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This App's 4 U

Smartphone Tools for Real Estate Professionals

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media, February 2013

 
Not that long ago my cell phone had a rotary dial. It was that old. It made calls. What else would I need? And then it happened. My phone died and I was introduced to the 21st century. Suddenly I had a smartphone.
 
Of course I knew it could take photos and videos but I was not interested in tweeting, music, gaming or other social uses for the phone. I knew it would find a new restaurant or what was playing at the local theatres, but what I really was interested in was how could it organize my business life and do my job better.
 
Of course the phone came with built-in apps for getting weather and stock reports. Using the calendar app to sync with my office schedule and the ability to use Skype or Tango to make video conference calls was certainly useful. What really opened my eyes were all the apps out there that could be used for engineering, property management and general real estate industry needs.
 
So I thought I would share some of the apps I have used or come across that could be used in the condominium and homeowners association world. Of course, an entire magazine could be devoted to the subject, as property management and real estate software has developed to generate a new approach to providing important information to its users even when outside the office. But this article will focus on the more personal use of apps in the management of condos, keeping in mind that for each app I mention there may be many apps of a similar nature, and each individual needs to determine which works best for themselves, their client and/or co-workers and the type of smartphone they have.
 
I am on the road a lot and it is very handy to not miss important meetings by using an app such as GoToMeeting. The smartphone is also very useful to minimize the amount of equipment and tools I carry around. As an example, I always had a four-foot level in my truck, should I ever need to determine the plumbness of a wall or the levelness of a floor. Now I use Plumb with its plumb bob app, whose graphic measures tenths of a degree in the X and Y axis. Or I use the Handy Level or Angle apps to determine the steepness of a roof or slope of a drainpipe in degrees.
 
We all use the camera features on our phones, but it can now be used for making more than just pretty pictures. Try the My Measures app for an extra feature. With this app, you can not only take a photograph of a room, but the dimensions of the room can be placed on the photograph with notation and the app will calculate the square footage of the walls, floor and ceiling. It will even determine the volume of the room. And then you can email this to your office computer to be put into your files for other uses.
 
This brings up an important aspect of how to move data around usefully. Often we have large documents such as building drawings, contracts, bylaws, etc. that will not fit in a normal email attachment, much less be able to carry around with us on the job site. Use the Dropbox app. Once you set up a Dropbox account you can load large data files from any of your devices or your presentation apps, such as Keynote or Prezi, and then provide your client or co-workers an access code to review these files on their own computer or phone.
 
To capture information for future use such as photographs, audio notes, magazine articles,etc., try the Evernote app. This app can be used with Jot Agent and the LiveScribe pen to record both script and audio from your field observations and save to Evernote or Dropbox. Also, when you need to copy a document in the field, use My Scan ro turn your phone into a copy machine.
 
For those property managers who need to organize their field work for rental or other kinds of unit inspections, try the SnapInspect app. With this app you can create portfolio files of all your properties, with unit owners' addresses, phone numbers, emails, alarm codes and map locations for route planning. This allows you to list unit rooms, components, conditions, etc. for future use and syncing to your office computer. 
 
To communicate with your team try the Voxer app turning your phone into a walkie-talkie. And if you are having a hard time communicating with the German janitor at your newest property try Itranslate or Dragon apps. I particularly like the Dragon dictation feature which not only allows you to dictate into the phone and see your words on the screen, but you can also edit your words like a Word document and email it to your office for incorporation into a report. You can even ask it to translate your words into German and show the written German words to the janitor to let you into the building.
 

 
© 2013 CRITERIUM ENGINEERS