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Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your paperback, tablet computing is heating up. Here are 10 ideas to tap your tablet and turn it into an indispensable  tool.

Just in time to save Christmas – and maybe the real estate industry – are an array of Android-based tablets are hitting the streets. These devices aren’t designed to compete with the iPad: they are designed to compete with your laptop. That’s why you’re going to love using them to work on the go, communicate with clients and make more sales. Lighter, faster, smarter, the new tablets hitting the market are going to unleash a whole new level of productivity for people who have avoided upgrading to a smartphone (“it’s too small!”) and refuse to carry their laptop around (“it’s too heavy!”).

Here are ten cool things you can do with your tablet that are just perfect for next generation real estate sales professionals:

  1. Better brochures. It’s one thing to attract client with your website; it’s another to leverage that site while working with them. Whether you’re showing homes or chatting at an open house, your tablet lets you reference your website during the sales process. With the ease of a pad of paper, you can access articles, videos, calculators, on your website, while keeping the conversation naturally flowing. You’ll have all the reference data you need without ever forgetting the “right brochure” at the office.
  2. Better product staging. The best home staging falls apart once we hand customers a pathetically printed listing sheet. With a tablet, listing information will become interactive. Reference information about the property, descriptions of the neighborhood and other deep-data that no printout can supply. Then, tap to email it or share it socially with the buyers. That’s product staging and selling!
  3. Engage imagination. Most buyers preview homes furnished the way the owners prefer. It’s hard for them to imagine what their furniture would look like or grasp layout opportunities in their minds. New tablets with digital cameras (duh, iPad!), will let you snap an image of a room and use software to mark up the image. Switch to video and  you could record ideas for painting, point out special features or just imagine-out-loud – then email your creative ideas to customers to dream about later.
  4. On Screen! Since the days of Dick Tracey we’ve been waiting for wristwatch video conferencing. With the new batch of tablets, it will become an instant reality. In fact, some tablets will have two cameras – one on each side. Imagine video chatting with a client while streaming a virtual walk-through of a home or neighborhood from the second camera. Video conferencing holds opportunities for prospecting, negotiating and closing – all times when a smile is worth a thousand words!
  5. Gather better data. Tablets will combine the sophistication of a competent laptop with the simplicity of a pen/touchpad and the visual clarity of a camera. That’s one powerful data gathering device, and it will transform data management. Imagine a “broker tour” where you snap photos, record your impressions and save it instantly into your database. You’ll be better equipped to catalog and analyze the market, then represent that content to prospective clients.
  6. Take better notes. In addition to gathering market data, tablets will improve capturing client data as you take notes as easily as writing on a notepad. Typing on a laptop might be rude in a conversation today, so tablets using quiet, finger-swype data entry will be less intrusive. Even digital audio recording could help you take capture and store data faster – improving your ability to recall and manage a client’s preferences, feedback and instructions. Goodbye to sticky notes forever!
  7. Leads management. At last check, fully 40% of REALTORS still did own a smartphone with access to email. The common reason given is simply that smartphones are “too” small for many agents to use comfortably. Thus, new leads and client opportunities go un-checked while agents are away from the home or office. Tablets models will be “just right” for this problem – larger than a smartphone, yet smaller than a laptop or iPad. Samsung’s Tab, for instance, features seven inches of viewing and typing space, at only 380 grams. Finally, agents will be able to check email as easily as carrying a financial calculator.
  8. Socialize sooner. Along with email, updating Facebook or Twitter on tiny smartphone screens may also be responsible for nearly 49% of agents who did not yet have a social media presence. Wireless tablets make socializing with your sphere of influence frequently throughout the day as easy as mailing a form-letter. Scrolling news feeds, sharing content and photos and even posting a video blog can be done while waiting for the buyer to show up at the listing.
  9. Localize opportunities. If real estate is about “location,” what better way to leverage location data than the GPS  in a tablet. Tablet-based satellite data can display layers of valuable information on an interactive map. From traffic and weather to restaurants and entertainment, maps will come alive as sales tools to engage prospects. Show consumer heat maps  – income, foot traffic, spending profiles – to commercial clients. Layer on social content – friends, jobs, environmental data – to the home a buyer is considering. Combining satellite and internet data into one screen gives a whole new meaning to “directions” for your sales prospects.
  10. Learn. Tablets are a big step towards improving online learning. They combine the familiarity of a book with the power of a computer. Read news feeds, monitor real-time market data or watch training videos as easily as you would use your iPod – even better, since it will be real-time wireless content, without the need to synchronize with a computer. Learn on the go, brushing up sales skills or exploring new opportunities as easy as swiping a finger to turn the page.

It’s a sure bet that the next generation tablets are going to make next generation sales professionals a competitive force in the marketplace. With new features like cameras, video conferencing, expandable storage and just-right screen sizes, the age of the pen and paper will finally come to an end. Perhaps just in time, too, for real estate agents ready to work with the Gen X and Gen Y buyers and sellers of the future.