It’s the holidays and while you’re out buying gifts for others, you might want to think about adding these gifts to your business wish list for 2005.

1. A tablet computer

It’s the holidays and while you’re out buying gifts for others, you might want to think about adding these gifts to your business wish list for 2005.

1. A tablet computer

How old is your computer? Can you pull down all the MLS listings from your wireless connection during a listing presentation? Can you take notes during a physical inspection without using a keyboard (i.e., in your own handwriting)? The new tablet computers have all of the power of today’s desktops with substantial advantages. Even if you do have a laptop, it is still inconvenient to use it unless you are sitting down. Using a tablet, you can take handwritten notes during inspections and then automatically convert your notes into print. You can load listing agreements, purchase contracts and disclosure forms, and have your clients sign them on the spot. Rather than spending time at the copy machine, e-mail the completed forms to all parties and have them print their own copies. Because most states now recognize digital signatures, you avoid unnecessary trips to pickup and deliver documents. (The exception is those documents that must be notarized.) Two excellent choices are the tablets PCs from Motion Computer and from Toshiba. Furthermore, if you purchase a docking station, you only need your tablet rather than your bulky desktop.

2. Real Estate Dashboard software

The “Red Tablet” software package is designed specifically for the real estate industry. You can download listings from your local MLS, map out routes for showings, plus easily load all required MLS and disclosure forms. If you need information about a new listing while you’re out with buyers, you can use the wireless feature to check availability, features and price. Red Tablet offers a complete package (Motion computer plus the Red Tablet Software) or you can purchase the Real Estate Dashboard for your current laptop as well.

3. A wireless connection using an air card

This is a nifty addition to any laptop or tablet. Most wireless cards require you to be near a hot spot to retrieve data. You can now purchase an air card that lets you receive information anywhere you have cell service. This is especially convenient for showing comparable sales during a listing appointment when the sellers do not have a high-speed connection. It’s also terrific when you’re traveling and you want to download e-mail, contracts or other documents.

4. A PDA combined with a telephone

If you’re still carrying a separate telephone and PDA, now may be an excellent time to upgrade to a combination. The challenge with past versions of PDA-telephones has been the small keyboard and display. For many adults, these are hard to read and hard to use. New versions sport larger screens. In fact, Nokia and Motorola are bringing out a new version where the keyboard and the screen will be horizontal rather than vertical. This will provide both a larger keyboard and screen for easier use. Software solutions to use with your combination phone/PDA include Palm, Blackberry, Sony TRIO and Microsoft’s Smart Phone.

5. Personal accountability software

Are you using an Excel spreadsheet to track your listings, buyers and income? If an Excel spreadsheet seems overwhelming, new software from Performitor allows you to easily track current leads, do income projections, as well as business planning. While it’s tempting to not look at the hard, cold facts about your lead generation and income throughout the year, awareness is the first step to making the changes resulting in higher production.

6. Translation of MLS into 12 different languages

The Internet provides each agent with the opportunity to market globally. In order to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity, consider offering your Multiple Listing Service in other languages besides English. The main reason people visit real estate Web sites is to view as many listings as possible. A company, www.Immobel.com, allows you to have your MLS made available in 12 different languages. If your MLS already subscribes to this service, you can turn it on for your personal Web site for a minimal charge. If your MLS does not subscribe, you can order it as an individual user.

While mastering new technology and software may be bothersome, the benefits can be huge. In most cases, technology upgrades result in substantial savings in terms of both time and money. Furthermore, since most agents are slow in making changes, being an early adopter can provide you with a competitive edge that will bring you the gift of more closed business in 2005.

Bernice Ross is an owner of Realestatecoach.com and can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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