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What Hi-Tech Tool Helps Agents/Lenders The Most — Bottom Line Most

Though I think I know the answer to this query, the answers might just surprise many of us. Also, it makes sense the answer for me might be third best for you, right? Hi-tech tools, not toys, are what we’re lookin’ for here. Though for some, blogs and/or websites might top the list, I’m eliminating them from the menu. For me they simply don’t qualify as hi-tech. I’m lookin’ for what you closet geeks out there are leveraging to the max.

An incomplete list might include spreadsheets, presentation apps, Blackberrys, iPhones, data bases, and the list is almost endless.

Or maybe there’s an office machine to which you attribute increased income. What hi-tech tool is performing like a champ in your business these days? How much impact has it actually had on your bottom line?

For the legitimate geeks on steroids out there, what hi-tech stuff have you combined in order to build your personal Frankenstein tool? Or maybe there’s a group of apps out there that play well together.

There’s no right answer here. Well, that’s not really the case. I think there’s a right answer, but what’s right for my operation might be on your B-List. As I’ve been known to say once or twice in the past, bottom line results is what we’re searchin’ for with this question.

There you have it. Now, what’s performing for you from the Hi-Tech menu that’s translating into dead presidents?

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  • 34 comments

    34 Comments so far

    1. Brian Brady May 28th, 2008 10:54 pm

      Facebook and LinkedIn- the online Chamber of Commerce Meetings

    2. Tom Vanderwell May 29th, 2008 4:28 am

      For me, it’s three things:
      1. Wireless broadband on my laptop so that I can work anywhere.
      2. My “Crackberry” that gives me the ability to stay up on what’s happening and stay in touch with people no matter where I am.
      3. My unlimited calling plan from Sprint (no they aren’t paying me to mention them) so I can put 2500 minutes a month on my cell phone without it costing me an arm and a leg.

      Looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

      Tom

    3. Malok May 29th, 2008 4:56 am

      Air card ($60 per month) for wireless broadband on my laptop + portable printer = I can research a property, write up the offer, and print it out on the spot.

    4. Barry Bevis May 29th, 2008 6:15 am

      #1 is my Palm Centro. It allows me to:
      a. check e-mail
      b. text- lots of clients like text
      c. search MLS on the road “How much is the one over there?”
      d. use Google maps on the fly
      E.Our area uses GE Supra Lock boxes so it also lets me open lock boxes and If programed correctly it also e-mails me agent contact info after every showing.
      I could not live without it.
      (I also have the $99 unlimited everything plan from Sprint)
      Oh yea- its a great contact manager, calender and phone too ;-)

      On my wish list for the next year:
      A tablet PC with wireless card.
      A Printer that will work in the car
      and a Myfax e-fax type account.

    5. Keely May 29th, 2008 6:41 am

      I can’t live without Docusign. No more faxing and bad copies when you need a signature.

      http://www.docusign.com

      It’s $12 a month I believe and (might be $15) but it’s been a coup for myself and my clients.

    6. Bob May 29th, 2008 7:23 am

      I take some of the tools for granted – the laptop, phone, etc. But given the the sheer amount of documents I deal with on our short sales, the tech I can’t live without is SmartFax. $10 a month for a free local # with unlimited inbound AND outbound faxing.

      The time savings alone is huge.

    7. Mark Eckenrode May 29th, 2008 7:47 am

      here’s the tools i leverage on a daily basis to run my business:

      * blackberry – for email, calendar (syncs with google cal), contacts, twitter (twitterberry app), google maps, and access to my feed reader, provides high-speed net access

      * alienware notebook – with this and my blackberry, anywhere is my office

      * google apps – calendar, gmail, reader, trends, analytics

      * aweber.com – in my opinion the best drip/broadcast email service available

      * thebasementventures.com – free conference bridge line i use to teach and conduct group coaching

      * audioacrobat.com – audio replay/recording service (the guest call-in feature is killer)

      * voicenation.com – virtual phone system for my office (also used in lead gen offline)

      * wordpress – several websites built on wordpress are my marketing hub which all other marketing efforts drive traffic to

      now that google docs has a customizable forms that can be embedded in webpages i’m going to look at that more

    8. Kelley Koehler May 29th, 2008 8:10 am

      My Treo, by far. To be the first one to respond to a new email inquiry within minutes of receipt, to have every one I could ever want to contact listed at my fingertips, and on it, the Supra eKey software, which gives me an abbreviated copy of the MLS so I know if we can or can’t go into that other house next door.

      Next would be my real estate calculator, although it may not qualify as “high-tech”, to calculate probable payments, down payment and loan scenarios on the spot.

      I use lots of other cool stuff, but what’s vital to me is the fast response to people and to be able to talk money in real numbers and homes in real time.

    9. Rob Thiessen May 29th, 2008 8:20 am

      #1 Tablet PC (Lenovo)- I bought it to have clients sign directly on my screen using VREO. BUT… I found http://www.docusign.com and the rest is history. No need for VREO now. For example, if wife is in China on business trip and husband in San Francisco and they need to both sign the same form, I send docs from win/zip forms or upload pdf. They both create digital signatures (takes 1 minute) and BAM it merges the signatures the single document. It’s friggn brilliant and cheap too! It’s all logged and heavily secure. Oh crap…it sounds like I work for them…I don’t believe me. Oh yeah, you can even have clients sign docs when all present too without printing out. They just use your puter. They can print themselves later if they want.

    10. Mark McGlothlin May 29th, 2008 9:05 am

      In this day and age, so much of what we do is about sorting critical information related to real estate. We can’t live at our office without powerful data management tools – particularly desktop database aps – dQuery, Access, FilePro(8), and Alpha Five are great ones.

      I’d agree also with the freedom that a laptop with broadband wireless affords; we’ve even blogged and emailed clients from nearby Yellowstone after a day flyfishing on the Firehole.

      Finally SmartFax and Smart Phones (we’ve used Q’s and Blackberry’s),and perhaps most importantly, Smart People on your team are also vital.

    11. Sue May 29th, 2008 8:34 pm

      I’m a little behind on the Smart Phones, don’t have a blackberry or treo. Shame on me, I’m upholding tradition with my verizon cell phone. Seriously, I just cannot seem to figure out which is best to upgrade to, so I’ve held off. I do have tons of minutes available thru AT&T. I can simply say my laptop and old school phone are key. I am very interested in smartfax and then you would naturally need docusign to go with it.

    12. James Hsu May 29th, 2008 9:46 pm

      1 – Tablet PC

      2 – Sprint EVDO wireless broadband card

      3 – DeskPDF/nitroPDF software for converting/combining all my docs to PDF

      4 – Microsoft OneNote / Foldershare for managing all my client data, listings, marketing, etc.

      5 – Google – email, calendar, maps

      Everyone’s claim of Smartfax and Docusign is interesting. I find the instances where I still need a fax to be diminishing. DocuSign is odd to me. I tried out the demo and it just makes a signature for you and you insert it into a document. I’ll have to dig into it more deeply. How is it better than just having someone sign directly onto the tablet?

    13. Bawldguy Talking May 29th, 2008 9:54 pm

      James — With the exception of our local San Diego clients, the option of ‘signing directly on the tablet’ isn’t on our menu. I realize of course that we’re anomalous ‘cuz we don’t do business face to face most of the time.

      What Docusign or any similar app does for us is make life easier for our clients, not us They’re saved printing the PDF contracts (usually 4-10 at a time) manually signing/initialing/dating all of them, then scanning them back and emailing them.

    14. James Hsu May 29th, 2008 11:01 pm

      Oooohh…interesting. And it passes the legal muster?

    15. Greg Swann May 29th, 2008 11:07 pm

      Bluetooth headset. I don’t even want to use my phone without it.

    16. Bawldguy Talking May 29th, 2008 11:07 pm

      We don’t use it yet, but from what I understand, it involves electronic sigs. This has passed legal muster in most areas. Heck, I think even Adobe has electronic sigs available.

      Or were you referring to something else?

    17. Bawldguy Talking May 29th, 2008 11:14 pm

      I miss that one the most Greg. My hearing aids won’t cooperate.

    18. Heather Rankin May 30th, 2008 1:48 am

      Not to get too far off on a tangent here… but if someone wanted to dig deeper into the electronic signature issue, it would be most appreciated.

      I am still pretty new, but as of yet, most of my business has not been face to face. Being in a pretty remote area the listings are mostly coming from out of town. The whole, scan, email, print, sign, fax, scan, email, print process is terribly cumbersome. Was looking around at other options today… ie. myfax.com to at least cut out one or two steps however, the docusign idea sounds, well, flippin’ awesome.

    19. Ann Cummings May 30th, 2008 3:07 am

      I’ve been watching the comments come in on this post, and have gotten some new things to check out.

      The tools that I really am thankful to have are my notebook computer (as others have mentioned), digital cameras, and my Fujitsu ScanSnap (or SnapScan). I love that little scanner – it has saved me so much time and money, and it sits right on my desk taking up less space than a regular piece of paper.

      Next on my list to bite the bullet on is likely a Blackberry, or similar. I suffer from analysis paralysis on these kinds of things, but am about ready to just get on with it. ;-)

    20. Sue May 30th, 2008 6:16 am

      Just a comment that I find it interesting that in CA most of your business is not face to face.

    21. Bawldguy Talking May 30th, 2008 9:22 am

      Sue — It just happens I know a Dirt Lawyer who might be able to shed some light here. I’ll have a chat with him and get back.

    22. Bawldguy Talking May 30th, 2008 9:38 am

      Sue — Most of my biz isn’t face to face ‘cuz 100% of the property they buy is NOT in CA. Also, about 80%+ of our clients live far from San Diego. We’re closing a couple Texas transactions next week with a client living in India. Ironically, we had an office meet last weekend with a new client from Indiana. His son lives/works in SD so it killed two birds for him.

      Belly to belly just isn’t practical for us in the literal sense most of the time.

    23. Mark McGlothlin May 30th, 2008 1:54 pm

      Jeff, we’re in the same boat. I’m in the somewhat remote Montana village of Bozeman and just submitted two LOI’s in Texas and had them signed and accepted in 12 hours thanks to Docusign. I hear there’s a better option coming down the pike, I can’t remember the name but will dig it up today….

    24. Jeff Brown May 30th, 2008 2:24 pm

      THAT’S what I’m talkin’ ’bout. :)

    25. Brad Coy May 31st, 2008 2:37 am

      I used to use LOTS of software and 3 separate computers.

      Today I use 1 MacBookPro and a BlackBerry 8820. Almost all online applications including G-Apps, Evernote, highrise, and Box.net.

      Scaling back and simplifying on an ongoing basis as much as I can. With these two tools I can do almost everything from introduction (communication) to close (transaction management.) My aim is to be as mobile as possible, more freedom, more flexibility.

      > How much impact have these tools been on my bottom line?

      I can’t imagine defining a bottom line without them ;)

    26. Rob May 31st, 2008 6:16 am

      Docusign is painless and costs $12 a month. Their customer service is the best and will quickly respond back to emails too. Forget the scan and fax routine. As far as legal muster in California its held up since I think 2000. Winforms/Zipforms even has an electronic signature button on the tool bar that redirects to Docusign so CAR recognizes it too. Go for the $12 a month plan not the $20 month. If you don’t see it ask for it.

    27. Sue May 31st, 2008 10:22 pm

      Jeff, I feel not nice calling you Bawldguy, but its cute as you are and obviously comfortable with it! Anyway, that whole concept of not face to face in and of itself is very different from how I work. Its not always face to face initially as it starts out online, but if I understand you correctly, you’re closing deals without actually showing the properties?…videos, etc. Am I misunderstanding?

    28. Bawldguy Talking May 31st, 2008 11:13 pm

      Sue — You’re understanding. Everyone calls me BawldGuy, and has since ’93 when I gave up the ghost. :)

      About 5-15% of our clients in any given year ever see the investment properties they acquire before they’ve owned them quite awhile. Some have never seen them, then exchanged out of them, go figure.

      Most get richly detailed packages including pics, #’s, demographics, and much more. If they wish to see the props beforehand, we have our local team meet them at the airport, give them the VIP tour, buy them lunch, and get them home — often by dinner time.

      Serious investors are different breeds of cat, Sue. Also, with the teams we create wherever we go, the props are managed, inspected, and appraised within an inch of their lives. :)

      Last time I showed a property, Carter was in office. :)

    29. Jeff Brown May 31st, 2008 11:30 pm

      Is there a new tool anyone has found, and subsequently proven to be very productive? AND it’s not been mentioned here yet?

    30. Thomas Johnson June 1st, 2008 7:51 pm

      @ Greg- Bluetooth headset Was my first thought. Because of the miles I drive doing business as I go, there is no other technology that adds so much personal safety. If one drives and talks, it is indispensable. Yelling at the swinging button mic is so yesterday.

    31. Sue June 15th, 2008 4:38 pm

      I’m on the road ALOT, face to face with clients. Much different than BalwdGuy…meant kindly.. ;) and maybe alot of others), the GPS system makes my life so much easier.(I didn’t see that mentioned, but my eyes are bloodshot)..I use it to go around the corner! Then I can just concentrate on talking to my clients and pointing out things in and around the town. I showed 15 houses yesterday, 8 today and Tuesday will be another 10. I never have to worry about getting lost.

    32. Bawldguy Talking June 15th, 2008 4:49 pm

      Sue — Pretty much the only time I use GPS is on the road in other cities. just the thought of showing 10-15 houses makes me wanna take a nap. :)

    33. Sue June 15th, 2008 6:22 pm

      Yep, I’m wiped out. Everything is pretty much face to face here. I’m drinking Red Bull as advised by Mike F.

    34. Bill Ruppert February 16th, 2009 2:25 pm

      Just caught this post. Great comments. I’d mention ScanSnap, laptop, GPS, Greenfax.com, Google. Love Jott as well. Need to look more closely at DocuSign, sounds very useful.