VOL. 126 | NO. 203 | Tuesday, October 18, 2011
iPad Becomes Essential Tool for Brokers
By MICHAEL WADDELL
Commercial real estate brokers and their clients are warming up to the trend of using the iPad as an everyday tool for conducting business.
Since its debut this past March, the iPad 2 – Apple Inc.’s ubiquitous tablet computer – is quickly gaining a foothold as a standard tool for many in the industry.
“The mapping capabilities on the iPad 2 are amazing,” said Frank Dyer, principal broker with Loeb Realty Group. “I’ve been able to take business lists and construct .kml files in Windows and Google Earth, and literally drive into a town and have the retailers that I’m interested in plotted on the map. That’s been a fantastic thing. And it’s nice to be able to receive documents on the road.”
Dyer cited the ability to pull up color-coded maps breaking down an area’s commercial space into office, retail, industrial, etc.
Some other favorite apps for Dyer include PDF Expert, DropBox, SiteMap, LoopNet and CoStar.
“DropBox is a tremendous program. It basically is ‘cloud storage,’ so you can drop files, photos and documents into it without taking up storage space on the iPad,” he said.
The files are then available at any time to edit, access and manage. Any file saved to DropBox is also automatically saved to all the user’s computers, iPhone, iPad and the DropBox website.
“At first my wife thought the iPad was just a toy, but I was able to show her in about 20 minutes how important it could be to my business, and it certainly has already served itself well in that respect,” said Dyer, who began using the iPad in March.
He also sees commercial real estate companies and potential clients using the QR (quick response) code reader function of the iPad and iPhone for marketing and advertising in industry publications and at conventions. By scanning a matrix barcode with the mobile device, the user is taken directly to a website for listings and other information.
Sam Zalowitz, broker and owner of Zalowitz Commercial Realty, is a self-described “techie” who has been using an iPad for business for a little more than a year.
“I’m completely portable, I have my own office on four wheels,” he said. “And LogMeIn and the (Sage) Act lets me access my office computer from anywhere in the world.”
Zalowitz listed apps like Keynote, Numbers and Bloomberg as useful business tools when preparing for a meeting with a client.
Zalowitz is also equipped with an inverter in his van, so he can plug in an e-printer made by Hewlett-Packard Co. and have the ability to print out maps, contract forms and other information while mobile.
“I’m using the iPad mostly for information,” said Zalowitz, who primarily focuses on retail and office space. “For example, I can find appraisal information on Chandler Reports and then print it out for a client. I can search on the Web for anything and print if needed.”
He explained that he saves time because the iPad starts up instantly, while a laptop takes several minutes. Zalowitz also uses MyWi for mobile WiFi connection for as many as five devices wherever his van travels.
“If a client has a smart TV with an HDMI input, I can plug my small Apple TV into their system. And with MyWi and either my iPad or iPhone, I can make presentations on properties there,” says Zalowitz, who is excited about the potential evolution of the iPad technology.
Owens Corning has developed a 1/4-inch flexible plexiglass material that is anticipated for future use as a multi-functional mobile implement that will be used as a smartphone and will also fit into larger glass pieces in places like a car, night stand or kitchen to control features over computers, music, television, lighting, alarm systems and more.
Gary Shanks, broker with The Shopping Center Group, recently started using the iPad for business purposes and he is already implementing new useful applications on a regular basis.
The Shopping Center Group, which specializes in retail space, recently launched its own app in May.
“Our company app allows our brokers and clients to search all ‘for lease’ or ‘for sale’ properties listed by our company,” Shanks said. “We currently have over 4 million square feet of commercial property listed out of our Memphis office. You can view, print or email all detailed information on a specific property with ease. If we are out in the field, we can provide immediate information to a prospect with the click of a button.”
Shanks uses Sitewise and BAO (Business Analyst Online) for key demographic and market facts about any location in the U.S. The Geo Measure app provides him with simple measurements and distances between sites when in the field doing site work for clients.
“DocuSign is an electronic signature service that helps me manage document needs from my iPad,” he said. “I can get proposals, contracts and any other documents signed directly from the iPad.”
He also uses Penultimate, a handwriting app that allows him to take notes, sketch and organize right on the iPad. He can also email notes or the entire notebook. He said it is very user-friendly and provides accurate penmanship with or without a stylus.
“I definitely see the iPad and other tablets being the future of all businesses and particularly in commercial real estate, where the speed of gathering information and making well-informed, intelligent decisions can make or break a deal,” said Shanks. “Providing, accessing, and analyzing information about a site or trade area in more of a timely manner is always going to make you more efficient and increase your chances of gaining more business.”
Shawn Massey of The Shopping Center Group said sometime next year the CCIM will make its Site To Do Business app available for the iPad. STDB will streamline the 15 to 20 most important apps for CRE agents into one program, and will allow layering of different useful information.
“The iPad is the best of the changes in the technology of our business because it allows us to do business away from the office and access information,” said Massey, who has been giving presentations on iPad since last Christmas.
“I feel in love with it. I carry it on me all the time. I take notes on it, use it for personal use, business social networking and I plan to write my new blog from it. I can record a meeting and take notes on it at the same time.”
Massey explained that right now only about 25 percent of the apps are available for Android devices, but he expects that number to rise.
“Android programmers are about 18 to 24 months behind Apple at this point, but some of the Android tablets, such as the Blackberry, are really nice,” says Massey. “I think in two or three years there will be complete parity from competing tablet brands.”