Close Anywhere, Anytime

iPad applications can streamline your business and help you get to closing quicker.

January 1, 2011

Since Apple Inc.’s iPad hit the market last spring, more than 3.5 million units have sold, beating the market’s expectations for the product demand by 162 percent, according to the manufacturer. The 1.5-pound device has also beaten the expectations of many real estate pros, allowing them to show listings, schedule appointments, sign documents, and ultimately get to closing more easily.

Users say you have to be realistic about the iPad’s capabilities. "You need to think of it as a consumption device, and not necessarily for writing documents," says early adopter Bill Lublin, CRB, CRS, CEO of Century 21 Gold Advantage and a partner with the Social Media Marketing Institute, both in Philadelphia. So while it may not replace your laptop or smartphone, the iPad can help improve your relationship with clients. Here’s how.

Schedule on the spot. "I survive in down markets because I never let a client leave without booking another appointment," says Lublin. These days, after buyers have looked at three properties and come up empty-handed, he brings out the iPad. "I have a large visual way to show them my free times, and we pick a slot." A built-in application called iCal syncs the device with an iPhone or Mac. For those looking to connect with Google Calendar or Outlook, there’s an app called SaiSuke ($9.99), which works with all three of those scheduling systems and also connects with social networking calendars such as those on Facebook.

Have listings at your fingertips. Although MLS capabilities vary, many are now accessible through an iPad. "I was able to get information on the road for my last two buyer clients without too much trouble. I know they appreciated that I had the data on hand," says Atlanta-based Tim Maitski, a sales associate with RE/MAX Greater Atlanta. Maitski accesses his MLS through an application called LogMeIn. "A couple of taps, and I’m showing clients what they wanted to see." Some MLSs have their own application; expect others to debut in 2011.

Don’t just tell, but show. Loreena Yeo, SFR, a broker with 3:16 Team Realty in Frisco, Texas, bought an iPad last spring with the primary intention of using it for listing presentations. "Before, I think my clients somewhat grasped my marketing plan, and I always followed up with an e-mail with links." Now, while she’s making the presentation, she can search for terms on Google to show her SEO power and demonstrate her neighborhood and property videos. "The key is for them to understand that I do what most agents haven’t even begun to realize yet," she says.

Get their autograph. DocuSign and other electronic signature applications have helped to streamline the closing process, but an iPad can take it one step further by allowing clients to sign on location. Although the device is designed to be a touch screen, clients can use an electronic stylus pen (around $10 at electronics stores) to put their John Hancock on documents. "It’s saving me lots of paper and time," says Michael LaPeter, a sales associate with Resonant Properties in San Francisco, who has used this method about 12 times with clients. "They appreciate the ease."

Download more to do more. As iPhone and now Android smartphone users have learned, an app exists, or is in development, for just about any function you can think of. Real estate practitioners, for example, may enjoy photo editing apps such as Amopic and Crop Suey (each under $10) for making quick crops to photos before sending them buyers. Even the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has gotten into the act with NAR Express, an app that provides quick access to the latest headlines and market statistics. And NAR’s newest offering, MIDCalc, helps users quickly calculate the value of the mortgage interest deduction.

Katherine Tarbox is a former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Previously, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.