Which Tablet is Best for Appraisers?

I teach a number of classes and workshops on mobile appraising.  I define mobile appraising as using tablets and laser measuring devices to gather data at your real estate appraisal inspections.  There are two questions that I get asked frequently: “Which tablet should I buy?” and “Which laser measuring device is the best?”  Both are great questions.  I will tackle the first question today and the latter question in a subsequent article.

Most people do not know that the ability to use handheld computing devices to gather information at the inspection site has been around for a very long time.  Personally, I have been doing it since the early 2000’s.  I originally used a pocket PC which is simply a small computer much like a smartphone (without the phone feature).  It was cumbersome and temperamental, but it worked.  Technology has progressed, of course, far beyond the early years, but the ability to save time (and money) by inputting information directly into the form is not a new concept.

Now, there are a great number of tablet computers to choose from.  For purposes of appraising however, there are really only two viable platform choices; Apple iOS and Google Android.  Within those two platforms are a plethora of device options.  So, which one is best for appraisers?  Let’s break each of them down first.

Apple iOS

Within the Apple line of products, there are currently several choices, but they come under the two categories of iPhone and iPad.  The iPhone is naturally a smaller screen and doubles as your cell phone.  In broader terms, it is categorized as a ‘smartphone’ due to its ability to capture and process data.  Essentially, it can do almost everything its big brother—the iPad—can do (just in a smaller screen space).  The size can make it difficult to use in the field, but it is workable. The benefit is you only have to keep one device with you.  Within the iPad section, there are several versions of the full-sized tablet and the iPad mini is also available.  Again, we are just talking about screen real estate here.  One other option to consider is memory.  The Apple products come with built in memory sizes (and there are no slots to add any additional memory).  What you buy is what you are stuck with.  Currently, you can get the iPad with 16, 32 or 64 GB of memory. To put this in perspective for you, if the average Appraisal report takes up 12 MB of space (a very high estimate), then 85 reports would fill 1 GB of memory on your device.

Google Android

When dealing with an Android platform, the choices are much broader.  This is due to the ‘open’ system that Google subscribes to.  In other words, they are not the only manufacturer of phones and tablets for their platform.  Any company can use the Android system so Polariod, Samsung, ASUS, Amazon and others choose to.  Consequently the number of phones and tablets available on the Android system are too many to detail here.  Just trust me when I say, there a LOT of choices and many of them are great options. These devices also allow for additional, external memory cards to be used. So theoretically your memory could be limitless.

So, that leaves the original question unanswered so far.  Which one is best for the modern and hip appraiser?  You will not like the answer, and it will sound like a cop-out, but . . . “it depends.”  What does it depend upon?    Well, YOU of course!

If you are buying a tablet strictly for appraising and will use it for no other purpose, the type of tablet does not matter much.  Find one that fits your style.  Both Android and iOS devices work very well in the field.  There really is not one system that is any better than another.

However, no one buys a tablet for one purpose.  You will likely use it for many other activities such as email, web surfing, gaming, Editproductivity, etc.  In that case, choose a tablet that fits your secondary needs.  What I am trying to say is that any tablet will likely work for appraising so buy the tablet that fits your other preferences and it will also work for appraising.

I personally use the iPad Mini.  I love it.  It has a big enough screen to be able to work easily (including sketches), but is small enough to be carried with one hand.  My laser measuring device is secured to the back side, the camera is awesome (other than no flash) and everything just works well in a tight little fuzzy bundle.  I chose the iOS because I also use an iPhone and love the fact the two devices sync between one other.  My son uses the Nexus 7 and swears by it (naturally, I inform him he is mistaken).  Your preference in tablet is your own.  Other than checking with your appraisal software vendor to make sure it is compatible, any tablet will work for the purposes of gathering data in the field at your appraisal inspections.

Next time:  Which laser measuring device to use (this one DOES matter).

Now, go create some value!


Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.  His principles and methodologies are also taught through his monthly newsletter and webinar. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.



13 thoughts on “Which Tablet is Best for Appraisers?”

  1. Paul Christensen

    I have been using a tablet and laser for 2 years. They work great. As for a tablet I use the Pantech. Inexpensive and waterproof. (We do work in the rain)
    Measuring device is a disto and it also is fixed (velcro) to the back of the tablet. This doubles for a handle for the tablet and the tablet doubles for a steadying device for the disto. Thank you Appraiser Coach.

  2. Hi Dustin… thank you so much for the help you’ve been trying to provide the industry – we need more like yourself.
    I’m curious if you’ve had any experience with the Surface product that I’ve seen advertised (I like the idea of tablet or laptop as needed). Do you know if it is even an option for appraisal software at this point?
    Thanks much,

      1. There are other tablets besides the Surface line that run full versions of Windows. I use a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. This has a screen equal in brightness and similar in size to the iPad but it is lighter with out a case and has a 10 hour battery life, has an active digitizer pen, full size usb and costs less than the equivalent storage capacity iPad. alamode makes field gathering software that is way better on a full version of windows.


        These atom based tablets are not as powerful as the surface pro or the rugged tablet noted below but will run more software at once than the typical android or the iPad and they are inexpensive relatively. Rugged water resistant case that provide drop protection are also available for most.

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  4. I know that I’m late to this post, but I’m wondering if you are using your tablet for writing reports as well or if you’re sticking to your desktop. I’ve been debating getting a laptop for reports or getting a bigger tablet with a keyboard for reports and field work.

    1. Dustin Harris

      Julie, thank you for your question. I definitely would use a desktop computer for APPRAISAL write ups. Still way too cumbersome on the tablet. The tablet is just for gathering information in the field at this point.

  5. Stephen Barnett

    In the market for a new laptop, can you please advise on your latest recommendation for brand/model?

  6. In the market for a new tablet or ipad…as well as a measuring device…I have been appraising for 25+ years.. it’s time to upgrade

  7. Francisco J Sierra

    ipad all the way. I used and return 3 galaxy tabs the A, S6 and S7 all during making a sketch they glitch and shutdown the app. I pad do not. A slight advantage on camera quality also.

  8. Hi Dustin. I’ve been a Certified Residential Appraiser for over 25 years. The last nine years I worked as an ad valorem appraiser for the Ada County Assessors Office (I see from your bio that you are also in Idaho). The AMC’s chased me away from being a fee appraiser nine years ago but a very reputable bank recently hired me as a staff appraiser (I’m not self employment but gets me back to the type of appraising I use to love doing). Ada County collects much of its field data on a mobile device, so I am accustomed to collecting information and sketching properties in the field this way. My new employer does not provide a mobile device for staff appraisers. Being well aware of the advantage of data collection technology, I’m shopping for a tablet device on my own dime. My pay structure is an hourly wage for a 40 hour week and an additional fee split and production bonuses, so I see it as an investment that will pay off quickly. I’ve decided on a Google Android platform and looking for devices not so small that my “Fred Flinstone” fingers can maneuver if the electronic pen goes on the blink (from previous experience). I want the best bang for my buck when buying a device. Any suggestions?

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