Monday, October 21, 2013

When To Upgrade To A New PC?

As this year’s update of Realtor magazine’s computer buyer’s guide shows, there’s plenty to choose from if you’re in the market for a new computer. But, as most real state professionals already have a primary computer system--either notebook or desktop— the bigger concern may be deciding when and if it’s time to upgrade.
You still need a real computer, at least for the foreseeable future. While there’s abundant real estate apps for tablets and smartphones, real productivity software is still targeted at PCs, and most for Windows machines. The larger screen size, keyboard, and faster processors found on notebooks and desktops also make for a more comfortable user experience, whether running software or using cloud services.
So, if you’ve already got a computer, when does it make sense to trade it in for one of this year’s models. If any of the following rings true, there’s no better time than right now.
An older system—one bought three or more years ago—seems sluggish when browsing the Web or running programs;
Essential real estate software you use has been updated for a newer version of the operating system, and your present system doesn’t meet the recommended requirements for the OS;
You want to go fully mobile, and require a new notebook powerful enough to replace a desktop system;
You’ve finally decided to migrate to an iMac or Macbook after watching others successfully make the transition from Windows to OS X hardware;
You have the budget to re-invest and take advantage of the latest improvements in performance, features and functionality. 
Any system bought today should serve your needs for the next two to three years. By then, who knows, the technology may evolve in ways that stretch our present notion of a primary system. For now, though, your next PC should look and perform much like the one you’ve been using, albeit it much faster and sleeker.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Initially Screening Real Estate Tech Vendors

        Software or hardware, when you invest in any tech product or service, you’re entrusting part of your real estate career there. With companies claiming to offer a real estate solution, especially, you don’t want to end up with a vendor who won’t be there for you, when you need them most.
Before you ask for references or request a demo, you can quickly decide which companies to pursue, which aren’t worth your time. Simply contact or call them for more information and gauge response time.
As a real estate professional, responding to prospect and client queries is critical: ideally within hours; at least the same business day; at worst within 24 hours. Hold any potential vendor to the same standard. If they don’t address your query within a day, strike them from the list. Lack of response suggests both poor professionalism, and understaffing.
All kinds of problems can crop up when installing or using any tech product. Your business and the services you provide can depend on the real estate technology you employ. If a vendor can’t get back to when you are most attractive— as a potential sale— what’s to suggest support will be available, once they have your money?
As one who covers technology for real estate, I’m continually exploring and fielding pitches from companies with the next best thing. I’ve also been persistently surprised over the years, how some companies never respond to queries which could help them get the word out about their real estate solution.
I figure if they can’t get back to me, they won’t be there for you, and move on.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A few summer briefs

Summer’s almost done— Labor Day weekend approaches — time to get back on track after a temporary hiatus. For starters, here’s just a few of the things of potential interest I set aside when they first crossed my desktop, meaning to get to....until now.

 How about taking input from buyers when deciding the listing price of a home?That’s a service online brokerage Redfin is now offering sellers with its Price Whisperer program. Seller enters their address, Redfin agent contacts buyers actively seeking a home in the area without divulging the address, inquiring what they would be willing to pay for such a home in the neighborhood. The feedback can be used to help set the price to capitalize on current market trends. Whether its a gimmick or useful insight remains to be seen, but if it works, well, it could have legs.

 Inbound marketing. Heard the term, but wonder what it means, or should mean for you? Here’s an infographic put together by the folks at Boomtown who incidentally have a turnkey Web marketing solution they’d de glad to explain.

 If you’ve decided you want to get serious about photography and are thinking nothing but a digital SLR will do for all your tour photo and video needs, PC magazine just put together a useful list of the best DSLRs, based on their video record capability. Prices start in the $700 range and climb as high as you’re willing to go; if you’re that serious, take a look.

As for hardware, as much as you use your smartphone, (and if you’re of a certain age) you may agree with summer reports about how the toll they are taking on heavy users’ eyesight. (here’s one from USA Today  ) That’s certainly a consideration in the growing selection of “phablets”— smartphones in features and function which rival the screen size of entry level tablet PCs. Samsung’s newly announced Galaxy Mega  is just the latest example of this trend, an Android phone with a 6.3 inch screen. Easier on the eyes, for sure, but is that just too much phone, not enough tablet, or just the right mix?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

More Apps Make the Device....Do More

Everyone who relies on a smartphone or tablet as hub of mobile productivity knows it’s the apps which make the device such a powerful tool. 
In fact, always search the respective app stores— Google Play , iOS, Windows 8 —to see what’s available to make your smartphone or tablet a useful tool in real estate.
That’s not a one time deal, however. New apps appear all the time, and some just get missed. You can’t really tell how useful any app is until you spend some time using it. From my experience, you usually know pretty quickly if it’s something you can or want to use.
Usually that shouldn’t cost more than your time. Most publishers , intent on getting their app into your hands, offer it for free or in a lite version but that’s not always the case.
Either way, here’s some more to consider. Bear in mind, I am not endorsing any, nor have I reviewed them. The app developers contacted me, in an effort to get the word out about the products. I said in one of my early posts I’d include mention of new products when possible. So....
EuroSmartz  offers a suite of fee-based business productivity apps for managing documents, and communications from mobile devices,primarily running iOS.They include Print N Share, Alta Mail, WritePDF and PrintCentral. 
If you handle a lot of rentals, Zumper’s ZumperPro  is free for creating flyers and marketing listings with a subscription to the company’s website. Consumers can search rentals, view them on a map, and get in touch with the landlord or agent. The system uses photos taken with the iPhone or iPad camera, and can automatically complete address information based on location
Listing Photo Taker, free with ads for Android, was developed specifically to help those in real estate organize and manage photos taken in the field. Developer Spencer Porter explains users assign an identifier for each property —an MLS number, address, etc. —and the app automatically batches up to 50 photos for sending or uploading to a cloud service like DropBox .Back-ups are stored on the phone or tablet until deleted.
        If managing your schedule is often the challenge, check out Tempo Smart Calendar. This digital assistant integrates contacts, apps email and schedule so everything you need to know is there when you need it, and nothing is missed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

....And Apps Can Make Smartphones More Like A "Real" Camera

Following up on my last post, accessories alone will not make your smartphone your best camera. There are also a number of apps which take the camera features built into your smartphone to the next level, give you the functions and creative control of something much more akin to a “real” camera. 
Choices vary with operating system, and most are targeted at iOS or Android. None will set you back more than $5, so you can and should experiment with several before deciding which offers the best user interface and features for your real estate photos and/or video.
For many of you, with the right app, and a few accessory attachments, your smartphone may be as much camera as you need for capturing video or photos for your online tours. It’s at least good enough to give viewer enough idea of what a home offers to get them to make a call.
If you, or certain properties, demand optimum image quality, and you’re shopping a new camera,check out the latest buyer’s guide to digital cameras at Realtor magazine online  for an idea of this year’s class. But look at your smartphone, too: as their imaging features and optics improve, as more accessories and apps are added, it’s only a matter of time before the camera in your smartphone will do, for most of you.
Now, about those apps. For an idea of how much is available in camera apps for your iPhone, start here. Some standouts include ProCamera, $4.99, as the name implies, geared more to the professional or serious amateur who looks on the iPhone as the camera always in hand; Camera Plus Pro, $1.99, relatively simple to use, rich with features.; and the free Camera Awesome which gives a solid mix of camera control, creative and easy sharing options.
For Android, the choices in camera apps are just as diverse. ProCapture, $3.99, adds enhanced camera controls, and you can sample its features for free with a limited version; SLR enthusiasts will appreciate how Camera FV-5, $3.95, delivers comparable control over image capturing on your smartphone; and the highly rated Camera Zoom FX, $2.99, provides a suite of tools and options, from photo or video capture through editing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Add-ons Make Smartphone A Better Camera

Just wrapped up an updated guide to digital cameras for  Realtor magazine online. Since digital cameras remain such a critical tool for marketing properties, , and the technology improves and advances at such a relentless pace, we take a renewed look at the category every year or so. Once again, the guide highlights a representative sampling of all that’s currently available, at all tiers of the market. 
Across the board, today’s selection offer a dazzling g array of power, performance and features, whatever your budget. Because the focus is on “cameras,” per se, there’s passing reference passing reference to an emerging trend, in the latest smartphones, and their potential value as a photo/video solution for real estate needs. 
While newer smartphones like the iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920 , Blackberry Z10 and Samsung Galaxy S3  all advance the case for the smartphone as camera, smartphone optics still trail the lens performance of even the most basic of today’s digital cameras. That will change , over time. In the interim, there’s a whole class of accessorie— lenses, adapters, cases, tripods, , mounts , etc — to make your smartphone a more functional camera.
To give you some idea of the many options, here’s some sources with a good selection: Photojojo    Precision Camera  and Amazon 
There’s no debate there’s already tools out there to make your smartphone a serviceable camera. The issue is whether the results are good enough to speak for you and your listings. If not now,...well just wait. And while you do, you won’t break your bank by investing in many of the digital featured in this years guide.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Sampling from CES

CES is showcase for the new, so much it can get overwhelming. Here’s a glimpse of a few introductions, and coming technologies from this  tech-year’s kick-off event which should interest mobile real estate pros. 
Sony's Experia Z
You need some sort of multifunction mobile device for all you do in the field. Some prefer a smartphone, some a tablet, and some carry both. Maybe not for long: enter the phablet.
A new class of devices is emerging which fall,  screen size-wise, between these extremes without surrendering functionality. Variations include the Sony Experia Z with 5-inch screen; Samsung Galaxy Note, 5.3 inch; Lenovo K900, with 5.5 inch screen; Huwai Ascend Mate with  6.1-inch HD screen.
Larger screens don’t necessarily you’ll have a bigger brick in your pocket. Vendors also showed off flexible screen technologies for future devices. Samsung calls its “Youm,”(check out CNET’s Youm gallery from CES for an idea of the possibilities while Corning calls its variation Willow Glass

There's an iPhone within the foot.sosho case.
As many real estate agents already know, smartphone cameras are good enough for basic video or photo tours. Reinforcing that trend are a growing assortment of accessories to upgrade optics and make them more of a camera. For example, Olloclip  is a 3-in-1 adapter that snaps on the iPhone to equip it with a macro, fish eye and wide-angle lens. The foto.sosho case, offered in three versions, actually outfits an iPhone to look and function like a compact camera, with flash and lens options
       Serious shooters are migrating to cameras with interchangeable lens systems. The Polaroid name has been licensed for an innovative new approach, the iM1836 smart camera. It runs Android, is Wi Fi compatible and the image sensor is built into its interchangeable lens.. Incidentally, WiFi seems destined to become the next standard convenience in a true digital camera, as evident in Sony’s WX180, its smallest camera to boast this feature yet, and at $199, its cheapest.

      Mobile productivity can be totally dependent on battery life. ChargeDr  from Digital Innovations makes it possible to charge a tablet or smartphone in the field rom a laptop USB port. Fulton 
Tactus brings raised keys
to touch screens
Innovation, demonstrated its eCoupled technology  for sharing power between devices, wirelessly. Based on the Qi standard for wireless power transfer,  it will one day allow users to transfer stored power from one device to the other by placing two Qi-enabled devices back-to-back.
       While we’re talking upcoming cool, Tactus Technology( has a way to equip future touchscreen devices with tactile keyboards with raised keys.. Pull up the "keyboard" on your device, liquid inside it pools to produce raised keys. When through typing, the keyboard slips back into the screen.
What next?