Technology Solutions

Tablets Take Charge

When Apple introduced its first tablet computer last year, iPad ads featured lounging Web surfers and newspaper readers. CCIMs these were not.

In the fast-moving world of commercial real estate, tablet users can improve client service by reducing response time. With a data connection and a strong signal, CCIMs are running pro formas during property tours and showing listings that previously required stacks of paper fliers. "If used well, a tablet can make you more productive from anywhere," says Jonathan Epstein, CCIM, of Berger-Epstein Associates in Allentown, Pa.

Efficient, Portable, Quick

"With a tablet, you don't have to carry around as much as you used to," says Beau Beery, CCIM, CPM, vice president of commercial real estate at AMJ in Gainesville, Fla., who used to have a briefcase full of notepads, calculators, and data reports. Beery bought an iPad, which starts at $499, after seeing a fellow retail conference attendee use it to pitch properties to prospective clients. "The retailers were all blown away," Beery says. He is now impressing prospective clients of his own.

During a tour of an unfinished office property, Beery went online to find property tax data for a similar unit in the building, used that data to calculate the tax rate per square foot, and then calculated total rent and insurance numbers. Before he owned a tablet, Beery would have had to return to his office to run such a detailed pro forma. "Who knows?" Beery says. "By that time, he could've called three other people."

What are CCIMs' favorite tablet apps for business? Read "10 Tablet Apps for Commercial Real Estate"In addition to consolidating paperwork, tablets allow CCIMs to quickly respond to client e-mails. With a data plan from a wireless provider, tablet users can go online and access e-mail almost anywhere. This capability always has been available on smartphones, but the small screen and keyboard discourage detailed answers and make it difficult to do additional research that a comprehensive response might require.

Joseph W. Edge, CCIM, president of Sherman and Hemstreet Real Estate in Augusta, Ga., says the ability to sync with Microsoft Outlook is the most useful tablet feature. "We use e-mail and our calendar system extensively," Edge explains. "The syncing makes a laptop almost obsolete." Edge relies on his tablet's 3G data connection, since he uses it during property showings, at airports, and in traffic jams.

iPad Alternatives

Although analysts expect Apple to dominate the tablet market for the next two years, competitors also are getting the attention of commercial real estate professionals. Robert E. Smith, CCIM, president of Smith Equities Corp. in Orlando, Fla., bought the Android-powered XOOM tablet for its compatibility with Google applications and other Android devices. "I'm not an Apple guy," Smith says. "And I do like my Droid phone."

The XOOM, also priced from $499, has two features that Smith finds especially useful and aren't available on the iPad — mobile hotspot and memory card expansion. The mobile hotspot provides a wireless Internet connection for up to five devices. Users also can double XOOM's 32 GB internal memory with the addition of a 32 GB microSD card.

Rose M. Cabezut, CCIM, adviser with NAI Maestas & Ward in Albuquerque, N.M., plans to purchase a tablet but it won't be an iPad. "I have looked on longingly as colleagues used iPads, but I don't believe I will experience the challenges [that iPad users face], particularly with Windows-based applications," Cabezut says.

Laptop Replacement?

Timothy W. Harrison, CCIM, senior adviser at Sperry Van Ness in Asheville, N.C., bought an iPad and a wireless keyboard to replace his laptop. He acknowledges that his remote connection to his desktop via the iPad is slower than the laptop connection, but it meets his needs.

Other CCIMs are more hesitant to abandon their laptops entirely. "I have not found the iPad to be a replacement for my laptop," says Tim B. Thompson, CCIM, of Deerfield Commercial Real Estate in Holyoke, Mass. "But it is a valuable addition to my business."

Dennis LaMantia is an interactive marketing manager at the CCIM Institute. Contact him at magazine@ccim.com.

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