The next time you shop for a home you may be assisted by a surreal estate agent. You'll know the agent by the car he or she drives. The e-car, a prototype from Huntsville, Ala.-based Q-PC Real Car Computing, gives realtor Lynn Kronk an edge over the competition that could almost be called surreal estate. Time is a crucial factor for closing real estate deals. Wired with a mobile computing system customized for the real estate professional, Kronk has instant access to property listings and other key information when escorting clients to new listings. From computer screens that can be installed in the dashboard, the visor area or facing passengers in the rear seats, clients can search for properties, run through virtual three-dimensional tours of the interiors of specific homes, check local information about schools and communities and be entertained by music on the system's DVD player while they search for their dream home.
Clients invariably like to handle the keyboard and do their own searching, says Kronk, who can drive to newly identified home locations by following voice commands supplied by a GPS feature in the computer. The e-car comes equipped with a six-inch screen in the dashboard and another screen added in the backseat so that clients' kids can be entertained with video games or listen to their own music through headphones.
Kronk reports that since she began using the e-car in 1999, the number of deals she's closed has increased and so has repeat business and referrals from customers who experienced the new technology.
Q-PC's system is adaptable to a variety of industries and field services, but real estate, which has become highly driven by Internet information, was one of the hottest immediate applications, says Derrick Copeland, chief executive officer of Q-PC Real Car Computing.
Kronk, who also operates a brokerage in Huntsville that employs dozens of agents, notes that real estate selling is moving to the Internet, allowing consumers to do their own research. "We want to be part of the equation and use technology to maintain our place," she says.
Q-PC began testing its e-car with real estate agents in six different regions in mid-2000 and is now working with car electronics resellers nationwide to promote the system for a total installed cost of about $3,500, depending on the components. Installation can take as little as four hours, says Mikko Jetsu, vice president of market development for Q-PC.
E-car computer screens can range from 6 to 15 inches, with resolution enhanced by off-the-shelf magnifier tools making small print and photos easy to see, Jetsu says. Q-PC's pilot tests proved that extremely fast wireless connection to the Internet was important in real estate. "People wanted to connect within half a block--not two blocks--of a property," says Copeland, so Q-PC is developing a set of preferred wireless service providers and recommended speeds for real estate agents.
According to Copeland, the company is also building a network of installers, who qualify as mobile electronics certified professionals, and enabling them to provide a range of systems for real estate professionals, from basic to "ultra-fancy," with printers, scanners and all the capabilities needed for closing the deal--from start to finish--in the car.