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Spencer Hayes' Blog

By Spencer Hayes | Agent in Montgomery, AL
  • New Plans Allow Phone Upgrades Sooner

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Tech Tips, How To...  |  July 16, 2013 5:54 PM  |  911 views  |  No comments

    You might not have to make a long-term commitment to your smartphone anymore. Several major phone carriers are tweaking their cell-phone contracts—which usually require a two-year commitment—to make them shorter and allow customers to upgrade their phones sooner. 

    AT&T reportedly will announce Tuesday a plan to give customers a chance to upgrade phones after just one year. T-Mobile USA announced a similar plan last week. 

    “AT&T’s new plan, called AT&T Next, will offer customers a way to essentially rent a phone for a year,” explains The New York Times. “The customer will pay no cost upfront but will then pay monthly installments for a year. After that period, the customer can upgrade to a new smartphone or tablet, again with no down payment.”

    For example, under AT&T’s new plan, customers would be able to buy Apple’s iPhone 5 with zero upfront cost and pay $32.50 every month for one year. After one year, customers would have the option to trade in the device for a new one. Previously, customers would pay $200 for an iPhone 5 upfront and then wait another two years to be able to upgrade to a new iPhone, for another $200. If a customer chose to upgrade in less than two years, he or she would have to pay the full cost for the phone: about $650. However, under the AT&T Next option, customers would pay $390 over a year to be able to upgrade to the next iPhone at the end of that year, saving about $260. 

    T-Mobile’s new plan is called T-Mobile Jump. Customers would be able to pay for the smartphone upfront and also make monthly payments. The plan allows customers to upgrade to a new smartphone for another down payment twice a year, The New York Times reports.

    John Legere, chief executive of T-Mobile, says that customers shouldn’t be required to wait so long to be able to purchase a new phone. “Seven-hundred-thirty days of watching new phones come out that you can’t have. Or having to live with a cracked screen or an outdated camera,” Legere says. “We say two years is just too long to wait.”

    Source: “2 New Plans to Upgrade Smartphones After a Year,” The New York Times (July 16, 2013)

  • 2013 Tablets: Specs That Matter for Real Estate

    Posted Under: Tech Tips, Agent2Agent, How To...  |  July 15, 2013 7:36 PM  |  960 views  |  No comments

    Much of what you can do with a tablet, you can already accomplish with a smartphone. But if you find the smartphone too small for comfortable viewing when surfing the Web, making listing presentations, composing text, or reviewing and signing digital documents, you’ll appreciate the tablet.

    Buying a tablet for your real estate needs is not simply a matter of comparing hardware specs and features. The real value of any tablet depends on the software, or apps. For real estate, there’s a rich selection of specialty apps for searching listings, calculating loans and managing contacts, contracts, and signatures.

    Each tablet’s operating system determines which apps the tablet can run, so it’s essential to visit the app stores for the respective platforms and see what’s available. While many apps are available for both, the selection does vary. Go to the Google Play Store for Android tablets, iTunes for the iPad, and the Windows 8 store for Microsoft devices.

    Tablets’ product tiers are based on screen size, which is measured diagonally. The most common size is the seven- and eight-inch range. The next grouping is around 10 inches. Beyond that, you’ll have larger options on touchscreen computers that have a tablet mode. If your present computer is showing its age, consider upgrading to a convertible notebook/tablet.

    True tablets are multifunction devices, melding the computer, camera and camcorder, and navigation system. They’re not phones, but with the right app, you can use them for calling and video conferencing, too.

    The tablet’s screen serves as both your touch interface and your display. Screen sizes, resolutions, and viewing angles have all advanced over early tablets, but if you plan on using any model outdoors, test the screen in direct sunlight before buying.

    Next, you should consider the tablet’s specs: processor speed, RAM, and data storage options. The newest tablets all boast speedy dual- or quad-core processors, giving them plenty of headroom to tackle a number of tasks. Tablets are generally available in a choice of memory configurations, measured in gigabytes — generally from 16 GB to 128GB, with the price jumping at each tier. Models with a microSD card slot allow you to easily and inexpensively add storage.

    Most tablets have two cameras, a low-resolution camera facing the user for video calling and a much better rear-facing camera/camcorder. Lens optics are limited, so you may not want to depend upon your tablet for all your listing photos and tour videos. Still, the ability to capture and share images instantly is one more convenience of carrying a tablet.

    Some apps operate on the “cloud,” as Internet-based storage is called, so a wireless connection can be critical to productivity if you use those. Windows 8 tablets let you install full versions of Windows applications, which guarantees that you won’t need to connect to the Internet to use those apps.

    There are plenty of connectivity options. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are now standard in even the most basic models. For improved performance, some include dual-band Wi-Fi, though your router needs to support that as well. For true mobility, though, you’ll need a 3G or 4G cellular connection, which is usually an extra-cost option. If your smartphone can serve as a mobile hot spot, you can save by buying a Wi-Fi–enabled tablet and connecting to the Internet via your phone.

    It takes a lot of juice to power all these features, and portable productivity is almost entirely dependent on battery power. Fortunately, vendors have made great strides in both battery life and recharge times. But don’t take their battery life ratings at face value. If you can’t plug into a wall outlet or car charger during your day, you could easily run out of power, unless your tablet allows swapping batteries.

    The best way to decide which tablet to buy is to handle and explore a few. Carefully evaluate the user experience, features, available apps, and operating system, and you’ll find your tablet to be an indispensable tool for advancing your career and improving productivity.

  • Using Social Media the Right Way

    Posted Under: Tech Tips, Agent2Agent, How To...  |  July 15, 2013 7:28 PM  |  590 views  |  No comments

    With a study by the Home Buying Institute indicating that 40 percent of agents have closed two to five deals as a direct result of their social media marketing, it makes sense for property professionals to have a dedicated social media strategy.

    Creating such a strategy involves determining the right social media platform for their message, with Facebook suitable to highlight new listings, Instagram to post exterior photos, Pinterest to post interior photos, and Twitter to discuss local news and provide housing updates.  Those with little time to devote to numerous social media pages should consistently update at least one page with all of the aforementioned content.

    Agents also should use social media to deliver local industry data—such as rental rates, mortgage rates, new developments, and even retail deals. Moreover, they should use social media to communicate with clients and prospects, building relationships and establishing trust, and to actively seek leads by keeping an eye out for consumers asking for real estate recommendations.

    Source: "Four Ways to Reach Home Buyers Using Social Media," Realty Times (June 12, 2013)

  • New Facebook Tool Digs Deeper Into Network’s Interests

    Posted Under: Tech Tips, Agent2Agent  |  July 9, 2013 3:02 PM  |  229 views  |  No comments

    Facebook is rolling out a new search feature starting this week that aims to make it easier to find people, places, and photos on its site of 1.1 billion users. 

    The new social search tool is called “Graph Search,” created to help you find more information about your “social circles,” the Associated Press explains. “Graph Search lets you find friends who live in San Francisco who are vegan. Friends of friends who live near you and like hiking. Photos of your boyfriend taken before you met him in 2010. Nearby restaurants that your friends like — and so on.” 

    The search tool will allow you to more easily find others with common interests using various filters and to search via likes and dislikes of others, work and education history, and more. 

    Previously, Facebook only allowed users to search for brands or friends by name. The new tool allows for more specific searches into users’ interests.

    Facebook says the new search tool will make it easier to uncover months-old photos or restaurant recommendations that you remember seeing on your friend’s feed, or to find common interests with friends of friends in your network. 

    Facebook intends to notify users that they may opt to keep their information more private and secure by checking a box under the privacy settings that says, “Who can see my stuff.” 

    Source: “Facebook pushes search feature to more users,” The Associated Press (July 8, 2013) and “Daily Report: Facebook Rolls Out a Powerful Search Tool,” The New York Times (July 8, 2013)

  • GE Unveils First Appliance Line Designed for Millennials

    Posted Under: Tech Tips in Alabama, Design & Decor in Alabama, Home Ownership in Alabama  |  July 2, 2013 2:58 PM  |  975 views  |  No comments

    GE_FeatureThe most successful multifamily communities are often designed for a particular market demographic. A prime example is the urban core community with small units and large, social-oriented amenity spaces tailored for young urban dwellers. But what about the appliances inside those units? No hip renter wants a cookie-cutter apartment, so why would they want a cookie-cutter kitchen?

    GE_1GE has taken notice and recently unveiled its first line of appliances designed for Millennials by a Millennial. Though the five appliances were created with first time home buyers in mind, the line is aesthetically pleasing, energy efficient, durable and priced to sell—all factors that translate perfectly into the needs of the multifamily owner. Designer Tomas DeLuna used the opportunity to create something for his own generation by focusing on the areas where consumers interact most with the product: handles, knobs and clocks.

    Known as the Aristry Services, the distinctive pieces (there is a hint of retro coolness) include a gas range, electric range, bottom-freezer, refrigerator, over-the-range- microwave and a top-control dishwasher. Both the dishwasher and the refrigerator are ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances.

    The full line will be available in September 2013. Estimated retail price for the full GE Artistry suite is $2,416.

  • Buyer's Guide: 2013 Tablets

    Posted Under: Tech Tips in Alabama, Agent2Agent in Alabama, How To... in Alabama  |  July 1, 2013 10:25 AM  |  470 views  |  2 comments
    Tablets are gaining popularity as tactile alternatives to personal computers. Let us guide you through the latest enhancements in this growing tech genre.

    Whether you’re looking for the ultimate in portability or the performance of a true computer, there’s a tablet that can do that for you.

    Although “tablet” is still synonymous with “iPad” for many users, there are multiple options out there. And the alternatives are not strictly Android-based, either. Microsoft’s recent venture into hardware with its Surface products, combined with the emphasis on touch computing in Windows 8, offers another viable option. And the surging popularity of both Android and iOS devices makes the tablet, in its many forms, the computer with a future.

    That’s great news for mobile real estate professionals who want one multifunction device that’s easy to carry, instantly on, and always loaded with whatever tool or resource you need.

    In this buyer's guide, you'll find:

  • Staging Props, Green Printer, Contractor Web Site

    Posted Under: Tech Tips in Alabama, Agent2Agent in Alabama, How To... in Alabama  |  June 28, 2013 2:02 PM  |  423 views  |  No comments

    Print It Green

    This new inkjet printer is easy on your wallet and the environment. HP’s Deskjet D2600 is made of 50 percent recycled materials and comes with software that allows for easy double-sided printing, which saves trees. Plus, it’s Energy Star–qualified. HP recently began producing ink cartridge bodies made with recycled plastics from used cartridges and water bottles. Recycle your old printer for cash through HP’s Consumer Buyback and Planet Partners Recycling Program. The D2600 retails for $49. Hewlett-Packard; Palo Alto, Calif.; 800-752-0900; www.hp.com.

    Fold-up Furniture

    Stage vacant homes fast without moving around bulky furniture. NextStage Furniture’s lightweight, collapsible chairs, sofas, tables, and beds can be assembled quickly without any tools. Each piece is made out of corrugated cardboard, but most can support up to 1,000 pounds. Specially fitted slipcovers make the furniture look like the real deal. Accessories, including faux flat-screen TVs and computer monitors, are also available. The NextStage sofa costs $179; the entire living room set sells for $429. NextStage Furniture Inc.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; 877-371-4551;www.nextstagefurniture.com.

    Find a Contractor Fast

    Whether you need a tile installer or waterproofing specialist, Chiefmall.com may be able to put you in touch with the right people. The contractor search engine is focused on home improvement and construction, allowing you to search for, view, and contact companies relevant to your needs. Or, you can post a job and wait for local contractors to contact you. Businesses that join can customize their own profile page with photos, maps, and more. It’s free to join the site and post jobs. A contractor job posting notification subscription costs $5.95 per month. Chiefmall.com Inc.; Irvine, Calif.; 949-633-7773;www.chiefmall.com.

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