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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