Technology

Commercial Real Estate Apps

These mobile applications put information in your hands.

Apple’s App Store recently surpassed 25 billion app downloads. How many of those were for commercial real estate? Not many, especially when compared to the number of residential real estate apps. But in commercial real estate, an industry where hustle pays off, an app’s ability to quickly supply answers can provide crucial momentum to keep a deal moving forward.

We asked CCIM members to discuss how they are using the current batch of commercial real estate apps, which includes listing, financial, and demographics programs.

Listings

CoStarGo

Devices: iPad
iTunes rating: ★★★★
Price: free download, premium subscription required to access all features

Eric R. Rehn, CCIM, vice president at Cassidy Turley in Walnut Creek, Calif., uses CoStarGo at the beginning of a sales cycle. “It helps keep deals moving along,” Rehn says. “It’s one of the main reasons I carry my iPad.”

CoStarGo is free, but its features are only enabled for CoStar subscribers. Users can search CoStar’s database for nearby properties or listings in a specific location. Results are displayed on a Google map, and study areas can be further defined by corridors, polygons, and radii. Selecting a property displays information about its agents, landlords, and principals. Market data — area occupancy, absorption, comps — and a financial calculator are also included.

Convenience is also part of CoStarGo’s appeal. “It’s instantly available,” Rehn explains. “When landlords ask about different projects, I can email them property fliers and show them floor plans right there.”

CoStarGo’s locator button displays nearby properties, a feature that Rehn finds useful when visiting sites with clients. “I was with a landlord the other day, and he asked about competition in the area,” Rehn says. “A picture is worth a thousand words, and the app gives a quick visual overview of what’s available or what we’re competing against.”

In addition to providing quick answers, Rehn says it’s important to share third-party data with clients. “It shows you have access to a lot of information, and you’re on the leading edge of technology,” he adds.

Clients also like the app’s intuitive interface. Some of Rehn’s clients have even reached for his iPad to run their own searches.

LoopNet Commercial Real Estate Search

Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android
iTunes rating: ★★★★
Android rating: ★★★

Price: free download, premium subscription required to access all features

“Instant answers result in decisions instead of wavering and possibly not closing the deal,” says Robin Kesler, CCIM, commercial director at Re/Max Optima in Oviedo, Fla., who uses both CoStarGo and LoopNet’s app to get her answers.

For comps, tenant analysis, mortgage terms, and information about a property’s physical structure, Kesler uses CoStarGo. To view nearby listings, she typically uses LoopNet’s app. “CoStarGo’s strength is what happened in the past, while LoopNet shows you what is happening now,” Kesler says.

Similar to CoStarGo, LoopNet’s app allows users to search for rental or sale properties near their current location or in a specified city or state. Results are plotted on a Google map, where users can modify the study area’s size or location. Tapping on a property displays its rental rate, broker contact information, and description.

Despite their convenience, apps aren’t ready to replace software that was designed for a computer. “CoStarGo is terrific because it helps solidify a decision while the decision maker is focusing on the property,” Kesler says. “But I generally use the Web platform for more in-depth analytics and to access quarterly reports.”

The Company App: Re/Max Orlando Commercial Real Estate

Devices: iPad, iPhone
iTunes rating: n/a
Price: free download

Kesler also has a customized company app for business development. The Re/Max Orlando Commercial Real Estate app features her firm’s listings, its agents, and details about the services they provide.

With her company app, Kesler is part of a trend that includes regional and multinational firms such as Jones Lang LaSalle and CBRE. These firms’ apps are typically modified versions of their corporate websites and give users mobile-friendly access to their most popular sections.

The main purpose of Kesler’s app — developed by Blyn.cc for more than $1,000 plus hosting fees — is to market the company, but it also has features that agents can use in the field. “It is a great tool for determining the value of the property,” Kesler says. “I use it to calculate mortgage payments, NPV, and IRR, and I can also send the client a PDF report of the calculations on the spot.”

RCA Commercial Real Estate Transactions Search

Devices: iPhone
iTunes rating: ★★★★★
Price: free download, premium subscription required to access all features

Real Capital Analytics Commercial Real Estate Transactions Search bills itself as the first global commercial property search app. Although its search and display features are similar to other apps, RCA’s app only displays comps from property sales, refinancings, and transfers.

Results are plotted on a Google map, and tapping a property displays transaction details, including transaction type, price, price per unit, capitalization rate, and the parties involved. Although the app is free to download, non-subscribers will only see addresses and property types.

Catylist Mobile

Devices: Android, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone
iTunes rating: n/a
Price: free download

Catylist, a commercial information exchange provider and partner of CCIM Institute’s subsidiary CCIMTech, brings its map-based searching to mobile devices with Catalyst Mobile CIE. Catalyst subscribers can log in to update their listing catalogs, and anyone can search listings and filter by property type, price, size, and more.

To access the app, users point their mobile device to http://mobilecie.com. Adding a shortcut to that website to a mobile device’s home screen creates an app-like experience, even though users are actually browsing a mobile-optimized website. This approach to creating an app, where users go to mobile websites instead of an app, allows companies like Catylist to create platform-agnostic “apps.” As new technologies such as HTML 5 continue to evolve, some in the tech industry expect such mobile websites to eventually replace apps.

Financial Help

Multipurpose apps such as CoStarGo can run financial calculations and pull demographic data, but for more-detailed information some tablet users rely on stand-alone apps. Although not designed specifically for commercial real estate, these apps do help with core financial and demographic commercial real estate functions.

10bii Financial Calculator

Devices: Android, iPad, iPhone
iTunes rating: ★★★★★
Android rating: ★★★★★
Price: $5.99

Convenience through consolidation is one reason why tablets have become so popular in recent years. Productivity apps such as Evernote and Dropbox allow users to carry one tablet instead of stacks of paper. Likewise, e-reader apps such as Kindle allow users to read multiple books on one device.

Consolidation is also why Kenyth Jerrell Cass, CCIM, owner of Town & Country Real Estate in Clovis, N.M., downloaded the 10bii Financial Calculator to his Android smartphone. “The main reason to have it is that you don’t have to carry around another calculator in the field,” Cass says. “I always have my phone with me.”

The app’s layout is nearly identical to the HP 10BII, which students are trained on in CCIM courses. “Compared to other calculator apps, it’s the most familiar and does the calculations that are necessary for our profession,” Cass says.
“It has performed flawlessly.”

powerOne Financial Calculator — Pro Edition

Devices: iPad, iPhone
iTunes rating: ★★★★★
Price: $4.99

Donato Mucciacciaro, agent at Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate in Baton Rouge, La., prefers the powerOne Financial Calculator app. “It’s easier to use, has a better interface, simplifies calculations, and provides more input fields,” he says.

Mucciacciaro says the powerOne app is especially useful when structuring lease purchases. “These deals can get pretty complicated,” he explains. Being able to plug in different down payment amounts, interest rates, and payment schedules gives us a quick and easy way to present our clients with information for decision making.”

Demographic Focus

TAS Mobile

Devices: iPad
iTunes rating: n/a
Price: free download, premium subscription required to access all features

Business Analyst Online

Devices: iPad, iPhone
iTunes rating: ★★★★★
Price: free download, premium subscription required to access all features

Sitewise

Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry
iTunes rating: ★★★★
Android rating: ★★★★★
Price: $0.99

Jason Wilcox, CCIM, of Real Estate Investment Services in Seattle, uses three apps specifically designed for demographic reporting: TAS Mobile, Business Analyst Online, and Sitewise.

TAS and BAO, an ESRI app, offer free basic data including population, age, and spending patterns. Subscribers to their Web-based products get full access to more-detailed reports. “I use the free version of BAO and pay for a TAS subscription,” Wilcox says. “The free version of TAS provides most of the data that you might need out in the field, but the paid subscription is a lot more robust.”

Sitewise was developed specifically for mobile devices and costs 99 cents to download. For an additional fee, users have access to premium data.

Wilcox toggles between the three, using each app’s strengths for different clients or at different points in the sales cycle. For example, “If I’m working with a retail guy and we’re taking a first look at a neighborhood, I’ll use TAS Mobile to show him competing franchises,” Wilcox says.

With retail and multifamily clients, he also uses Sitewise for demographic reports or drive-time and circle study areas. “Sitewise has a really robust demographic database,” Wilcox says. “During a property tour with an apartment investor, I used it to compare the neighborhood with another location under consideration. We ended up picking the property based on the data we found.”

Wilcox likes to have the data at his fingertips. But further along the sales cycle when more complicated calculations are required, he turns to desktop analytical software to crunch numbers. “I still do most of my work with STDB in the office for detailed site and market analysis,”
he says.

The supporting role apps play for Wilcox is typical. Just as tablets haven’t replaced laptops, apps haven’t replaced traditional software. But apps can provide enough information at the right time to keep a deal moving forward.

Dennis LaMantia is interactive marketing manager at the CCIM Institute.

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