Real estate phone apps: How useful are they?

iphone appsNo question. We are in the age of the app. One newspaper columnist a few months ago even decided that smartphones such as the iPhone ought to really be called App Phones.

Just this week, two new real estate-related apps have popped up:, with a free iPhone app that, says the New York Times, "claims to be the only one with relationships to 933 multiple listing services;" and, a new, free app for Android's OS dubbed HotPads. Its big "feature" is it also lists rental apartments and, for some reason, even hotels.

Apps can, of course, be extremely useful. But they can also be annoying advertising gimmicks: "Apps have a huge advantage. You had to take a step to get it; you are already half sold," one marketing analyst told the Times.

We are likely to see more and more special phone apps just for real estate.

One company, Smarter Agent, claims to even be the "global leader" for creating real estate phone apps, not only for agents but for direct to consumers, too.

Still, there is always this nagging concern that many of these apps, if not these latest real estate ones, than ones still to come, will be heavy handed on the marketing angle. After all, as one mobile marketing website points out in a post, there are "hundreds of marketers" who have applications just for the iPhone.

Of course, there is also the issue of whether these apps -- when dealing with prices range and value -- offer a truly accurate picture?

As Buffalo Real Estate pointed out in a post about Zillow Zestimates, "the number Zillow spits out needs to be taken with a grain of salt." It says you need a "real" person with knowledge of the market to give you a true value or price range.

Nothing wrong with using any of these real estate apps. -- probably, all things considered -- mostly a good thing. Just always be on the lookout for apps that are really advertising vehicles and always, always consider anything you read on any of these (when it comes to price and value estimates, in particular) with that healthy grain of salt I mentioned earlier!

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle."

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