Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series. Read Part 2 and Part 3.

Are you ready to jumpstart your business in 2010? If so, here are some of the best "trends and gems" from Real Estate Connect New York City.

1. Everything in a pocket
One of the most important trends for 2010 is the portability of technology. Today’s smartphones have more computing power than the desktops from just a few years ago. Who would have thought that your cell phone could take photos, shoot videos, read bar codes, find your exact location anywhere in the world, play video games, or do 10,000 other things?

Business tip: You have a Web site, but is it optimized for mobile technology?

Flash applications and multiple images result in slow download times on mobile devices. Today’s mobile users expect fast loading sites. Otherwise they lose patience and surf elsewhere.

Consequently, remove flash applications and minimize the number of images on your home page because they slow download time. Furthermore, when a search engine encounters a flash application or an image, all it sees is a blank. While these may look great, they do nothing to improve your search-engine ranking.

You can optimize your site for mobile technology in several ways. One approach is to build a separate "dotMobi" site that provides the key links that most Web visitors want: "What’s for sale?" "What’s my home worth?" and "How’s the market?"

A better approach is to optimize your main Web site so that it serves the needs of traditional Web visitors as well as those with mobile devices.

Since Gen X and Gen Y now dominate the buying pool, they tend to search and scan Web sites rather than reading paragraphs of content. Consequently, the best way to address the needs of both types of visitors is to set up your site using a headline and bullet format. Provide links to the key items on your site. The most important link will be your IDX feed.

Another way to speed up load times, especially with MLS photos, is to provide your clients with access to a mobile application such as Boopsie, which works on all smartphones. Using the phone’s GPS system, your buyer can access property data directly from the MLS without having to waste time typing the property address into the phone’s browser. This reduces download times up to 80 percent.

2. Cloud computing
"Cloud computing" refers to doing everything online. In other words, rather than purchasing software applications and installing them on your computer, you use the Internet to access applications and store data on remote servers. Gmail is a good example. Rather than having to download a program such as Outlook or Eudora, Gmail resides on the Google server. Just sign up and start using the program. …CONTINUED

Business tip: How are you backing up your computer? If you’re not backing up regularly or if you’re relying exclusively on a hardware solution for backup, it would be smart to shift to using a "cloud"-based backup system.

I have seen computers lose all their data even when they had two backup systems in place. Also, if you experience a fire or other serious disaster where your computer and backup system are in the same place, you lose everything. In contrast, when you back up your machine using cloud systems such as Carbonite, MobileMe or Mozy, you can restore what you have lost.

While these systems are great, it still makes sense to print out your database at least once monthly and to store that information in at least two different geographical locations. That’s the best way to protect your most valuable business asset: your customer list.

3. Tablet computers
While tablet computers have been around for a number of years, 2010 appears to be the year that they will really come into their own. Devices such as Apple’s iPad are opening the door for wider-spread adoption of tablet technology.

Business tip: I have had a tablet computer for five years and never understood why more agents weren’t using them. The ability to go paperless is a tremendous timesaver, as you can download all of your forms. When your clients sign an offer, they sign only once — the tablet will populate the document with their signatures in the appropriate places. You can also easily send documents.

More importantly, if you use a system like the RED Tablet software from VREO, you have a tremendous digital "paper trail." Everyone who works on the transaction accesses the same information on the same platform. When you send your client an e-mail, the system documents exactly when the information was sent as well as the exact time it was opened. This eliminates the "I-never-received-that-document" excuse you so often hear when someone has made a mistake and doesn’t want to admit it.

This digital paper trail is also a tremendous risk management tool because it documents every step of the transaction. Very few agents record the exact date and time various transaction events occur. The VREO tablet software tracks this automatically.

Would you like more "trends and gems" from this year’s Real Estate Connect? Then don’t miss Part 2 of this series that examines new technologies that can change the real estate business.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.


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