Free Open Source Real-Estate Applications by Barrett Powell
· When I bought my first RE/MAX franchise, I was surprised at the lack of technology available for the modern real-estate office. And what was available seemed to be outdated and expensive.
For example, I went looking for something better than Microsoft Outlook to use as a real-estate CRM system. What I found were tools that hadn’t changed much since they were introduced years earlier and whose sales models were not very agent and firm friendly.
I knew I needed something that was based on industry standards; just in case the vendor went out of business I’d still have access to my prospect and client database. I knew it had to be web based so agents could have access from laterally anywhere. It needed to be server based so the client data did not get lost when an agents laptop crashed and to provide easier and more secure backups. It needed to be flexible so new processes and features could be added easily and quickly. Social Networking is a good example of a technology that needed to be added to whatever CRM system I chose.
In the end, no commercial system worked. It was then I turned to the world of public domain software. Public domain software is free software that companies make available to the open community. Most of these companies also sell commercial versions of these programs, but if you’re fairly tech savvy or have some basic computer support at your office there is no reason not to take advantage of free software.
So what did I choose? I selected the community edition of SugarCRM. SugarCRM has been around for many years and has a large corporate and government sector following as clients and users. I ended up making some minor modifications to make it more real-estate friendly. I added a Social Networking component that allows agents to access all their real-estate social networks on one tab as well as post to them and write their blogs. It also has a connection to the online document management system I created using another public domain program called KnowledgeTree. We keep all our documents and contracts in this system instead of having to keep paper copies in file cabinet somewhere.
Below is a list of "free" applications that can be used for some very good real-estate problem solving:
SugarCRM – web based Customer Relationship Management system for keeping contact information, launching campaigns, providing a sign-up and sign-in feature for your real-estate websites, and many more needed capabilities. www.sugarcrm.com.
KnowledgeTree DMS – web based Document Management System for storing documents and contracts. Uses a familiar folder style interface to let agents store documents. Provides an automated OCR feature that indexes stored documents as well as what is called metadata which aids in searching and retrieving documents and contracts later. www.knowledgetree.com.
ProcessMaker – is a very interesting type of application commonly referred to as Workflow. With ProcessMaker you could for instance design a New Client process that would automatically step an agent, a new sales agent for instance, through the New Client process while providing all the company and state regulated document and process requirements, including contracts at the appropriate times in the process. The system would then notify the Manager to check the contracts or documents for completeness and correctness before they moved on to the next step in the process. This little application is also web based and could really aid in quality level of service and in sales agent oversight. www.processmaker.com.
MapWindow GIS – use this free application to download GIS data in ESRI Shapefile format from your local government. Now you can find and select parcels of land you have listed and save them to a separate Shapefile to upload to a handheld GPS. www.mapwindow.com.
DNRGarmin – use this free application from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to upload your saved Shapefile from MapWindow to your handheld Garmin GPS system so you can now walk land. Link To DNRGarmin.
These are just a few of the many free public domain applications available with real-estate uses. Contact me for a demo login to see any of these applications in action and the real-estate templates I have created for them. You can also visit the website where I feature these and other applications as well as the blog and twitter post. www.RealEstateWebExpert.com.