Written by Michael Antoniak
Mobile apps are becoming an increasingly important part of real estate. They not only help you keep your business at your fingertips but also allow you to better serve your clients.
If you own a smartphone, mobile apps should be your best friend. With new applications constantly hitting the market, however, it can be a challenge to stay up-to-date with what’s available and, most importantly, what will best help you in your real estate business.
“Mobile apps” are software programs developed specifically for your phone’s operating system. Everyone who uses a smartphone relies on some apps to make it work as a kind of pocket-sized computer. For real estate, the selection of apps runs the gamut from basic productivity tools to highly sophisticated property search and marketing solutions.
The Phones With the Most Apps
What apps are available to you largely depends on your smartphone. For an idea of everything that’s available, start with the official app sites for the various smartphone platforms.
Since its launch in 2007, Apple’s iPhone has attracted the most apps: 150,000 and counting, according to recent estimates. Google’s Android, and the lineup of phones running it, also is driving demand for an expanding catalog of apps that fit its platform. And there remain legions of loyal real estate users of other smartphone platforms and apps: RIM’s BlackBerry, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Palm’s WebOS, and Nokia’s Symbian.
Popular Real Estate Apps
So what apps are catching on in real estate?
Mobile search of your MLS is becoming a requisite. Also, software tools like Top Producer Mobility and Real Estate Success Tracker are bringing the functionality of a real estate suite to certain smartphones. And if you’re looking for more CRM functionality than the basic contact management system bundled with the smartphone operating system, mobile apps are available from — or included with — salesforce.com, ACT!, and Maximizer.
When shopping for your next smartphone, you might want to make software availability a guiding factor in your selection. (Read the Smartphone Buyer’s Guide for shopping tips.)
There are also several apps available that help you demonstrate your professional expertise to clients. Here are just a few:
Property tours: With a la mode’s TourNarrator for the iPhone, you can create a multimedia recap of a buyer’s tour of a property to help them recall and narrow their choices.
Comments and feedback: AgentFeedback makes it easier to keep the seller in the loop with a system for easily updating them on buyers’ impressions and comments on a listing.
Financial guidance: Although every smartphone has a built-in calculator, your role as an adviser to buyers or sellers often entails a more sophisticated analysis of loans and investments. There’s several apps for this: Home Buying Power, RECalc, and The Sniffer, a real estate investment analysis calculator for the iPhone; Karl’s Mortgage Calculator for Android; and BlackBerry Mortgage Calculator PRO, to name just a few.
Speech to text: For mobile messaging and speech-to-text conversion, Google Voice offers free apps for Android and BlackBerry and a Web-based service for other platforms. A fee-based service, with a free app, is available from Jott for iPhone and Jott for BlackBerry.
Organization: If you need help capturing and cataloging information about customers and properties, EverNote offers versions for the most popular smartphones. You can, for instance, snap pictures of business cards with your phone’s camera and make the information part of the database.
Apps Your Customers Are Using
However, it’s not just mobile apps on your phone that make smartphones such a valuable real estate tool. Clients now rely on smartphones in every phase of the real estate process too. Their primary need for an app is for mobile searches of local listings.
Location-based searches, using GPS coordinates relayed by the user’s smartphone, can be the ultimate convenience. Realtor.com Mobile for the iPhone is an especially powerful application that gives iPhone users a mobile version of the Realtor.com Web site.
Trulia also has an iPhone app and the Trulia Mobile service for searching its database from smartphones, while Zillow Mobile for Real Estate is offered in versions for iPhone, Android, iPad, and Windows Mobile.
Offer Your Own
There are also a number of fee-based mobile apps and services aimed at consumers to help you promote and market your services.
SmarterAgent, for example, provides subscribers with a branded app for distributing to clients to search the MLS based on GPS coordinates and other criteria.
A variety of text-based services like Mobile Agent, SmartTextCRM, TextMyMLS, and House4Cell require that the consumer send a text message using a numeric code displayed on a yard sign. These systems send listing information to the user, even a mobile version of a virtual tour, while capturing his or her contact information and relaying it to you.
Become an App Expert
Maybe offering your own mobile app isn’t for you. Regardless, with so many different mobile software and service options available, you can still help familiarize clients with how real estate mobile apps can help them in their search for a home.
Compile a list of your recommended apps and post it on your Web site for clients to view. Highlight apps you rely on and briefly outline the benefits, offering suggestions for the range of smartphone platforms your buyers and sellers may be using.
By providing such advice, as well as making representative use of mobile apps yourself, you’ll show customers that you’re a tech-savvy real estate professional who, with the help of a smartphone, always has the answer at your fingertips.