Technology

My favorite business tools, toys and gadgets

Broker Notebook

In the real estate industry we tend to talk about “technology” as if it’s unique to real estate,  and otherwise divorced from our business and personal lives.

As a small business, I depend upon what I call everyday technology to keep overhead low and handle more business with less effort. Here are some of my favorite business tools, toys and gadgets:

1. Galaxy s4 smartphone — the smartest phone I have ever owned, and the battery lasts all day. It has more storage space than the most expensive iPhone, and the battery can be replaced. I like it even better after struggling with ios7 on my iPad.

2. Neat scanner — I keep telling the Mr. that if I had owned my Neat scanner during the peak before the crash we would be rich and I would be retired by now. I can digitize 50 pages almost instantly, even if they’re two-sided, and email them or store them. It is an amazing, durable, flexible piece of hardware.

3. The Northstar MLS — I totally get why the big boys want to shut down MLSs. Our MLS levels the playing field so that the smallest independent brokerage can compete with them. Without the MLS and the services it provides, I would not be able to make as much money or serve clients as well.

4. IPad — the dang thing has so many uses I don’t know where to start. Best of all it’s lightweight, never rings and has 4G LTE data service. I am on my third iPad.

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5. WordPress — my blogs and websites all run on WordPress, which has apps that allow me to manage them from my smartphone or tablet.

We like to talk or write about "technology" which seems silly. There isn’t a moment that goes by when I am not using some kind of technology, like the fancy new furnace that is heating my home and keeping me warm right now.

6. Evernote — make staying organized easier than ever. Don’t be afraid to use it. Start today.

7. Cloud storage via Dropbox and Google Drive — I use them both.

8. MS Office 365 — Instead of paying a small fortune for MS Office, I have a monthly subscription that allows me to have MS Office on up to five computers. Plus, I have the ability to use it on the Internet (“in the cloud”).

9. Google Docs — I use it for writing and for sharing and collaborating with my clients. Sellers net sheets are just one example.

10. Google Chromebook — great for those times when an iPad just isn’t enough. I can use my phone as a hotspot and I can use MS Office 365 or Google Docs. There is a webcam and of course a full-size keyboard. They are inexpensive and very easy to share.

11. LastPass — software for creating and storing passwords so that as I hop from device to device I can log in.

12. My car — still the most complex, expensive and valuable piece of technology that I cannot run my business without. Cars are never mentioned in articles about technology.

13. A desktop computer with an obscene amount of RAM and a huge monitor is a photographer’s best friend. I suppose it’s OK for real estate, too.

14. The Chrome browser, because I can use it on all devices and synchronize bookmarks and other settings.

We like to talk or write about “technology,” which seems silly. There isn’t a moment that goes by when I am not using some kind of technology, like the fancy new furnace that is heating my home and keeping me warm right now. I can control it with my smartphone.

I can use the same smartphone to turn on the TV in my office and watch the depressing news about the government shutdown. I can watch the stock market drop or I can turn it all off without ever getting out of my chair.

There really are no universal “must have” devices for real estate agents other than the smartphone and a reliable car. I believe I could survive as an agent for a couple of days just using those two amazing tools.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.