As always, the annual National Association of Realtors’ fall meeting is the launching pad for new real estate apps as well as updates for some of the most popular old standbys. Here are some apps you may want to add to your mobile devices as you prepare for 2013.

Why should you be paying attention to real estate apps? According to Vice President Max Pigman, 98 percent of consumers who use these apps find them to be highly useful. Here’s a rundown on some of the best-of-class real estate apps as well as how to use them to create a competitive advantage for your business.

This popular app has had more than 240 million downloads. MagicPlan measures, draws and publishes an interactive floor plan on the Web, just by taking pictures. Rather than having to pay $100 or more to have a house professionally measured, MagicPlan allows you to do this simply by taking pictures with your smartphone. Unlike some other apps, you don’t have to move the furniture to get accurate room measurements.

The app is available in five languages and allows you to export the floor plan as a PDF, JPEG, or in XML. The fee for commercial use is $5 per listing; however, MagicPlan has a subscription program for agents who have a large listing inventory.

Agents who have downloaded the app recommend that you watch the videos so you can calibrate the app to make it even more accurate. Overall, the app had very positive reviews with a few exceptions. Among the negative comments were, "Your plan is covered with so many watermarks it’s useless" and "It blasts loud obnoxious music when it launches." Collaborative Search
The app continues to be the most downloaded real estate app. The new Collaborative Search tool allows you to invite your clients to use the app collaboratively with you. You can issue this invitation even if they have already installed the app on their phone or tablet. Once this feature is activated, your picture will appear whenever your clients use the app. The app also allows you and/or your clients to draw your own neighborhood boundaries rather than being limited by MLS search areas. The "ask my agent feature" opens up a real-time chat that lets your clients reach you immediately via a text message when they have questions. Best of all, there is no charge for this app.

If you have been in the business for a long time, you probably remember the amortization books agents used to carry so they could calculate how much the payments would be on their buyers’ loans. Next came financial calculators, but they were inconvenient to lug around. That issue is solved by CalcMoolator Pro, which has more than 35 different types of financial calculators all available on your mobile device.’s Pigman had a great tip on how to use this tool when you are holding an open house. The app allows you to calculate how much the payments will be on the property. You ask the open house visitors for their email and you can send them a digital version of your property brochure as well as the monthly payments based upon the offering price they suggest. CalcMoolator also has a calculator that allows your open house visitors to compare the cost of renting vs. buying.

True HDR ($1.99)
This is really a fantastic app for anyone who uses a smartphone to take pictures. Often pictures taken with a mobile device will have great detail in the darker areas of the photo but poor resolution in the lighter areas. Conversely, when you get good resolution in the lighter areas, the dark areas have poor resolution. The True HDR app solves this problem by taking two different photos — one very light and one very dark and then combining them to create a photo with terrific resolution.

DMD Panorama ($1.99)
How many times have you wanted to be able to take a panoramic picture of a view property or of the local downtown area? According to the Wall Street Journal, this app is "the easiest-to-use panoramic picture app on the iPhone." You can take a 360-degree shot in as little as 20 seconds. The app adjusts the pictures and the lighting so your panoramic picture comes out flawlessly. You can also tag your friends and followers when you share your picture.
This site sells a number of very cool pieces of hardware to make shooting video super simple and highly professional. If you are hedging on incorporating video into your business, you might want to take these statistics from the HDhat website into consideration: "Real estate video tours are up to 83 times more likely to get your listing in the top 5 of Google." Furthermore, "Real estate video thumbnails in Google results are 17 times more likely to be clicked."

In addition to helping agents create powerful videos, HDhat’s pro service ($49.95) allows up to 10 minutes and five video clips, supplies licensed music, and also syndicates your listings to up to 14 video sharing networks.

If you’re looking for the competitive edge for 2013, pick out at least one of these to try over the holidays, especially the video and photo apps. Not only will they help you have a great holiday season, they can help you increase your income in 2013 as well.

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