Much of what I do as a realtor is done out of my office in Vermont, but I spend a good deal of time traveling into the countryside to meet with clients. If you've ever bought a house, you know that there is a seemingly endless stream of forms that have to be filled out and filed, and I used to take hard copies of everything I might need to these meetings. I'd keep a briefcase filled with them in my car at all times, and I had to constantly check and replenish the supply. My iPad changed all that!
Life is much easier now. I keep everything I need on my iPad in Word or PDF format. If we need to review something, I simply pull it up on my iPad. If a client needs a copy, I e-mail it to them on the spot. If fact, the iPad has changed the way I approach all of the day's activities. It's become my new best friend.
Finding properties & creating real estate plans
I start my day by checking the Web for new listings. In addition to our proprietary MLS software running on my Mac at home, I open Realtor.com (free, app2.me/3043) on my iPad and search for prospective properties by drawing a circle on the map around the areas my clients are most interested in. When I'm with clients, I let them do the drawing—most of them can't wait to touch the iPad! I also use ZillowReal Estate Search (free, app2.me/3044) and Real Estate by Smarter Agent (free, app2.me/3045) to find properties; both have accurate and well presented data.
Realtor Assistant ($3.99, app2.me/3046) is a great app for creating real estate "plans" that outline the steps needed to complete a sale and the dates involved. Let's say a client signs a contract today. There are quite a few things that have to be done before a closing can occur, and many of them are time sensitive. This app lets me create a detailed plan of action for the completion of the inspection, financing approval, etc. Due dates are automatically entered into my calendar and pop up to remind me. The app comes with preloaded plans relating to real estate, but you can also create custom plans, and they don't have to relate to real estate. For example, I've used this app to keep track of group meetings that require follow-up e-mails and phone calls. I simply create a plan and set dates to remind me of things I need to follow up on. You could even use Realtor Assistant to plan a wedding, listing all the tasks and projects involved and setting due dates.
Keeping things moving
I check the Mail app periodically to see if I've received any PDF documents that need attention. I use iAnnotate PDF ($9.99, app2.me/2921) if all I have to do is highlight portions of the document or make annotations. It even lets me sign a document and draw on the PDF. The only thing I can't do with it is fill out forms with typewritten text.
If I want to work with a form, for example a contract that needs to be filled out, I open it in SignMyPad ($3.99, app2.me/3047). This app lets me enter text and dates, check boxes, select radio buttons, and add signatures. I like using this one to sign documents because it opens a separate box to write in and then lets me resize the signature to fit the document. Anything I add to the document can be sized and dragged to a precise position.
Managing real estate documents
Programs like ZipForms ($9.99, app2.me/3048) allow you to fill out and store forms online. Unfortunately, I'm not always close to a Wi-Fi hotspot and prefer to keep forms on my iPad. Both GoodReader for iPad ($0.99, app2.me/2924; iPhone/iPod touch version: app2.me/2925) and AirSharing HD ($9.99, app2.me/3049; iPhone/iPod touch version: $6.99, app2.me/2625) make it easy to move files back and forth between my iPad and iMac. GoodReader lets me view (but not edit) a variety of document formats (MS Office, iWork, and HTML archives) as well as audio, images, and video. I appreciate its layout and the variety of options it offers. And among its many features, AirSharing lets me print out documents from my iPad through printers attached to my iMac or on my network. The print feature also supports Linux, but not Windows computers. (Note that Apple added wireless printing capability to its mobile devices with the release of iOS 4.2.)
To create or edit documents, I use Pages ($9.99, app2.me/2412) and Numbers ($9.99, app2.me/2480). Pages supports MS Word, PDF, and Pages ‘09 document formats; Numbers supports MS Excel or Numbers '09 files. Both apps can open documents sent as e-mail attachments or transferred to your device via iTunes. Both apps do a great job, but they are only available for the iPad.
Documents To Go ($9.99, app2.me/128; Premium edition: $16.99, app2.me/286) has similar capabilities and is available for the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad. It lets you view and edit MS Word and Excel files (2007-08 and 2010). It also lets you view PowerPoint, PDF, iWork, and other files. You can send and receive files as e-mail attachments as well as sync them with your Mac or PC over a Wi-Fi connection. I use Pages and Numbers more than this one, but all of these apps will handle just about anything you toss at them.
Managing personal information
Although the Contacts, Calendar, and Notes apps are fully functional, my go-to apps for managing my personal information are STL Contact Manager ($4.99, app2.me/3050; free "Tutorial" version, app2.me/3051) and Pocket Informant and ToDo ($12.99, app2.me/291; "HD" version for iPad: $6.99, app2.me/2575; free "Lite" version, app2.me/2576).
STL Contact Manager makes texting, e-mailing, and Skype calling easy, and I appreciate its use of groups and smart filters to organize contact information. The app's simple interface reduces the number of taps needed to do what you want to do. In addition, it keeps a history of all e-mails and texts you send to a contact from within the app; this can be very helpful when you're looking for an e-mail that you know you sent, but just can't find.
Pocket Informant won me over because of its ability to sync with Google Calendar. By syncing my iMac desktop to Google and then syncing my iPod touch and iPad to Google, I can keep all my calendars in sync. It's a bit of a workaround, I admit, but once you set it up, it's seamless. Pocket Informant can also sync my to-do list stored on the Toodledo website (toodledo.com). Whether I'm using my iPad or iPod touch, all I have to do is open Pocket Informant to check my daily schedule and to-do list.
Taking mobility to a new level
There's one gaping hole that I haven't filled yet. The desktop real estate programs I have used do a good job of tracking buyers, sellers, and listings, but so far I haven't found an iPhone app that does a decent job of this. I've heard that STL Contact will incorporate this in a future release, but no target date for this has been announced.
The introduction of the iPhone, iPod touch, and the iPad, coupled with a wide variety of robust apps, has made the life of the real estate agent easier and more effective. With the help of Apple and app developers, an industry that's always been mobile is taking mobility to a new level.