OpinionTechnology

IPads are 5 years old: Here’s how I learned to use mine for real estate

Broker Notebook

It is hard to believe that iPads have been around for five years. I was one of those reckless people who preordered my iPad before I even saw one, and I waited an extra month to get it because I ordered one with a data plan.

Who taught me how to use my iPad for real estate? I had to teach myself. There were no free webinars. I suppose it was useless (and still is useless to some) because no one knew how to print from an iPad and because it didn’t come with a CD drive or a USB port.

The consensus back then was that the iPad was a wonderful tool for surfing the Net, reading, watching videos and playing games, but it wasn’t good for generating content and had limited business uses. Some people decided to wait until tablet computing was more of a thing.

I put my iPad to work in my business right away, and a year later, I won an iPad 2 with a built-in camera. When my 2 was stolen, I bought the 4, which is the first model to have the Retina display and is faster than previous models.

I’ll likely eventually upgrade to the lighter iPad Air. I think the mini is cute, but I like the bigger screen of the larger iPad. I am so secure in who I am that I don’t have to own the latest model. I am not even an Apple fan girl and can prove it because I prefer the Samsung and refuse to use an iPhone.

Apple products do not, in general, play well with others, and I don’t want my data held hostage in the Apple environment. The secret is in synchronizing everything through a Google account and other services so that calendar, contact data, photos and documents are accessible on all platforms.

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Now is when I am expected to write a list of “must have apps” for real estate. I have to say most of the apps that are for real estate are more for consumers than for real estate agents. Those that are for real estate agents address needs or solve problems that I don’t have; most of them are generic, and real estate is local. The apps I use the most are general business apps.

Our MLS has an app, and I use the RPR app and a mortgage calculator that I like. I use a calculator a lot, too. Evernote and Dropbox are must-haves for me. I have a lot of social media apps, photography apps and drawing apps. I use banking apps and can even access records for my trust account from anywhere.

My iPad has replaced my briefcase and my laptop. When I upgraded my computer last, I bought a high-end, powerful desktop machine that I just love because I do a lot of photo processing, and the files tend to be large.

I like the freedom of just carrying an iPad in my bag. I still have room for my wallet and a bottle of water. I really can work anywhere, and I often do.

When I am out with clients, having an iPad with a data connection is invaluable. Sure, I can look up the same information on my phone, but I like to look it up on my iPad, and then I hand the iPad to my clients, which frees up my phone for other things.

My first iPad was a bit of a conversation piece, but it also made me look like a professional who would go that extra mile and try something new in my business. As iPads became more popular among real estate practitioners, I noticed most people use them for email, calendar appointments and social media.

As a real estate agent, I am expected to have a lot of information in my head, and I do but I have a constant need to look things up, especially when I am out with clients. The screen on my phone just isn’t big enough to poke through tax records and other information on websites that are still not optimized for mobile devices.

We have come a long way in five years. It has been a few years since anyone has intimated that iPads won’t work well for business or real estate. The iPad has become ubiquitous. They are faster and lighter than ever before, and now that they have cameras built-in they can even be used as document scanners.

There are plenty of opportunities to develop apps for the real estate industry. Understanding that real estate is local is key. I say it every year. I would like to see an easy-to-use app that I could use to write contracts and to get them signed. I have been asking for this since 2010. I can use my iPad to generate contracts and get them signed, but there is a lot of room for improvement in the process.

There are so many things that an iPad can do that I cannot imagine life without one. If you are an agent reading this, I can assure you that iPads can be used for business, and for people who must print, there are ways to do that, too. With cloud storage a USB port would be a step backward. If you are still on the fence and waiting to see if tablet computing will be a thing, wait no longer — it is a thing.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.