10 (More) Favorite iPad Apps for Real Estate Agents

If you’re looking for the first post of 10 Favorite iPad Apps for Real Estate Agents, you can get it by clicking here. I’m always looking for apps that help real estate agents perform their job on a daily basis.  Here are 10 more that I think you should consider:

1.  UStream.  Yes, most of us have heard of UStream, and many of us have used it for streaming conferences and meetings live.  I must give credit here to Jeremy Hart for telling me about this use for the app.  Have you ever been in a situation where you are showing property to one spouse and the other is not there?  Perhaps it’s a situation where Dad is being transferred and is house hunting, while Mom stays behind at home with the kids.  Think about handing Dad your iPad (2 or 3 version w/ camera) and letting him “live stream” the houses he is walking through while Mom watches on the computer at home.

2.  Skitch.  If you have not tried Skitch, you are missing out on some awesomeness.  Skitch lets you take a screenshot, quickly mark it up, and then send it off.  Perfect for proofing ads, collaborating on ideas, giving a seller staging suggestions and more.

3.  ESRI/BAO.  Want to know the demographics and data such as average income for the spot in which you are currently standing?  This is the app for you.  Great for data fanatics!

4.  uEligibility.  Do you work with USDA buyers and sellers?  You will want this app.  Just enter and address or use the map checker to determine whether or not a property is eligible for USDA financing.

5.  MagicPlan.  With this app, there is no excuse to not have a floor plan drawn for every one of your listings.  Be sure to watch the video tutorials to learn how to use the app properly before jumping into this.  Use this to your advantage at your next listing appointment!

6.  iAnnotatePDF.  There are TONS of pdf editors out there for the iPad.  I happen to like this one; however, I recommend trying a few until you get one that you like.  Why a pdf editor?  Because it will make your life will be heavenly; that’s why.  Forget the Zipform App – it stinks.  Pull your blank or pre-filled contracts from Dropbox into iAnnotate and get them done quickly.  You can email them right from the app to Docusign, or save back into Dropbox, or have your client sign right on your iPad.  Easy peasy.

7.  Skype.  Nothing new here; just a reminder.  Before calling your clients, think about whether or not it would be more effective to Skype them.  Better yet, when you list a seller’s home, how about setting up a weekly Skype meeting with them to keep them updated on the progress of their sale?  I don’t understand why real estate agents are still driving to their client’s houses to complete paperwork.  Your doctor doesn’t come to your house to review your lab results.  Your attorney doesn’t come to your house to review a settlement offer.  If your clients can’t come to your office to review an offer during your business hours, set up a Skype appointment.

8.  JotNotFax.  There are still people and businesses in this world who use a fax machine.  Really.  Just because you might, someday, have to send a fax, doesn’t mean you need to keep your land line and fax machine.  There are lots of apps for faxing available and some will let you fax a page or 2 for free.  JotNot isn’t free, but you can send as many pages as you need and it will let you know how much the fax will cost.  A small price to pay for convenience.

9.  AtomicWebBrowser.  Safari isn’t compatible with all websites.  Atomic is a web browser that allows you to open those sites you can’t access in Safari, or are just clunky in Safari.  Sorry, MLXchange can’t be opened in AtomicWebBrowser.  To get the deets on accessing MLXchange on an Ipad, there’s a separate post for that here.

10.  Evernote.  If you are not using Evernote, or if you loaded it and never took the time to use it, sit down on a Sunday morning and force yourself to get to know Evernote.  This is such a rich program with the ability to completely transform your business (and life in general) for the better.  But…there is a learning curve.  Krisstina Wise offers a great tutorial series on using Evernote in real estate and it’s well worth the investment.

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How to Use MLXchange on Your iPad

I’ve had a few people ask for these instructions recently, so here you go…

MLXchange is a MLS system still used by some Associations throughout North America.  One of the major issues with MLXchange is that the program only works with Internet Explorer and Windows.  There is a mobile version; however, in my opinion, it’s clumsy and not user-friendly.  This post is not about how frustrating it is as an agent to pay MLS dues and not be able to access MLS on your device.  Instead, here is an easy and (almost) free, work-around.

Step 1:  Get a PC (not a Mac).  If you already have a PC, go turn it on and pour yourself a cup of coffee while you wait for it to boot up.  If you have an old PC or a netbook you rarely use, this is the perfect use for it.  Try not to use a PC that others will be using (you will understand why later).  If you are using an older PC, I recommend making sure it is updated, cleaned (the hard drive, not the monitor screen!) and remove any old programs you no longer use (AOL anyone?).

Step 2:  Go to your web browser and type in:  http://splashtop.com.  Then, download the streamer onto your PC.  Follow the steps to create your account.

Step 3:  On your iPad, go to the App Store and get the Splashtop app.  It’s $1.99 as of today.

Step 4:  Open up the Splashtop app on your iPad and it will search for your PC.  If it doesn’t find your PC, put them next to each other so they can see one another (just kidding!).  Click on the bottom right button to manually locate your PC.  You can access using a shared server or online.

Step 5:  You should now see your PC screen on your iPad.  Open up Internet Explorer (sorry), and go to MLXchange as you would normally access the program.

Now remember, you are accessing your PC remotely.  If you need to print something, you can only print to a device accessible from your PC.  If that is not possible, just take a screen shot of the page you want, it will be saved to your camera roll, and print from there using your regular printer app.

On a side note, word has it that MLXchange is getting a much-needed update and with the update, will be accessible from different platforms/devices.  Hopefully, that is true.

On a side-side note, since you are accessing a PC and using Windows, you can also now get flash-based sites to run on your iPad.

 

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Open Houses – Even a 3rd Grader Thinks They’re Dumb

This Sunday, I’m going to put signs up all over my neighborhood pointing to my house.  My family is going to leave and I will be home alone.  Then, I’m going to open my front door and let anyone who wants to, come into my home.  I might even advertise; on the internet, in the newspaper…let the whole world know that my front door is wide open and they can just come on in.

I asked my 9 year old son what he thought of that idea and his response was, “I think you’re crazy and it’s dangerous.  Don’t let anyone go in my room.”

But, isn’t this the definition of an “open house”?  Why do real estate agents do this?  Why put ourselves (and our client’s homes) into such a vulnerable, possibly dangerous situation, all in the name of a “lead” or a “sale”?

I’ve had agents tell me, “but open houses work!”  What do you mean by “work“?  Do you mean you get to meet people?  Why not sit at your local coffee shop for 2 hours or attend a local fundraiser instead?  Do you mean you find a buyer for the house?  Do you really think that the buyer would not have looked at the house and considered buying it if you hadn’t held it “open”?  Do you mean you get your sellers out of your hair for a week or two because you convinced them that an open house is an invaluable marketing tactic?  Don’t you think spending 2-4 hours really marketing the property would be more effective?

Is an open house really worth risking your own personal safety as well as the security of your client’s house and belongings?  Before answering, take a moment to read this blog post from Jenman.com.  I think the quote, “It is amazing – a person needs more identification to (rent) a video than to wander through a family home” hits the nail on the head.

Let me ask this as well:  before you have an open house, do you sit down with your client and discuss the possible risks involved?  Do you have them sign a waiver releasing you from any liability should something from their home go missing?  Not all homeowner insurance policies cover theft during an open house (because the home is not actually broken into).  Do you advise your clients to check their policy prior to holding it open?

Open houses…they’re just not a good idea.

 

 

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LeaseRunner was one of the featured companies in the Start Up Alley at Inman Real Estate Connect NYC 2012.  I’ve been wondering for years why a system like LeaseRunner wasn’t in place.  I’m happy to see them come into the limelight.

Here are a few features I really like about the LeaseRunner system:

  1. It’s cost efficient even if you only use it for one property.  You only pay for the features you choose to use.  Want to order a credit check but not an eviction screening?  You can do that.  Already have a tenant and just want to set them up with ACH?  You can do that too.
  2. You can choose who pays for what.  If you want to charge the applicant for an application fee and the landlord for the screening, you can set that up.  Since the fees are collected as the application and lease process moves forward, the property manager has less rick of being “stuck” with the bill for screening and leasing fees.
  3. Digital application.  Prospective tenants apply online via their computer or smart phone.  LeaseRunner doesn’t charge for an application; however, the property manager may opt to charge an application fee and collect it electronically.
  4. Execute the lease electronically and with a digital signature.  No more paper leases.  Lease fields are pre-populated with the property and tenant data.  Use your own leases and forms and/or choose from LeaseRunner’s extensive library of documents.
  5. LeaseRunner is much more secure than a filing cabinet.  You never see a social security number.  Credit card and bank account numbers are masked.  Ultimately, this limits the liability of the Brokerage.
  6. Reports.  The reports are rich, easy to read and can easily be exported in a csv file.

Take a tour of LeaseRunner below and share your thoughts.

 

 

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What I Learned at Inman Connect NYC 2012 Part 2

There always seem to be a few websites and/or apps that really stand out at each Inman Connect conference and this one was no different.  The one that seemed to get the most attention this year was Evernote.  In fact, Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, was one of the keynote speakers.  I’ll admit, I signed up months ago for Evernote, but didn’t use it much.  After learning how to apply it to my everyday business, I used it for the entire conference and have been addicted to it ever since.

What are some of the most popular uses for Evernote in your real estate business?

1.  Note taking.  Since Evernote has a completely searchable interface, finding your notes has never been easier.    Also, your notes are now accessible on every computer and device you have.  Throw away your notebooks; or put them in the recycle bin.

2.  Project management.  Share your notes and collaborate on projects with your colleagues, team or anyone else.  Create a notebook for each client and have your entire team keep their notes on it so everyone is always on the “same page”.

3.  Save your favorite web pages.  With browser extensions, you can easily clip and save web pages.  A virtual bookmarking site that also includes the text, images and links.

4.  Audio files.  Yes, you can record audio and save it to Evernote.  I recently tried this with an interior inspection for a bank and it worked great.  I snapped a photo and recorded audio with it so the bank’s asset manager knew exactly what I was talking about.

5.  Penultimate is Evernote-friendly.  For those of you who prefer to “write” rather than type your notes, this is a new feature to Evernote.  Just send your Penultimate notebooks to Evernote and they will be searchable and stored for easy access.

These are just a few of the MANY uses for Evernote in your daily life.  Think of it as being able to access every note, every file, every sticky note, just about everything your have…from anywhere.

There is a learning curve to using Evernote.  Give yourself a few hours to get used to it and watch the awesome tutorials Evernote has on their site.  Evernote is free with a paid version (increases monthly upload allowance plus some other features) of $5/month or $45/year.

Evernote Intro Video

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What I Learned at Inman Connect NYC 2012 Part 1

Wow – this year’s Inman Connect NYC was filled with great information!  Most of the keynote speakers were great and their message was very relevant.  There were some great learning “tracks” which featured panelists, experts and practitioners.  All in all, it was a wonderful conference.

So, let’s start with day one and the results of the recently conducted Inman Agent Survey.  Inman surveyed agents across the country making at least $100,000/year.  Here are some statistics Chris Smith and Katie Lance shared from the survey:

  • 92% of these agents are in their “brick and mortar” office less than 15 hours/month.
  • 17% never/rarely go into their office.
  • 42% never attend an office meeting.

Wow – only 8% of successful agents are using their office more than 15 hours/month!  Seems there’s some obvious brick and mortar fat to cut there!

  • 35% do not pay desk, technology and/or marketing fees.
  • 61% are considering opening their own brokerage.
  • 83% want to be communicated with digitally.

Over 60% of successful agents are considering leaving their brokerage and opening their own.  Does that mean that over 60% don’t see much value in their existing brokerage brand?

Next, they described what the 61% of these agents who are considering opening their own brokerage look like:

  • 75% have their own Facebook business page.
  • 47% have over 500 “friends” on their Facebook business page.
  • 69% are on Google+  (early adopters?).
  • 81% have a Youtube channel.
  • 44% post to social networks at least 1x/day.

Now, we need to understand that this was an Inman survey.  Of course, there are successful agents out there who probably haven’t even heard of Inman and have a minimal digital footprint.  This survey was to highlight the technology-driven successful agents and how they are feeling about their business and brokerages.

Where do these agents get their business?

  1. Their past clients/referrals
  2. Their website
  3. Their social media presence
  4. Their lawn signs
  5. Their SEO efforts
  6. Real estate search portals
  7. Networking events
  8. Online classified sites
  9. Open houses
  10. Their Broker’s website

Ouch!  #10 seems to explain why most are considering opening their own firm.  When an agent is more successful with their individual website efforts than their broker is successful with their company site, there’s a problem.  I wonder how many of these agents rank higher than their brokers for relevant keyword searches?

  • 98% said email marketing is working the best for them for lead generation of leads that actually go to closing.
  • Their average annual marketing budget was $7500.
  • Their average annual technology budget was $3750.

Do certifications and designations matter?  No correlation was found in the survey between certifications and production/income.

What did these agents say was their biggest time waster?  Paperwork.  69% want to outsource paperwork.  85% are using the cloud.  Why don’t their brokers offer virtual assistants to help them out?

Why would these agents leave their present brokerage?

  • Lack of technology offered
  • Culture of the company/branch
  • Confidence in the future of the company/brand

As I looked around the room, there were a lot of shocked faces in the audience.  The session was geared toward Brokers, Managers and Execs so that might explain why.  I suppose these results prove that being technologically illiterate and operating a real estate brokerage don’t work together anymore.

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Update Your Business Card

Have you looked at your business card lately?  Do it.  Right now.  Pull out one of your cards and REALLY look at it.

Is it unique?  Is it memorable?

Is it outdated?  Does it have a pager number on it?

Does it say what you do and how you can help someone?

Does it say too much?  Does it have too many phone #’s on it?

Keep it simple.  Keep it memorable.  Let it reflect who you are.

Want some inspiration?  Try these sites:  Moo.com, Webdesignledger.com, Webdesignerwall.com

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Raising the Bar in Real Estate

The topic of raising the bar in real estate has been discussed ad nauseum for a few years now.  Unfortunately, agents seem to be more interested in the topic than many brokers.  Discussions have revolved around increasing licensing standards, requiring experience before joining the Realtor® Associations, beefing up continuing education requirements, and more.

If you are interested in joining in on the conversation, I highly recommend planning to attend a national real estate conference next year.  It’s a great opportunity to hear from peers throughout the country (and the world) and their take on the topic.  In addition, there is a very active Facebook group addressing this issue on practically an hourly basis!  Click here to join:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/RaiseTheBar/

In the short time I have been reading the RTB Facebook group page, I have learned quite a bit about the licensing laws in other states and some really interesting ideas on improving the image of the real estate profession.  If you have a chance, close out Farmville and jump on over to the RTB Facebook page and join in on the conversation.

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3 Easy Ways to Record Your Phone Calls

This has been a hot topic lately and before I go ANY further, the laws regarding recording phone calls vary from state to state so please consult with an attorney before making the decision to record your calls!

Here are 3 very easy ways to record your calls:

1.  Skype.  There is a Skype extension called the Pamela Call Recorder for Skype.  Once you install the extension, it will pop open and ask you prior to answering or taking a call if you want to record the call.  Call recordings can be shared, emailed, downloaded, sent to your iTunes library, etc.

2.  Google Voice.  In your Google Voice account, go to “Settings” and then “Calls”.  Scroll down to “Call Options” where you can check the box to “enable recording”.  Now, all you have to do is press “4″ during an inbound call and the call will be recorded.  Note that this service only works with inbound calls.

3.  Get an app.   App Advice has a review post on the various call recording apps.  Take a look and find one that works best with your device.

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My 10 Favorite iPad Apps for Real Estate Agents

As a real estate agent, I’ve learned that my iPad is an invaluable tool.  I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of an “app junkie”.  I love finding new apps and trying them out.  Here is a list of my favorite apps today and how I use them.  Some may work for you, some may not.  You will notice that I haven’t added a single real-estate-specific app.  In my opinion, real estate apps aren’t tools I use every day.  These are.  Try them out and let me know what you think!

1.  Penultimate.  Yes, almost everyone who has an iPad has this app.  It’s great for note taking.  What I like even more; however, is the ability to take those notes and send them right from my iPad to someone else.  For example, while I was attending a conference, a landscaper called me and had some questions about what my seller wanted done on the front of his home.  I was able to draw out a rough sketch and email it directly to the landscaper, who opened up the attachment on his phone and got right to work.  I never had to leave my seat at the conference.

2.  AppAdvice.  From the same people who make the must have app for iPad newbies, AppStart.  AppAdvice is a wonderful tool to find apps on sale, reviews and recommendations of new, updated and useful apps.

3.  TaskPRO.  I think I have tried every task management app available.  This one worked best for me.  I like how I can customize regularly occurring tasks and the ease of use.  The ease of use factor is the most important to me because if it’s too hard to keep up with, I will give up.

4.   CalenGoo.  If you use Google Calendar, you need this app.  It’s much more user friendly than the mobile version of Google calendar.  It synchronizes automatically with your calendar and has a great week-at-a-glance screen.  I keep it set at the week setting so if I am on the phone or in front of someone and need to look at my calendar, it pops open in about 2 seconds.  The only downside is that the calendar has to sync with your Google calendar so you need to pop it open regularly.

5.  Dragon Dictation.  This app is fabulous!  Just say what you want to say and send your dictated message as an email, Twitter or Facebook post.  I use this mostly to send reminders to myself; however, the dictation has been so accurate, I’m using it more often for emails.

6.  The Amortizer.  Like Task apps, I’ve also tried quite a few calculator apps and this one is my favorite.  Simple to use and I like that I can add estimated closing costs and email a pdf of the loan info directly to my clients.    While I don’t show houses very often, I can see how this would be great for a buyer’s agent to type in the figures while showing a house her client likes and email the results to them so they can review and compare against other homes.

7.  Docusign.  Need I say more?  I use it everyday.  Couldn’t live without it.  The best electronic signature program out there.  How in the world did we sell real estate without Docusign?  Also, Docusign now offers a FREE version to Realtors.  There’s no excuse not to use it!  I need to buy stock in that company.

8.  iThoughtsHD.  Thanks to Jim Duncan for getting me addicted to this app.  This app is mind mapping on steriods.  You can create amazing things with this app and really impress your clients!  I recently used it to create a “plan” for listing my client’s home.  We discussed all that needed to be done prior to putting it on the market and I entered it all into iThoughtsHD.  He and I then were on the same page for what we each needed to do and in what time frame.  Then, after we put his house on the market, I created a map showing him what I would be doing regarding marketing, feedback, communication and created another map for him with what he should be doing to keep his home in show-able condition.  While we don’t use it as a tool for our real estate team, I can see it being a very useful tool for others.

9.  Dropbox.  Another “no brainer” app.  Access your contracts and other documents from anywhere, anytime.  I negotiated a contract once from the giraffe observation deck at the zoo.  Seriously.  You need this app.

10.  Zite.  This is my favorite new app.  I describe it as a “smart” news and information app.  You customize what news you want to see and it feeds it all into your personalized, iPad magazine.  As you read through it, the app asks if you liked or did not like a particular item which causes the app to get smarter and smarter about only feeding items you want to read.

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