1000watt Blog

Writings about real estate, branding, marketing, media and technology from the principals of 1000watt.

Brokers: Take your time with mobile

Yesterday, a big brokerage company had us take a look at their iPhone app.

Our feedback: “This is really bad – how could you release this?”

The answer: “We just wanted to get something out there on the iPhone.”

OK. I understand the impulse. Mobile Web adoption is skyrocketing and the iPhone is, for now at least, the runaway leader. Redfin reports that their app already accounts for 10% of traffic on weekends. That sort of number is only going to get bigger for any company that offers a great mobile experience.

But the broker above is not alone. I have talked to many brokerages in the past couple of months that are racing to develop mobile apps, often through vendors of dubious quality.

This makes me wince. Brokers got the Web wrong for so long in so many ways. Now’s the time to start fresh on a new platform and, alas, the same mistakes are made. Bummer.

I’ve put these questions to several brokers pursuing this course: “Would you open a new office location in a quonset hut with no chairs? Would you plant yard signs made of cardboard?”

Of course not. Never in a million years. These are important brand touchpoints.

The mobile device is at least as important. Soon it will be a more important touchpoint. Give it the care – and the investment – it deserves.

The right way

PMZ real estate, a large brokerage located in California’s Central Valley, got it right. They built an IDX-based iPhone app in-house that’s better than pretty much anything else out there. You can read a little about it in my already-outdated “15 real estate related iPhone apps you need to check out” post.

There are some things I’d change, but it’s an excellent app that positions the company to take full advantage of the mobile opportunity.

They did not go quick and dirty. They did not follow the pack over a technology cliff. They invested in talent that produced something great.

Do it that way!

[Disclosure: 1000Watt Consulting has done a small amount of consulting work with PMZ unrelated to their iPhone app]

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9 Responses to “Brokers: Take your time with mobile”

  1. Ed Kohler says:

    Brian, I think you’re right on with your mobile app philosophy. If something doesn’t live up to the quality of a company’s offline brand, it hurts them.

    That being said, mobile apps are almost as easy to update as websites, so an iterative approach to mobile app development can work, assuming a broker understands that this isn’t a set it and forget type product.

  2. Rob McCance says:


    Great post. I’ve advised this on other blogs as well.

    It’s coming. The hand held device is becoming ubiquitous and it’s power will rival laptops and phones combined. Some day SOON!

  3. Loren Nason says:

    First I will state that I am not a ‘mobile’ expert.

    I will say that having ONLY an iphone app is not the right way, but part of the right way.

    Having only and iphone app leaves out all the other mobile devices out there. You need to also have a mobile accessible site.

    I took a few minutes while writing my comment. I see they have a mobile site and it’s nice. At least looking at it for my non-mobile expert eyes.

    The one problem i do see on the Mobile website. No phone number and the contact email on the contact page of the mobile site goes to itadmin@pmz.com

  4. Zane Burnett says:

    There are certainly instances of acceptable “good enough” technology (think flip cams, mp3s, etc). Company mobile apps is NOT one of them. This is a great post because it discourages brokers from throwing something together and throwing it out there for the sake of being competitive or in the loop. What they’re doing, in all actuality, is hurting themselves.

    Great post… I hope every broker out there reads it!

    As a sidenote- I feel that all brokers should first invest in a mobile friendly website before they even think about developing an app.

  5. Ian Greenleigh says:

    My takeaway here is: brokers shouldn’t tackle mobile themselves, at least with apps. I agree with Loren that having mobile-friendly content is more important at this stage, and it’s but one dimension of the mobile marketing’s application to real estate sales. But it’s also far less costly.

    For most, at least currently, in-house or outsourced app creation is an arduous, expensive proposition that will only result in a fancy black hole on a woefully small number of consumers’ mobile devices. Avoid the bandwagon for now.

  6. O. Tarlow says:

    Is developing an Apple iPhone app, even with care, the right way to go for a regional real estate broker? Will consumers really opt for a partial nationwide set of listings and information when they can simply download Zillow’s nearly full coverage iPhone app.? In addition, going the “downloadable app” route does not generate traffic to your core website with the standard build. Would it be better to stick to mobile websites that work across the most popular handsets that consumers use providing the most streamlined process for property search, broker/agent contact information, open houses, GPS, etc.? I believe many in the general RE industry do not understand the difference between an iPhone App and a Mobile Website and are simply calling for “the iPhone App” simply because it’s the latest buzz phrase. Love to get feedback.

  7. Brian Boero says:

    Ondar –

    Don’t have time for detailed responses here, but some quick thoughts:

    Yes, I think an IDX powered, broker-branded app is a must. Would you use Zillow yardsigns? Don’t you want to own this touchpoint to the extent possible?

    I think mobile should not be viewed as a complement or a feeder to the “big screen” site … the objective is to create the best experience as possible on the device and, generall speaking, that requires a native app.

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