Before the iPhone burst onto the scene, the word apps meant very little to anyone who wasn’t whiling away happy hour nursing a plate of potato skins at T.G.I. Friday’s. Now inescapable, the term refers to computer software — applications — designed for mobile devices and smartphones.
For some CCIM members, these programs already are indispensable to their success. “Every day I use several apps for business, and about once a month I come across another that I add to the list,” says CCIM candidate Tanner Laverty, CEO of Laverty Chacón Commercial Real Estate in Citrus Heights, Calif. “I don’t have to wait to get back to the office to make calculations, find property information, or access my to-do lists. In short, it’s made me a much more effective CEO, broker, and entrepreneur.”
Even the most basic apps come in handy when you’re researching a property or traveling to meetings. Laverty uses the Google Maps app for directions and location information; Milebug for mileage tracking; and Voice Memos for taking notes when he’s unable to write.
Brian R. Bell, CCIM, principal broker with Campana Resources LLC in Fort Worth, Texas, notes that several apps have been built expressly for business management. Two of the most popular are Roambi and Daylite Touch. The former displays data in secure interactive dashboards, while the latter is a business productivity manager that lets users share calendars, collaborate on projects, and delegate tasks.
Numbers on the Go
The first time Laverty recognized the value of business mobile apps, he was conducting a listing presentation for a multitenant retail property. “When certain questions arose about the property values, I just turned on my phone to pull up an exact replica of my HP 10BII calculator,” he says. Available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, the 10BII Calc app allows users to calculate loan payments, interest rates, amortization, and discounted cash-flow analyses, among other functions. “I knew I had the listing when the conversation turned from the property to my iPhone and all the things I could do with it,” Laverty adds.
Apple customers aren’t the only ones who can make calculations on the go. Kevin W. Callahan, CCIM, associate broker with Prudential Commercial Real Estate Covington Properties in Brewster, N.Y., “can’t be without” the Lygea 10B SE business calculator for Windows Mobile operating systems. “In one transaction, I used it to show an owner how they could increase their return by offering owner financing,” he says. “It closed the deal.”
In January, LoopNet released the first mobile commercial real estate search application. Available as a free iTunes download, the app allows users to access information about more than 700,000 available properties. It works in conjunction with the mobile device’s built-in GPS system to identify listed properties in the user’s immediate vicinity. “This is a great way to quickly see what’s new on the market, although coverage — at least in Austin — is not 100 percent,” notes CCIM candidate Ron Losefsky, associate with Grubb & Ellis Co. in Austin, Texas.
Commercial real estate professionals specializing in multifamily properties also may want to try Apartment.com’s free iPhone app, which lets mobile users search thousands of apartment, condo, and single-family home listings. Like LoopNet’s program, it includes a GPS search function, detailed listing information, and integration with Google Maps. In addition, the app’s walkthrough videos provide virtual tours of listed rental units. Fortunately for brokers, the app can’t handle the lease negotiations — yet.
Firms App Up
Recognizing the power and popularity of these mobile applications, real estate brokerage companies have joined the party. Sperry Van Ness recently added the Qonnect.mobi’s barcode technology to its listing signage for a 13,000-sf retail space in Chicago. When scanned, the barcodes prompt mobile devices to provide links to Web pages, property fliers, images, video, and contact information. The firm is in the process of implementing the barcode technology in markets across the country.
CB Richard Ellis unveiled its iPhone application in March. Unlike the SVN barcode app, however, CBRE’s corporate app functions less as a marketing tool and more as a mobile resource for CBRE brokers — at least right now. Users can search CBRE office locations, gather personnel contact information, and access CBRE’s Global Office Occupier’s Guide, which includes leasing practices and protocols.
Whether they’re with a Fortune 500 company or a small boutique firm, commercial real estate professionals can’t afford to ignore the continuing advancements in mobile application technology. While the apps listed above have helped CCIM members work more efficiently and effectively, the next generation of commercial real estate apps could fundamentally change the industry.