Thursday, May 14, 2009

Briefly noted...

Here’s another compilation of announcements I’ve set aside, hoping at some point to devote some space to them. Rather than procrastinate further, here’s a rundown of some developments you may want to explore further. Just follow the links.

And by the way, the next buying guide I’ll be working on for Realtor magazine online is about Website enhancements. If you’ve found or developed any you think would be of interest/value to other realtors, feel free to email me with a link to the info.

For a long time ACT seems to have been the most popular off the shelf contact management system for Realtors. Early last month the company released the latest version of the program developed specifically for those in this trade. ACT! by Sage for Real Estate 11, $299 or $199 upgrade, adds a few new features, including a “related contacts” feature for defining relations among contacts like buyers and sellers; improved integration with Outlook for organizing emails and calendar functions with contact records; and streamlined search functions.

Uses of digital signatures, and those interested in seeing how the technology might streamline their workflow, should take a look at the new version of DocuSign just announced. new features in DocuSign v9.1 include electronic signature personalization, a screen guide to sending documents for signature; a proprietary “Intelligent Document Recognition” feature which recognizes the type of document , then tags and tabs it as defined by the user for signing or data entry; designation of a “Signing Host” who functions as a host and notary to coordinate use of electronic and in-person signatures in transactions involving multiple signers. is trying to get a leg up as a developer and distributor of iPhone applications with its iPhone application Real Estate Real Easy. Initially available free for download and distribution, the company touts it as a tool to promote your business on the client’s phone. When they launch the application, the opening window invites them to call or email you. Subsequent pages allow them to search for properties, visit a webpage, learn about your services and company, or send you a location-based request for information about an area or particular piece of property. You can see samples at the Website or iTunes( ) continues to fine tune its marketing programs to the varied needs of members and company. Just announced is a deal with Long & Foster to increase marketing exposure for its sales associates and clients on the website. Long & Foster listings will display company branding, a virtual “lawn sign”, wherever they appear on, including on the search results page.

In another new marketing program, and broker members of The Realty Alliance announced plans to avail the Showcase Listing Enhancement package to Realty Alliance brokers and associates increase the appeal of select listings on

The featured listings will contain a photo gallery of as many as 25 photos, neighborhood details, full motion videos and virtual tours(if available) and lead capture forms. Pilot programs will add home warranty and mortgage services info alongside participating brokers’ listings on

Monday, May 4, 2009

How I bought a camera

My Canon digital camera finally died, forcing me back into the market.

What mattered? Price, for one thing. Since new cameras seem to be released every few months, I didn’t want to spend too much, knowing there could be good cause to step up to something else within a year or two. So, I didn’t want to spend more than $200.

Megapixel rating is a much touted and overrated feature. In reality, for typical real estate applications—posting to the web, images in flyers and brochures— a 3MP camera would do. But sensors have evolved well beyond that, except on phones and Webcams. So I knew any current camera would serve.

More important were the camera’s optics. As both a Realtor and avid photographer, I wanted a wide-angle lens, and a powerful optical zoom.

Versatility, too. I don’t shoot that much video but wanted that option so I would no longer need to carry a camera and camcorder. A determining requirement for me was that the optical zoom function when recording video. That’s not such a common feature.

For convenience, I wanted a compact that felt good in my hand. Internal memory and SD card. With everything else, it had to be durable: I carry my camera on a lot of hikes.

So what did I get?

Panasonic Lumix TZ-4, purchased in a bundle at Sam’s Club for $179. It’s one of last year’s models in the Lumix line, so the price break. It’s a compact with a stainless steel body. As far as the optics go, it’s got a Leica (synonymous with quality optics to those of a certain age) 10X wide angle optical zoom lens. Optical zoom works in the video mode, and it can record high resolution video at 720p in the 16:9 aspect ratio. There’s a step-up model, the TZ-5 which records in true HD (1080 lines of resolution)for less than $50 more.

The only compromise I've discovered so far was giving up a through-the-lens-view finder. That takes some getting used to... I’ve also learned in some situations it’s best not to shoot in the camera's “intelligent” mode. That and carry a tripod for when I want to shoot with the full zoom.

This is not an endorsement, nor a glowing review. In fact, mine may not be the right camera for you. But that’s not my point. It’s this: when you think these things through before you start shopping. prioritize which features and functions matter. Computer, phone or camera you’ll end up happy with whatever you’re buying.

I am.