At Hacker Connect on Monday, ShowMeNow founder Sean Thomas, whose app was acquired by eXp Realty, offers tips to real estate professionals considering starting an app.

These days, it seems like everybody in the industry wants to build a real estate app — and that’s not surprising given the fact that homebuyers and agents alike are increasingly relying on their phones for the real estate process.

But as any product developer knows, the road between a cool idea and actual profit is long and winding — and one that Sean Thomas, whose home showing app ShowMeNow was recently acquired by eXp Realty at a profit, knows very well.

Sean Thomas

Here are his tips for real estate professionals who are just starting to work (or hoping to start!) on an app from this year’s Hacker Connect of Inman Connect New York:

Know your users (and their needs):

Every successful app started with an idea and an unfilled niche. The best way to start, according to Thomas, is by figuring out an industry problem that needs to be solved (for him, it was the length of time buyers sometimes had to wait to view a property) and figure out a way to solve it using technology.

“My brother turns to me one night and says ‘Hey, why don’t you create an app?'” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘you mean like Flappy Birds?'”

Make a plan — and a budget:

To realize an idea, it always helps to have concrete steps in mind – Thomas advises breaking the plan into phases such as design, development and testing.

But before you start working away, you should also lay out just how much you can afford to spend and only go over budget when you start seeing growth.

Always say thank you:

Whether it be through a helpful suggestion or financial support, the people you meet in the process of building your app can often be instrumental to its success. Thomas suggests maintaining those relationships and always reciprocating the help and kindness shown by others.

Always have an exit strategy:

Do you want to keep your app small? Get acquired by a larger company? Take on partners? While your business strategy can and will change, having a concrete plan will help you make better decisions going forward.

‘The more diluted you are, the harder it will be to get an acquisition later,” Thomas said.

Outsource (at first):

Many Hacker Connect attendees asked Thomas how to build a team of workers when you’re not ready to offer the sky-high tech salaries in your own city.

Outsourcing, Thomas said, is a great way to test the waters as you get your project off the ground. Developers, writers and graphic designers can all be enlisted from other countries — just be sure to check their portfolio and work experience before entrusting them with any major projects.

“You can’t always trust a third-party service telling you who’s best,” Thomas said. “They’re getting paid for it.”

Don’t expect immediate success:

The need for instant gratification is one of the biggest problems to hit young entrepreneurs, according to Thomas. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate success — just keep on trying.

“A lot of it happened in bursts and spurts,” Thomas said. “I had to learn to hold my breath a little more.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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