Using smartphones for property management

Geoff Roberts
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Published on April 19, 2011

As smartphones rapidly flood the market, businesses are increasingly looking for ways to bring their companies and processes mobile.

Androids, iPhones, and Blackberries all allow users to perform a variety of processes straight from their mobile phones by incorporating functionality that was primarily limited to PCs just a few years ago. Though there is conflicting information out there regarding the degree to which smartphones have permeated the market (Nielson estimates that one out of every two Americans will own a smartphone by the end of 2011 while Forrester Research estimated that only 17 percent of Americans had smartphones in September 2010), there’s still no denying that mobile is the wave of the future. It’s important to at least begin thinking about how this technology will ultimately fit into your business plan.

When it comes to apps, the sky’s the limit. You can build an app that will allow potential tenants to search your rental listings. Or, alternatively, you can build an app for tenants (this makes more sense for larger property management companies) to communicate with you, find information, file requests, or even make payments. According to BusinessInsider.com, when deciding to build an app, it’s important to consider three main questions:

  1. What is the key benefit I want users to get from using this app?
  2. What other apps exist that are competitive and why will mine be different?
  3. What is this app going to do for my business?

For some ideas on how property managers are already using apps, Software Advice published this article that is worthy of a look. If you decide the time is right to bring apps into your property management business, following are some options to consider.

Proprietary Apps
If you decide to build an app for your company, you can choose between building it yourself or hiring a developer to take care of it for you (which can get expensive, ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 on average). Since different smartphones use different app architecture, you will then decide if you want to build for just one type of phone (an iPhone, for example) or build a few different versions for different smartphone platforms.

If you’re feeling ambitious and want to try building your own smartphone app, some development tools on the web can help. Google offers App Developer (now in beta) for building Android phone apps. Designed for small business owners, Sweb Apps helps you build your own iPhone apps, no programming knowledge necessary (some fees do apply). Blackberry apps are a bit more complicated, but if you’re up to the challenge, a basic tutorial can be found here.

Remember, once you’ve built your app, you’ll need to submit it to the appropriate app provider for consumer download.

Second-party app
If building your own app sounds a bit overwhelming, you can also make use of pre-existing apps to market your own rental listings. The following listing sites are currently using apps — by advertising your properties on their websites your units will turn up in search results when app users search rental listings on their smartphones.

Still not sure where you stand on apps? Check out this Wall Street Journal article about how smartphone apps can improve your business. Be sure to let us know how apps are working for you by leaving a comment below.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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