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15 real estate related iPhone apps you need to check out

iphone-screenI could make the case that the iPhone OS is more important to the future of real estate innovation than Windows. But then I would be dangerously close to exhibiting signs of Apple Fanboy Syndrome, and I don’t want that.

So I’ll just say I think mobile is really important for real estate and that, right now at least, the iPhone is the most compelling mobile platform for application development.

There was one native real estate iPhone app a year ago. Today there are dozens. I’ve downloaded them all. Some are crappy, but others are truly innovative or useful.

Below, I have highlighted 15 that I find particularly interesting for one reason or another, along with a link to the developer’s site and price. Some rock. Others just suggest promising opportunities for future real estate mobile app development. And a couple illustrate pitfalls app developers would do well to avoid.

I have left out the Trulia and Zillow iphone apps because I am assuming most of you are familiar with them at this point.

Please share your own favorites in the comments!

nearby-homes2Nearbuy – Free

This is a nicely designed home search app. Its downfall – like so many sites reliant on scraping, direct broker feeds or other non-IDX sources – is a less-than-full picture of inventory. What good is a beautiful app that can’t show me the listing around the corner from where I stand?

Nonetheless, there are plenty of good design cues to be taken here. I particularly like the idea of color-coding the map pushpins by price range. This allows the user to jump straight to listings around their location while still getting some of the filtering characteristic of what others might call an “advanced” search.

The app also integrates with Twitter, which takes the typical “email this listing” functionality into 2009.

street-easy1Street Easy -Free

This is a for sale and rental property finder for New York City. What I like about it is the simple design of the property detail screen – everything is easy to spot.

A listing history is also displayed for each property, which shows the user price changes and previous listing prices.

The app will also integrate with the user’s account on the StreetEasy website, if he or she has one. This is a great idea that makes it easy to keep saved properties and searches in one place.

around-me1Around me – Free

I love this app. Imagine you’re a buyer, standing in front of a listing that interests you. With two clicks you can view the amenities in the immediate vicinity – restaurants, banks, bars, gas stations and more.

This takes the user beyond home search and toward an answer to the question that really matters: “Can I live here?”

The app also allows the user to call any business listing or email, Tweet, or save one.

Also notable here is the integration of AdSense for mobile ads, which I find to be at once more visible and less obtrusive than their big-screen counterparts.

mynewplace1MyNewPlace – Free

This app just launched last week and is very well done.

But two features stand out:

  • The ability to take and save notes and photos on a listing
  • Getting email alerts for listings similar to those displayed in results in two simple steps

This latter feature should become standard on all property search apps.

pmz1PMZ – Free

This is perhaps my favorite app of all. It was built by an in-house developer at a brokerage in California’s Central Valley.

By a brokerage! In an area where the median price sits at about $200,000. It can be done, folks!

PMZ is doing a lot right online (They were one of our Top Ten Brokerage Websites in America last year) and belie anyone who thinks brokers can’t seize some technology mojo on their own.

What’s more, this app is IDX-based, and is therefore arguably superior to something like Trulia or Zillow’s app for serious home searching. There’s no PMZ office in my area, but they belong to my MLS. This is the app I’d be using if I were moving right now.

This app further defies the homegrown broker technology stereotype by actually being pretty well designed. The user can even take notes and rate properties.

homescom1Homes.com – Free

This app is OK. Just OK. I show it here because it extends a common big screen mistake to the mobile platform: Fragmenting search into meaningless or confusing types.

Here you see “Nearby homes for sale,” “Advanced home search,” and “MLS number search.”

It’s too much. Start simple, then refine. That’s my rule.

apartmentguide2ApartmentGuide – Free

This app is one of the weaker apartment entries. I mention it here to illustrate a point: Don’t get ahead of the user.

Simple list results are displayed – just the property name and address. Based on this thin slice of information, the user is asked to “Call now.” Really? Would you “call now” without seeing details, or perhaps some photos, first?

Don’t get ahead of the user; don’t ask him or her to do something unreasonable just because you want them to. It won’t work.

home-buying-power1HomeBuyingPower – $1.99

OK. This one’s a mess. I include it here because I think it is directionally interesting.

This app offers fairly robust affordability and mortgage calculators. The user can email results.

If this app were designed properly, and expanded to include other decision support tools, it could be a great thing to have in your pocket while in the transaction cycle.

apartmentscom2Apartments.com – Free

This is a nicely done apartment search app. Specifically, I like:

  • The simple home screen
  • The simple and clear marking of favorites and saved searches
  • Recent searches teased on the home screen

iliving-photo1iLiving – $2.99

This is a great idea with sketchy execution.

The user can take a photo of a room (say, for example, during an open house) and then “design” it by placing various articles of furniture in the image. The photo on the right is what my desk would look like with a different chair. It’s cheesy, yes, but you can see how this might be useful if done right.

ilocate1iLocate – .99

OK, this is a flat-out crappy app. It displays real estate companies around your location. It’s hard to come up with convincing use cases for such a thing.

But work with me here. What if it displayed agents that work around my location? With their active listings? Seeing who’s working in my immediate vicinity could be very useful.

Of course, you can get something like this, plus ratings, through Yelp’s iPhone app. But I think there’s an attractive real estate specific play here.

dictionary1Dictionary of real estate terms – $6.99

3,000 real estate terms, organized simply, in your pocket.

If you’re a consumer slogging through a transaction why not have this on hand?

offenderOffender – .99

This is not a nice app. It’s a controversial app. But it is a useful app. With the click of a button the user can pull up a list of sexual offenders in their immediate vicinity.

This is something many home buyers with children will want to have, despite the chilling immediacy of seeing head shots of offenders staring at you.

I like this app because it clearly and simply supports a decision – even if it makes one cringe.

smarter-agent1SmarterAgent – Free

SmarterAgent is a true mobile real estate pioneer. They have been working on mobile real estate apps since the Clinton Administration, and the market’s finally coming to them.

The company’s iPhone app covers approximately 300 markets with IDX-powered home search, which alone gets it a big thumbs-up from me.

Moreover, the app features a nice photo filmstrip on the listing details page and allows the user to take and text photos of with listing information automatically included.

There are a few things here I’d change. The home screen fragments search in a completely meaningless fashion by displaying options for viewing just certain companies’ listings (would you choose that option?). And there’s an annoying progress meter screen attached to almost every action.

But these are fixable. They nailed the big things.

myblueatlas1Blue Atlas – Free

OK, this is app is not the greatest. It’s hobbled by bad design (for example, I need to take three steps just to display properties near my location).

But there are few things to note here:

  • It’s fast
  • It offers foreclosures, rentals and sales in one place
  • It uses the new iPhone OS 3.0 “shake” feature to resent map results as you pan

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36 Responses to “15 real estate related iPhone apps you need to check out”

  1. M Realty says:

    Thanks for reviewing these! I had been looking for a list like this so that I did not have to download/pay for and test all of the real estate apps by myself. I am excited to see what the next generation of these apps bring.

    -Tyler

  2. Avi Gupta says:

    Great review Brian — this is very insightful and crisp, in terms of what works and what doesn’t for a user/homebuyer. I’d love to see what your readers think.

  3. Paul Barrow says:

    Great post, thanks. One of my favorites that was not listed is Home Value Pro by Real Quest. I use it when shopping for value priced and investment properties for my clients. Like many of the aps, it’s not perfect, but is an interesting tool and fits in with your list for Realtors / agents. -Paul

  4. graymoment says:

    I appreciate your disclaimer in the first paragraph qualifying you status as an Apple fanatic. Few people who write reviews are bold enough to overtly state their biases. It would be great if the mobile apps category in general was reviewed, not just the apps from one OS (Android, Palm, Blackberry). Not too far in the future the mobile web will be poweful enough to no longer rely on proprietary mobile OS platforms, but until then, let’s consider the fact that Apple is not the only (and arguably not the best) mobile platform.

  5. Coachfred says:

    Hogwash,,,there is the I-Phone and then all the other smart phones. Im a former verizon customer with several Blackberry’s,,,they don’t even come close.I-Phone is an amazing productivity tool. It has saved sooo many situations,,,simply a wonder of intuitive design and function.

  6. Cherie Young says:

    I have wondered if the Smarter Agent is a valuable tool. Really appreciate the information here, I will share with clients. This is a great blog BTW! oops, caps…

  7. graymoment says:

    @Coachfred
    I appreciate your enthusiasm and appreciation for the great iPhone. What a great catalyst it has been for the mobile device industry.

    Because the iPhone is better than a Blackberry for one’s needs does not make it the best mobile OS out there, or the only OS worth review for the purposes of real estate, or business in general. Let’s all reconvene in 18 months and see where things are at. There will be 12-15 phones out by the end of the year with the Android OS on it, and new development for Android Apps are outpacing that of the iPhone. There is a trend here. Let’s all welcome change (after all, we welcomed the iPhone).

  8. Mark says:

    Smarteragent works well is you are only looking for C-21 or coldwell banker listings. No other listings show up in my area.

  9. chad says:

    Hey Brian…great summary of the mobile apps out there, lots of options these days. Since you opened up the offer to “share our favorites”, I wanted to throw our new our brandable and integrated IDX based iPhone app into the mix. We just released last week and we are doing our official launch at NAR next week in San Diego!

    The thing that sets this app apart from many others is that it is integrated with the 320+ existing MLS data feeds we already manage for our clients, but it’s not an aggregated national search tool. It’s for our client members to offer to their own clients so they can search in their local MLS service area. We include this as a complimentary service to their existing IDX account.

    If you search the iTunes App store for IDX you can check it out, it’s called myAgent by IDX.

    Thanks for the opportunity to do a shameless plug here, couldn’t resist considering the topic :)

  10. San Jose says:

    I highly recommend the PMZ app. It’s by far the best free app out there. It’s a GPS home searching tool that makes life easier for buyers, Realtors and everyone else. I wish we had a PMZ office in San Jose California .

  11. Judy Critchley says:

    We are in the process of developing a real estate app for the Android and iphone so I appreciate you mentioning all the different choices. I have downloaded a few of your suggestions. We will be more European focused though. I’ve linked to this post from my blog.

  12. Mike Wiseman says:

    How many of these are relevant in Canada? I have not been able to find much of anything that translates to the Canadian market at this point in time.

    • Dann says:

      I would also like to know if you have found any of these that work in Canada !
      Please email me anything you have on Canadian Real estate list aps. for my iphone ! ! !
      To vwdann@gmail.com

  13. ChrisD.33 says:

    Hey Brian,
    Thanks for the useful reviews of real estate iPhone apps! I wanted to add an app to this list that I think is super useful for real estate agents and investors alike. It just came out in the app store and it’s called “The Sniffer”. This app is a comprehensive cash flow calculator. You enter all the variables of a deal/purchase (including the loan terms), and the app determines the cash flow and cash-on-cash rate. It also has a super useful interactive diagram that allows you to easily find the break even point on any deal. I highly recommend this app as a tool that should be in any agent’s tool belt!

  14. Carmen Brodeur says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I just got my i phone yesterday and barely know how to use it, but I am excited to get some of these apps on my phone. My old blackberry seems like the dark ages compared to an i phone!

  15. Jon Benya says:

    This is the first I’ve seen of Offender, this could be a good app to pass along for my clients, so thanks for mentioning it! What I don’t understand is how no marketig company has developed a client management app for the iPhone? It seems that with realtors as tech savvy as they are these dys, it could be a big moneymaker!

    • Robert Larson says:

      Diverse Solutions released a mobile app earlier this year that you should definitely check out. It includes collapsible search field inputs you can customize, forced registration/lead capture options, and features like open house and REO searching generally only found in desktop IDX search sites. It also syncs user data with their desktop profile for tracking purposes. We have a free demo on our website http://www.diversesolutions.com/product/ds-mobile-idx/demo or you can contact us for a free trial for your specific MLS/area.

  16. Joe Nim says:

    Thank you for the great list of useful real estate iPhone apps.

    There is another new iPhone app, iTransaction, I started using to help coordinate my real estate transactions on the go. A very useful app for real estate agents, brokers, and coordinator. I highly recommend this app for real estate professionals.

  17. Virginia Beach says:

    An impressive list. I wonder if it would be possible to expand this list into a follow-up post? For instance, “It can be done folks!” I’m launching a real estate brokerage in Virginia and have started developing a custom solution for the cross/mobile/device/os revolution and would really appreciate more niche style apps. There should be more right?

  18. Steven says:

    I like to refer my clients to CrumbTracks to track their home search. It’s very simple, yet nicely done and no ads from other agents, brokers etc.