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Five Ways GPS Technology Has Transformed Real Estate

October 08 2015

mobile mapMuch of the hype around smartphones is centered on how they empower users to accomplish important tasks on the go. But your mobile phone isn't just a lightweight version of your computer. Smartphones have unique features that do things your computer can't, and that open up a whole new way of working with real estate data.

Chief among these features is GPS technology. Mobile apps can use GPS to tap into your geographic location and serve up a wealth of valuable uses that weren't available before smartphones. Real estate, being supremely location-based, is particularly well-positioned to benefit from this technology. Here are five ways mobile GPS has transformed the housing industry:

1. Property search - Ever been on a showing with a client who wants to know if any nearby properties are for sale? GPS to the rescue! Many mobile search apps today can tap into your phone's GPS and instantly pull up a list of active listings near your current location. Some get pretty fancy about it, too. With HomeSpotter, for example, just point your phone's camera at a property to pull up listing information. RPR Mobile lets Realtors search nearby homes, pull up comparables, and even see information on nearby FSBOs.

2. No more stopping for directions - Mobile navigation is a godsend for always-on-the-go agents. Gone are the days of meticulously writing down directions before leaving for a showing. Now, just type the address into your favorite navigation app for instant driving directions--and to see the flow of traffic on your route. Many property search apps today offer driving directions from right within their interface. Others, like MLS-Touch, even let you create multi-property buyer's tours with a detailed itinerary and directions.

3. Track mileage for tax purposes - As independent contractors, real estate agents are more likely to be audited by the IRS. That's why it's crucial that you meticulously track all of your expenses. When it comes to mileage, your phone's GPS makes this easy. Several apps, including MileIQ and DeductrDeductr, use GPS to track miles driven for business purposes.

4. Show off your local expertise - Part of being a "local expert" is knowing the best attractions in your area and sharing them with your audience. Checking in places and writing Yelp reviews of local establishments are ways you can use locational technology to build your credibility.

5. Stay safe on the job - It's a sad fact that the nature of an agent's work makes them attractive criminal targets. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps on the market today that help keep agents safe. Real Safe Agent, for example, lets an agent signal when they're in trouble or feel uncomfortable at a showing. The app then uses GPS to send the agent's location to those who can help. bSafebSafe and EmergenseeEmergensee also use GPS to signal for help.

The Potential Dangers of GPS Use

We'd be remiss if we didn't address the dangerous side of GPS. When you publically "check in" to a place or share your location on social media, you're advertising to criminals that you're not at your home or office, making you more vulnerable to a break-in. Criminals can also look at your history of public check-ins to determine the places you frequent, or your pattern of behavior, and target you accordingly.

Rather than avoiding check-ins or place-base sharing altogether, just use a bit of caution. Need to check-in to Yelp to take advantage of a special offer? Check your privacy settings first and make sure no one can see your check-ins but you (and maybe close friends and family). Always ask yourself, Is this private? Who can see this? If you're comfortable with answer, then proceed.

On social media, practice delayed gratification. There's no reason the geo-tagged Facebook photo of dinner at that fancy restaurant has to be posted right now. Instead, wait until you're home to post. Be sure your language reflects that you're no longer there, e.g. Had a great time at Chez Panisse tonight! vs. Having a great time at Chez Panisse!

Your turn: What are your favorite ways to use GPS technology in your real estate practice? Let us know in the comments below!