The amount of information real estate businesses regularly process is immense. To handle all that data, they need efficient, reliable, and easy-to-use software for both organizing their workflow and working with customers.
Real estate organizations often choose SaaS solutions that offer top-notch scalability, charge only for the services used, and offer wide customization options. No wonder the global real estate software market is expected to reach $18.66 billion by 2028.
As out-of-the-box products usually have limited customization potential, real estate businesses often consider developing custom SaaS solutions. However, building such software requires a deep understanding of your target audience’s needs and a wise choice of functionality to make the product as convenient to use as possible and keep development costs in check.
In this article, we explore major types of real estate solutions, list their main functionality, and discuss development nuances to pay attention to.
Before we discuss how to build a SaaS product for real estate, let’s talk about software types.
Real estate organizations use various types of solutions and web services to meet different goals. For instance, they can apply an accounting solution for taxes and payroll while using a property listing product for sales. Below, we define the six major types of software that businesses use:
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems connect all data related to sales leads and customers. They also consolidate all communications, documentation, and tasks in one place. Small and midsize businesses often rely on multi-purpose CRM solutions that provide standard functionality for:
- Lead management
- Contact management
- Reporting and analytics
- Pipeline management
- Workflow automation
- Task management
Larger organizations often prefer industry-specific CRM systems such as Wise Agent and Realvolve that are tailored to the needs of real estate companies. These products require much less customization than multi-purpose products and are more convenient to work with.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions help organizations manage business processes across all departments.
Core ERP features include:
- Automation of repeatable business tasks like payroll, order processing, and invoicing
- Data analysis and business metrics tracking
- Accounting and financial management
- CRM module or integration with third-party CRM systems
Some ERP providers offer custom real estate software that already has built-in functionality for managing leasing and rentals, managing property portfolios, calculating agents’ commissions, and more. Examples of industry-specific ERP solutions are iEstate and Maisonette.
Building SaaS ERP Software
Transaction management software helps businesses digitally create, send, store, and track documents. Deploying such a solution allows organizations to let their agents and brokers pay more attention to clients and sales activities, saving time on document management.
Transaction management systems usually offer the following features:
- Document management
- Notifications about important tasks and alerts on upcoming deadlines
- State and association real estate forms
- eSignature support
Property listings are property databases. These applications are useful for both agents and their customers and are usually presented in the form of a web platform or multiple listing services. Such applications help people buy, sell, and rent homes on their own or with the help of an agent.
Property listings usually cover a wide area encompassing several cities, states, or even countries. Such web applications also allow agents and brokers to promote their services and expand their portfolios. Two examples of property listing platforms are Zillow and RealScout.
Property management solutions are designed specifically to help real estate businesses address the administrative needs of owners and investors across a variety of rental property types. Such products usually facilitate property maintenance as well as processes such as move-in and move-out, tenant screenings, contract renewal, and rent collection.
The core features of a property management solution are:
- Document management
- Property listings
- Tenant screening
- Rent payment processing
- Maintenance management
- Accounting and financial management
- Unit inspection forms
Real estate platforms are business intelligence software that’s usually used by enterprises and large businesses that operate in several regions or countries. These are comprehensive systems that cover the following capabilities:
- Listing management
- Marketing activities
- CRM for lead management
- Website creation for different regions
- Content management systems (CMSs)
- Transaction management
- Team management
As you might have noticed, all examples of real estate services mentioned above are cloud-based, not on-premises. And software providers have their reasons to develop SaaS products for real estate. Let’s explore the benefits of the cloud-based model in the next section.
Real estate organizations regularly process tons of data on property details, client information, agreements, finances, and so on. In order to share and manage it quickly and efficiently, they require fast, accessible, and reliable software. Here’s when the SaaS model comes into play, bringing the following benefits:
1. Access from any location and any device. Cloud-based solutions allow users to access the system and interact with it from different desktop and mobile devices, operating systems, and browsers. Thus, real estate agents can look up data or double-check information even if they’re meeting clients out of the office. This also comes in handy for departments like accounting and human resources in the case of remote work.
2. Scalability of services. With the SaaS model, businesses can pay for the functionality and storage space they use. And if needs increase, a business can receive extra features and more storage space in a few clicks. There’s no need to deploy a new solution or make significant changes to the IT infrastructure.
3. Affordability. Another financial benefit of SaaS solutions for companies is that they don’t have to spend money on hardware, physical upgrades, and system maintenance as they would have to do with on-premises software. SaaS products are more affordable for real estate companies from the start.
4. Ability to integrate with third-party services. Agencies often have to use several types of third-party software to run their business. SaaS systems usually offer wide integration capabilities to be compatible with the most popular accounting, human resources, project management, and other solutions.
5. Process automation. The idea of any industry-specific solution is to help organizations accelerate their business processes. To achieve this, SaaS software offers real estate companies to automate processes like payment tracking, bill issuing, tax form filing, and property inspection management.
6. Quick deployment and easy maintenance. SaaS products don’t require time-consuming installation and setup like on-premises products do. Agents can set up a solution in almost no time and quickly learn how to use it, since cloud-based products usually have an intuitive interface and offer a quick guide. SaaS providers also enable automatic and seamless upgrades that don’t require users to restart the system manually, which significantly simplifies maintenance and doesn’t disturb workers.
Another important step in building an efficient and reliable product is choosing its core functionality set. Let’s discuss what features for a real estate SaaS platform agencies expect to see.
SaaS Development Lifecycle
The rapidly evolving SaaS market and the trend for creating industry-specific systems is blurring the line between different types of software. Some cloud solution vendors focus on tailoring their systems for real estate needs, combining key functionalities of CRM, ERP, and property management services.
In this section, we explore several functionalities that are vital for a custom real estate SaaS platform, list key features for each of them, and discuss which software types they belong to.
1. Customer management
Customer management is a core functionality of any CRM system, but it also can be part of a comprehensive ERP, property management, or business intelligence solution. The major goal of customer management functionality is to help agencies easily and efficiently manage communication with leads, prospects, and customers.
When developing a customer management functionality, make sure to include the following features:
- Contact management to help agents efficiently work with all information about customers and third-party vendors. Contact management often includes the ability to create referral trees, handle call lists, and send vCards.
- Lead automation to allow agents to grow and nurture their lead databases and turn leads into prospects. This feature is needed to automatically aggregate leads from all sources, route leads to agents, track activity, and send automatic follow-ups.
- Task scheduling so agents can create tasks with due dates to make sure they don’t forget to call, email, or meet with prospects. It’s best to sync tasks with third-party scheduling services like Google Calendar.
- Real estate calculators help agents quickly calculate amortization, debt consolidation, interest charges, penalties, early payoff, and refinancing.
You can also consider adding a customizable pricing matrix feature, since some agencies have complex pricing algorithms.
2. Transaction management
This functionality helps agents automate the handling of documentation and contracts. It can be provided as a standalone solution or as a functionality within a more sophisticated business intelligence, ERP, or property management service.
Transaction management functionality should include the following features:
- Checklists with required documentation for completing a transaction. Make sure to provide the opportunity for real estate specialists to generate individual checklists for different types of agreements as well as for different states and countries.
- Document templates for property leasing, rental, purchase, and other purposes to help agents and lawyers accelerate the process of filling out forms and contracts.
- Document workflow management to ensure that all steps in a transaction are proceeding as planned. This includes opportunities for sharing documents and sending them to a broker for review, editing, and e-signing.
- Calendars and notifications to help agents set due dates on checkpoints and receive notifications when deadlines are approaching.
3. Property management
Property management systems most often are standalone tools that help agencies run their key business processes. However, some industry-specific ERP and business intelligence solutions may cover certain property management functionality. Here are a few must-have property management feature sets:
- Leasing management includes opportunities for agents to view and edit rental listings, accept and process rental applications, screen tenants, and manage agreements with prospective tenants.
- Community management features allow agents to communicate with homeowners and tenants, track violations, and manage all related documents.
- Property maintenance features allow agents to fill out unit inspection forms, track the progress of inspections, manage move-in and move-out procedures, process maintenance requests, and have full visibility of a property’s maintenance history.
- Accounting and financial management features allow organizations to receive and send online payments, track budgets, automate tax payments, and generate various financial reports.
4. Team management
Modern CRM, ERP, and business intelligence systems often include a functionality for team management activities to make sure employees can efficiently cooperate and share data. Such modules usually have the following core features:
- Dashboards and to-do lists help organizations work efficiently as a team by sharing valuable data among agents, viewing key team metrics, keeping track of pending tasks, and monitoring team performance.
- Team permissions are essential to make sure that general information is available for every department or everyone within a certain team, as well as to restrict client data to responsible agents only.
- Calendars and notifications are vital for scheduling and reminding about meetings, training, and other corporate events.
- Goal tracking allows agencies to set both organizational and team goals, breaking them down into specific tasks and tracking progress.
5. Listing management
Real estate agencies widely use listings of houses, apartments, and other property types available for sale or rent. Usually, agencies place advertisements on third-party portals like Zillow and RealScout. However, large agencies can also list properties on their own websites or property management solutions.
If you’re planning to create a property listing service or if you’re developing a comprehensive platform with a built-in listing module, consider adding the following features:
- Detailed property descriptions, which usually include the property location, photos, the asking price, room descriptions, and other details. It’s best to make listings customizable so agencies can add and remove description fields.
- Search and filtering options to increase the chances for a potential lead to find the property they’re looking for.
- Virtual tours to help agencies create a comprehensive experience on the site and engage their customers.
- Image optimization to make a web solution automatically optimize uploaded photos for display no matter their size. Also, consider adding an automated watermark feature to help agencies prove their copyright.
- Social media sharing buttons to promote properties for sale or rent. According to a 2021 survey by The Close, 60% of real estate specialists find social media more efficient than websites for marketing.
- Market analytics tools to help agencies automatically compare prices for a certain property type within a specific area. These tools allow agencies to analyze the market and consult their clients on budgets for purchasing and reasonable prices for selling.
6. Marketing automation
This is why custom CRM, ERP, property management, and business intelligence services for real estate include at least several marketing tools that can help businesses boost their marketing efforts with no need to use additional services.
If your target audience prefers to use dedicated marketing automation tools, make sure your SaaS system can integrate with the most popular. If your audience would like to have built-in marketing capabilities in custom software, here are several key features you might want to implement:
- Email templates to help agencies create visually appealing emails and newsletters for efficient drip campaigns
- Automatic email and SMS sending so agencies can prepare content beforehand, set mailout dates and times, and not worry about forgetting to launch campaigns
- Marketing dashboards to help the marketing team plan their activities, track task progress, and analyze results
Now that we’ve discussed key functionality, let’s move to five tips you should keep in mind when creating a SaaS system for real estate.
Every software product has its own architecture, technology, and cybersecurity considerations. However, there are five things you should consider during SaaS development for real estate. Let’s explore them.
1. Choose a microservices architecture
Although monolithic platforms have advantages like simple development, testing, and deployment, the monolithic model mostly works for small and simple projects, or when you need a quick launch.
Since SaaS solutions include different services and have to be scalable, microservices are a better choice. This architecture allows you to split functionality into individual modules that communicate with each other using APIs. You can deploy, update, and scale each module independently without interfering with others.
Here are a few benefits of using microservices over a monolithic platform for a SaaS product architecture:
- Develop more flexible and resilient software
- Ensure better scalability
- Ease code maintenance
- Create a more enjoyable user experience
At Apriorit, we had a challenging project where our team successfully replaced a monolithic SaaS platform architecture with microservices. Explore our case study to see how we helped our client make their property management platform more flexible, resilient, and comfortable to work with.
2. Leverage AI and ML capabilities
The key reason to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms in any software is to help users automate repetitive tasks, especially if these tasks require processing tons of data. And since real estate agencies deal with loads of data on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that an increasing number of real estate solutions are being enhanced with AI.
In a real estate SaaS platform, you might want to leverage AI and ML capabilities in data analysis and predictive analytics to:
- Assist agents in matching assets to buyers
- Automate tenant screening
- Forecast sales, expenses, and future cash flows
- Help agents gain more insights into market conditions
- Enhance customer support with AI-driven chatbots
Implementing a blockchain in your SaaS solution can help you better protect your sensitive data from cyber threats and automate some operations. For instance, you can:
- Use smart contracts to ensure transparent and secure document flows
- Securely store and access historical records on the blockchain
- Complete transactions without intermediaries like brokers, lawyers, and banks
For example, the SMARTRealty.io platform already offers smart contract functionality to enact and maintain property purchase and rental agreements. Propy is a marketplace that automates sales processes using smart contracts for transactions.
Consider integrating your SaaS product with blockchain platforms and wallets if your target audience is tech-savvy.
4. Develop a mobile app
SaaS products already offer increased accessibility. For the convenience of end users, businesses usually adapt their web services for mobile devices, but this may not be enough if users want to use those services constantly to check for updates, add new data while outside the office, and use messenger functionality.
In this case, consider developing a mobile app for your real estate system as well, especially if you have a comprehensive platform for large businesses or a property listing service. A few major reasons for creating a mobile are to:
- Help agents conveniently access property information, documents, and tools on the go and at any time
- Allow prospects to easily access property listings from their mobile devices and enjoy a simple and engaging interface
- Improve communication among agency employees as well as between agents and customers with app notifications
5. Pay attention to security
Robust cybersecurity is a vital part of all software, so make sure your SaaS solution is reliable and securely processes data. Here are several core practices you should think of when developing a SaaS platform for real estate:
- Carefully choose the cloud vendor and check what security practices they use.
- Use encryption for transferring and storing data within your service, as well as within Android and iOS applications.
- Enhance access security with multi-factor authentication.
- Use only trusted libraries and other third-party components.
- Introduce early quality assurance activities and regularly perform security testing.
Creating an efficient and customizable real estate SaaS solution can help businesses accelerate routine processes and free resources for working closely with customers. And implementing cutting-edge technologies like AI and the blockchain can simplify the handling of tons of data and enhance cybersecurity.
To build an efficient SaaS product for real estate, you need professionals with experience in cloud-based development who can consult on architecture and functionality specifics. You also might want to involve business analysts to conduct in-depth market research before starting real estate SaaS platform development.
At Apriorit, we have experienced and skilled SaaS development teams that have already created successful platforms for property management, human resources, and other industries. Contact us to start discussing your product’s development right now!