From smart-home products to performance apps, here’s a short list of what I hope to find in my stocking on Christmas morning and a few players who deserve a lump of coal.

Have suggestions for products that you’d like to see reviewed by our real estate technology expert? Email Craig Rowe.

The money flooding into proptech has been the proverbial gift that keeps on giving.

Not only are agents the recipients of quickly evolving products and ideas, but consumers are also getting smarter market information. This makes the industry better on every front. I love seeing new products and watching old products get better.

The following list showcases a few of my favorite things from the last year, a few lessons I hope the industry has learned and what I hope to see keep getting better as we step into the next decade.

What I’m wishing for on Christmas morning

Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

I tested this nifty piece of home gear for a few months last year, and it stood out as the most useful product for agents wanting to make a house “smart” for the purpose of marketability. This smart plug works with its companion app to control devices plugged into it, can connect to your Amazon smart speaker, and best of all, at $22.99 (on Amazon) it’s easy to put a few of these all over the house.


This is the type of market science tool that makes the most erudite among your team want to stick around after hours to scroll through and play around with it. But this is no game — TopHap is a serious real estate data tool that uses billions of data points to brilliantly visualize price, construction and overall activity trends. This is software for those agents who dabble in commercial or work with investors, developers and buyers who want to know where to be in six or 12 months.


Now all-app, First is a quasi-coaching-but-mainly-lead-nurture tool that digs into members of your existing sphere of influence, connects them to properties they own and then monitors pretty much everything they’re doing relative to real estate.

It also kindly reminds you of how much money you might have lost last year, or this quarter, by not staying in the loop with what people who you already know are doing with their homes.

Speaking of having your stocking stuffed, the founders of First woke up last week to find theirs (likely) overflowing after agreeing to sell to RE/MAX. ‘Tis the season.


A unique app developed by New York City agent Nicholas Palance, Stacks is his self-described “Fitbit for Real Estate.”

The app focuses on performance metrics and the people in your business circles who drive them. Track financial goals, number of showings, lead source efficacy, and all the peripheral efforts and expenditures that make up how you’re making a living.

It’s not a CRM, but should certainly accompany your use of one. It looks good, too.

In truth, I wish I had room for some bigger items, too, such as KvCORE’s unique property search features, DashCMA’s cool, data-rich listing presentation and valuation tools, Union Street Media’s creative team (things could get crowded) and a lifetime account to BoxBrownie to ensure every picture I took was ready for social media primetime.

What I hope for

Less dependence on automation

Sometimes Christmas is about the stuff you can’t buy.

I’m seeing more products that leave almost nothing up to the agent and more companies willing to go way out of their way to ensure your entire business runs on autopilot. This isn’t necessarily good.

Struggling through the ups and downs of manual, feet-on-the-street lead generation, deal collapse and door slams is an invaluable rite of passage for new agents.

Ask tenured top producers how they learned to understand their market, and, as sure as a WeWork accounting error, they won’t tell you it was from buying software. Moreover, success comes by knowing how to operate yourself as a business, and there’s not a technology product anywhere that can automate those lessons.

Less disruption, more support

Every software product or service doesn’t have to stop the Earth on its axis to have an impact. In fact, it’s really OK to just make a very good product that people pay to use. What more would you want?

This endless drive to become the “Uber of Real Estate” (gag) is forcing industry leaders and otherwise sharp entrepreneurs to overshoot the runway. It’s OK to just hit the mark.

Every time you tell me you’re the “only one doing this,” you force me to make you justify that claim. Guess how many have backed it up?

In 2020, I want to see more proptech leaders aiming to support and empower the industry, not tear it down because they think it needs to be rebuilt. It’s not a Lego set.

And the last time I checked, Uber had to release an “alarming” crime report to the public, and WeWork’s former CEO Adam Neumann might be rich, but I doubt he’ll be hired to take a company public any time soon.

Who deserves a lump of coal? Set Schedule

I average one email a week from an exasperated agent looking for help with this paid-lead provider that promises to arrange appointments with sell-ready owners.

The themes are similar: Elderly people with no idea why an agent is calling; scoldings from angry caregivers; a customer service tactic of evasiveness and multiple “managers”; no-refund policies; desperation; thousands lost. One agent even told me she was sold her own active listing and not given a refund.

Because Set Schedule’s canned response is that leads not fulfilled are a result of agents not working hard enough to close them, they can sell a person any lead, regardless of circumstance. Why pay for that? You’re better off door-knocking.

Overall, the industry was very good this year, you should all be proud of contributing to another 12 months of economic growth, healthy debate and helping people buy and sell homes. It’s been quite a decade.

Where’s the eggnog?

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

Are you ready for what the industry holds in 2020? Inman Connect New York is your key to unlocking opportunity in a changing market. At Connect you will gain insight into the future, discover new strategies and network with real estate’s best and brightest to accelerate your business. Create your 2020 success story at Inman Connect New York, January 28-31, 2019.

Agenda | Speakers | Past Connect Videos

Thinking of bringing your team? There are special onsite perks and discounts when you buy tickets together. Contact us to find out more.

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