Technology

Got Gadgets?

CCIMs find these devices are essential for a healthy business.

High-tech gadgets now are a part of commercial real estate professionals' everyday work life. "I am able to work more efficiently because of today's technology products," says Brett Haynes, CCIM, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial in Winchester, Va.

Thanks to technology, Carol Rockhold Shoemaker, CCIM, CPM, a sales associate with NAI Latter & Blum Commercial in New Orleans, even was able to continue working through the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After her home in Saint Bernard Parish was destroyed and covered in 15 feet of water, "we bought an RV ... I work from the RV with ease using my laptop," she says.

Like Haynes and Rockhold Shoemaker, other CCIMs find that having access to high-tech gadgets such as smartphones, notebooks, digital cameras, and global positioning systems helps manage their time and keeps them organized in and out of the office. From closing deals on the road to sending high-quality images to out-of-state clients, CCIMs depend on these products to get them through the day.

Smartphones for Smarter Business

No longer used for just making phone calls, mobile phones have turned into pocket organizers, also known as smartphones. These wireless devices feature e-mail, Internet access, contact organizers, instant messaging, and digital cameras so commercial real estate pros can conduct business without lugging around too many gadgets. "It's like a portable office in my purse," says Barbara K. Hokel, CCIM, a sales associate with NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial in West Des Moines, Iowa, of her Palm Treo 650 smartphone. "[It] allows me to have all my contacts hot-synced from the Outlook program on my computer, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses as well as business, personal, and other addresses and numbers. I can send and receive e-mails from my phone," she says. The Treo 650 also includes Bluetooth wireless for hands-free conversations - especially convenient while in the car.

Brands such as Palm and BlackBerry have made their devices easier for business professionals to stay connected from any location. Aside from being a mobile phone, the Palm Treo 650 features an organizer, text and instant messaging, and a digital camera. With a full keyboard and screen, users easily can see what they are working on and take clear pictures of properties without having to use a digital camera. The newly released Palm Treo 700p has greater speed and a slightly larger screen at 2.46 inches. Users can work on files with built-in support for all Microsoft office applications. It also includes a PDF viewer and 60 megabytes of storage.

BlackBerry's newest devices, the 8700c series and the 7100g series, also provide a number of functions to help commercial real estate pros stay connected with clients and each other. The 8700c series features a phone, multimedia messaging service, wireless data access, address book, Internet browser, memo pad, and access for up to 10 supported business and/or personal e-mail accounts. It also includes a full keyboard, built-in speaker phone, and Bluetooth, and can be used in the U.S., Europe, and the Asia Pacific region. The 7100g series has similar features but is smaller and does not have a full keyboard.

Kenneth J. Carriero, CCIM, broker-officer with Marcus & Millichap in Tampa, Fla., would not be able to do business while away from the office without his BlackBerry since he depends on the device for e-mail and calls forwarded from his office. "Recently, I received an offer via e-mail for a property I listed. Without my BlackBerry, I would not have been able to review it and forward it to the sellers until I returned to the office two days later. I kept the lines of communication open with this service and successfully negotiated the contract while on the road," Carriero says.

William Hugron, CCIM, CPM, senior vice president of Ashwill Associates in Newport Beach, Calif., keeps his BlackBerry with him so he can close deals at all times - even while skiing in Europe.

Power of the Notebook

Even though smartphones can function similar to computers, many CCIMs still prefer to have a notebook to take with them on the road. "I really love my IBM ThinkPad," says Donald G. Arsenault, CCIM, president of Arsenault Realty Advisors LLC in Tacoma, Wash. Arsenault likes the flexibility of having docking stations at work, his Tacoma home, and his other home in Sun City Grand, Ariz. "I just plunk [the Think Pad] down, and it's the same everywhere I go," he says.

Dell and Toshiba design their laptops to be more durable and portable so commercial real estate pros like Arsenault can take them where ever they go without worrying about breakage. The Toshiba Tecra notebooks specifically are designed for corporate and small business sectors and now incorporate Intel Centrino Mobile Technology to provide users with advanced power. The Tecra series also features extended battery capability, high-speed wireless LAN, and Microsoft Windows XP Professional.

Dell Latitude Notebooks stand up to wear and tear and are tested extensively to help ensure durability and reliability. The newest Latitude models also contain mobile technology including the Intel Pro/Wireless mini card and Intel Pentium. These systems feature integrated mobile broadband, a Wi-Fi Catcher, and an optional Bluetooth module for cordless accessories.

Carriero's Toshiba Satellite goes everywhere with him, and he logs on to his desk computer when he is out of the office through a virtual private network. "I can use everything, it's like never being away from my desktop computer," he says.

To organize his notes, Haynes uses his tablet PC rather than having legal pads and Post-It notes scattered around his office. He also incorporated new software to sync his e-mail and files so he can conduct business almost anywhere and maintain accurate and up-to-date information.

Digital Is Better

"A picture is worth a thousand words," Hugron says, explaining why he likes to take pictures of his properties to send to clients. While the Sony Mavica digital camera with recordable compact disc is too large to fit in his pocket, Hugron chose this model because it is practical for his business and one of the only digital cameras that offers a recordable feature. It has a 20-1 optical zoom and a wide-angle lens so he can take a range of photos. Hugron takes property photos and copies them onto small CDs for his clients, packing a marketing punch with personalized CD case labels. "People want their own stuff," he says. "It also makes me stand out, and that's what you want in the business. It gives me a slight edge to stay ahead of the competition."

Sony makes sleeker, pocket-size cameras such as the Cybershot DSC T30, which is about the size of a credit card. Haynes says that his Sony Cybershot DSC-P100 is invaluable and he chose it because it struck the right balance - it's compact, starts up fast, has a quick shutter speed, and takes high-quality photos. "I do a great deal of electronic marketing and blast e-mails, and photos are an integral part of that marketing. I also do an increasing number of targeted direct mailings that feature photos of the properties I represent," he says. The Sony Cybershot DSC-P100 comes equipped with video recording features.

Never Get Lost

With portable built-in or portable GPS, paper maps are becoming obsolete. "I don't have to waste time looking up maps and directions. Having a GPS makes my time more efficient," Carriero says of his Garmin C530 GPS. Carriero drives all over Florida for his business and having a GPS ensures he gets where he needs to be quickly.

Hugron also has GPS in his sport utility vehicle and would not buy a car without it, he says. "The advantage of GPS for land deals is that it shows the names of all streets, even if they are dirt roads, making it easy to find the location," he says. Users also can plug in the coordinates for raw land to identify exactly where the parcel is, Hugron adds.

Aside from GPS, Hugron also has a device called Traffic Gage, which tells him the traffic on freeways in Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif. "It shows the traffic on each freeway in both directions and is updated every four minutes by the California Department of Transportation," he says. The device is a must for brokers living in Southern California, Hugron says.

Since not all cars offer preinstalled GPS, companies such as Magellan and Garmin offer a wide range of portable systems. The Magellan RoadMate 360 North America has preloaded detailed maps and a 3.5-inch color touch screen. Turn-by-turn voice prompts and visual directions help to guide users. The RoadMate 860T North America has the same features and includes live traffic incident reports with automatic re-routing around trouble spots. The 860T also features SayWhere text-to-speech so users can hear street names. The RoadMate 760 North America, includes the same features plus SmartDetour to avoid freeway traffic congestions and has a 3.75-inch color touch screen.

Several other GPS models include Bluetooth technology and built-in microphones for hands-free calls. Garmin StreetPilot c550 also includes integrated Bluetooth and real-time traffic information while StreetPilot 7200 comes with a remote control, verbal signal capability, and a touch screen.

While some commercial real estate pros may not want to give up their conventional business methods, those using high-tech products stand out among their colleagues and get business done more efficiently, even when away from the office. "Every one of these items is a timesaving device leaving me with more time for those activities that place me directly in front of buyers and sellers," Carriero says. "My gross commission during the last 12 months was $870,000. I am not 100 percent sure I could have achieved that without my high-tech gadgets."

Stephanie Bell

“I went through the [recession in the] 1980s and purposely set out a market plan that would not have the boom-and-bust [nature] that comes with real estate cycles.” — Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, Milkes Realty Valuation, Dallas“We were anticipating a slowdown in the market and wanted to develop an avenue of business that would create a steady stream of income.” — Yvonne Jones, CCIM, CPM, Zifkin Realty Management LLC, Chicago“I help struggling companies rethink their business models, which includes determining the most profitable use of their real estate.” — Audie Cashion, CCIM, Alpha World Properties LLC, High Point, N.C.Stephanie Bell is associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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