An increasing number of state regulators are making it clear that real estate brokers and their agents need to store electronic communications relating to transactions. There is a patchwork of applicable legislation from different areas of the country on this subject, which is beyond the scope of this article to discuss, but, as an example, check out this great video from Bay East AOR regarding the rules in California:
Now, most of us know how to save or print out emails, social media communications, and other relevant materials from our laptops, but many brokers and agents haven’t figured out how to manage the retention of text messages. Some mobile phones and tablets make it easy to print what you need right from the device, but if yours does not, this article should help.
Getting your texts off your phone requires different procedures depending on what kind of phone you have (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry). We’ll cover the most common cases here.
iPhone / iPad
If you only need to record the very occasional text message, you can take a screen-shot of it (briefly press and release the “Home” button and the “Sleep/Wake” button a the same time) and email that image to yourself from your “Photos” app. Otherwise, to get text messages off an iPhone, you will need to buy a utility for $25-$30. If you want to unload an iPhone’s text messages onto a Mac, there’s an app called PhoneView that will allow you to scan through the texts on your connected phone and export them to the desktop; all your texts are made searchable. If you want to do the same thing with an iPhone and a PC, there’s an app called CopyTrans Contacts that will back up your iPhone SMS messages to a wide variety of formats, including Word, HTML, Excel, and plain text. Once there, you should be able to print out your texts more easily and add them to the transaction file, or upload the documents to an electronic document or transaction management system. The apps mentioned here are the tip of the iceberg – searching online you will find a number of other options for retrieving text messages from your iPhone or iPad.
As with the iPhone, if you only need to record the very occasional text message, you can take a screen-shot of it and email that to yourself – and there are lots of instructions on how to do that online for various Android devices. Otherwise, the options for Android can be a little more technical. SMS Backup+ is an app that backs up your text messages to your Gmail account, bringing them into Gmail as threaded messages that are easy to find, search, and print – and giving Google the responsibility of holding onto them and backing them up. It requires some setup, but the author’s webpage walks you through it. Perhaps the most useful feature of this app is that it constantly backs up your text messages; you can just “set it and forget it.” Sms To Text Pro is simpler and doesn’t require a Gmail account – it just exports your text messages to a text, HTML, or Excel file which you can then email to yourself from your mobile device and print out for storage in your transaction file or store electronically.
For the BlackBerry, Elcomsoft BlackBerry Backup Explorer is an industrial strength tool – but the standard version, which should suffice, is $49. Once you have created a backup of your device using the BlackBerry Desktop Software, the Elcomsoft software reads the backup and can export your text messages to many different possible formats, including Word, PDF, and HTML.
Archiving your texts from your smartphone has many benefits. If you lose or damage your smartphone, or accidentally wipe out your texts, you have backup; some of these tools allow you to restore texts to your phone using the files of your texts that they create. More importantly, you’ll have gone some distance towards avoiding the personal, legal, or regulatory distress that can result from not having permanent copies of your texts. In a dispute over who said what, it helps to have a piece of paper you can point to for the record in black and white. As we are quickly moving towards a text-messaging world, it helps to be prepared.
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