Yippie! 6 Tech-rific Gadgets Of course you need a laptop and cell phone, but when it comes to technology sometimes less is more. We’ve got your must-haves.
Years ago, technology promised us a paperless future. Well, it’s the future, and we’re still drowning in the stuff. But not Lynne Hale of OceanView International Realty in Fort Lauderdale: She’s living the paper-free (or at least paper-reduced) dream, thanks to her Fujitsu ScanSnap S510, a sheet-fed scanner that turns documents digital. “Now, I can scan all of my transaction files to my computer, then download them to a disk to store [them] in a very small area,” Hale says.
Best of all, she adds, “A buyer or seller is always happy at a closing when you present them with a disk containing inspections, surveys, appraisals, closing statements, etc., along with information on companies or products that may help them.”
Sure enough, in the paper-drenched world of real estate, a scanner can prove to be an indispensable tool—not just for archiving documents, but also for pleasing customers.
The ScanSnap S510 is a high-end model, capable of scanning both sides of a document in a single pass. It has a list price of $495, but you can easily find it online for closer to $350. Inexpensive all-in-one printers like the HP OfficeJet J6480 ($169.99) offer sheet-fed scanning as well, though you may need extra software to manage scanned documents. Docsvault Home Edition (docsvault.com) does the job, and it’s free for personal use.
Here’s a look at five more tech tools that can make your business run better: Bluetooth Headset
Whether you’re concerned about cell phone radiation or just get tired of holding a handset to your ear, a Bluetooth headset saves the day. It enables hands-free calling by wirelessly beaming audio between your ear and your phone. There are plenty of options out there, with prices ranging from $50 to around $150, but this is one area where you don’t want to skimp.
One of the top-rated headsets is Aliph’s Jawbone 2, which combines Prada styling with unmatched noise-canceling technology. It’s compact and reasonably affordable at $130.
Of course, a headset is one more thing to carry, one more thing to keep charged and one more thing to accidentally misplace. That’s why phone maker LG developed the Decoy (currently available from Verizon), a slider-style phone with a built-in Bluetooth headset. Just pop it out of the phone and into your ear; then, at the end of the day, click it back into its dock for on-the-go recharging. Digital Camera
A real estate professional without a camera is like a car without a motor: Nothing’s moving. For fast, convenient, inexpensive property photos, you need a digital camera.
Focus on features more than megapixels: A 5-megapixel photo will look exactly the same as a 10-megapixel photo when it’s downsized for Web viewing.
Specifically, look for a camera with a large LCD: 2.5 inches minimum. The bigger the screen, the easier it is to frame your shots—and to review them before heading back to the office. Also, insist on a model that can capture VGA (video graphics array)-quality video at 30 frames per second, so you can record video tours to mix in with your photos. Finally, a camera that has an auto-bracketing mode will shoot the same photo three or more times with different exposure settings, thus ensuring that you get at least one shot with good lighting.
Plan on spending anywhere from $150 to $300 for a good digital camera. One popular model is the Canon PowerShot SD790 IS, which includes a 3-inch LCD, optical image stabilization and a very compact design. It sells for $299, though you can find it for less if you shop online. GPS Navigation System
When it comes to finding your way from property A to property B, nothing beats a GPS navigation system. These devices provide real-time driving directions, showing your position on a moving map and prompting you when it’s time to turn. Some of the better models can also retrieve real-time traffic data to route you around congested areas—and hopefully get you to that appointment on time.
Look for a model with a 4.3-inch-wide screen, as the 3.5-inch screens found in earlier systems make for cramped map viewing. Other features to consider: text-to-speech capabilities (the GPS announces actual street names instead of just “make next right”), multidestination routing, a Bluetooth speakerphone and the aforementioned traffic updates (which often require a monthly subscription fee). Plan on spending around $200-$300 for an entry-level model with few (if any) of these features and upward of $900 for a top-of-the-line model.
Of course, you may already have a capable navigation system in your pocket. Several Verizon phones can run the company’s VZ Navigator software, which provides door-to-door routing and other typical GPS features. Ditto the Samsung Instinct from Sprint, which relies on software from TeleNav. Check with your carrier to see if your phone can double as a GPS. Visual Voice Mail
Tired of plodding through unimportant voice mails to get to those that really matter?
Consider visual voice mail, a technology that debuted in Apple’s iPhone and is starting to appear in other models (most recently the Samsung Instinct). With visual voice mail, you can peruse a list of messages onscreen, just as you’d browse an e-mail inbox, and then tap any one to hear it immediately. It’s incredibly convenient and a huge timesaver.
Want the same thing for your PC? CallWave’s free Virtual Voicemail service (tinyurl.com/6kb885) routes your cell phone’s voice mail to a desktop widget for Mac Dashboard, iGoogle, Windows Sidebar and Yahoo Widgets. You can still get them on your phone, of course. Wireless Memory Card
A must-have accessory for digital camera users, the Eye-Fi is a 2GB memory card that wirelessly and automatically uploads photos from your camera to your PC, your Flickr account, Snapfish or any of a dozen-plus other destinations. It’s compatible with all cameras that accommodate Secure Digital (SD) cards, and it starts at $79.99. The only catch: To use it, you need to be near a Wi-Fi hotspot, so you’ll have to head back to your office—or the nearest Starbucks. Rick Broida is a freelance writer and the co-author of “How to Do Everything with Your Palm Powered Device,” 6th edition. Broida does not have any affiliation with the companies mentioned. The Florida Association of Realtors® and Florida Realtor® magazine do not endorse any products mentioned in this article.