Is A Smartphone Big Enough To Appraise With?

I’ve being using the latest and greatest mobile technology in my work for over 15 years now. I consider myself a seasoned mobile appraiser.  My favored device in the past few years has been a tablet; specifically, the iPad Mini.

I’ve been asked many times in the past few years whether it’s feasible to use a smartphone for inspections, but I didn’t have an informed answer. I’d spoken to other real estate appraisers who did use smartphones, and I asked them that question. I usually got the same answer: “I love using my smartphone, and I wouldn’t go back to a tablet… but there are some drawbacks.”

Well, recently my iPad ran out of juice, and the charging cable wouldn’t work. I had 6 more inspections to do that day, and it wasn’t feasible to go back to my office and recharge my tablet there, so I was forced into finding out for myself. I called back to my office and asked my assistant to re-sync the software to my phone (I use a la mode, which allows this kind of seamless transition between devices).

mobile appraisingI won’t lie to you; for the first 5 appointments or so, I found using my phone to be incredibly frustrating. The smaller screen size was obviously the main source of annoyance. On my tablet, I had everything I needed on a single screen: the menu was there in full display on one side, and the fields I was filling in were in full display on the other side. On my phone, everything was crammed in. The fields were still there, but the pre-canned comments that you use a lot in the field weren’t on display. To use them, I had to hit an extra button each time. That might not seem like a big deal, but if you want to work as efficiently as possible in this business then seconds matter, and all those extra clicks add up. It was actually almost a deal-breaker for me. The smaller screen size also meant sketches looked very cramped; there just wasn’t as much room for me to see what I was doing.

As regular readers will know, however, I always follow the rules of the ’10 House Challenge’; don’t give up on something until you’ve tried it on at least 10 houses. I have to say that the more I used my smartphone, the more I started to enjoy it. I even found that it had its advantages over a tablet. My iPad Mini doesn’t have a flashlight, for instance, meaning I always had to carry something else to illuminate attics, crawl spaces, and so on for photos. My iPhone has a built-in flashlight, which works well as a camera flash, eliminating that problem.

Also, my iPad wasn’t set up with a data plan. I know you can get tablets that do have them, but mine didn’t. That meant that, to send my reports, I always had to hook up to a Wi-Fi hotspot. That took around 25 seconds to do; again, not a deal-breaker, but they’re 25 seconds I could save by directly uploading the report from my phone using my data plan.

The more I used my smartphone, the more I started to like it. I am now using an iPhone Plus exclusively and my iPad Mini is gathering dust.  That has to mean something, right?

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 045 – Can you Effectively Use a Smartphone for Appraisal Inspection. 

15 thoughts on “Is A Smartphone Big Enough To Appraise With?”

  1. Pingback: Is A Smartphone Big Enough To Appraise With? - Appraisal Buzz

  2. Love , love love appraising with my smart phone. I recently purchased an LG V20 and the feature I like the most is the 2 cameras. 1 camera is normal and takes higher quality pictures and the other is wide angle. I can be standing very close to a house and still get the whole house in the frame, and it is also useful in getting the whole bedroom, bath, etc in a photo. Most of the recent phablet size phones are coming out with dual cameras.

  3. I have been using the Samsung Note 5 with Total for Mobile by Alamode for about a year. I have found that the precision of the stylus pen makes things much easier and the Note 5 has a large screen. No more bulky tablet and still carrying my phone to take calls.

  4. I have been doing this for a few years and I love it. I use a Huawei Ascend Mate 2, which is an older phone but has a 6 inch screen and an enormous battery. It can be off putting to some homeowners so I give those with a mysterious look my paperless spiel, then pull my laser out and they are at ease.

  5. Richard D Ferris

    I started using my smart phone back in 2003 with early versions of Total Mobile by a la mode. That was a windows phone with stylus. I graduated to an iPhone which made the experience better. A little larger screen. I loved being able to roll up to a home with only a Disto and my iPhone in hand! Everything I needed in one hand! I even measured a 10,000 sf home on my iPhone here in FL! But most were standard single family homes. Now I closed my business after 20 years and work for a company which provides me with an iPad that has a data plan. I like the extra screen space and still mostly have just the iPad and my Bosch ($79 laser measurer is just as good as that old $300 Disto!) You are right about the flash though, I miss that and sometimes have to run back to the car to get my phone in order to take an attic photo when there is no light up there. But that is less than 10% of the time for inspections. Mobile technology sure has continued to evolve and makes life much easier!

  6. I started about 10 years ago using a tablet for inspections. I had just purchased my third tablet about 6 months ago when I upgraded to the iPhone 7+. I had a few easy houses to sketch an used the iPhone. I liked the photos much better on the iPhone and have been using it ever since. Like anything, there was a learning curve to drawing on the smaller screen – even the big homes!

  7. I want to start doing this can anyone give me step by step instructions I use al mode and have a new iphone and have not downloaded the software yet

    1. Alamode has good videos on mobile appraising for all the instructions. Basically go to the app store, search for alamode and download it. The phone is the same as a tablet but on a smaller screen. You will need to link the phone to the desktop to download and upload reports. Then you will need to customize your settings to the way you like to inspect. You can add and remove parts of the URAR in the critical items list on your phone. For example you may or may not want to have a place to put the lot dimensions while doing an inspection because you may like to enter this info from the desktop. Limiting the items to only the ones you want makes the inspection go smoothly.

  8. Tricia,
    Alamode has a class, Webinares, and videos on how to be a paperless office that covers all of this. I have attended the class and I review the on line tutorials, to refresh my procedures if I fell I need. Call them for a schedule or you can log on to your account and go to the training section.

  9. I use my Samsung Note 5 and my ipad mini is now my daughters tablet to play games on. I think the total software is easier to use on the Samsung than it was on the ipad. I won’t go back to a tablet. Carrying one handy device is best.

  10. I’ve used a Galaxy Note 2, Note 4, and now Note 5. Love being able to take a few handwritten notes along with using the Alamode software. Also the camera is much better than any tablet.

  11. I have been using Iphone 6plus for inspections for about a year and I gave up my Ipad, One product that I like is the Bandolier phone case that I hang around my neck. This is useful when you want to let go of your phone without dropping it. These cases are marketed to women and some are very fancy, I just bought a plain black one, Check them out at

  12. I’ve been using Total for mobile since the iPhone 4. Now using the iPhone 7. Next upgrade will be to larger iPhone Plus for a little more “real estate” to work with. Major advantage as the article mentioned is the flash, photo quality and built in data connection. A pocket sized Disto and mobile phone are all that I carry. Beats the days of carrying a camera, clip board and tape measure.

  13. I starting using PDA’s some 20 years ago (HP Jornado 820 / 1998) along with the top of the line Apex sketch setup built into to the program (A la mode). That PDA allowed one to type in an address before the picture was taken, thus in real time the photos could be organized/labeled for easy upload later at the office. To this day, many take photos of comps in bulk, only later to determine in what order they were taken, and thus which address is which. Many have been late to the party.

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