Product Resources

Color Your World

Inkjet and Laser Printers Offer Time- and Money-Saving Solutions.

Last January, Benedict J. Frederick III, CCIM, bought an Oki Data C7400DXN color laser printer. “I love this printer,” he says.

Emotions often run high when commercial real estate professionals talk about their color printers. They are must-have, must-perform office equipment, according to CCIMs who answered an informal survey. Respondents were evenly divided between inkjet and laser printer users, but most still are searching for the perfect combination of speed and image quality.

Inkjet Pros and Cons

Inkjet printers are popular with commercial real estate practitioners for many reasons. They cost less upfront, most experts say they print photographs and other graphics better than color laser printers, and many of the newer models print quality text documents as well, according to recent reviews.

However, color inkjet printers' biggest drawback is speed. They can take anywhere from three to 10 minutes to print a full-page color photo. By contrast, some color laser printers take less than a minute.

Another drawback is the high cost of ink cartridges over the printer's life. For example, broker Michael Merrifield, CCIM, of Portland, Ore., purchased an Epson Stylus C80 for around $75, after a rebate. The printer requires four cartridges that cost more than $30 each. The lifetime (three years) cost of using the C80 is about $530, according to, which computed ownership costs for 10 inkjets priced below $200. The C80 ranked among the lowest of lifetime costs that ranged from around $505 to almost $1,300. [The Epson C82 replaces the C80.]

Laser printers also use ink cartridges, but they usually last longer. Frederick says his black toner cartridge is about $80 and the color cartridges are around $130. They are good for about 10,000 pages, he says.

Other inkjet cost factors are the price of high-gloss photography paper, often needed to produce the best image quality, and the lower duty cycles. Manufacturers usually estimate duty cycles of 2,000 to 5,000 pages per month for less-expensive inkjets such as the C80. Business-class inkjets, such as the Hewlett-Packard 2230, have higher duty cycles of around 10,000 pages a month. In comparison, the HP LaserJet 4600 has a maximum of 85,000 pages per month.

Affordable Color

Until recently, inkjets were the only affordable color printers, as price alone put color laser printers out of reach for most offices. Beyond cost, setup and maintenance were difficult, color page speeds were slow, and image quality was not that great. Inkjets also were slow, so most offices used color selectively, often outsourcing projects to copy shops and commercial printers.

But lower-priced, faster color laser printers and the faster business-class inkjets now offer commercial real estate practitioners a chance to broaden their use of color in presentation packages, training manuals, and other printed materials at a fraction of the cost of commercial printing.

Used wisely, color can improve retention of information by 78 percent and comprehension by 73 percent, according to a study by Loyola College in Maryland. The study also found that color invoices were paid 30 percent faster than black-and-white bills.

“We print brochures on properties including photos, aerial maps, location maps, demographics, cash-flow analyses, competition maps, traffic counts, drive times, projected gaps in demand, estimated market analysis of demand in areas, and testimonial letters,” says Skip Duemeland, CCIM, owner of Duemelands Realty LLC in Bismarck, N.D.

Duemeland's office uses three color printers, the newest being an HP LaserJet 4600 that cost about $1,800. “It is cost-effective to spend $2,000 on a color printer. Your time is worth $100 an hour; in 20 hours, you've paid for the printer,” he says.

Frederick agrees that the timesaving features of higher-priced laser printers are worth the money. “Time is all I have to sell,” says Frederick, a sole practitioner and owner of Frederick Realty in Baltimore. “I need ... to keep my productivity up. Speed is more important than cost.” He spent $3,100 on his Oki Data, which prints about 18 color copies per minute, he says.

Another timesaving feature is the printer's five-gigabyte hard drive. “That allows me to store large files that I print often,” Frederick says, and he can print the documents without opening them on his computer. He also cuts costs by printing two-sided documents and his own letterhead.

How Fast Is Fast?

Overall, laser printers are faster than inkjets, and the more money you spend, the faster they get.

But before replacing that inkjet with the newest laser, think about how many people use your printer and how big your prints runs are. For single practitioners or small offices that only print a few color copies at a time, inkjets may work fine. Thomas J. Raub, CCIM, a broker with Hickok & Boardman Commercial Realty in Burlington, Vt., uses the HP Deskjet 932c. “The print quality is very good, especially if I use high-gloss paper. I usually just use copy paper and still get very satisfactory results.”

Peggy Gallagher, CCIM, owner of PGallagher Commercial Real Estate in Spring House, Pa., just purchased her second HP printer, also a Deskjet 932c, which is adequate for her small brokerage firm. She, like others, considers reliability and reputation when choosing. “In the past year I have made one telephone call to HP for service. I received fast, efficient help, and the problem was solved over the phone.” [HP has replaced many of its printers with newer models. HP Deskjet 5550c replaces HP Deskjet 932c.]

Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, MAI, of Milkes Realty Valuation in Dallas uses an HP business Inkjet 2230 for printing “maps and photos on a periodic basis. I wouldn't find it suitable for documents -- way too slow, too costly, and quality is not as good as LaserJet.”

Moving at Laser Speed

Although their image quality is superior, even business-class inkjet printers are not fast enough for mid-size or large networked offices. Laser color printers offer the necessary speed.

The fastest laser printers use single-pass technology, which means the printer lays down all four colors in one pass. Both LED and solid-ink printers use the single-pass process. Other color lasers requiring four passes to print each color separately take four times longer.

Vector Realty Advisors in Louisville, Ky., switched to laser printers two years ago, choosing an HP LaserJet 4550N, a four-pass printer that produces about five color pages per minute. Recently the company's president, David C. Mayo, CCIM, added the newer, single-pass HP LaserJet 4600. “This model prints 18 pages per minute in color, warms up three times as quickly [as the 4550] and produces breathtaking documents,” he says.

Both are networked printers. “We use Word, Excel, Access, Photoshop, Illustrator, Pagemaker, Microsoft Project, SPSS, and planEASE on a regular basis, and the output on these printers enhances our presentations substantially.”

Before buying, Mayo factored in reliability, warranty protection, pricing, and the availability of ink cartridges at local office supply stores. “There are other companies that produce color laser printers, including Lexmark, Canon, Xerox, and Minolta, but the limited availability of consumables is a huge problem, which we chose not to live with.”

Niel D. Thomas, CCIM, ABR, CRS, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Fortune in Anchorage, Alaska, has a Xerox Phaser 860/DX “on our wireless DSL network for the whole office, so anyone with a laptop or desktop computer can jump on the machine.”

He praises its “stunning image quality” but admits that good image quality is a function of more than just the printer. “The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so you have to know what you are doing from the initial settings on the digital camera, to image processing with software, to the publication software, to settings on the printer driver, the printer itself, and the printer settings in the application you are using. The quality of the paper being used makes a difference too.”

Lease or Buy?

While most brokers buy their printers outright, some choose to lease. Thomas has a lease deal through GE Capital, offering a 3,000-copies-per-month minimum at 10 cents a copy below the minimum and 7 cents per copy above. The three-year lease includes all inks, maintenance kits, and on-site service by Xerox. He's had a few billing glitches and was not happy when he had to purchase a $1,000 network software program, but otherwise he is satisfied.

Torrey D. Brooks, CCIM, vice president of Brooks, Torrey & Scott in Norwalk, Conn., uses a Xerox Phaser 850, which he got free through Xerox's Free Color Printer program at http://www. U.S.-based businesses can apply online for a three-year contract to use a color printer. “If you qualify, your commitment is to buy all supplies from Xerox directly ... and meet a monthly usage minimum on which you and the program agree,” he says. Xerox charges $75 for every month the minimum is missed. After three years, the business keeps the printer.

Brooks says the cost of supplies through Xerox is only 6 percent above the lowest price he found on the Internet. “Although we have missed on a number of the minimum uses, the $75 penalty would still be an okay lease price. In essence, I'm still looking for the catch,” he says.

Making the Choice

Although speed, image quality, and cost are the three top concerns for purchasing color printers, commercial real estate professionals mentioned several extra features that they find useful. For laser printers, extra printer memory is a good option to purchase, especially if you plan to print complex graphics. Networking software is a must for mid-size or large offices; even some small offices find it necessary. Duplexing capabilities and two or more paper trays for handling different paper stocks also are convenient features.

Most machines handle a variety of paper sizes and stocks, from business card stock up through legal size, although check before buying since each printer varies. Also, many inkjet printers deliver the best images on the photographic paper supplied by their manufacturer. Many commercial real estate professionals would like to print on tabloid size (11-by-17-inch) paper; however, this feature is only available on high-end color laser printers.

The accompanying chart lists several color printers used by commercial real estate practitioners. The chart represents the variety of costs and features available. Inclusion does not constitute a review or recommendation.

Color Printers at a Glance




Color pages per minute

Monthly duty cycle

Other features

Stylus C82 Epson America
(800) 463-7766





Uses fade-resistant, water-resistant inks

Business Inkjet 2230/2280
(800) 752-0900





Four ink cartridges, memory expandable to 176 MB

LaserJet 4600Hewlett-Packard
(800) 752-0900


$1,999 - $3,899



Single-pass process, network capability, 10 GB hard drive available

Oki C7000Oki Data Americas
(800) 654-3282






Single-pass process, duplex and network capabilities, 5 GB hard drive available

Phaser 860Xerox Corp.
(800) 334-6200

Solid ink

$1,999 - $4,399

10 -16 ppm


Single-pass process, duplex and network capabilities 10 GB hard drive available