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Lessons from Inman “Hack the App”

I was privileged to take part in the “Hack the App” session during the Inman Connect event last week.   It gave me some insights into alternative ways of building products for the real estate sector and particularly the role open source could play in that.

The session was not like a traditional hackathon where teams compete to create a product from scratch. Rather, an idea had been conceived beforehand and some thought had already gone into how it should work. This was a great way to do it.  It allowed everyone to pull together quickly and there was a sense of purpose right from the get-go.

The premise of the app is that buyers should be able to track their home purchase transaction from start to finish. Think how domino’s pizza are able to show in real time the progress of the pizza you order.

While the concept is easy to understand, the implementation requires several problems to be solved.  In the end we were not able to create a fully functional app in the time we had. What we managed was a very minimal viable product to illustrate how it might work.  For those interested, the source code is available here: https://github.com/etewiah/inman-offer-tracker-fe.

Video demo here:

For me, the main takeaway from the experience was that the real estate sector has a lot of scope for innovation.  When I’ve participated in hackathons in other sectors, I invariably discover new products, APIs and forums discussing similar ideas. In this case there was nothing of the sort we could draw on.

I also learnt that industry specific knowledge is quite important when developing products for the sector. Even a process as simple as updating a client about the progress of their home purchase is subject to rules that cannot be broken.

Open source can bring innovation to the real estate sector

My conclusion is that a concerted effort is needed to bring more geeks and real estate agents together.  Real estate agents and brokers face a real challenge from tech savvy new entrants.  The solution could be in appealing to the open source community with its large pool of talented developers.

Currently most agents and brokers seem to see each other as their main competitors. Using a closed source product gives them a feeling they can gain an advantage over these competitors. The truth is that the real threat is from startups that move fast to embrace technology.

In the long run, a few agents having a great tech stack will not mean they thrive while other agents wither. Rather the whole sector will suffer at the expense of non traditional startups who will be seen to be more innovative. For the consumer, the decision will increasingly be “shall I use an agent?” rather than “shall I use agent A or agent B?”.

Open source software levels the playing field for smaller players.  It leads to more interoperability between different software and lowers costs. When significant number participate the resulting product is often superior to proprietary software.  What is not to like about it?

Here’s to hoping awareness of the value of open source software in real estate increases.  That may just motivate people like me and the fine folk who came together during Inman-connect to see the app through to completion.  And the fine folk are:

  • Jess Martin, CTO & co-founder, First.io
  • Ricky Watts, systems administrator, Coldwell Banker Heritage
  • Todd LaMothe, VP of engineering, Union Street Media
  • Artur Grigio, CTO, ListingZen
  • Ami Berger, co-founder/creator, Voiceter Pro LLC
  • Tomas McCandless, Sr. engineer, Voiceter Pro LLC
  • Tom Flanagan, CTO, The Group, Inc.
  • Joel Burslem, chief strategist, 1000watt
  • Paul Cooley, CTO, Imprev
  • Shane Farkas, CTO, The Agency
  • Ed Tewiah, founder, PropertyWebBuilder.com

Let us know in the comments section if you want to see the “offer-tracking app” become a finished product!

About Ed Tee

Founder of PropertyWebBuilder (open source real estate website builder). Full stack web developer and passionate open source advocate.

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  • From someone who has open sourced a project (http://www.horizonapp.co/blog/oh-hey-world-now-open-source/), I can certainly say it’s easier said than done. Success needs a massive investment into community building. Just making a repo available doesn’t mean anyone will ever contribute to it, let alone find it.. That said, I agree there is potential.

    • Right you are. I’ll be spending the next few weeks trying to build support to see the project through to completion. The idea originated with Brad Inman so it already has a bit of momentum.

  • Artur Grigio

    I decided to take on this app as I think transparency can fix some of tech gaps that the RE industry has right now. ListingZen (https://www.ListingZen.com) will be one of the first implementers of Offer Tracker, once we finish developing this service.

  • dependablehomebuyers

    I agree that open source projects would be a benefit for the community, but that’s only half the battle. The other half is obtaining access to critical real estate data (like the MLS) that is necessary to create software that really matters. I believe that once we have the data you’ll have an influx of software developers taking an interest in the industry, which increases the chances that open source software will take hold.

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