My iPad came at the end of April. I held out for the 3G model so that it can be used when I am out with clients. I did not see the iPad as a game changer for the real estate industry when I ordered it.
But, as I wrote in my March column, I decided that it is something I should have for my business and that it might be a game-changer for me.
After playing with it for a couple of weeks I am impressed with the screen, ease of use, instant-on feature, and the battery life. From a productivity point of view I see it as more a content consumer than a content generator.
To date I have not written a single article or blog post with it. It is excellent for getting information and presenting it or sharing it.
The first thing I did with my new iPad was look at my website and blogs. They all work and look wonderful on the device, except for the virtual tours. My blogs are already optimized for being viewed with mobile devices, but I had never seen them on a touch screen device of any kind.
It gave me some ideas for things that I could add to my sites to make them more useful.
The next thing I did was install and test real estate applications, and I plan on writing some reviews for my blog to help homebuyers choose apps that work well for Twin Cities homebuyers.
In my opinion, the best application is the Realtor.com application because it has almost all of the listings on it. The other apps I tried were fun to use, and some had more functions and more "wow," but I won’t substitute wow for accurate information.
I found the Realtor.com app a bit frustrating because only four photos are shown unless the Realtor is paying for enhanced listings. There is a need for a local app for real estate searches that includes all of the listings from our local multiple listing service.
I hope that one of our Internet Data Exchange vendors steps up to the plate. Most homebuyers don’t conduct a nationwide search for homes and would rather have all the offerings in one area than some offerings from all over the country, or all the offerings but only some of the photos.
Last week I met with homebuyers that are from out of state. I loaded up my iPad with some location-based applications and a mortgage calculator. I can access the local MLS through the iPad, too, which is helpful and an unexpected benefit.
I gave my iPad to the buyers to use as we looked at condos. They were able to call up the units we were viewing, and to get area information. They could see the transit system and the bike trails by looking at the maps that I installed.
One of the buyers is fond of pizza, so I showed him just how close the best pizza place in town is and showed him the reviews.
Each of these tasks can easily be performed with an iPhone, but the larger screen on the iPad makes it perfect for passing around and sharing with others — and it never rang.
The iPad is not currently a game-changing productivity tool for the real estate industry. It doesn’t do anything that can’t be done with another device.
From a business point of view, its greatest value is as an information presenter and it has the wow factor. People are drawn to it, and they don’t always want to give it back to me.
In preparation for a listing appointment, I have a short presentation on the iPad and examples of how I market property. I can do the same on my netbook — and I have — but I think the iPad is a better content-presenter.
The screen on it makes everything look wonderful and it boots up instantly, with no waiting for numerous updates and a virus scan if it hasn’t been used for a few days.
For persons who are looking for one device that does it all, the iPad isn’t the answer. But to date I have not found any device that is. The iPad is small enough and lightweight enough to carry in my bag.
I brought the iPad with me on a short vacation but AT&T coverage was scarce where I traveled.
It worked well for watching movies in the hotel and for catching up on social networks and the news, but communication and connectivity came through my BlackBerry, which was running on service from several providers as I traveled. Some places were off the grid all together, which was a nice change but frustrating at times.
AT&T may have a large 3G network, but I have to say I am having trouble finding it when I venture outside the city limits. Most of my business is close to home and AT&T provides excellent service in the immediate area. Wi-Fi is plentiful and I am finding that the limited $14.99 a month data plan is all I need.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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