Buyer's Guide: 2008 GPS and Mapping Tools
Buyer's Guide: 2008 GPS and Mapping Tools
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In real estate, much of your days are spent driving from listing to listing. The latest GPS navigation tools can be your answer to keep a hectic day on track, plan the most effective routes, and even plot out a self-guided tour of homes for your customers.
“I wouldn’t know what to do without GPS, it just makes it so much easier to get around,” says Missy DeHaven, residential salesperson with NashHomes4U, Hagerstown, Md. Her Garmin IQUE PDA/navigator guides her along the highways and byways of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
At the other end of the United States, Kimberly Bastatas-Fukuda, associate with Pacific Realty Ventures, Honolulu, is as enamored with her car-mounted Alpine BlackBird. “I used to search for showings and print out maps, but ink and paper are a thing of the past,” she says. “Just enter addresses, and at a touch of the screen I’m able to go from listing to listing without any complications.”
Indeed, a growing number of real estate professionals are relying on a navigation system to make their jobs easier. Whether it’s a portable or fixed system, you can expect precise, turn-by-turn directions that will get your from here to there quickly. That’s a welcome convenience to anyone who has fumbled with maps in front of clients or showed up late for an appointment after getting lost.
Put Customers in the Driver’s Seat
Some practitioners are even tapping the reliable accuracy of these navigation solutions to improve client services.
Mitch Argon, a broker with 048 Realty of Northern Nevada, near Lake Tahoe, knows that many home buyers in his popular relocation market are unfamiliar with local routes. “When people think about moving here they like to spend a lot of time exploring the area on their own before they are really ready to buy,” he says.
After meeting with buyers, he creates Self-Guided GPS Home Buying Tours by pulling relevant listings off the MLS, organizing them by neighborhood, and loading the addresses into GPS software. If prospects have a compatible GPS system, they can download the file. If not, he loans them a TomTom 1XL system to guide them around the area.
“They like the flexibility to be able explore neighborhoods and listings on their schedule, without feeling they're taking up my time,” he says, acknowledging that some people don't want to be driven around by their practitioner. “It’s a real convenience for them, and me.”
In South Burlington, Vt., sales associate Shawn Kelley with Century 21 Advantage, takes a similar approach. He relies on Microsoft's Streets & Trips software, combined with a GPS locator, to set the day’s itinerary of listings. He often will use the GPS in his car while clients follow in their own car.
Kelley gives buyers detailed directions and maps from the Microsoft program, along with MLS data, for each property. “I always tell them they're more than welcome to ride with me, but few have,” he says. “With these directions, I’m confident they can meet me at each appointment, even if they don’t know the area.”
The software’s ability to calculate commute times gives buyers insight into their daily drive to work from a given property. “It helps broaden the area where [buyers] are willing to look,” he says.
Not sure a GPS navigation system is worth the investment? Then sample some of the online mapping services to get a sense of what a GPS will do for you before you buy.
For example, try Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, MapQuest, Rand McNally, or MSN’s Maps and Directions. At each, enter the address of your starting point and destination and you can print detailed, turn-by-turn directions.
What GPS navigation adds is a real-time tracking of your location so you can get directions anytime to anywhere. Most provide synthesized voice prompts, eliminating the need to consult a map, print-out, or screen. The system will also alert and redirect you if you miss a turn. Add-on services advise drivers on detours, based on current traffic conditions or construction projects.
Finally, there’s the ability to enter several destinations in an area and chart the logical course to and from each. And, if you change your mind or make a wrong turn, a GPS system instantly revises the plan, based on where you are now and where you want to go next.
While many real estate professionals are embracing GPS navigation systems as a tool with productive benefits, there’s another map-based revolution going on that can help you as well.
It’s happening online where innovative early adopters are incorporating map “mash-ups” into their Web sites. In its simplest form, a mash-up may merely attach price and basic listing data to houses on a map. But mash-ups can get much more sophisticated and interactive, linking a location to whatever you think a site visitor might want to know: school reports, comparable properties, crime stats, and neighborhood demographic profiles.
Tools to create mash-ups are available free from Google, Yahoo! Maps, and Microsoft’s Popfly. MapBuilder offers a mash-up building solution geared specifically to the needs of real estate professionals for a $19.95 monthly subscription.
Although such tools simplify the process, it takes time, effort, and forethought to create an effective mash-up. But it can become a useful service that customers will notice.
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