Real Estate Agents: Lose the Laptop and Gain a Pocket Mobile Office (PART I)

Why carry a cell phone, a laptop, a PDA, lockbox keys and a number of other connectivity and productivity devices when you can set up ONE device that does it all? Let me introduce you to the best little pocket-sized device on the market – and teach you how to customize it for the needs of your real estate business.

Mobility You Can Use

Welcome to the world of the Treo 650. It’s a device that many real estate agents are discovering, but only a few have learned to “trick out” to serve their every need and every whim.

I’ve been writing articles about mobility for several years, I’ve blogged about it on WickedBlog.com for ages, and I’ve even taken the time from my own marketing consultation and writing business to create a website (WickedTreo.com) to help teach real estate agents and other mobile professionals how to use the Treo to improve their business. I know it helps me, and I want to help others learn how to use this all-in-one device to organize and improve their businesses and their lives. I believe in the importance of unwired mobility for real estate professionals and I volunteer a good deal of my own time to promote it and show others how to use it.

It’s become a hobby – even a passion — of mine. (Members of my family tease me about it, but they always ask me to look things up on the web, record appointments, or to “remind” them of this or that.)

Why? Because they know I always have it, it’s always there and I use it. Everything is at my fingertips – literally.

I’m a believer in the Treo, but Not a Fan of Palm

No, I don’t have any deals with Treo producer Palm – although I was a fan of Handspring, before they merged. Heck, when I first launched WickedTreo.com, Palm denied my request for affiliate status. I’ve not reapplied.

Despite my attitude toward Palm, this particular product is something I’d never leave behind in my home or office. And, after personally testing it under the most grueling conditions for any device – my own business (even during a recent vacation up and down the sides of the Rocky Mountains), I can say that it’s the best mobile work and communication device I’ve ever owned. Period.

What does it bring to the Real Estate Agent?

With this device and the best-picks of available software, you can have your calendar, your email, your IM, your MLS listings, your Supra eKey (if your area supports this device), your home showing and staging checklists, financial calculators, copies of your contracts, your address book, your to-do lists, your notes, your mobile web browser, access to MapQuest for directions, and even some entertainment all in a holster on your hip!

A Scenario for You – To Demonstrate How it Works

Imagine… it’s mid-morning. You have already closed on one property and have just listed another. (It’s a good day.)

After signing papers to list a new property, you pull out your Treo and check you email before getting into your car. An inquiry has just arrived. A new potential relocation client will be in town tonight or early tomorrow morning and would like to see a few homes. Serendipity strikes. Their needs closely match the house where you stand.

From the front lawn, you take a couple quick pictures with your Treo device. You go back to the house and ask the new listing client if you can take a couple pictures inside (the email requested a home with a fireplace and a large master bath – so you want to get pictures of both of those). Although you haven’t sent the photographer out to make professional pictures, you want to send the potential client something right away.

Your listing client is impressed that you already have a potential buyer, only a few minutes after signing the papers. You ask if they would be prepared to show the property that evening or the next morning – when the relocation client will be in town and you make arrangements. They agree.

As you leave, you call your office to ensure that the MLS description and listing has been uploaded to the web (if not, you can upload it yourself from your Treo, if your MLS permits this to be done from a web-browser).

You send the photos to the potential client and direct them to the MLS address online. You tell them in a quick email that the house has just gone on the market and the ink isn’t quite dry, but you wanted them to have first shot at this house. You ask them to call if they have any questions and that you would love to meet with them when they arrive in town. (Your contact information is automatically provided by the signature line on your mobile email program.)

You IM the office about this warm lead, and ask that the call be forwarded to your cell, in case they call before you return to the office. You do a quick online search for a couple more houses that may interest this new potential client. You record the MLS numbers, URLs and addresses in your notes program under a “potential homebuyer” header with the information about this particular client for future, quick reference.

It’s nearly lunchtime, so you go to a nearby café to catch a quick bite. While waiting for your food, you pull out your pocket sized device and a fold-up keyboard about the size of a man’s folded wallet, and you review some of the figures for last month’s sales and enter this month’s to-date information in an Excel spreadsheet for comparison. (Staying on top of these figures and your statistics helps you to keep an edge on the competition and makes it easy to answer client questions with up-to-the minute figures.)

You type up a quick thank you letter in a word document and send it to the office to be printed so you can sign it and send it to this morning’s closing client as soon as you return to the office.

When your food arrives, you relax and eat while listening to an audio book you haven’t had time to read, the current edition of Fast Company, today’s Wall Street Journal highlights, or even the sounds of your favorite music on the Treo in MP3 format with tiny stereo quality ear buds.

A call arrives during your lunch, and the audio automatically switches off, so you can answer the phone without removing your dual-purpose earphones. You just hit a single button on the headset and proceed with the call.

The call is the potential new client. They have a few questions and are quite impressed with your immediate response time and the ability to reach you even when you aren’t in the office. You set a time to show them the property when they are in town later that evening and let them know that you have a couple other options for their review as well.

You call the homeowner to let them know what time you will be showing the house, you contact the listing agents on the other two homes and ensure that you will have access using your ekey (also on your Treo), which saves you the errands of picking up keys.

You update your daily planner for the showings and get the directions from MapQuest online – on your Treo – and cut and paste those directly into your notes on each appointment.

Now that the potential lead is now a hot lead, you add them to your contact database in your Treo. (You do all this now, on the spot, so no detail is overlooked, misplaced or forgotten.) You will synch it all to your computer when you return to the office, so there’s no duplication of data entry.

You finish lunch.

Before you leave, you IM or Text Message a few words to a family member who was anticipating a rough day or send a “thinking of you” note to your special someone.

You check your bid on a current eBay auction and up the ante if needed. You check your bank balance to see if the transfer from this morning has been made. You order a small “thank you” gift for the closing client from this morning – to be delivered to his/her door.

You check your calendar for the rest of the day. It’s now 12:30 p.m. and you are productive and in control, well-fed and ready to begin the second half of your workday.

How does this compare to the way you currently handle the myriad of daily details? Do you think this would be an easier way? Can you handle this much business when you are out of the office now?

Neither could I, before my Treo 650 arrived.

The Tip of the Iceberg

The above scenario is only the tip of the iceberg. Your Treo, with the proper programs, can also:

  • Take voice dictation that can be sent via email to your office or your own email address
  • Serve as a thumbdrive to carry any program on an expansion card without the need to carry an additional piece of equipment and be accessible from any computer anywhere
  • Store all your username and passwords in a secure, password protected file so you never have to play scramble and “guess-it” to access websites, bank accounts, online resources or anything else
  • Be as easy on your fingers as a laptop with the right Bluetooth keyboard – and forget the wire connections
  • Sound alarms that will wake you when you are traveling, or quietly vibrate for a reminder without disrupting you during a client meeting
  • Surf the web and allow you to research any topic, answer any question on the spot
  • Email, IM and text message anyone from anywhere
  • Entertain you during “downtime” and allow you to watch an episode of your favorite DVD series or even a full-length movie
  • Play a game, the current ones are well beyond standard solitaire and offer impressive graphics and sound effects (use headphones if you don’t want to be caught!)
  • Read the latest bestseller or an essential business book in ebook format

So, if you want to do more business on the road, make fewer trips into the office and stay connected, organized and productive… perhaps you should consider an all-in-one device.

The market for these devices will be booming in the future, but for now, I think the Treo 650 is the “best-of-show.” How do I know? I just tested my theory.

On July 28th, I left for a 12-day trip without a laptop. I conducted business, contacted clients, initiated and returned email, blogged on my three different websites, created a postcard marketing campaign, held multiple client consultation sessions and landed two new clients who match my “desired client” profile and referred three others on to peers.

I also attended a convention in Chicago, visited the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and spent one full day last weekend by a mountain stream at nearly 10,000 feet, writing in complete solitude. It was heaven.

My work was all conducted from my pocket-sized Treo, with an extra battery, a charging cord, and a blue-tooth keyboard. That’s it. My office fit in a small purse!

Next month, I’ll outline some of the best software for the Treo 650 to improve productivity and mobility for real estate agents. If you want to know how to enjoy the full spectrum of Treo functionality thorough tested programs – visit here next month.

Note: This article was orginally published in the September 2005 edition of ePOWER! News.

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