There are a number of apps, both real estate-oriented and more generically business, that can be used by a real estate professional. However, real estate teams sometimes require different tools; or, at the least, a different way of using those tools. Where to start? Google Apps for Business might be the best place to start. Offering the ability to create and send email under customized domains (i.e. ejb @ c21redwood.com), Google Apps for Business also gives a team leader control over who sees and can access and modify what – from calendars to documents to cloud storage. If your team expands (or contracts!), you can easily change information as an admin to reflect the team’s needs. Some of the apps suggested below work with Google Apps for Business, while others are stand-alone. Let’s look at what I’ve identified as the 5 best apps for real estate teams:
1. An Organizational App
In an ordinary environment, trying to get real estate agents to do anything is akin to herding wet cats. When you’re trying to wrangle real estate professionals into a coherent and cohesive real estate team, however, it can prove to be an even bigger challenge. Utilizing an organizational app can help make sure everyone is on track and knows what the team’s goals are. Two of the best apps on the market to do that are BaseCamp and Trello.
BaseCamp is 37Signals’ most popular offerings – so much so, that they “killed” all their other products to solely focus on BaseCamp. BaseCamp provides an environment where you can create and share projects, including notes, calendar events, reminders, lists and documents, and track each project’s progress in one login. Available on any platform, BaseCamp is easy to use and provides at-a-glance information about how the team is doing. Trello provides a more linear outline along the same lines of BaseCamp. You can create and share information in an organized fashion while making sure tasks are getting done. (Tip: When using Trello, create boards for “To Do,” “In Progress” and “Completed,” as well as making sure each task is assigned to someone. As the tasks move through the timeline, people can move them to a different board to reflect their progress.)
2. A “Home Base” App
I’ve talked about Google Apps for Business above, but Google Apps for Business is more of a collaborative environment than anything specific. In the Google suite, however, there is something called “Google Drive” which melds cloud storage for documents with Google Docs. For teams, Google Docs could be invaluable – it offers a way to create, share and store often-used documents in one place, as well as access documents with one push of a button. If you’re training a new team member, you can insert comments into Google Docs to aid their learning process. You can also get notifications through Google Docs if any changes are made; an important way of staying on top and in touch with team members and clients.
Another great feature of Google Drive is that a number of apps have been developed to work in conjunction with it. Two of those, in particular, could prove handy to a real estate team – HelloFax and HelloSign. Both integrate with Google Docs to enable a user to either sign something within GMail or Google Docs or fax a document via Google Docs. (They also have handy mobile apps for on-the-go needs.)
3. A Note-Taking App
You probably already know what I’m going to say before I say, but I’m going to say it anyway. There are a number of note-taking apps out there on the market, including ones like AudioNote, that have some pretty cool features. But at the end of this day, the most robust and invested-in note-taking app on the market is still Evernote.
Many people have already pontificated about the many glories and uses of Evernote in the real estate business, but one of the highlights of Evernote membership is having shared folders. If you integrate Evernote into your real estate team’s system, you have the ability to share client’s information, data and other specifics quickly and easily, as well as leave reminders for yourself for various tasks. Imagine having your team’s checklists available in the blink of an eye!
4. A File-Sharing App
Although you have to be careful about the legalities of different file-sharing apps out there, it’s still a good idea to have a place that’s easily accessible by all team members for shared documents. Whether they’re blank standard forms, specially branded with the team logo, or recently-completed forms that need processing, or forms from a defunct transaction that need to be held for IRS purposes, file-sharing apps are a great way for real estate teams to stay connected no matter where they are.
There are normal file-sharing apps (that also allow shared access to folders) other than Google Drive, like DropBox and SugarSync. Even more security can be found in file-sharing apps like Box.com. For significantly larger real estate teams, more robust apps like Microsoft’s Office 365 might be worth taking a look at.
5. A Shared CRM System App
Some real estate teams are structured that your lead is your lead regardless, and it’s up to you to take care of the client’s information. Most real estate teams, however, rely on shared and designated leads through the team, which means needing one CRM (Client Relationship Management) system to make sure every single one of the real estate team’s clients are being given the care and consideration they deserve.
While there are a bazillion and one CRMs that are out there that can support real estate teams both large and small, two that fit into email easily are Streak and Contactually. Both “read” your email to get contact information and create contact lists, which you can then associate with Pipelines (Streak) or Buckets (Contactually). A Pipeline in Streak also connects to any emails with that client, which can be handy if more than one agent or admin is connecting with a client. Contactually allows you to have personal and business contacts in one system without overlap, as well as the ability to assign client information and track contact with clients.
While there are a number of technology offerings out there for real estate teams, the five types of apps mentioned above are key when designing and growing your real estate team.