Your Real Estate Command Station

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Efficiency is the name of the game. The less time you spend on a task, the more time you have to spend with family, friends, toys, vacations, etc.

If you’ve read some of my other articles, you know that as a former engineer, I can’t help but be obsessive compulsive about making processes and tasks as efficient as possible.

As I was sitting at my “command station” (desk in my office) contemplating what this article should be about, I noticed I had an answer sitting right in front of me! My command station itself, particularly, the computer monitors.

Now I know in this day and age, the tablets are taking over the world as they are portable and much more ergonomic relative to a lap-top computer; however, the one major drawback with these is simple: ONE screen!

Eeeeek! When I hear “one screen” all I can think about is numerous windows mixed up with numerous tabs. You open one window, and then when you need to open the window with something else (a spreadsheet for example), you waste time clicking through even more windows trying to figure out where you left that darn spreadsheet. I dealt with this for years until I saw a 2-monitor set-up. This was foreign to me at the time, and I didn’t even know it existed. I was shocked to see that you could drag the cursor to both screens, yet, each screen acted as a separate monitor!

To make a long story short, below is a picture of my current command station.

Needless to say, once I tried the multi-monitor set-up, I’ve never looked back. Now, is the above overkill? Maybe. What I should note though is NOT all five monitors are used for real estate. Besides real estate, I love the stock and financial markets, so I do quite a bit of stock trading. The two monitors on the right are what I use for this.

Everything in real estate starts at your command station (or should!).

Think about it. You take a call about a potential deal. What is the next thing you do? I hope you’re not saying to yourself, “drive out and check the property in person”! The first thing you should be doing is your research to see if the property even justifies you spending money on gas along with your valuable time to go see it. This is all done on your computer! Get tax records, check comps, run deal analyzer spreadsheets, look at location on map, etc. There are a boatload of things that should be done before you ever step foot outside your office door… again, ALL this happens from your computer.

2-Monitor Command Station

Although this isn’t “my” ideal set-up (more on that in next section), it is a great place to start, especially if you’re used to a single monitor. I have two 22” monitors. The size isn’t ‘that’ important, but the more space you have to work with, the less clicking all around you need to do. Imagine this…

You get a call about a potential deal. On one monitor you have your deal analyzer spreadsheet open. With the other monitor, you go to all the appropriate places to fill in the numbers you need on your spreadsheet. You find one number, you drag cursor to other screen and plug in number. There is none of this minimizing and maximizing windows in order to fill in what you need to.

I understand this is just a microcosm of an example and you’re thinking, “how much time did you really save?”, but when you add things like this up over and over and over again, things begin to come to light in a new perspective. Besides the time saved over the long haul, what about just the psychological gains? No more frustration. No more kicking your dog. From a purely “sanity” perspective, it’s a no-brainer to me.

3-Monitor Command Station

For the beginner, this would probably be a bit overkill; however, it makes a great thing to have as a goal. (“Get to the point in my business where it makes sense to have a 3rd monitor.”) In my set-up, I use three 20” widescreen monitors.

This set-up makes my due diligence a breeze. One monitor is dedicated to the MLS (I am a licensed Realtor), one monitor is dedicated to “additional research” (Google, tax records, craigslist, maps, email account, etc.) and the third is dedicated to spreadsheets.

When a call comes in, I can quickly begin pulling comps from the MLS, finding tax information, and plugging information into my spreadsheet all the while NEVER having to get confused/frustrated about “now where did I minimize that window to?!?!?!”

When some emails me, same thing. On one screen I have the email opened with all the details in it, and then I use the other two monitors to begin “double-checking” whatever the person’s email is claiming. Truly a breeze.

Requirements

First off, do not… and I repeat DO NOT go and buy the top of a line monitor. If you’re business is a professional gamer, then yea, that would make sense. But we’re not gamers, we’re real estate investors. All you need is something that will turn on.

I personally would not go any smaller than an 18”, but that is totally a personal preference thing. One thing you ‘do’ want to make sure of is that they are the same size. Don’t get a 22” to go with your 18”. They don’t need to be the same brands either. A monitor is a monitor. In fact, my 3-monitor set-up has monitors from three different companies.

Don’t pay more than $100 a piece. That’s what I always aim for. A great place to start your search is Dell’s Outlet site. Another great place: eBay. Sure, you’ll be getting something “used” or “refurbished”, but again, we are not professional gamers. We just need data. As long as the thing turns on, we have what we need.

Check your video card. I’m not computer whiz, but I believe most computers come with the ability to host two monitors. If you want to go with the 3-monitor Command Station, you’ll probably need a different video chart. This isn’t a computer forum, so I’ll just leave the issue alone and tell you to Google “multi-monitor video cards” and you’ll get all the information and reviews you need.

I know all this can be done from a single screen device, but it comes down to preference. Before you go and make any purchases, be sure to ask yourself just how much time you stumble around with a single screen, but probably more importantly, ask yourself “how frustrated does it make me?” At the end of the day, looking into a potential upgrade of your real estate command station is worth at least a thought.

Top Photo: izzatFulkrum

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About Author

Clay (G+) is a licensed real estate agent and the owner of Huber Property Group, LLC, a real estate investment company located in Grand Rapids, MI. His company purchases distressed properties with the main exit strategy of fixing them up and reselling with owner financing, particularly, land contracts.

18 Comments

  1. My ‘day’ job is an IT consultant and web developer, and I strongly concur that multiple-monitor setups are well worth the small investment. I would like to add some additional thoughts-

    I have two 23″ monitors I purchased a few years ago for ~$150 each, refurbished (prices have come down since then, so ~100 really shouldn’t be hard to hit). I also use a 42″ LCD TV as a third monitor. I would not recommend using a big screen like that for your primary monitor (unless you have trouble seeing, like I do when I don’t have my glasses/contacts in :), but it is great for setting up things you want to keep an eye on and for reviewing charts.

    Also, I would recommend getting monitors that support the same resolution. I run mine at the standard 1980×1020 (Also know as 1080P in the TV world). If you have different resolutions on your monitors, I find it awkward when moving somthing across screens. My requirements when shopping for a new monitor are “does it have HDMI and does it support 1080P resolutions?”. After that, I get the biggest screen I can afford :) And I almost always buy refurbished monitors.

    One other thing- consider mounting your screens on the wall with a mount that allows you to move them around. I find this keeps my desk clear and allows me to easily tilt, swivel, rotate, and otherwise manipulate my monitors to my heart’s content.

    Thanks Clay for the great advice- I am always finding it difficult to convince clients to try a multi-monitor setup. I think they have the impression that the only reason it works for me so well is because I’m “a computer guy”. Your post illustrates well how multi-monitor setups work for other professions, too!

    • James – great feedback!

      I hope everyone who has read the artcile reads this comment too. You make a useful points about the resolution and other ‘technical’ aspects.

  2. I have an old 13″ laptop that I placed alongside my 24″ Sony monitor. Doesn’t take up much space and is good for casual browsing while my business sites reside on the large screen. I would go the multi-monitor route, but my wife would not be too happy as my “command center” is part of our living room.

    • Haha – understandable then Eric on ‘why’ this set-up would be hard for you at this time. Who knows, you could always tell her a few ways this set-up would also benefit HER and she just may go for it.

      Sounds like your current set-up is getting the job done for now, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    • You must have a good system worked out then if you’re able to do that! Like I mentioned in a comment above, if it ain’t broke, don’t fixt it, but if you find yourself getting more and more frustrated with it, then yea, an upgrade is worth taking into consideration.

  3. Clay – I didn’t realize that it was that easy to use two monitors simultaneously. I sometimes need my database open and the PVA at the same time. I typically use a laptop at the side of my desktop monitor. This would be so much easier! Is it safe to assume that most any Dell computer that is about 2 years old would be set up to use 2 monitors?

    • Sharon, I would ‘think’ it is safe to assume that; however, the easiest way would be to just look at the back of your computer tower (where your keyboard, mouse, monitor is plugged into) and see if there is an addtional “plug” next to where your single monitor is plugged.

      If there isn’t, a video card that has this ability really isn’t too expensive. The con with technology is it is always changing, but the pro is prices begin to drop quickly, so video cards capable of hosting 2 monitors have drastically come down in price over the years.

  4. Great post!

    Something that I’ve honed in the past few years was my knowledge of hotkeys.

    The one I use the most is either Cmd-Tab (Mac) or Alt-Tab (Windows). Holding down the Cmd/Alt key, and repeatedly tapping the Tab key will let you easily jumped between various windows without taking your hands off the keyboard.

    Combine that with Cmd-T (Ctrl-T) in any modern browser, and you can easily launch new tabs. There are also hotkeys to rotate through the browser’s tabs.

    These few hotkeys have increased my efficiency dramatically, by not having to shift as much between the context of typing and mousing. There are others, but these are ones that I use without even thinking twice. Others take a little more cognitive draw to remember.

    Don’t bite off too much. Try to learn one new hotkey, and start to use it regularly. When it becomes ingrained in your day-to-day usage, seek another one that would offer the most return on investment. After all, don’t real estate and wealth building demand we get our maximum return on investment?

    Hotkeys should mix well with your multi-monitor approach, because, it will just jump to the monitor where that app is hosted, without you having to drag your mouse two feet to pick it.

  5. Clay-

    I just got my “2 monitor command station” up and running last week and I love it. It’s not as elaborate as yours, but it works great for me.

    I had to buy a card for my computer which was about $50. I can now have my database up on one screen and then the tax assessor’s site on the other one. It is so much easier to update!

    Thanks for the info.

    Sharon

  6. jeffrey gordon on

    Thanks Clay, had not known about box to expand from laptop and 2nd monitor to a 3rd monitor, will check it out.

    on another subject. I am starting up building a database of 2-4 unit properties and will have MLS access and title record access. Wondering what you or others might use for property data record management in terms of a database or CRM?

    thanks

    jeffrey gordon

    • Definitely check it out Jeffrey, I’m confident you’ll be glad you did.

      I’m old fashioned I suppose in the fact that I use Excell Spreadsheets for all my database stuff. I’m just very familiar with them, so I use them.

      My advice in regards to this would simply be to find something that YOU are comfortable/confident using.

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