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Google Maps 360 Degree Street View

Real Estate agents benefit from real estate technology aimed at increasing transparency. Well today is a big day for that as Google Maps has released their new 360-degree ground level view in major metropolitan areas. Now potential buyers can see real estate before you take the photo.

To access these new street-level maps simply search Google local in select major areas and look for the new “Street-Level Views” icon in the top right corner. Once clicked you will notice the streets turn purple. Then simply move the “stick figure” to a purple area and watch street-level views appear. Real Estate agents and others will notice arrows on the street-level graphics for navigating you through local streets. You can also make these new street-level view full screen, and you can spin the angle of the photo 360 degrees. Have fun with this new piece of technology and enjoy this breif video on the new features.

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Paperless Real Estate Technology

Today over at Inman Jessica Swesey and Bradley Inman talk about Paperless real estate and where we are today. As you know we have a long way to go. Take a peak if you are interested.

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Using Video in Your Real Estate Business

Last year when Real Estate agents spoke about home tours online you could almost guarantee the tours were going to be compiled using a combination of still photos, stitched into a tour. (Photo Story etc.) Well that’s all changing as we predicted in November. Why are video tours and video presentations in Real Estate catching on? Well that’s mainly thanks to YouTube for making previous awkwardly large video files easy to share.

What else is it about video that’s so compelling? If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, what’s video worth…10,000 words? Video allows the interested party to get even more realistic imagery and hear audio which means less to read online. Video also convey’s emotion when produced correctly.

Now just because you have a video camera doesn’t mean you should start making your Real Estate video tours and video presentations for your website. You need to first address the idea of professionalism. You are not trying to film “The Blair Witch Project” you are a professional Real Estate agent trying to position yourself and the homes you represent as a wonderful opportunity for interested parties. To do that successfully, your video should have flow. If you are filming a house, bring your tripod to get smooth, level shots. Use well lit areas, and zoom-in for maximum impact. When these tools are used in the right combination, your Real Estate video will capture the essence of what you are trying to convey.

How do I get started?
Obviously, you will need a video camera, tripod and corresponding accessories for the actual video sessions. Also look into a microphone to attach onto your lapel. This will help remove the echo sometimes caused by using just the video recorders built-in microphone. Also pickup a lightweight, easy to collapse tripod.

In regards to video editing you will need a fairly powerful computer. Using an old PC will definitely test your patience. The right software is also important. If your price-point is FREE*, you are in luck Windows Movie Maker is a decent program. (*Free if you have a registered copy of Microsoft Windows) With Movie Maker importing video is a snap. You can easily add text, transitions and special effects. The result will produce good quality video for web display. For Real Estate agents using Microsoft Vista Premium or Ultimate you will also be able to burn high-quality DVD’s with Movie Maker HD.

If you are still on XP and are looking to create offline high-quality videos on CD, I recommend Adobe Premier Elements 3.0. This program has been a hit for years, and packs a ton of power from its big brother Adobe Premier Pro. Premier Elements is around $100 and now works with Windows Vista.

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Real Estate Agents In Style

For those real estate agents who like to add a bit of “sass” or “edge” to your personal style, you can now apply it to your technical items. Acme Made brings you laptop bags, business totes, iPod wallets, digital camera cases and more, with the design and style that most boring bags lack! Whether you prefer a tote, slim laptop case, or messenger style, Acme Made has created a variety of functional bags made with quality materials. You’ll find they’ve chosen high-impact plastic inserts and forged metal hardware to protect your precious technology. And, of course, the bags look amazing. I can’t tell you how many clients of mine have asked where I obtained my pink polka dot laptop case. Guys…they have plenty of edgy designs that are sure to interest you as well.

Acme Made also takes the guesswork out of “Will my laptop fit?” by providing a sizing chart for all items. Additionally, their customer service is superb if you have any questions that require a timely response before purchasing.

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Zipform Desktop Is Now Vista Compatible

The wait is over for users of Zipform Desktop (a.k.a. Winforms Desktop). The program is now Vista compatible. For real estate agents who use Windows Vista computers, go to this site to download the 5MB Zipform Desktop Version 1.9 Upgrade.

For those real estate agents in California, the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) website currently has version 1.8 of their Winforms branded Zipform Desktop available. For a fresh install on a Vista computer, download and install the version 1.8 from the C.A.R. site and then download and install the patch mentioned above.

Real estate professionals using Zipform Online will still need to be patient. That product‘s Vista upgrade is still in the works. See our previous article on the Zipform Online Vista work-around.

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8 Essentials for the Mobile Real Estate Agent

To be effective, the mobile real estate agent should incorporate many different technology tools into his/her business. But what technology is best? What is really going to make you more efficient in the field? Below I have listed my favorite technologies for mobile Real Estate agents on the go:

Tablet PC **Updated 6/2008**
Real Estate agents will find that Tablet PC’s have many advantages over the traditional laptop. Most notably the ability to reduce the amount of paper you burn through. With a tablet PC, Real Estate agents can sign important documents such as listing and purchase contracts, emails, and notes onscreen in their own handwriting. This often times eliminates the need for printing entirely. Simply email or fax the document directly to the party in question. In regards to brand and model, I like the convertible HP tc4400 (Core Duo) and Lenovo ThinkPad X61. Both models are ultra-lightweight, provide outdoor viewable displays and manage to provide long battery life. They also have strong wireless and Bluetooth capabilities. The X61 is slightly lighter and also comes with Active Rotate which uses an internal accelerometer to dynamically determine the tablet’s angle and adjust the screen position. This may prove useful when handing your PC over to those buyers in your next contract signing.

VREO Real Estate Dashboard
Real Estate Dashboard is a critical component to truly going paperless. Sure there are tools such as Microsoft Journal that can be used, but they fail when it comes to security. With VREO Real Estate Dashboard, the Real Estate agent must use a password, and all files are created in a proprietary file format. Signatures are then flattened onto their corresponding document, and then allowed to be sent via integrated email or fax technology. Read our previous post here.

TransactionPoint
TransactionPoint is the ultimate piece of Real Estate technology for automating the entire real estate transaction from listing a property to closing the deal. TransactionPoint is integrated with ZipForms for easy form creation. TransactionPoint will also store other transaction related documents for easy retrieval. You may also benefit from reduced liability for E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance, as TransactionPoint saves a permanent record of emails and other communication in the communication log

Digital Camera with Wide Angle Lens **Updated 6/2008**
homes they sell. So why use a marginal camera for those photos that help sell the home? Real Estate agents should look for a quality digital camera. I recommend the incredibly light Canon Rebel XTi with wide-angle lens. The camera takes great high-quality photos. The Rebel boasts a huge amount of features, but presents them in a very easy to understand interface. Works with PictBridge compatible printers such as the i80 referenced below.

SmartPhone **Updated 6/2008**
With the Blackberry, Treo or Windows Mobile device Real Estate agents can streamline their business greatly by taking advantage of wireless MLS capabilities, free business and local search tools, mobile calendar & email, calculators, etc. Personally I’m a fan of the Blackberry Curve 8310. Mainly because of overall size, full QWERTY keyboard and outstanding email capabilities. The 8310 also includes GPS capabilities and 2 mega-pixel camera with flash. If you’re looking for a 3G network…you’ve still got a few more months for the Blackberry Bold.  Needless to say Treo and Windows Devices are also very popular. I really believe you should hold each of the phones before you purchase.

3G Wireless Access
Real Estate agents spend a great deal of time accessing online information via MLS, CMA utilities, buyers tours, email, door-to-door directions, fax to email solutions and more. So why wait until you get back to the office. Real Estate Agents who embrace this technology will uncover many time benefits. Read our article here for items to consider when selecting a service.

Mobile GPS **Updated 6/2008**
As the mobile real estate professional you need to know where you are going 100% of the time. That’s why a mobile GPS utility may prove useful. I recommend the Garmin Nuvi 880. With this unit you’ll surely get from point A to point B, but you may also save time with its integrated traffic tuner capabilities. You can even keep both hands on the steering wheel with the Hands-free feature for Bluetooth phones, and text-to-speech control.

Mobile Printer **Updated 6/2008**
This piece of real estate technology will surely impress real estate agent’s on-the-go that require a printer for photos and more. I recommend the Canon PIXMA ip100, as it comes with the ability to print high-resolution at up to 9600 x 2400. Speeds are around 20 pages per minute b/w and 14 color. You may want to connect using the IrDA port from your tablet pc…at a range of up to 10 feet. Even print directly from your PictBridge compatible digital camera. The Canon ip100 can also accommodate a car adaptor for power or take advantage of the portable kit which includes rechargeable Li-On battery and holder.

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On Your Mark, Get Set, Go to SellsiusRealEstate.com!

Last week Sellsius launched their new community for all things real estate. This inclusive site boasts features such as listing promotion, discussion forums, blogger community, one heck of a niche search and more!

After touring the site and talking with the ever popular Sellsius boys, I was intrigued to learn more about the site’s real estate “inclusivity”. Because the site is open to all things real estate, the community is up for open adoption! The usual suspects are welcome (residential, commercial, Real Estate related businesses), but also the not so usual. For example, the Getaway section features vacation rentals, timeshares, B & B’s and more! Searching classified Real Estate ads to find your next home or Real Estate professional, planning your vacation, and social networking has just been ultra-organized for the taking people….so who shall it be?

As a former teacher, it was always hard to see kids become “clicky” and exclude others from their playground club! But when it comes SellsiusRealEstate.com, I have to give them an “A+” for community spirit!

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Cyberhomes 3.0

Cyberhomes, by Fidelity National Finance, has been upgraded with tons of new features. Now a user can search out a home on Cyberhomes, make refinements in value, custom select comparables and save those changes. It’s then easy to recall those saved properties or neighborhoods for easy access later. Real Estate Agents, you may appreciate that feature if you utilize Cyberhomes to educate the consumer on their homes price.

Cyberhomes also now includes the ability print a detailed summary report. The printed report displays the Cyberhomes estimate, estimate ranges, changes over the last 2 months, neighborhood values, physical characteristics and assessed values. If it’s not print you’re looking for, maybe you would like to email the property. Or possibly take advantage of the new alerting feature which allows a user to receive monthly updates about a property.

Cyberhomes has also been updating their Charts & Graphs starting with adding 3 new revolutionary heat maps in their Market Maps section. These new visuals display Home Value Estimates, Changes in Estimated Value and Housing Density. These heat maps are keeping with the Cyberhomes theme and utilizing Microsoft Virtual Earth for the clean and smooth look and feel.