Wednesday
September 17, 2014

Real Estate Apps: Have They Downloaded Yours Yet?

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Real Estate Apps: Have They Downloaded Yours Yet?

By now, you know your business needs a mobile presence. Does that mean you need your own app? We'll walk you through the process.

You probably know mobile usage (and Internet search via mobile) has experienced mammoth growth over the last few years. We don’t leave home without our smartphones. Heck, we don’t put them down period. Our smartphones have become the place where we research first — before we buy.

A joint study in January 2013, entitled “The Digital House Hunt,” by the National Association of REALTORS® and Google found:

  • 89% of new home shoppers use a mobile search engine at the onset and throughout their research
  • Homebuilder-related searches on tablets grew 362% year-over-year
  • Real estate broker-related searches on tablets grew 300% year-over-year

If your current website is not optimized for mobile, you may be losing business. So how do you go mobile? Do you need an app? Should you mobilize your current website?

App-mazing?

Your very own app: all your info, souped up, tricked out, and fun. All the leads will be coming directly to you. But how do you get people to use it? 

It’s like a website — you have to tell people about it. Don’t think that they will just stumble upon it in the App Store. Not gonna happen. You will have to market your app like you do your website. Some apps will allow you to personally invite customers to use your app via email or text, which is a fantastic way to introduce it and promote its use.

Realtor.com® Agent-Branded App

Realtor.com® offers up a free agent-branded app that promotes “collaboration.” Agent-branded means it uses your contact information and photo. All lead inquiries will come directly to you. You can suggest homes that your clients might be interested in, and they can request showings on the listings they like. You can chat back and forth within the app via built-in instant messaging to discuss each property. Setup is easy peasy, and at the end, you are encouraged to invite your clients to use the app.

Apps from Your Brand

Most of the larger real estate brands offer agent-branded apps now that are similar to the realtor.com® app. If your brand allows you to customize an app off of their company app or an existing website profile, give it a try. Typically, there is little required from you until someone connects with you there.

DIY Apps

Feeling adventurous? Want something that is uniquely yours? There are now TONS of sites that will help you build your own app. One huge thing to consider: the inventory. Make sure you can get an MLS feed in there. These sites have lots of real estate agent app templates and give you a great place to start:

Another big consideration: Your app needs to work on Apple and Android devices. Make sure you understand the steps involved to get listed in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Mobile Websites

If you are not feeling the app route, you might consider a mobile site. This is a version of your website that is optimized for mobile. The cool part here is that there is no download required. The not-always-cool part is that you are creating another website. This could be the little cousin of your website and have the same look, feel, and functionality, or it could be a total stranger. Yes, more work, but hopefully more leads, too. If you are considering a mobile website, check out Barcode Realty. They build mobile websites for phones and tablets and offer assistance with marketing strategies and understanding the analytics behind your sites.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive design is built into the code of your website and allows a website to respond to the environment on which it is viewed. It looks larger on laptops and more compact for tablets and phones (but with all of the same basic functionality and feel). If your site is not built with responsive design now, this can get pricey. But on a side note, do not built your next site (or redesign your existing site) without taking responsive design into very serious consideration.

Things to Consider

Think about time, money, and returns before deciding how to proceed. How much time can you invest? How much money can you spend? What sort of returns are you looking for from your app, mobile site, or responsively designed site? How will this fit into your overall marketing strategy?

I’m a simple girl. I like when things just work. I think this is why the responsive design route is more attractive to me than the others. I type in my website address on any device and it works. On my phone, it adjusts to the size of my screen and functions the same as it does on my laptop. For me, this was the best choice. I’d love to hear how you are mobilizing your business! Feel free to share in the comments.

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