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Mapping & GPS Software for Real Estate Appraiser's Laptop
MGM Appraisal Services
I am a Real Estate Appraiser and spend a lot of time on the road. I have a windshield mounted GPS unit that does an adequate(usually) job of getting me to my destination, but it is incapable of letting me finally throw away the huge mapbook I still need to have with me.

To describe the kind of GPS I'm looking for, I'll need to take you through a sample of my daily driving routine.

I start off at my home, program in the address for my first appraisal appointment for the day and head out. No problems, so far.

Once I'm done with that inspection, I need to drive around to 5-10 other properties in the neighborhood to take photos for that appraisal report and I want to do that in the most efficient way possible. I'm tired of typing in one address at a time and driving by the same intersection 4 times(or spending 10 minutes with my map book figuring out the best route).

From there, I need to go to my second appraisal appointment for the day, then tour another 5-10 properties. It would be nice if the GPS could take this second appointment location into account when planning the tour of the first 5-10 properties(comps), so I'm not heading the wrong way while on that tour.

After this is done, I may have a 3rd appointment or I may just want to head home.

Other features that would make this dream system more user-friendly, would be the ability to remove an address from the list and have the system recalculate the route in mid-drive or re-assign any of those addresses as the next destination.

An ability to tell the system I need to be at XYZ address by a certain time and for the system to adjust or notify me when I need to divert my course and make for the next appointment, would be valuable to me.(I could always come back and take photos of the "comps" later.)

I'm sure I could list (or think up) another half-dozen features that would make this system perfect for me, but those are the basics.

Can anyone point me in the right direction? I'd prefer to convert to a laptop GPS and my guess is I'm more likely to find what I need in that product as opposed to a discrete unit, but I'm open to either choice if it can save me time, aggravation, mileage on the car and gas (money).

Desperate,

MGM
Ken in Regina
Regarding your car navigation unit, if you don't have a Garmin Nuvi, go take a look at one. Check out the routing feature on one. You should be able to add multiple points to the route. Once you have them all in the list you should have an option to "Sort" them. That will cause the Nuvi to seek an optimized route.

It's easy to delete points from the route. When you do that, the Nuvi will automatically recalculate the route.

I'm not sure which models of Nuvi allow those routing features. It's possible that not all of them do.

It's also possible that TomTom and Magellan units have similar features but I've never used any of their models.

Regarding laptop software, I just tried those things in Garmin's Mobile PC. That's Garmin's laptop navigation program. I added multiple points to a route, Sorted it to get an optimized route and deleted a point to cause it to recalculate the route. It was dead simple to do. I just picked points from my Favorites list but I could just as easily have clicked on some arbitrary point on the map, entered some longitude/latitude coordinates or used all of the Find features for addresses, intersections, POIs, etc.

Microsoft Streets&Trips, DeLorme Street Atlas and iNav iGuidance on a laptop all have similar features.

I'm not sure about your other feature to specify a specific schedule. But if you're packing a laptop or netbook anyway, just use a good PIM (Personal Information Manager). It will have a scheduler in it. Or if your carrying a smartphone or PDA already, you must have a scheduler in it. If not, you can get cheap/free simple scheduling programs for computers, smartphones and PDAs.

One last thought, I think you could use Microsoft Mappoint and possibly after creating the route you might be able to import the route into Outlook for scheduling. You can download free 60 day trials of Streets&Trips and Mappoint from Microsoft's site. Mappoint costs more but it integrates with Microsoft Office applications. There are also loads of scripts that have been created for Mappoint so there might be a number of the features already available as you dream them up.

...ken...
My Point...Exactly
Hi Mgm - Thanks for this great post - I love the detail you've provided on your daily workflow. I currently train sales forces how to use Microsoft Streets and Trips to maximize their sales - and believe that the Real Estate industry can benefit as well with laptop GPS software - so your post has given me some insight/something to think about - Thanks!

Here are some thougths on your requirements:

First - the cool thing about Laptop software is that you can PLAN. I tell my customers - PND's (dash mounted GPS devices) are great for helping you get to where you need to go - but laptop GPS software helps you decide where you need to go in the first place.

So when using a laptop software, the first thing you will do is plot the homes you need to appraise. So below, I've plotted the 3 homes that are on the appraisal order for today.

Notice the pushpin data balloon can be filled with information specific to that point. You can even insert a link here - and link to a file/form on your computer for more data.



The next thing you'll do is create a route from one appointment to the next. You can fill in arrival times, and even plug in how much time you expect to take conducting each appraisal. This will generate route instructions that will show when you arrive and depart each location based on the time elements you've entered.




Quote:
Once I'm done with that inspection, I need to drive around to 5-10 other properties in the neighborhood to take photos for that appraisal report and I want to do that in the most efficient way possible. I'm tired of typing in one address at a time and driving by the same intersection 4 times(or spending 10 minutes with my map book figuring out the best route).
When I first read this - I misunderstood, thinking you didn't have addresses for the comps - but now I realize you do have them - because these are based on previous sales right?

So you could add the comp addresses to your route list after your appraisal home - and then add your second appraisal to follow first round of comps.

Quote:
ability to remove an address from the list and have the system recalculate the route in mid-drive or re-assign any of those addresses as the next destination.
When actually running the route - My suggestion would be to only have the next appraisal property in the 'destination' queue. That way, when you're at stop one - you clilck stop 2, and click 'get directions', when at stop 3, you click on 4 and hit 'get directions, and so on. You can still maintain your route list - and readjust the sequence as the situation demands - but you've always got only the next stop 'loaded'

Quote:
and for the system to adjust or notify me when I need to divert my course and make for the next appointment, would be valuable to me.
An interesting feature - would require an intelligent 'ETA' monitor....not sure if any product has this (anyone?). With your next appraisal loaded in the route - as you drive around your comps - the unit will display your remaining drive time to the appraisal property - so you can watch that drive time value and do the mental calculation.

Another option might be to have the computer create a 'drive time' zone around each appraisal property - the drive time zone creates a line that radiates out from the central point showing the boundary within which you can drive to the central point in the designated time. That way, as you work your comps - and keep an eye on the drive time zone of the next appraisal - you'll at least have an idea of time required to get to next job.

Another tool that may come in handy is the 'find nearby' feature. Since you can save previously conducted appraisals on your map - while in an area, you can search for previous assessments to help you.




Hopefully I gave you an idea on how you might use a laptop GPS software package. I do think the laptop is a better option than a dash mounted PND. There's a bunch more - for one, I suspect 'Bing' aerial maps/birdseye views would be helpful....

I agree with Ken that you'll most likely want to use this in conjunction with a scheduler (Outlook?) running on your laptop. I also like to use Streets and Trips in conjunction with Microsoft OneNote as I can store notes and aerial pics about my trip, then quickly access them from the laptop.

Here's a long story I wrote about using mapping and GPS as a part of my own house hunting process - though not directly related to your appraisal business - perhaps there are some parallels.

Location, Location, Location! Mapping and GPS sells Real Estate - Sales - Keith O'Brien


Again MGM - thanks for the detail - hope this helps!
tomrod
MGM, keep in mind that any product you get is made by humans. Everything has limitations of one sort or another. From my own inquiries on this boards, I've come to the conclusion that MS Streets & Trips is the best for handling many stops. I've been using it for six years.
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