Netbooks:  A Great Solution For Staying Connected On-The-Go

One of the most affordable ways for appraisers to stay efficient while away from their desk is a netbook.

Netbooks look like small laptops, cost somewhere between $199 and $399 (depending on size, features and brand), and are great for staying “plugged in” while on-the-go. They typically have at least 1GB of RAM, 100GB hard drives, three or more USB ports, SD card slots, built in Wi-Fi, a web cam, an 8-10in screen, weigh 2-3lbs, and have a battery life of 3+ hours. So basically, they’re lightweight laptops, have a full keyboard, good battery life, and can either use whatever available Wi-Fi sources are around, or utilize a USB Internet card from your cell phone provider.

What is a netbook good for? As I started doing my research, I asked if anyone on the WinTOTAL Users Group was already using one, and if so, how? What I found out illustrates how appraisers can leverage netbooks in the field.

Bob Nixon, an appraiser from Tempe, told me, “I have an Acer netbook, and I use it mostly for finding comps when the subject turns out to be different than I thought, or to log into my MLS. I also use it to check my e-mail while in the field, and I use it to log onto my desktop at the office using LogMeIn.com to make revisions and get appraisals delivered when there’s a rush. I have the AT&T 3G USB connection, and I find the screen size is fine. In fact, the screen size is much better than the PDA I used to try and do this with. I still do my field work the old fashioned way (except for a laser tape), but I do have WinTOTAL on my laptop. I haven’t needed it though, because LogMeIn.com works so well.”

Another appraiser, Denise Wright of Centerville, OH said, “I purchased a netbook for business purposes. It’s so much easier to carry around! So lightweight and compact — strapped on my shoulder it is similar to carrying a purse. The screen is a bit small (even though I bought one with the larger screen) but for working outside the office, it’s great! I can even connect to my desktop computer while I’m in the field with LogMeIn.com. I bought the netbook to work in WinTOTAL while out of the office, and it works great! I bought the HP Mini 1000 10.1 display.”

Being a gadget-geek, I decided to buy one myself. I’ve found typing is easy despite the small keyboard. It doesn’t “run hot”, and it runs Windows 7. And, as Denise said, it is very light.

With a netbook, you can do nearly anything you can with a laptop. Yes, they’re smaller, lighter, and less expensive, but they don’t have the same horsepower as a laptop. I don’t find it to be a burden though, especially given the $250 I paid.

To look them up yourself, check out BestBuy.com or your local Walmart. You’ll see both offer models for about $250.

So, how might an efficiency, and customer service-conscious appraiser incorporate a netbook into their workflow?

  1. Pull up your MLS to search for comps, and then download them to your netbook as a PDF or in a spreadsheet.
  2. Create a WinTOTAL file on-the-spot to save your research in the Digital Workfile. 
  3. Use www.LogMeIn.com to access your PC at home or in your office to work on a file.
  4. Check e-mail while you’re in the field, cutting down the response time to clients and boosting your customer service.
  5. Get driving directions to properties.
  6. With the built-in web cam, chat face-to-face with coworkers
  7. Check for new orders. Deliver completed reports.
  8. Set up or manage your marketing campaigns with XSellerate while waiting for inspections, grabbing lunch, or sitting in traffic (kidding about that last one).
  9. With Excel, work on your 1004MC if you have “down time”.
  10. Read www.AppraisalScoop.com, the WinTOTAL User’s Group at http://Tech.Groups.Yahoo.com/Group/Total2000UsersGroup/, or Jonathan Miller’s Matrix at www.Matrix.MillerSamuel.com — all excellent places to stay up on appraisal issues and get intelligent analysis and commentary.

By all accounts, a netbook seems to be an affordable, useful tool for mobile appraisers. It may well be worth your time to investigate them for yourself and see if you could benefit from being more mobile and staying more connected to your office and clients.