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Two iPhones Are Better Than One/Users/adamp/Desktop/Nov_mag_pics/Tech

When Apple’s much-anticipated iPhone hit stores June 29, RadelleKnappenberger vowed not to go anywhere near the mall.  “I knew I’d be tempted to buy one,” says the self-proclaimed “gadget fanatic.”

She lasted a day.

She and her husband and business partner, Ron, co-owners of Grande Realty of Central Florida Inc. in Oviedo, bought the 8-GB iPhone for $599. The iPhone combines three tools into one pocket-sized device: a mobile phone, a wide-screen iPod (MP3 music player) and Internet communications with e-mail, Web browsing, searching and maps.  

The data plan (i.e., unlimited text messaging and Internet access) costs $20 in addition to the Knappenbergers’ monthly AT&T cell service, but they say it’s well worth it. (On Sept. 5, Apple slashed the price of the iPhone by $200—in conjunction with the release of its latest iPod lineup—and then offered a $100 store credit to early adopters.)

The biggest benefit of being among the first to own the trendy device is the ability to respond quickly to customers and “one-up the competition,” say the Knappenbergers. Here are some other benefits they derive from their iPhones:

1. Manage the Workday
Every morning the couple check their iPhone calendars, where they store their daily schedules. “In the calendar, we make notes and enter client information, dates and times of inspections, meetings, listing appointments and closings,” says Radelle. “Rather than fumbling with paperwork, we have all the information on our iPhones. There’s room for everything, including client data and the types of homes for which they’re looking. We can even set an alarm to inform us when an event is approaching.

“On our way home, we pull up the iPhone calculator to determine what our commission will be if our client buys the home,” says Radelle. “We can also pull up the iPod and listen to an audio book about real estate, and check our e-mail and open up messages from our clients”

2. Back Up Data
Each evening, the duo plug their iPhones into the USB ports on their respective desktop computers and open their iTunes software to synchronize their data. “It takes about a minute to sync it with [Microsoft] Outlook and calendars and phone numbers,” adds Radelle. “If something happens to the phone, you still have all that information in the office,” adds Ron.

3. Take Care of Customers
“If we’re out and somebody calls with a question, we don’t always have the file but we always have our iPhones with us,” says Radelle. “If, for example, a client calls from Chicago with questions about a house he saw on, he can give us the address, and we quickly look it up on MLX wireless and give him immediate feedback. He’s impressed and asks if we can preview the home at our earliest convenience. We agree. So, when we finish showing properties, we call the listing agent to schedule our preview. We pull up the Maps function on the iPhone and get directions to the house and the estimated time it will take to get there with traffic.”

When they arrive at the house, they pull out their iPhones and take photos—inside and out. “After we take the photos, we immediately send them through the iPhone to our client in Chicago, who is beginning to believe we’re magicians,” says Radelle.

“We’re customer service nuts,” says Ron. He tells about the time an out-of-town buyer called, looking for a sales associate to help him find a home in Orlando. “He told us up-front that he was interviewing several [sales associates] and asked us to perform three tasks.” Those tasks included checking the tax records on a property, finding information on lenders and providing him with some listing information. “Ron pulled out his iPhone and did everything on the spot,” says Radelle. “A few days later [the prospective customer] called back and said he’d decided to go with us. One of the main reasons was that he asked all of the [sales associates] to do all three things, and we were the only ones who responded immediately. The others took from eight to 48 hours to get back with him.”

“People today want immediate answers, and you never know what their questions will be,” adds Ron. “The iPhone provides a way to get the answer quickly, without having to run back to the office.”

4. Conversation Starter
The couple have found that their iPhones serve as “calling cards” as well. “If we go to a restaurant and put an iPhone on the table, everyone wants to know if that’s the new phone and if we like it,” says Ron. “It’s a great conversation starter because everybody’s interested. We always try to slip in that we’re in real estate, and then they ask for our business card. We got two leads like that.”

So far, the couple’s only complaint is that they can’t access their own Web site from their iPhones. “It uses Adobe Flash, and the iPhone doesn’t have Flash so we can’t get to our site,” says Ron. “That was sort of a surprise. But it’s a great tool. … It’s a combination of the iPhone and motivation [to do well] that makes it work.”

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).