I have read the answers and not to beat the same questions over, you're not getting to the root of the problem. We're about to make a final decision on which contact manager to use. You have mentioned four--ACT, Moore, Top Producer, and Prep. Just saying that the software you use is a good one isn't good enough, especially if you haven't started using one.

It looks like we would have to purchase all four software programs to learn the differences are so we could figure out which one to use permanently. I would rather find an expert who could explain the true differences between them so I can make a rational decision.

About three years ago, my company spent several thousand dollars to purchase license agreements for ACT and Transact. We then spent an additional $5,000 in labor to get it set up for use. After a year, we came to the conclusion that though it was a good software it didn't fit our needs. I don't want to go down that same path with the other three programs that you mentioned.

In your reference to the three-bedroom, two-bath houses, is there some way or someone that could provide us with the information on the differences between these houses?
Ben Gasparro,, Two Rivers Realty & Auction, Linden, Tenn.

I understand your frustration in what software to buy. Unfortunately, the answers to your question could take 10 pages of comparisons. I'd be happy to spend some time on the phone with you to help "sort" out your options.

There's no "best" software. What you buy depends alot on what you want to do with the software. But I'm willing to help. Give me a call.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q: I'm considering purchasing a Palm product. The article, Getting Wired, mentioned only the Vx. There are several other options. Any particular reason for the Vx?
Steve Woodall,, Century 21 Neokla, Inc., Pryor, Okla.

A: There are many Palm products. They all use the same operating system, but there are different reasons to look at different models.

The Vx is my favorite because it's slim and lightweight. And it comes with 8MGs of memory. It also has built-in rechargeable batteries. You can also buy a Palm 111e for as little as $179. Other models include more memory. The Palm VII incorporates the availability of e-mail, but you must subscribe to its own e-mail service.

Keep in mind that any application that's designed to work on the Palm Pilot will, in general, work on any Palm product. Also there are hundreds of third-party software programs designed for the Palm, such as financial calculators and Quicken.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q: I wish I had the tech support that the women in the article, "Technology Makeovers: Getting Wired," are getting!

Often, the solution is easy, but very time consuming for those of us who're trying something new or are challenged in the area of electronic problem solving. I'm a broker associate in Milwaukee. I have four licensed assistants, each with their own desktop. We're networked on a server. I also have a laptop. We use the Act contact management program.

My problem is trying to get Act in sync with my Palm Pilot. Because I've changed the names and the uses of fields in Act, my palm doesn't read all of the phone numbers. The hot sync program was a free download and has no instructions. Whenever I've tried contacting Palm or Act, I get generic e-mails with no solutions. Any ideas for me?
Molly Abrohams,

A: My suggestion would be to contact Palm customer service or find an ACT certified consultant in your area. A good place to start is

Good Luck!
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q: Would it be possible for you to post the initial list of instructions you gave the two ladies to get up and running with all of their new tech tools?
Kathleen Holmes,, Old Reserve Realty, Jefferson Homes, Ohio

A: Here are some steps:

  1. Open all the boxes and become familiar with all the "goodies"
  2. Configure the computer
  3. Load software
  4. Set up communication (e-mail manager)
  5. Review uses of all the equipment and software
  6. Review your current marketing strategies
  7. Start up the technology learning curve

Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

A: Getting started with a new computer, printer, digital camera, Palm Pilot, and software is a rather complicated process, much like selling a house. You, as a user, have two options (much like our sellers). You can attempt to do it yourself (and I'll call you a FSBO) or you can hire someone to help you.

Even if I could document everything I did for Susan Sanders for her equipment and her software, your hardware and software could be different, therefore my instructions wouldn't work. Plus, everyone works differently. Different goals require different strategies. It's a custom journey.

My advice is to find a consultant, friend, or tech head to help you decide what you want to do and pay them to help set you up as I did for Susan Sanders, courtesy of REALTOR® Magazine and their sponsors.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q:If I'm a part-time real estate salesperson, is it wise for me to invest in a mobile computer?
Patrice Slater Crowley,, The Firemark Group, Morristown, N.J.

A: I refer to a mobile computer as a laptop.

Drawbacks of a laptop computer:

1. Laptop computers can cost 50 percent to 100 percent more than desktop computers with the same computing power and features.


Example: A Pentium III 500, 128 MB of RAM, 6 gigabyte hard drive, 56K modem, with CD/DVD runs around $2,500. The same power and features in a desktop computer would run about $1,200. That's significant to many.

If you have Internet based e-mail, you can check your E-mail on anyone's computer, as long as the computer has Internet access. There are even Internet kiosks today at airports and shopping centers (and they'll become as common as telephone booths in the future), so checking e-mail and providing a timely response to e-mail is much easier than it used to be.

Benefits of a laptop:

Is mobility valuable to you? If it is, then a laptop computer is the way to go.

  1. You're never without your computer and you only need to maintain one computer. Maintaining two computers is a nightmare. The information you need always seems to be on your "other computer."
  2. Backing up (an essential for the technology capable practitioner) is easier if you maintain one computer.
  3. Taking a computer with you on listing appointments and making your listing presentation on your laptop can be impressive, it gives you the ability to demonstrate to the seller your technology skills and will differentiate you from most of your competitors (most practitioners aren't yet using laptops). If differentiation is important, a laptop can be a big plus.
  4. Whether you're an advocate of part-time folks or not, it must be easier to practice if your computer, your contacts, and your ability to communicate by e-mail are always at your fingertips.
  5. You can demonstrate how you and your company take advantage of Internet marketing sites, such as REALTOR.COM, while at the listing appointment at the seller's home.
  6. You can use a docking station or port replicator and hook your laptop up to a large monitor, keyboard, and mouse when in the office or at home.

—Saul Klein, InternetCrusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q:Is a mobile computer used for business purposes tax deductible, along with other real estate-related materials used for the sole purpose of the business?
Patrice Slater Crowley,, The Firemark Group, Morristown, N.J.

A: Yes. Let's talk about "real estate-related materials" first.

You can deduct anything that's "reasonable and necessary in the pursuit of taxable income". Such expenses as flyers, giveaways, mailings and postage, business cards, stationery, subscriptions to trade publications, and advertising...again, if it's "reasonable and necessary in the pursuit of taxable income", is deductible.

Equipment falls into another area and usually must be depreciated over the useful life of the asset. However, Section 179 lets us treat equipment and other assets purchased for use in the business as expense items (that means take the full deduction in the tax year you spend the money). The total business cost you can elect to deduct under section 179 for 1999 can't be more than $19,000. You don't have to claim the full $19,000. So if you purchased a computer for $2,000 and a printer for $500, you could expense $2,500.

The total cost of section 179 property that you can deduct increases as shown here:

Year Maximum Deduction
2000 $20,000
2001-2002 $24,000
After 2002 $25,000

For more information on Section 179 deduction go to
Saul Klein, InternetCrusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q:I use Top Producer on my desktop and plan to get Supra eKey Palm Vx with Top Producer because of the download capability. I believe this would give me a very good method of contact and time management.

I was surprised that your article, "Technology Makeovers: Getting Wired," recommended a combination of PREP Suite 4.0 for contact management and Supra eKeyY Palm Vx with Top Producer. Help me understand why this would be a better combination, especially since I already have the Top Producer on my desktop.
Jim Gray,, Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®, Plano, Texas

A: The best software is "the software you use." If you already have Top Producer and use it, then it is the "best" software for you. And the feature you mention, being able to maintain your Top Producer contacts on your Palm, is pretty slick. So go for it Jim.
Saul Klein, InternetCrusade, San Diego, Calif.

A: Prep and Online Agent generously donated their packages, so we figured out how to make them work with the Supra e-Key. However, if you've already got Top Producer, there's certainly no reason to switch. Top Producer is an equally good choice if not the best choice, since it's set up to work with the Supra product.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q:Saul, I have to disagree with your comment that "the best software is the software you use."

Frequently, this is not the case, especially when there are competing products fitting the same niche market. The upgrade process is like a yacht race--each "crew" chooses its own course. So a salesperson may find that a feature that's lacking (or annoying) in the current software has been remedied in some competitor's offering.

A better way to put it would be "If you're happy with your current software, stay with it. If not, look around." After all, isn't that what we tell friends who ask if they should sell their homes?
Keith Wood,, Salt Lake City

A: It's a free country Keith, you're entitled to disagree. :-)

Let's look at software applications in general.

The fact is, most word processing software has the same functionality. Most financial management software has the same functionality. Most real estate salesperson productivity software has the same functionality.

To put it in a real estate metaphor, they're all "3 bedroom, 2 bath" with different "floor plans."

Each application also has a learning curve and to change because you don't like a particular feature may be more trouble than it is worth. Most salespeople that I know are incredibly frustrated just learning how to use one piece of software, let alone changing. They barely had time to learn the first piece of software.

And if they must have a feature in one application not offered in another, they must then weigh the learning curve and make the decision to change or not to change. If they change, the new application becomes the "one they use" and the best software for them.

The underlying premise in my statement, echoed by many of the technology trainers I know, is that if you use any software, you're ahead of those that don't. Many salespeople purchase software and never learn to use it. So which software is best? I stand by my original statement Keith, "the one you use."
Saul Klein, InternetCrusade, San Diego, Calif.

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