The best apps for residential brokers, according to LA agents

(Illustration by Tim Peacock)
(Illustration by Tim Peacock)

Brokers in Los Angeles are constantly on the move, which means they rely on their phones for everything, perhaps even more than the average civilian. Below, agents review the apps that have been lifesavers in the line of duty.

To start the day

Mindfulness is the buzzword of the moment. Everyone from billionaire investor Ray Dalio to Jerry Seinfeld tout the benefits of creating stillness in the mind. It’s no surprise, then, that L.A.’s agents are on top of it.

Compass’ Courtney Smith, for one, said she uses the Headspace app every morning to meditate, something she’s been doing for the past three years to stay focused.

“Any meditation, anytime, will help you keep your head screwed on straight,” she said. “Pick an app, any app — as long you use it.”

Similarly, Stacy Gottula, part of the Eklund-Gomes team at Douglas Elliman, said she uses the Gaia app on her TV, which offers five-minute meditations, documentaries and lectures on empowerment and personal healing. It’s part of her routine to stay grounded, which also includes yoga and regular sound baths.

“You have to be 100 percent within to perform 100 percent out in the world,” she said.

Other brokers get started with some tunes. Tami Halton Pardee of Halton Pardee + Partners gets up between 5 and 6 a.m. every morning to walk the beach. When she does, she said Spotify provides the soundtrack with some uplifting songs that will “set the tone for the day.”

To stay plugged into real estate

The apps brokers find the most essential are, naturally, those that have to do with the work itself. Dropbox, DocuSign, Salesforce and zipForm were all mentioned as vital to daily operations. Apps that offer stats on listed homes, too, are helpful in understanding what information buyers and sellers may already have in their hands.

Pardee uses Zillow throughout the day, looking at a property’s Zestimate before going on a listing appointment to understand their expectations.

“Owners and buyers really look at these estimates, and it’s important to know what they’re thinking,” she said. “Often Zillow will have inaccurate information, so it’s important to really look at and analyze the information.”

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Azy Farahmand of The Agency said her favorite app is Homesnap, which she uses at least 10 times a day. She prefers Homesnap to Zillow because it pulls directly from the Multiple Listings Service. She also takes advantage of its CRM capabilities to send listing and comps to his clients. “It really helps me help my clients on the spot.”

Unsurprisingly, many brokers are big fans of their own apps. For Rochelle Maize of Nourmand & Associates, that’s the Beverly Hills Home Finder, which she created in 2017 to give clients a focused way to search for homes in Beverly Hills. She said, unlike Zillow, her app updates in real time and provides more accurate information on homes.

Compass’ Sally Forster Jones and Smith both said the Compass app is one of their most-used tools for keeping in touch with clients. Smith said she relies heavily on a feature within the app called Compass Collections, which lets Compass brokers and clients save searches, share listings, and message about the properties.

And Revel Real Estate’s Ben Bacal also has his own app, Rila, which he launched last summer. With a similar functionality to Instagram, Rila intends to give agents a more streamlined way to get listings. If they’re knocking on doors for potential sellers, agents can upload pictures to Rila and share the information with their network.

“New agents are scrambling to get listings, and it’s very competitive,” he said. “Rila gives them a head start because they can create a listing in a minute.”

To stay connected with his team, Bacal relies on WhatsApp. He has an ongoing group thread with his 45 agents in which everyone shares leads, listings and off-market opportunities. WhatsApp being free gives it a leg up on Slack, particularly since they don’t need multiple channels to discuss a variety of topics.

“We talk about the one thing that’s important,” he said, “Deals, deals, deals.”

To engage with clients

Real estate is an inherently visual industry, so it makes sense that social media, and Instagram in particular, is so vital to an agents’ daily life. Maize said she’s embraced Instagram since its early days, joining the platform in 2012 with the handle @9021RO (which she also trademarked). She said four of the homes she sold in 2019 were a direct result of an Instagram post or story.

Douglas Elliman broker Ivan Estrada takes his social media game one step further. His favorite app is Unfold, which provides custom templates for posts and videos. He said he used to rely on Instagram’s editing tools but wasn’t happy with the results and the time they took. With Unfold, he creates templates for a bunch of different use cases — just sold, coming soon, open house tours, etc. — and then just swaps out the pictures and the text.

“People I don’t even know message me and say, ‘I really like the way you market your property on Instagram. It’s very chic,’” he said, adding those connections directly led to three or four deals last year.

He’s also mastered the art of when to post: late afternoon, when people are “zoned out at work or about to get home, chill on the couch and decompress.”