If you are thinking of launching a mobile application for your real estate business, then this is the right time. Based on a study by ComScore, on an average, people are spending 60% to 90% of their digital time on mobile applications. Of the total time, 90% time is spent on mobile apps and 10% on browser based web apps.
Over 50% search time is spent on researching real estate and banking services and the results are major influencers in the decision making process.
Figure 1 Mobile time break-up
A mobile application gives the buyer/seller to assess the market, view the properties at their pace, get an accurate idea of what they need and then approach a realtor, enabling them to take informed decision. From the realtor’s perspective, they have clients who know the market and can give them an accurate idea of what they need.
Furthermore, mobile applications have the power to reach the customer directly and provide the most direct marketing channel. They do more than that, they generate brand loyalty and recall based on the usability features.
As per Google’s Search Insight, mobile research begins with search engine followed by branded websites and mobile apps.
Figure 2: Mobile Search (%)
Real Estate in the Digital Age
As per a NAR report, in 2016, 44% buyer first looked online for properties and many use apps that enable them to search properties by location and neighbourhoods. While buyers still consult with a real estate agent when making a purchase, the search begins online.
They educate themselves and understand the market condition before approaching a realtor. Apart from the customer point of view, a mobile app is also useful for internal administrative activities and much more. Many real estate agents are being contacted first time via a mobile application listing.
The Home Buyers Quest in the Mobile Age
A home buyer first starts searching for listed properties online on websites. They check out properties on the basis of their images, listings, information on home buying process.etc.
Based on their search results, they then approach real estate agents, banks for mortgage and spoke to friends or relatives about making the purchase.
As per NAR Home Buyer and Seller Trends Report for 2017, 13% buyers looked online for information on home buying process and their information sources can be broke up as –
Stepping into the mobile space
The numbers and trends amplify the necessity to create a web presence and the need to be visible on mobile devices, via web or mobile applications. The viability of a mobile application for the real estate business lies in the features of the application.
Buyers look for listed properties featuring photos, a detailed description of the property, neighbourhood information, and interactive maps. A virtual tour is viewed by a majority of the visitors, irrespective of the generation they belong to.
However, it is not adequate to just take the plunge and develop an app; one must first assess the problem it will address. As per NAR home buyer and seller generational trends report, 2017, finding the right property is ranked the most difficult step in the home buying process.
The next challenge is to comprehend the paperwork. If your app can address these two aspects fully, then you have created a product that has everything it takes to succeed.
To make a mobile app comprehensive for a home buyer, these are the following features that it must have –
Search option should include the type of house (bungalow, condo, or apartment), number of rooms, locality, price range, proximity options (to schools, place of worship, shopping area, hospitals etc.). Adding the option to save search preferences will give the user a personalized experience which is the benefit of a mobile app.
Adding photos and videos is a primary requisite as it makes it easier for the buyer to make a shortlist. The presentation of the property will influence the buyer’s purchase decision to a great extent.
Social media integration is an essential aspect of most apps it gives the user freedom to share the information with friends, family or anyone who matters. Also, it gives a great space for indirect marketing as buyers will promote the business on their social media page.
A common trend is to give the user option to log into the application using their email address or social networking credentials on Facebook or Twitter. The buyer must be given security options to keep their contact details private.
Push notification feature will allow the realtor opportunity to promote new listings, discounts and other offers. These notifications will directly reach the customer via their mobile phone, even if they do not open the app. It is a more cost effective advertising medium than newspaper or TV commercials.
The map integration will provide a user the convenience to find the property and use their GPS to reach the new property without having to search the location.
With an integration of beacon tracking feature, a user can be given guided tour of property at open house and also when the business is participating in an exhibition or organizing one, they can guide the app user to their stall and announce the offers for the day.
New buyers would like to know if it is a buyer’s market and judge the timing through some personal research before they approach a realtor. Blogs, news updates and forecast will help them trust the realtor’s brand.
A mortgage calculator tool built into the application will help them calculate the effective cost immediately as they browse the property. These are essential decision-making tools.
Mobile app development investment
A mobile application will be an expensive investment when viewed from short term perspective. Once the app is designed, it has to be released on Android and iOS (the two most popular platforms) platforms and thereafter the app has to be maintained so it stays updated in the face of OS and security updates.
Dedicated resource persons will have to be hired to keep the application updated and functioning smoothly. Furthermore, the popular app stores will present immense competition, especially from giants like realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia.
In the long term, the application will pay for itself as it will pick popularity and the business works a strategy around the application. A
small or mid-size real estate company can commence on their digitization journey through optimizing their website to be mobile friendly before taking the plunge to become a full-fledged mobile application. Also, there is a cost effective option of creating a hybrid mobile application where one app is developed for all platforms.
Finally, the mobile app will provide a gateway and a calling card that will facilitate interaction with home buyer or seller. To learn about the client and to understand their preferences, a first person interaction is essential.
Also, it is important to gain their trust and this can be done by presenting one’s market knowledge and ability to match buyer and seller needs.
The mobile application will be the aid that a realtor can use to communicate their understanding of their client’s needs. To tap on the growing market of mid-age and millennial, therefore, it is essential to have an effective mobile strategy in place.
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