Friday, January 25, 2008

Social networking?

Been researching varied aspects of social networking as tools for real estate lately, and to be honest I come away not fully convinced about the value of a lot of it. I mean, I understand the worth of the Web to promote listings, demonstrate market expertise to buyers and sellers, and using a blog to reenforce that with fresh content. But even that can be a challenge for those preoccupied with and focused on selling property. All these great networking ideas take time to set up, promote and maintain. Much of what I’ve seen and learned seems to have its place, but I suspect it’s value and appeal is limited. I mean, if you have the time, then there must not be much going on.

Then I read articles like the one in RISmedia about HouseValues $2.5million investment in ActiveRain and everyone quoted effusing about the glowing prospects for social networking in real estate and I have to wonder, maybe I’ve missed something.

But I’ve been reporting long enough to know there can be a real disconnect between what’s said or assumed at podiums and in boardrooms, and the reality of the streets. So I’ll defer to those who know and use these tools.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of finding this blog, you’ve got a real interest in real estate technology. I’ll pose my questions to you: Without giving away any secrets, how does social networking fit into your marketing plans? Has it had any quantifiable impact on expanding your client base? If so, what does it take? Do you see social networking as a key to the future you must embrace, or more of a distraction for those racing to keep pace with technology?

Friday, January 18, 2008

What’s in The Air?

Apple’s new Air isn’t likely to convert a lot of Realtors to OS X—unless its “cool factor” complements the innovator image that’s part of your marketing persona. It’s lack of an optical drive and the enclosed( and unchangeable) battery are innovations most will balk at. So if you’re a typical user, and considering a Mac, you’ll probably be better served with a desktop iMac, or MacBook or MacBook Pro notebook.

The primary appeal of any of these Intel-based Macs remains the intuitive ease-of-use of Mac applications, and fact you can install and run Windows Vista and XP and related real estate applications. Understand too, though, that’s going to require purchase of Windows, on top of the cost of the Mac.

For most real estate professionals, the pricey Air holds more interest as a product concept than as practical solution to your mobile needs. There’s other choices in ultra-portables, the Air boasts the largest screen and a full-sized keyboard. The traditional notebook form factor is being pushed to its limits. There’s as much “ooh” to the Air as “Ah, what’s next?”

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Some thoughts on CES

The big event in Consumer Electronics is the annual CES show held in Las Vegas each January. I’ve been covering its announcements, innovations and introductions for years. Although the solutions there are rarely specific to real estate, for the last few years I’ve featured some in Tech Watch, the column I do for Realtor magazine online.

There’s so much going on at CES it’s hard to figure out what to include. This year, in the February column I decided to highlight some of the latest mobile solutions. CES showcases everything electronic for the home, office and desktop, but it’s the ongoing evolution in mobile electronics which will impact how Realtors work and use their time.

The show is always a good indicator of where things are heading, so there’s a couple of trends I’d like to briefly touch on here. First there’s the real advances in memory, especially flash memory. We’re reaching a point where you can cram hundreds of gigabytes of data on a hard drive barely two inches. But the advances in solid state flash memory which are of greater long term importance. WIth no moving parts, flash memory requires less juice thereby improving battery power, while allowing room for more features in more compact devices.

Next up is video. The latest camcorders and digital cameras make it extremely easy to post videos online. Even some inexpensive models can upload clips directly to websites like YouTube. While that may not be the ideal place to feature a listing, the fact is these cameras capture and properly format video for the Web. You can get a video tour online in minutes, or you can spend a little time editing clips into something a little more professional. Either way, putting together a video tour is not as challenging as it was

Last, there’s the ongoing march to convergence products. Talked about for years, there’s one device for all your needs for in your future. Whether you make it a smartphone, computer or something in between, it will be your choice. Limitations imposed now by screen size and data entry will all fall away. Whatever you want, you can have it in a product which also does much more.

That’s something to always keep in mind with technology. You don’t need everything it offers, or all the latest advances. What makes sense are those features and functions you will actually use. Today’s trends indicate you’ll just have more options in all else that one device can do.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Calling Mac Users in Real Estate

One of the most persistent requests I get is from users of Apple's Macintosh computers looking for insight or advice on how they can make their Macs work in the Windows world of real estate. They’re frustrated, but as passionate as all Mac users, aren’t about to give up on OSX.

They usually find me through searches which lead them to a couple of Tech Watch columns I did on the potential for the Mac as a real estate tool, especially since Intel based Macs can run both OS X and Windows and compatible applications.(column links: , )

As small as this group is, it really can’t be given it due in publications which must focus on the needs of the broadest spectrum of real estate professionals. Nevertheless, there’s call for some gathering place where real estate professionals can link up and share their frustrations/experiences/solutions on using the Mac. There was a blog I was referring people to last year, but that seems to be abandoned. Apple also has a page on its site for Realtors (, but I think it’s more of a promotional than practical tool.

As a Mac user myself, and based on the frequency of queries I receive, I see the need for more information online for Mac users who are also real estate agents and brokers. So I am adding this post to try and identify that solution.

If you know of a website or forum which already exists, please let me know about it. If not, do you agree there’s a need? If so, do you think it can be adequately addressed with an occasional update on Mac news for estate users as part of this blog? or what else is needed?