How to Shop the Web for Real Estate Software
The internet makes it incredibly easy for real estate brokers, agents, and investors who have a computer and online access to shop for a wide-range of real estate software solutions geared to benefit their business activities. Accounting software, for instance, scheduling software, real estate investing software, and so forth.
At the same time, however, internet shopping does challenge us to wonder whether the item we're buying will be as desirable in person as it appears on the web. Will it live up to its claims? Is it really as easy to use as it appears? Can I get support if I need it?
You get the idea. The internet enables us to scan millions of items with the click of a mouse, but it's also possible we may regret our online purchase later. All of which brings us to my objective.
Since most real estate software is only available on the web, and most of those from a company nowhere near the popularity of a Microsoft, Adobe or Macromedia, it seemed needful to offer the following practical tips real estate professionals might want to consider during their online software search.
1. Consider the Website
How the software is presented online might be the first clue of what you can expect once it's installed on your computer. After all, the same company claiming that their software is easy to use and professional quality also publishes the website.
Is the site well organized, creative, informative, unobtrusive, and easy to navigate? Or is it lack-luster and confusing? Think of it as "curb appeal". Have you ever been prompted or prevented to pursue a property after driving by it? That's the same idea here.
2. Consider the Claims
Does the software provide what you want? Though often difficult to ascertain from a website presentation alone, it's crucial for you to discover as much about what the software does as you possibly can.
If you're uncertain, call the company and ask for clarification. If a number is unavailable and upon further examination you're still not sure, opt out. You don't want to spend money on a real estate software program when you can't resolve important unanswered questions beforehand.
3. Preview the Screen Shots
Screenshots, when provided, enable you to see the forms and reports created by the program close up and personal.
Forms are used in all real estate software programs to collect data, and therefore what you'll confront most of the time. Therefore be sure that the forms are user-friendly. Do they appear well-structured, self-explanatory and easy to understand?
The reports, of course, are really what you're after, so pay close attention to the number and type of reports you'll be able to create. Do they include the data you want? Are they professional quality, well-structured, and easy to read?
4. Read the Support Policy
We all know that reliable customer support is essential for any software because of potential compatibility issues caused by the different Windows operating systems. So be sure that you can contact the developer directly via email, or better yet, by telephone in the event of an issue.
For example, several years ago I purchased an SEO software program that I was quite happy with until I incurred a problem and discovered (to my dismay) that there was no easy way to contact the developer except by email, and got no response short of me becoming belligerent after numerous attempts. That's no way to run a business regardless how good the software.
5. Read the Developer Profile
It's reasonable that we should prefer the developer of our chosen real estate software to have had actual experience in real estate. After all, one who has had actual "hands-on day-to-day" experience is more likely to better understand what we're looking for and need in the software.
For example, property management software developed by a property manager would lend more assurance that it will suit our needs than a program developed by someone without any actual management experience.
6. Read the Customer Comments
It can be insightful to hear what customers who are actively engaged in real estate have to say about the software.
Okay, but that begs a question. Can testimonials be trusted? I'm inclined to think so. Other than designations and company affiliations (which might have changed since the comment was submitted) customer comments are generally genuine.
Rule of Thumb
Your final decision, of course, rests on your budget and business objective. But once you determine how much to invest, what you want to accomplish, and are ready to start looking, than apply these guidelines to the various real estate software programs you find on the web. Hopefully it will help increase your chances on selecting a winner.