Most commercial real estate businesses have issues spanning multiple departments, from marketing to staffing to actual real estate transactions to scheduling services with tenants. They know the right app or piece of software could potentially solve these issues, but they aren’t sure where to start. There are literally hundreds of apps serving the real estate industry (and businesses in general), promising to solve the biggest headaches by improving efficiency, connecting you to more people, or helping you stay organized.
Choosing an app off-the-shelf may be able to help you address some issues but may end up introducing other problems. Working with a custom developer can help you with a tailored solution that addresses your unique challenges that generic apps can’t.
The Problems With Off-the-Shelf Apps
You may see an interesting app with thousands of downloads/subscribers, leading you to believe it does the job well, but there are some standing problems with off-the-shelf apps:
- Choices. For starters, there are simply too many choices on the market for this to be a straightforward decision. You’ll be choosing between thousands of different apps in some niches, each with different advantages and disadvantages. If you have someone dedicated to experimenting with free trials, it could take them weeks, if not months of focused work to determine which apps, if any, are worth adopting.
- Features: too many or too few. You may also find yourself toggling between apps with too many features and too few features. For example, you might find an app with a few capabilities that can help you hire real estate agents more efficiently, but that app also comes bloated with other features you’re never going to use, but are included in the price. By contrast, your real estate marketing software may only have a handful of useful features, making it barely worth purchasing.
- Support and adaptability. These days, most software developers try to support their apps with ongoing updates and customer service, but you won’t really have control over this phase of the process. The customer service angle is a bit of a gamble; this developer might be willing to support you and fix your issues, or they might be impossible to get ahold of. Similarly, the new updates might introduce features you love, or they might completely undermine the reason you bought this app in the first place.
- Integration and cross-function potential. In real estate, you’re going to need software with many diverse functions, covering marketing, HR, production, sales, and more. On the broad market, most of the products you’ll find are dedicated to only one area, which means if you’re buying off-the-shelf, you’ll need to somehow integrate these products together—or else deal with the messiness of managing multiple separate apps.
The Advantages of a Custom Software Developer
If you hire a custom software developer, you’ll have a handful of important advantages:
- Complete oversight. From start to finish, you’ll be able to oversee the development process. If the app starts taking a direction you don’t quite like, you can provide feedback and steer it back to perfection. You’ll also be working directly with the developer, so you’ll learn about the hard limits of the application, and you’ll have a direct line of support for the future.
- A perfect fit. The whole idea of custom software development is creating an app that fits your organization perfectly. You won’t have to shop around to find some combination of existing apps to fit your needs—instead, you can create one all-in-one software product to give you everything you’re looking for (and nothing extra).
- A competitive advantage. When you think about the challenges or business problems you are solving with a custom software solution, the next step is to think about what happens when you solve those challenges? More efficiency, greater productivity, and more revenue are just a few of the advantages. You can virtually transform your company and improve the level of customer satisfaction. Imagine being able to develop a unique solution that appeals to your customers? Now that is a competitive advantage. If your competition is busy working with off-the-shelf options or nothing at all, your unique offering gives you a massive competitive advantage.
Hire Internally or Hire a Custom Software Development Firm?
If you’ve decided to build a custom app of your own, you’ll be faced with one more difficult decision: do you hire a developer (or developers) in house, or do you work with a custom development firm? It’s usually better to work with the third-party custom development firm, for several reasons:
- Speed. If your partner is using agile or lean development method, you can bet they’re going to finish your product much faster than you could put together a capable in-house team. Depending on the complexity and nature of your product, you can probably get a working prototype put together in a matter of weeks.
- Experience. Custom software developers have past experience, which is helpful in both creating your app and working with you to determine how that app should evolve; for example, they may be able to provide you with feature recommendations based on experiences developing for another firm in the past. They can help you foresee issues before they become problematic. On top of that, the team has had time to work together and get to know each other; if you build your own team from scratch, it’s going to take some time to establish a foundation of teamwork.
- Specialists and expertise. When you hire a developer or two, you’ll likely be working with generalists—jacks-of-all-trades who know a little bit of everything. But with a firm, you’ll be working with more specialists, who can be brought on to the team as needed, which can increase your efficiency and ultimately improve the bottom-line quality of the finished app. Having experience in your industry is also a key benefit to consider.
- Ongoing support. Custom software development firms want to retain their clients and keep them happy. That’s why most provide the option of ongoing support services to their clients. If you choose this route, if anything goes wrong with your app, or if you decide you want to change something, you have the ability to do so. Depending on the package you choose, they may even be able to help you resolve technical issues, or train new people on the app.
- Cost. Finally, think about cost. Hiring someone (or multiple people) full-time is extremely cost-intensive. And while hiring a custom software developer is probably more expensive than buying an off-the-shelf app, done right, it’s still one of the most cost-efficient options out there.
Are you interested in learning more about how custom software development can help you solve some of the biggest problems you face in the real estate industry? Start by downloading our free eBook, Opportunity Cost in Commercial Real Estate, today!