Technology Solutions

iPad Insights

When Apple unveiled the iPad, commercial real estate professionals could impress their clients just by carrying the tablet into a meeting. Two years and many competitors later, the iPad has lost its novelty but not its utility. CCIM members continue to find ways to use it to make their jobs a little easier.

Always Accessible

Tablets, with their larger surface area for typing and reading, are overtaking smartphones as the way to remotely access email, according to CCIM members. If typing on a virtual keyboard feels odd, an optional external keyboard can free up screen real estate and provide a more familiar typing environment.

Connecting an iPad to an existing email account varies in difficulty. Adding a Web-based account such as Gmail or Hotmail only requires an email address and password. Connecting to an office email account can be more complicated and may require help from technical support.

Property Listings

Commercial real estate professionals no longer have to remember to pack all the property fliers, floor plans, and other files needed for the day. Cloud storage apps such as Dropbox give tablet owners access to digital versions of these files.

Aside from the peace of mind and lighter load, using the tablet to access files stored on the cloud allows Jack A. Strollo, a broker at Broadway Real Estate Services in Lakeland, Fla., to be more responsive to his clients. “I may meet a client at one property, but after the initial tour I discover that their needs would be better suited by another site,” he says. “I can pull up that property’s photos, marketing flier, and floor plan on my iPad to see what they think.”

CoStarGo and LoopNet’s app provide another way to view property listings away from the office. Similar to the desktop versions, these listing apps can filter results by property type, price, size, age, and more. “I’ve used the LoopNet app when I’m in a new area and want to see what is available close to me,” says Jason Archer, associate at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in Atlanta.

Desktop Connections

Apple says “there’s an app for that,” but not all software has a corresponding app. In those cases, remote login apps such as LogMeIn come in handy. The app gives users access to files and software on office or home computers via the iPad. “If I happen to forget a file at the office, the app allows me to remotely control my computer and access the file from my iPad,” says Tod Whipple, CCIM, vice president of real estate at United Construction Corp. in Newport, N.H. “During a site selection, I used the app to access a rendering of proposed building while standing in the field.”

To access apps such as LogMeIn, a tablet needs either a data or Wi-Fi connection. Data-enabled iPads cost more and require a data plan from Verizon or AT&T, but they allow users to access apps, the Internet, and email when a Wi-Fi connection isn’t available.

Case Study

The tablet, with its high utility and mobility, is prone to nicks, scratches, or even cracks. With the most expensive iPad costing more than $800, it’s no surprise that a protective case was one of the accessories most commonly mentioned by CCIM members.

Cases range from screen covers, such as Apple’s magnetic iPad Smart Cover, to dual-sided protection with integrated keyboards, such as the ZAGGfolio, which Whipple uses. “It allows me to carry the iPad in a nice folio case and also has a Bluetooth keyboard,” Whipple says.

Kevin J. Riley, CCIM, vice president at Weber Wood Medinger in Beachwood, Ohio, uses the ClamCase, which offers similar features. “Its Bluetooth keyboard has the feel of a true keyboard, and the protective cover keeps it from getting banged up,” Riley says.

Visual Versatility

Tablets’ touch interface promotes interaction. Brian Varvel, commercial agent for Keller Williams Commercial in Katy, Texas, says that interaction livens up his listing presentations. “It’s not that a presentation is all that unique,” Varvel says. “But the engagement clients experience when holding and watching a presentation on the iPad is unique.” When presenting to a large audience, Varvel uses the Apple VGA Adapter to connect his iPad to bigger screens. He delivers presentations using the Keynote app.

David W. Auel, CCIM, president of Griffon Realty in Pittsburgh, uses the iPad to review and share property photos. He uses a digital camera with a wide-angle lens to take pictures then transfers them to his iPad with the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit. Reviewing them on the iPad helps Auel determine if he got his shot or needs to retake it. “Checking for flaws is easier on the iPad than on the camera’s small view screen,” Auel says. “I can also email images to my assistant for touchup without bringing the flash card into the office.”

Help Wanted

Despite their versatility, tablets are still lacking commercial real estate tools. Although most customer relationship management companies have moved their data to the cloud — giving users access to their data on different devices — some programs haven’t developed apps for tablet access. “I would like to see my CRM have an iPad app, which would allow me to use just my iPad instead of my computer,” says Nicholas L. Miner, CCIM, vice president at Commercial Properties in Tempe, Ariz.

Financial analysis apps for commercial real estate are also missing from app stores. Apps such as the 10bii Financial Calculator make some financial calculations possible on tablets. However, they lack certain calculations for commercial real estate, such as depreciation, and don’t provide a comprehensive financial overview of a property that an Excel spreadsheet can provide. Until native tablet apps arrive, remote login apps such as LogMeIn can provide access to more-powerful desktop tools.

Dennis LaMantia is interactive marketing manager at the CCIM Institute.

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