First Impressions of the iPad for Real Estate Professionals

Is It Worth Using?

Woman uses computer tablet from city apartment
Using the iPad for Real Estate. Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images

The Tech I've Been Using

I have a Netbook which I use for everything. It's my only "computer." I love it, and it's very easy to carry if need be. I use the Verizon MiFi, the little black box that makes me a walking wifi hotspot for up to five users. With those two items, I'm on the Web anywhere I have a Verizon broadband signal. I also have an iPod that accesses the Web through my office wireless and the MiFi.

I use it as an easy way to keep up with email on the go, as it's in my pocket.

What Did I Want and Expect From the iPad?

I'm a tech geek, and I love new gadgets. However, I usually wouldn't jump on something that cost this much until it had been out a while and maybe even hit a second generation. But, there are so many great apps that I like to use, and I really wanted to write about the iPad and see how it might be a place to market my real estate business with a better application on iTunes. But, to be honest, I just wanted a super new toy that's radically different.

Out of the Box: A Quick Setup

Don't expect a lot more than the iPad in the box, as there's just a charger, along with a small card with instructions to get going with iTunes. It's fine, though, as it really is quite easy, whether you already use iTunes or not. Two options are offered, restore from your iPod, which would install all of that software or the default of new install.

I read on the Web that doing a from-scratch install was better, then installed the apps I wanted on it afterward. You can even bring them down from the Web, as iTunes knows you've paid for them already. Of course, all of your music automatically transfers onto iPad.

Apps I Didn't Want from iPod

There are at least a couple of thousand apps out there already that are designed for the iPad and its large screen.

Some of my apps converted well, as there is a button on the screen (2X) to double their size without too much distortion. However, there were a few that I'd played with on the iPod that just didn't work for me as tiny apps in the middle of a large screen, or they blew up poorly.

Another thing I found was that some apps were no longer necessary, as I could run the website now with the large screen. Hootsuite, a PayPal app, and others are now gone, as I just go to the website.

Fast Access to Websites with Screen Shortcuts

Once I realized that I would be using websites instead of apps, it was nice to find that I could elect to create a screen shortcut icon from the Safari web browser. Once I was at the site that I would be using frequently, using the bookmark dropdown, there is an option to create a screen shortcut. Now I can get to my favorite sites quickly, as there are pages of room to place screen icons on the iPad.

What About MLS Software and IDX?

I can't speak to your MLS system, but FNIS Paragon is so picky it hardly runs on Internet Explorer without problems. Though I tried it for fun, there was no way it would work in Safari or another third party iPad browser I'd installed. As far as your website and your IDX search page, it should work great, as mine did.

It's just a webpage with an iframe in most cases, and mine performed well. So, instead of carrying my netbook with its start-up delay and other annoyances, I'll take the iPad on showings and use my own site IDX if we need to look up a property we drive by.

Other Uses for iPad in Your Real Estate Business

If you're doing accounting online, and for just about any website that you regularly use in your business, the iPad will provide you with a nice screen size and a clear, sharp and bright display of the site. Email, especially Gmail is wonderful, with a special display Google presents when it knows you're on an iPad. Feed readers, Twitter, Facebook and just about every other site I use regularly all work well. If you want to do a lot of typing, though, you may want to order the accessory keyboard dock, as the onscreen keyboard is very sensitive, and I kept accidentally resting fingers on keys out of habit.

What About Compatibility With Microsoft Office?

Of course, there's no way to get Office Apps on the iPad. I wasn't interested at this point in the spreadsheet but did download the Pages app from iWorks. It saves documents in Word format for export or emailing. DocsToGo is an app that will allow you to edit Word docs as well. However, for maximum ability across computers, I use my backup solution at SugarSync.com. I email any doc from Pages (a great app) to a private SugarSync email address. It stores on the Web in the "Magic Briefcase" folder that is synced to my desktop at the office. I can then open and use it, or do the same at home.

First Impressions Summary

I admit to being a tech geek, and I would probably have ordered an iPad, even without the excuse of wanting to write about it here for you. I think that whether it is going to be good for you and your real estate business may boil down to the two levels of involvement in Apple's technology in which you're already experienced:

  • You don't use an iPod with wireless. If you haven't been using an iPod, and you want something more portable to use for both business and personal use (like Netflix on demand), then you may find this an easy decision...other than the price. For email and other daily Internet tasks, it's a nice tool.
  • You will switch from an iPod. This is a tougher decision. I know it would probably be silly for me to keep both the iPod and the iPad. But, it's been nice to be able to stick the iPod into a pocket and carry it around without yet another case to worry about. But, I also think it will diminish the functionality of both if I'm trying to switch back and forth a lot. My plan, after another week of testing, is to give my wife the iPod Touch.

There is no doubt that the iPad is a great consumer toy, with music and large screen video available anywhere you have WiFi. Since I carry the Verizon MiFi, that's just about everywhere. Whether you find it of great value in your real estate business may depend on how many apps you acquire and whether you move more of your business online. As I am almost totally online now, with automated backup to the Web and access to those files from any computer and the iPad, I think I'm going to use the iPad a lot.

UPDATE OCT 2016:  I haven't used the iPad since not long after I wrote this. When Apple arbitrarily blew Google Maps off their devices, I jumped to Android. I used Google Maps extensively and couldn't wait for the months it took for Google to get Apple to allow their maps app on the devices.