It is always wise to use a little common sense before taking advice from others. I don’t think people have to experience selling real estate to recommend products or services that might be useful to active practitioners, but I don’t think they always have a clear understanding of our jobs, and they don’t always make the best recommendations.
Case in point: A new product for the iPad was released in Apple’s App Store. I have installed it on my iPad and tested it, and it does everything it is supposed to do. It is called Open Home Pro and it is free.
It serves as an electronic open-house sign-in book. It has been declared an innovative breakthrough and a must-have for agents who conduct open houses.
Visitors to the open house can put their name, phone number and e-mail address in the application. It also asks the open-house visitors how many bedrooms they would like. That’s kind of a personal question, but I think it is designed to give the agent more information about the prospective buyers’ housing preferences.
The agent holding the open then has an electronic list of visitors and can send visitors a "thank you" e-mail as a follow-up and can easily put the contact information in a contact system. The app does seem like a good idea on the surface, but let’s take a closer look.
On the very last screen, after the open-house visitor fills out the information, the screen displays, "Great! You Are All Set!" and "Please hand the iPad back to the agent." I know from experience that people who come to open houses don’t follow instructions very well, and some even trip over the "please remove your shoes" sign as they rush past with their shoes on.
I can’t see myself handing my iPad to total strangers who have come into the house. It would be very easy for them to just walk out the door with it as I am distracted by other people who are in the house.
Most of us do open houses alone, but the best practice is to do them with another agent. Once an open house gets started, it is easy to be distracted. One couple comes in and asks questions, while another couple is in the kitchen opening cupboards.
Unattended children may be running through upstairs bedrooms while a visitor asks me to come outside and answer a question about the fence and the lot lines.
The National Association of Realtors has handouts dedicated to open-house safety. We are discouraged from bringing valuables into open houses.
For a woman real estate professional, the best practice is to hide your handbag in your vehicle and bring in your phone and car keys. Women are less likely to be robbed if they don’t have any valuables with them.
It’s easier to plan an escape if you have your car keys with you and you are holding your phone.
If the owners of the house left an iPad out in the open and I saw it, I would put it in a drawer or under something until the open house ended. The iPad is small, light, fairly expensive and easy to walk away with.
Realtors have been robbed for items of less value than an iPad, and even killed in homes they were showing or holding open. Just this month two real estate professionals died while on the job in Ohio.
With all that said, consider the simplicity and efficiency of the humble low-tech sign-in sheet. You have your basic inexpensive piece of paper or guest book and some cheap ink pens. No one will hit you over the head to take either, and if you bring more than one pen you don’t even have to keep an eye on it.
When a guest walks off with a pen, you simply put out another — and you don’t have to teach the guests how to use pen and paper.
The sign-in sheet is faster and more efficient, as most people can write faster than they can type information into your iPad. Have you ever watched someone type on an iPad for the first time?
Open House Pro seems to solve a business problem that doesn’t exist, and in doing so creates a new set of problems. The application could be used by the agent holding the open to take down personal information, but it is far easier to let the visitors write down their own information on paper and then record it on the iPad later.
If you want to let a total stranger use your iPad, it’s your choice. But if someone tries to steal it, please give it up without a fight. IPads are expensive, but they are not worth a violent confrontation.
It takes someone who is interested in technology but who does not do open houses to write a glowing review of this application without mentioning the possible hazards of actually using it.
I have open-house pro on my iPad, and am happy to demonstrate how it works to other agents. After doing so, I explain why I would never use it at an open house.
People who make real estate apps and apps for Realtors should consider letting real estate practitioners test the apps or the idea.
And Realtors should use their own common sense when using electronic devices for business and the applications that run on them.
We could use more apps, and the most useful apps address business needs. They help us sell homes and market our services, and make it easier to share information with clients.