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From cave painting to mimeograph to personal printer, nothing has survived the test of time like the real estate property listing sheet. Still, one wonders if this dinosaur piece will ever become extinct. That just might be the best thing to come out of Apple’s new iPad.

The iPad looks cool; or more properly, it’s a cool concept. Take everything that’s great about smartphones – web access, touch screens and wireless mobility – and combine it with everything that was useful to print media – light weight, high resolution and . Whether or not it becomes a laptop substitute is irrelevant: The iPad has a bigger destiny:

To finally kill the pathetic real estate listing sheet.

In the world of real estate marketing, bad ideas die slowly. Very slowly. The classified ad is approaching a flat-line, but enough Boomer homeowners still bully agents into wasting their money. The pithy postcard fares little better: wonder how long the featured agent has been missing and if they didn’t choose a milk carton to spread the word instead. You won’t even be able to reach the postman by postcard soon, if Congress stops Saturday delivery for budget reasons. Oh, however shall agents get people to their open houses?

Those same open houses featuring a pile of marketing pieces that do not look remotely similar to any other modern marketing experience. Somehow, the same real estate agents who pick automobile brochures off the showroom shelves – glossy, multi-page, full-bleed marketing masterpieces – don’t translate the need for such an experience to their customers shopping a significantly more expensive product.

That’s why the iPad offers such hope for the real estate industry.

The iPad is more than just a razor-thin wireless electronic “piece of paper.” The iPad is an electronic platform. In fact, the worst use of the iPad would be to carry around newspapers and magazine content “formatted” in paper-style layouts.  But it will happen at first, for a while, just like most real estate websites still revolve around a “searchable” Sears-catalog of listing sheets.

Oh, mighty iPad! Please help us move beyond 8.5 x 11!

Most real estate marketing is still stuck in the flat-world view. Thus, its websites still emulate the “comparables book” agents used to carry around. Most of its smartphone apps just cram search functions and sheet-of-paper views into a smaller space. Even the clever but limited use of video are little more than bolt-on extras to the flat-sheet presentation of a home. From a standpoint, it’s a tremendous waste of new mediums.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s awfully dull.

The iPad is much more than a wireless clay tablet. Smart companies won’t treat it as a portable printout. They will start to reformat their information to suit a new way of engaging customers with their information. The touch must be more than just “turning the page” or flipping to the next listing sheet. Real estate marketers must think about presenting homes differently than a laundry list of features, neatly organized in columns and tables. This is the legacy damage of the industry’s persistent commitment to database systems; but they should know better by now.

What would be better? Look at sales industries  most compared to REALTORS, like automobile marketing. They have moved far beyond the website brochure model. Acura’s ZDX website is called a “virtual showroom” where potential buyers are placed in the driver’s seat and interact with the product as if they were physically there. The product “functions” – seats are adjusted, doors opened and closed, buttons pressed. The virtual showroom encourages customers to familiarize yourself, roll over a feature and click it to learn more. The overall experience is one of “being there” in-touch with the product. And it’s likely to get even better once these websites can interact with the actual touching motion of devices like the iPad.

Even if real estate marketers simply cheat and copy their approach, it would be a tremendous step away from the tyranny of the listing sheet. It would certainly delight consumers who are still confused why they are handed pathetic printouts to learn more about the most important purchase of their life.