Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life
Apps for the Modern Realtor and Consumer
Writing an article on an iPad is quite a novelty for me, and I like it. The screen is crisp, the colors enticing, and the size just right for writing. You may consider me a dinosaur, having been in the computer field since the mid-70s. The first computer I owned was from a British firm, Torch Computers, and it was running CPM with a color monitor. There was also a Unix version available. This Torch Computer was the first to fully integrate the CPU, memory, drives, and monitor all in one box, like the iMac. A year later, IBM entered the market with the PC and DOS, and history was made, relegating the likes of Torch to the recycling bin.
After 25 years of Windows and Unix as a programmer and network communications engineer, it was time for me to move on and leave the younger generation to create new stuff. I am truly amazed at the new tools like the iPad and the iPhone, and I enjoy using all these gadgets in my new career in Florida.
The timing of the iPad 2 could not have been better for me. It enables me, as a Realtor®, to use these new tools on site and provide my clients with the information they need to make an informed decision for their real estate purchase.
There are many different Multiple Listing Services (MLS) available throughout the States and Canada. In South Florida, the associations chose MarketLinx from CoreLogic to maintain the databases of listings. CoreLogic, though, is definitely a Windows shop, and as such does not care much about Mac OS X users.
Their programmers have been working for years on a new Web-based application, Fusion, but it still lacks a lot of feature that Windows folks have. This application, designed specifically for realtors, gives us access to all the MLS listings for Southeast Florida. Unfortunately, CoreLogic used the lazy programmer tools found with Flash, hence, Fusion does not work directly with the iPad.
Luckily, the App Store provides several browsers other than Safari to support Flash. On the iPad, I’ve used with success iSwifter and Photon to load Fusion and use it in Flash mode. The app is not that fast because it has to translate types across iOS, but it’s still better than nothing.
CoreLogic gave us another Web-based tool, Kurio, for mobile devices, and this one works fine with Safari. It provides details on MLS listings in the area, but more in the form of the old databases formats, line items type. Kurio is available for realtors and consumers alike. The difference would be with some of the details related to a transaction.
On the iPad, realtors have access through Safari to TransactionDesk from Instanet Solutions. With this tool, realtors can write all the legal documents needed for the purchase or the sale of a property. TransactionDesk also maintains in a database format all your customers with their information. It is an excellent tool with all the functions needed and expected in a complete Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. TransactionDesk is also a tool provided by Realtor® Associations throughout the country.
When it comes to signing documents, realtors have access to several apps. My preferred one is DocuSign. It’s an app that can be used for any document requiring a signature. That digital signature is encoded with specific information about the sender, the recipient, and the IP address. This digital signature process has been approved by the Federal Government since 2000, and it works great on the iPad.
Once a document is uploaded into DocuSign, and recipients identified, you select the areas of the document that need a signature or initials. When this task is completed, DocuSign sends an e-mail to the recipients to link on the DocuSign Web site where they can sign the document. The process is flawless and quick. Even a caveman can do it, and everyone gets a clean PDF file with all the needed signatures. No more faxes!
Another way of signing on the iPad is to use an app like iAnnotate. With this app, you load the document in PDF format. You can modify the content of the document and sign it with your finger or a stylus.
All these apps are for realtors, but there are also a multitude for consumers. The most popular one with the highest hits monthly is from realtors.com, a subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Download the REALTOR.com® Real Estate Search iPad app free from the App Store and install it on your iPad or your iPhone.
This app uses Location Services to find exactly where you are and search for properties you want in that area. Another great feature is the map. You can zoom in to anywhere in the US and search for properties for sale. While vacationing last week in the Lake George, NY area, I used it to locate my future vacation home, a $2 million cottage, 5 bedrooms and 4 baths, with an exquisite view of the lake. I guess that will be in another life.
Canadian consumers can download a similar app for Canada only. It is found on the App Store too, when searching for “realtors.ca.”
When we buy something, we want to be sure that we are paying a fair price, if not better. For properties, an app from Zillow provides information that can help you decide if it’s the right price for you. Zillow has worked hard to build a better algorithm to figure out the real value of that house you like. The difficulty in appraising a property is that each is different inside and out. So it’s often a guessing game.
Trulia Real Estate Search is another app, similar to Zillow, that gives an estimate of the value of a property. In most counties, the property appraiser has a Web site with the appraised value and market value for all the homes on its territory. That also gives the potential buyer an idea of what price to expect or offer.
If you are looking for foreclosures, HUD has its own free app on the App Store.
As a consumer, I would use only the free apps from realtors.com and Trulia or Zillow. And, as always, let the buyers beware. Just because an app is on the App Store doesn’t mean you’ll be protected.
I discovered recently a Web site that helps iPad users select their app of choice. Top App Charts shows also the ranking of an app, and it’s updated daily.
There are obviously a lot more apps available. Today users are not limited any more to a few and the same apps. With the iPad, we can select what really fits our needs and what we want. Developers around the globe are thinking of new ways to simplify our lives and our work with apps that are easy to use and fit inside a tool like the iPad.
These apps I’ve presented here are the ones that I have used in the last three months of iPad 2 ownership. I hope that they will help you either as a realtor or as a consumer, and if you find one that catches your eyes that you find useful in your environment, let me know. I’m always willing to learn new stuff.
Also in This Series
- About My Particular Macintoshes · May 2012
- From the Darkest Hour · May 2012
- Shrinking Into an Expanding World · May 2012
- Growing Up With Apple · May 2012
- Recollections of ATPM by the Plucky Comic Relief · May 2012
- Making the Leap · March 2012
- Digital > Analog > Digital · February 2012
- An Achievable Dream · February 2012
- Smart Move? · February 2012
- Complete Archive
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