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Driving Directions at Your Fingertips


Sergio Saenz
When people get lost, they tend to continue driving in a vain attempt to find their destination—or frantically look for a place to pull over and check a map (if they have one). If all else fails, they might even stop and ask for directions.

Thanks to the GPS (global positioning system) that Sergio Saenz had installed when he bought his Volvo S60 two years ago, getting lost is a thing of the past. “I never get lost,” says Saenz, a sales associate with Century Real Estate Services in Orlando. “If I don’t know where I am, I just turn on the GPS, and it will show me. It’s unbelievable how it helps you. People try to tell me how to get [someplace], but I say ‘No. Just give me your address.’”

He simply keys in an address, and the device maps out directions for him.

GPS is an extremely accurate navigation system comprising a network of satellites owned and placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. The technology was originally developed for the military, but the government made it available to the general public in the 1980s. Saenz paid $2,500 for his built-in GPS, but there are quite a few models on the consumer market that cost less than $400. (Once you own the device, you owe no setup costs or subscription fees.)

Here are some of the benefits Saenz derives from his GPS:

1. Time Savings
Before Saenz takes buyers out to see properties for sale, he enters theaddresses into his GPS system and plots a “tour map” of all the listings they’ll see on a given day. “You can [virtually] tour the neighborhood and see the shape of the city without driving your car,” he says. “It’s really a great assistant [because it keeps you from] wasting hours to get to the next point.”

Customers are often impressed with the device’s capabilities, according to Saenz. “If you’re in front of a house and the customer asks where the bank or the schools are, you can say, ‘Five blocks from here’ or whatever it is. It can access restaurants and other points of interest too.” 

2. Safely Correct Wrong Turns
Saenz no longer worries about slip-ups like missing a turn or turning onto the wrong street. When that happens, his GPS’s voice command comes on and tells him to “Please make an authorized U-turn” at the next available moment. Even if he’s on the Interstate and misses an exit, the device gently guides him, turn by turn, back to where he should be. “When you’re about a mile from the exit, it will say, ‘In a mile you’re going to make a right,’” he says. “It’s like having a map in your car that talks to you.”

Though Saenz finds the voice reassuring, at times he wonders whether the GPS has a mind of its own. “Sometimes I think it’s telling me I’m stupid,” he jokes, explaining that one day he stopped at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee and the device kept telling him to make a U-turn because that wasn’t his final destination.

Saenz says it’s important to make sure you know the correct city when entering an address. “I use my GPS so often that I sometimes forget to change the city,” he says, adding that his service area includes Kissimmee, Orlando, Sanford and everywhere in between. One time he was looking for an address and the device told him it didn’t exist. I forgot to change the city from Orlando to Altamonte Springs,” he says.

3. Steer Clear of Gridlock
Saenz credits his GPS with helping him avoid many a traffic jam. Whenever he approaches a backup, he powers up the gadget and looks for a way around it. “Let’s say I take I-4 and there’s a big accident at an exit [where] I’ve never been,” he says. “I’ll pull up the map and follow the shortcuts that I see in the screen.”

He recalls the time when, on his way to catch a flight, he got stuck behind a line of cars at a railroad crossing but couldn’t wait for the oncoming train to pass. “I watched people making a U-turn,” he says, “but I couldn’t do anything.” Then he noticed a dirt road up ahead, so he turned on his GPS and was surprised when the street appeared on screen. He maneuvered his way up to the dirt road and made a left. “In about five minutes, I was at the airport,” he says.

4. Navigate New Areas
Whether you have an in-car GPS or a portable model, Saenz says, it’s vital to update the software at least once a year. Most GPS software can be updated online, but Saenz’s updates are available only on CD. He pays about $100 each time he orders a new one. “Without the [latest] software, you won’t have the new roads and subdivisions,” he says. “The older your equipment is, the more problems you’re going to have. The good thing about mine is that it’s nationwide. Be careful of that too because some systems will tell you, ‘OK, this is Florida but if you want another state you have to pay extra.”

Saenz insists his GPS is one of the best technology investments he’s ever made. “If the navigation is going to take me to the house my customer is going to buy, it’s paid for itself many times over,” he says. “And, because it’s an accessory for work, it’s tax deductible.”

This column, designed to offer examples of how salespeople and brokers are using technology in their offices, won first place in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association. The column is for general information only. Opinions expressed here don’t necessarily reflect an endorsement of the views by Florida Realtor® magazine or the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).