Feature Story

Mobile Apps Transform the Real Estate Industry

by Mary Ann Azevedo

See how mobile technology is changing the way homes and businesses are sold.

Several years ago, commercial real estate broker Sean Toomey couldn’t have imagined creating floor plans for clients on the go or quickly figuring out project pricing with an amortization calculator from his smartphone.

But that’s just what he’s doing these days – using technology and the cloud to seamlessly work regardless of where he is physically located.

The Silicon Valley-based broker is always armed with his tablet or smartphone while out with clients. If one is having a tough time envisioning how a space might look, he whips out his phone to access the “MagicPlan” app to measure a room and draw up possible floor plans.

Sensopia, a Canadian firm with offices in San Francisco, recently raised $1.2 million for the hot app which is being used all over the world by commercial and residential real estate brokers alike to create ‘instant’ floor plans. It works by allowing users to hold up their phone to scan the dimensions of a room around them to create a floor plan that can later be exported to different formats, including PDF, JPEG and HTML, to view on the web.

For Toomey, being mobile has dramatically increased his efficiency, which he believes in turn has made him more competitive in one of the most competitive office markets in the country. He uses Evernote and DropBox to maintain access to his files and client data from anywhere and any device and also takes searchable notes that are immediately accessible when he’s on the go.

“Using the tech tools I have at my disposal has enabled me to have consistent information at my fingertips regardless of which device I’m using, which allows me to assist my clients any time of day from virtually anywhere,” Toomey says. “Commercial real estate is still a ‘people’ business, and the increased use of technology has enabled our industry to focus more on our clients without being so buried in the administrative side of the business.”


Ninety percent of consumers now start their real estate journeys on the Web, according to the National Association of Realtors. More than eight out of 10 home buyers are accessing home information on their smart phones and computer tablets, according to the California Association of Realtor’s “2013 Survey of California Home Buyers.”  The survey found 85 percent of buyers used a mobile device during the home buying process, with the majority of buyers (70 percent) accessing the Internet from their smart phones and 15 percent accessing it from their tablets.

Mobile apps are also becoming more popular among residential real estate agents.

For Keith Walker, a residential realtor with Intero Real Estate Services, storage on his iPad and iPhone are a must. He uses a slew of mobile apps to conduct business in Silicon Valley –one of the most competitive housing markets in the country.

When giving presentations, Walker only uses his iPad. His most used mobile app by far is Evernote, which he uses to store all of his notes, team meetings, templates and presentation dialogues.

“It syncs between all of my devices and allows me to email out and share with my team immediately,” Walker says. “It also allows you to record lectures and place photos directly into notes.”

Like Toomey, Walker is also a big fan of Dropbox.

“I would be lost without it,” he says. “My team and clients can seamless share documents and photos on the cloud regardless of the platform each person is using.”

Also among the plethora of apps Walker uses is Open Home Pro, which basically serves as a guest registry for open houses via a Realtor’s tablet. Walker likes it because it allows him and his team to customize questions, photos and send automatic follow-up to clients after they sign in on his iPad. Users can create and e-mail a report to sellers and follow up with buyers through an e-mail containing a brief survey.

“It’s very visually impressive,” raves Walker, who is a member of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

Another app that Walker uses is called Home Snap which allows users -  where the service is available – to take a picture of a home for sale with their tablet or smartphone. The service matches the image and GPS location to display real-time data from the local MLS and other sources on price, size, features, and pictures with information when it last sold. Once a home has been snapped, the server tracks and updates information on any price changes.

Making offers on home also has never been easier with DocuSign, a program that allows buyers and sellers to sign important documents via the Internet which in a competitive market, can help the involved parties move a lot faster. 

Dominic Cardone, a broker/partner with Keller Williams Real Estate, in Media, Penn., specializes in residential and commercial brokerage, overseeing about 700 sales people. The National Association of Realtors’ regional vice president believes that on a national level, “Realtors tend to be very much on the wave of the technological curve.”

“When a consumer has a real estate question they want it answered immediately,” Cardone says. “Mobile technology has given us that ability…A consumer doesn’t have to know that you’re closing the deal while sitting on a beach in the Bahamas.”


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