Sean Jacobsohn is an investor at Emergence Capital
Now is the time for “mobile-first” real estate technologies.
Real estate is a $1 trillion asset class, second largest to corporate debt and ahead of equity. In addition, there are millions of professionals employed in the real estate industry: 2.8 million agents and 500,000 construction professionals as well as 120 million commercial and multi-family properties managed. Nearly all of these professionals are using overly complicated technology that is 10 to 20 years old.
One reason the real estate industry has been slow to adopt technology is the average age of a realtor is 57 years old, which is higher than many other industries. Another reason is because many professionals in real-estate are non-desk workers so desktop computer software has always been inconvenient.
In 2013, this is finally starting to change, because most real estate professionals own mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads. In fact, the global smartphone plus tablet installed base has recently surpassed the installed base of the PC.
Thus, developers are building real estate software specifically optimized for these devices, which are location aware, easy to use for a historically low-tech audience, and capable of solving problems that were cost prohibitive in the past. With the advent of mobile solutions many real estate professionals now have business productivity applications available while they are out and about, allowing them to act in real-time, especially as many of their prospective tenants are leveraging mobile devices to do real-time property searches.
As a firm, we have been analyzing this emerging sector of mobile real estate technology, and we have seen four categories of mobile companies emerge over the last several years. First, agents now have solutions available to manage transactions, documents, tasks, and business relationships such as Cartavi, dotloop, Skyslope, TenEight, SmarterAgent, PropertyCapsule, TouchCMA, and Reesio. Second, construction professionals now have solutions for communication, scheduling, progress reports, blueprints, and task management such as PlanGrid and FieldLens. Third, property managers can perform inspections more easily with Happy Inspector and Inspect2Go. Finally, hotels can manage operational staff and guest relations with solutions such as StayNTouch and PurpleCloud Technologies.
What does this mean for the established real estate technology players?
They will need to build, buy, or partner to stay relevant to their buyers who are increasingly adopting mobile technologies. Cartavi, a mobile document management company, was in business for less than two years when it was snapped up by DocuSign. MRI Software purchased VaultWare for mobile leasing. Meanwhile, RealPage deepened its mobile product offerings through it’s recent acquisitions of Propertyware, MyNewPlace, RentSentinel and RentSocial, while Appfolio, Property Solutions, and Yardi have built mobile property management solutions. In the construction space, Procore, Sage, and Viewpoint have started talking about their mobile offerings.
I have been excited to learn about all of the new mobile technology for real estate — the early signs are promising and I can’t wait to see where we are in several years. The time has finally come!
Sean Jacobsohn is a venture partner with Emergence Capital Partners. He joined Emergence Capital after being an executive and advisor at portfolio companies YouSendIt and Doximity, respectively. In addition to being a sales and alliances executive in the technology enabled services space for thirteen years, he is co-founder and co-President of the Harvard Business School Alumni Angels, the largest university-affiliated angel group in the world.
Follow him on Twitter @sjacobsohn