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.
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.
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.