Changing times and technology have demanded a change in business. My "tools of the trade" have expanded from carrying an MLS book and a stack of business cards to utilizing personal computers. I have five of them, two at my office, two at home and one color notebook for use as part of my "mobile office" concept. On the road, my notebook computer allows me access to the Multiple Listing Service. I can do this by connecting to a phone line at a client's home, or if necessary, through my hand-held cellular phone.
I use six different real estate-specific software programs on a regular basis. My assistant tracks all my listings, buyers, and relocation accounts using these powerful software tools. Despite my best efforts to be highly organized, I often found the need to drive back to my office at an inconvenient time because some piece of information I needed was on one of my office computers. At first I thought the solution would be to keep duplicate records from my office computer on the notebook computer I carry, making the notebook the "mirror image" of my office computer. Commercial programs to duplicate and synchronize data on two computers do exist but I found out that the "doing" is easier said than done.
My husband, John, suggested that maintaining client records at a single location, on a single database was probably best for me. In my case, with multiple users, we could have tied the computers together on a "network" so each user would have access to the common pool of programs and information. This works great as long as all of the people and computers are located together in one building. Putting my office computers on a network might help my assistants and me when I was in the office, but it wouldn't help me when I was out of the office. I am a "people person" and prefer to spend as much of my day as possible with the people I serve. As a result, I am out more than in. We concluded that what I needed was not synchronized computers or a network, but a way to actually operate my office computer even if I was away from the office.
John suggested a simple and relatively inexpensive solution, called "remote control." Remote control is a concept that allows the actual full operation of one computer by another computer over an ordinary telephone line. It is much more than one computer "talking" to another such as happens when I call the Multiple Listing Service computer. Remote control is almost the same as "being there". It is like "reaching out" through the telephone line and "touching" a computer many miles away. During a remote control session, what I see on the screen of my computer at home is exactly the same thing I see when I sit in my office. Likewise, what I type on my home computer's keyboard causes exactly the same effect as if I were actually there in my office chair doing the typing.
We selected PC-Anywhere as the remote control software because of the program's ease of use and outstanding security features. Besides remote control operation, this high speed modem also allows me to access the MLS computer and serves as a FAX for sending and receiving documents from inside the computer.
Now, I can look up or change client information anytime and from anywhere, even from out-of-state. I can add information on a listing I took in the evening so the information for creating advertising on that property would be on my office computer when my assistant arrives for work in the morning. I can review my newspaper or Real Estate & Homes magazine ads and make any last-minute changes before a tight deadline. If a client calls me at home with questions about an up-coming closing, I can get the information I need in a few minutes. My husband who set the remote control system up primarily for me, has also benefited. He can now diagnose and fix software problems without traveling to my office.
What's the next change in the industry? I believe CD-ROMs or the Internet can replace the MLS book and "Comp Books". I am already using the CD-ROMs for a referral roster, property location mapping, and for my mailing list database. We could carry our Purchase Agreements, Listing Agreements, Amendments and Change Sheets on the hard drive of a notebook computer. The only thing I can't replace is my business card and those I'll just redesign. If I am on my way to an appointment and discover I've forgotten something, no problem, I'll just "beam up" to home with my notebook and "PC Anywhere".
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