Every day I get at least one email announcing a new CRE app. Some of them look pretty good so I check out the website. Usually, no price is published, so I forget it about. I just don’t have the time to watch a demo only to be told it’s out of range price-wise. This goes on day after day. And then the day comes when I’m looking for something and can’t find it.
Google isn’t much help when you type in “commercial real estate software” or any variation of that. Most of the new ones are buried, beyond the fifth page which is the point where I give up. That a software company doesn’t rate any higher is a problem though I’m absolutely convinced that Google doesn’t understand the difference between commercial and residential real estate…or that CRE involves more than learning “how to make money.”
Real Estate Tech News has a directory of apps, but unless you know the name, it’s difficult to find anything. The only categories are by sector and there’s few or nothing in any of them. Nor does putting Floored under Hospitality or RealMassive under Medical make a lot of sense. While I give them credit for trying to bring some order to CRE technology offerings, organizing by function might be better. Categorizing by lead generation, marketing, data and other tags – even if some apps have multiple tags – would help.
Even with categorization by function, someone looking for an app is likely going to presented with a plethora of options. What to choose? Dominic Zabriskie, now of Lease.io, tried to implement a rating system on his app aggregation site, CRE App Review (later purchased by The News Funnel). Comments were also allowed. Though the ratings and comments were few, at least there was occasional insight from users.
But even an easier to search directory would be a starting point from brokerages or agents. From my experience, word of mouth is how apps gain ground. When assessing CRE database systems, the brokerage I work with only looked at options where there were brokerages who actually used the product. And we’re contacted now and then to see what we’re using and how we like it.
Agents tend to be more likely to try out an app a fellow agent is using. But whatever made the cut for that agent is something that worked specifically for them. It’s rare that a CRE app grows exponentially as agents are decidedly not a homogeneous group. For certain general purpose apps or services, it’s another story. Someone comes in with Uber, Near Me or SnapChat – almost everyone gets on board. (That’s a hint for developers – maybe develop more like or integrate with a general purpose app instead of being “CRE specific” …)
As for developers, reaching agents and brokerages is a time consuming process. I’m not sure that most developers have a plan in place or the funds for marketing. Even if they do, it’s often a case of who you know, an ironic situation considering a major complaint of the “disrupters” against the industry is their reliance on personal relationships. But those relationships get a developer in the door and possibly convince a brokerage or agent of the benefits of their app.
I can hear the grumbling – CRE is such a closed, archaic industry, unwilling to try something new. I’ve got bad news for you. That’s how most industries are when it comes to technology adoption and purchasing. And it’s how most consumers choose what to use. People and companies look first at what others are using. Or, they look at existing reputation which is why a commercial brokerage might be more likely choose Argus over some start-up that offers the same thing.
For CRE what seems to be happening is that those developers with the most relationships are winning. A developer should get their foot in some doors before they even start. And if you have clients, let me contact them to see how they like it. Otherwise, you’ll end up as just a name on an over-sized list of apps.