Apartment hunting on the iPhone

Real estate companies launch touch-screen 'apps'

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Feb.February 28, 2009 06:38 PM

Last month, the most popular applications that could be downloaded to the iPhone from Apple’s iTunes store included a puzzle game named “Blocked,” a joke generator called “Yo Mama” (sample: “Yo mama so stupid she spent 20 minutes lookin’ at an orange juice box because it said ‘concentrate.'”) and a public radio tuner.

There were no real estate-related applications among Apple’s most-downloaded. Still, a search for the keyword “real estate” turned up roughly 20 applications, the majority of which revolve around rental and sales listings.

Apple only launched their now popular iPhone applications or “apps” last summer, but some real estate companies such as StreetEasy and Trulia have already launched programs. Indeed, each company claims that more than 100,000 users have downloaded the free apps they’ve created. Representatives from both companies say the touch-screen devices have already become valuable extensions of their Web sites.

StreetEasy’s app uses the iPhone’s built-in global positioning system to pull up listings near wherever a user happens to be. And, at the moment it has the market to itself as the only real estate iPhone application that focuses exclusively on New York listings.

“If I’m by the Flatiron [Building], I’m going to see apartments for sale in Gramercy,” said Dawn Doherty, StreetEasy’s vice president for strategic development.

Trulia’s app, like its Web site, has a national focus. “We pull in open house data, and no other app does that on a national level,” said Rob Cross, Trulia’s director of distribution. “You can know immediately with one touch on your screen what’s for sale. So, if you’re sitting in a coffee shop planning your day, you can see all the properties that you might want to visit.”

Cross said Trulia’s iPhone app is part of the company’s strategy to increase its focus on mobile technology.

“The evolution of real estate is towards mobile, and we need to make it easier for people to search for properties while they’re on the go,” he said.

Doherty says that while StreetEasy’s product is geared towards real estate pros and consumers alike, the iPhone application could be particularly valuable for agents and brokers.

“If I were out practicing real estate now, I would go out and purchase an iPhone just because it’s a portable database when you’re out and about with clients,” she said. “You can be with a client and walk by a building, and the client asks you about it, and you can look up everything that’s going on in that building.”

While none of the city’s major brokerages have iPhone apps, several firms have made their Web sites iPhone-compatible in recent months. Last month, for example, The Real Deal reported that Brooklyn-based Ideal Properties Group launched a Web site specifically for viewing on Apple’s iPhone. Others say it’s only a matter of time before iPhone applications become commonplace on New York’s real estate scene.


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