A new suite of mobile applications will soon give some real estate agents the ability to seamlessly switch between their home computers and mobile phones — and allow them to pinpoint where clients are house hunting when they’re not with them.
Separate consumer-facing and agent-facing apps created for the San Diego-area Sandicor multiple listing service by iKenex, a company that launched in April, will essentially "talk" to each other, allowing agents to use the app to view clients’ location — if they allow it — and to track homes visited, photos taken and comments logged by their clients.
"The clients have to agree to let the agent see their current location. If they say no, (the agent doesn’t). We don’t see specific phone information unless we have permission," said Dave Borrillo, chief technical officer for DoApp and head of the iKenex product. Those location-aware capabilities will be available within a few weeks, he said.
The apps will also aggregate information not specific to particular phones, he said, to show whether clients in general like a particular neighborhood, for example. If clients do give permission, agents will be able to see their location only while the app is in use, he said.
Since the app will tell agents when their clients are out house-hunting without an agent, clients can also choose to stay in touch with their agent at all times through phone, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. That way, the agent can answer questions while the clients are viewing homes and point them to similar properties they might be interested in.
"So the agent is kind of with them even though they’re not," Borrillo said. For example, an agent can say, "I can see that you didn’t like that family room. There’s one (house) two blocks over (with a different configuration). The agent’s not even with them, but can help them in real time," he said.
IKenex has contracted with Sandicor to provide its more than 18,000 members with multiple smart phone apps, according to an announcement last week.
IKenex is a partnership between Minneapolis-based mobile applications company DoApp Inc. and MLS software developer Concentric Software. Through iKenex, Sandicor will provide agents with a mobile app that will put the MLS in the palm of their hand.
Any information that is available on the MLS will now be accessible anywhere there is Internet access through an iPhone or a mobile browser accessible by most smart phones. That SandicorMobile MLS app will launch this week.
Borrillo described a situation in which the app would really shine.
"Say you’re showing six houses to prospective buyers from Montreal. They don’t know anything about the U.S. and they come to San Francisco. In that process the agent shows this prospective couple a house in one neighborhood, but they say, ‘This house isn’t quite what we want. Is there anything else in this neighborhood?’
"The agent has printed out these papers for six houses (outside the neighborhood), but what is the agent going to do — go back to the computer?" Borillo said.
Instead of having to return to the office, an agent could look up additional houses, get comparative market analyses for those houses with the touch of a button, call the listing agent to any of those houses, and get driving directions — while out in the field, he said.
"One of those things that agents have to do constantly is comparing houses, houses of similar size, value, time frame, and so forth. A lot of associations have tools for their agents but usually agents have to go to the office to use those tools. (With the app), it’s like the office is with you on the road. It’s a huge time-saver for an agent," Borrillo said.
"That agent has (also) become efficient. It’s customer service to the max," he added.
Along with the Mobile MLS app, agents will also be able to buy a consumer-facing Internet Data Exchange (IDX) app, called ConsumerIDX, that is either fully branded with the agent’s name or sub-branded as HomeKenex with the agent’s name, photo and contact info on the app’s home page.
Agents will be able to post the app on their individual websites for clients to download for free, or make them available in the Apple Appstore.
In addition to the consumer-facing IDX app, iKenex is also launching the MobileIDX app for agents, which can keep agents posted on their clients’ home-search location, photos and comments.
Both clients and agents will be able to sync information — such as searches and favorites — from an agent’s website to their respective mobile devices, and vice versa.
"Nobody, when they’re looking for a house, does only one thing. They will look on the computer, talk to an agent, and go out and use a mobile device. The big key here is the integration of all these components," Borrillo said.
"We don’t want the technology to get in the way of what the agents and consumers want to do, which is find a house that’s just perfect for them," he added.
Integration was the main concept behind the iKenex name, according to Joe Sriver, DoApp’s founder and president of strategy.
"We wanted it to say, ‘Connecting things together’: brokers to agents, agents to clients. Kenex was as close as we could come to that concept. Kenex was taken, so it became iKenex," he said.
Sriver said he was formerly a user-interface designer for Google. "I touched almost every Google product released between 2001-05," he said. He founded DoApp (originally PagePow) in 2007. DoApp started out making gaming applications and later moved on to news applications for television and newspapers. IKenex is DoApp’s first real estate endeavor.
DoApp and Concentric have been working on the iKenex apps for the past six or seven months, Borrillo said. Concentric developed the software platform used by the calREDD MLS, which is owned by the California Association of Realtors.
Sandicor is the first MLS iKenex has partnered with. The company hopes to develop partnerships with other MLSs, associations and brokerages across the country.
It is "in discussion" with a dozen associations so far, Borrillo said. He declined to disclose their names. He also declined to share the cost of the apps, since the company would come to individual agreements with each association, he said, depending on their needs.
The apps are also highly customizable, so the company can add or remove elements of the apps according to specific preferences. For example, Sandicor asked for a PIN in addition to a username and password in their log-in page, Borrillo said.
DoApp is also offering MLSs the option of having a banner of advertising appear with the apps, either an MLS’s own ads or those supplied through DoApp’s mobile advertising network Adagogo. DoApp would offer the MLSs a revenue-share model if they chose to work with Adagogo, Borrillo said.
IKenex also announced plans to release an iPad app in a couple of weeks.
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