When 35,000 agents pay for an app, you know it’s something special. But what happens when it’s acquired by a giant in the industry? Here’s the story of Open Home Pro and HomeFinder — a match that could be good for everyone.
When I heard HomeFinder, a giant listings portal, had bought one of my favorite apps, Open Home Pro, I knew I wanted to chat with Doug Breaker. He’s the CEO of HomeFinder, and the driving force behind the acquisition.
Breaker says he’s long loved the app, because it’s easy to use, beautiful and does exactly what it’s supposed to, which is to capture the names and contact information of open home visitors.
“When you look at Open Home Pro, you’re looking at a really tight development path,” Breaker explains. “There’s just enough there to get what you need to do done. There’s nothing extraneous. Essentially, Andrew Machado and Robert Malko [the founder and lead developer, respectively, of Open Home Pro] paid attention to what agents really wanted. And the result is a beautiful app.”
Breaker is pleased to point out that Malko, who was acting CEO of Open Home Pro, is now a full time employee of HomeFinder and plans to stay on to lead the development of the next iterations of Open Home Pro. But of course, the question is, why did Machado sell?
Open Home Pro by HomeFinder • $14.99 app • $10/month Pro Plan
Breaker says Machado’s decision is a combination of Machado’s personal interests, and the resources required to take Open Home Pro to the next level.
Machado, who is a certifiable sports nut, got his dream job at ESPN to build mobile applications for the network. But perhaps even more important, Machado realized that building the next feature set for Open Home Pro would take more than he and Malko could deliver on their own.
“I think Andrew saw that our interests were aligned,” Breaker explains. “He realized that we would be able to bring in the resources to take Open Home Pro to the next level, but stay true to the application’s purpose and philosophy.
“When you have an enormously popular app like Open Home Pro, you have a responsibility,” Breaker continues. “Our goal isn’t to change the app, but to improve it.”
Integration with HomeFinder Products
Breaker says the next iterations of the app will include drag and drop listing integration (so that you don’t have to manually input your listings) and CRM integration (so that open home visitors are passed into your contact manager).
“Our goal is to listen to agents, so they can tell us what the next features should be,” Breaker says. “Although Android is first on our list, we’ll roll out new features and integrations in the order that’s most important to agents.”
Breaker is particularly enthusiastic about integrating Open Home Pro with HomeFinder’s suite of products, which he says will increase the level of exposure for listings within the app thanks to HomeFinder’s impressive reach (3-4 million visits a month).
One way that the HomeFinder acquisition will improve Open Home Pro is in listing creation. Today, you need to create listings manually, either in the app itself, or by visiting the app’s website. But Breaker envisions a day when you’ll be able to drag a listing out of HomeFinder, right into the app, automatically populating it with pictures and details..
For the moment, however, the app will continue to operate just as it has. You can use the app for free after paying a one-time charge of $14.99. Or, you can upgrade to a paid Pro package for $10 a month.
The Pro package enables you to send emails under your own email address to prospects that visit your open house. The free version sends follow-up emails to all who register from Open Home Pro.
With the Pro package, you can also specify a unique landing page for your listings. This enables you to send your prospects to a specific URL or single property website, instead of the default listing page that Open Home Pro includes in the free package.
Finally, you get access to an online lead manager that enables you to search, sort and export your leads (in a .csv file) so you can easily synchronize your prospects with your CRM. In the future, however, Breaker says that this will be handled automatically via an API, to the CRM of your choice.
Forget Pen and Paper
The reason Open Home Pro shines is that it takes what was formerly a pen and paper process, and makes it entirely digital.
It’s thoughtful, easy to use and lovely. Even if you never use any of HomeFinder’s other features I suspect you’ll love the simplicity of it.
To get started, you create a listing. This is as simple as telling the app (or the companion website) the address of the listing, beds and baths, price, square footage, when you’ll hold it open, and the type of property. You can upload pictures to the app’s website, or add them within the app itself from your camera roll.
Every listing you create automatically populates a URL for your property as well. You can see the listing I created for the video for this story at this URL:
The listing I created for demo purposes was kindly provided by San Francisco agent Cheryl Lazar. It’s a real listing, and it’s open February 2 from 2-4 p.m. (just in case you want to drop by).
Once the listing is created, you’re ready to go. Take your iPad to your next open house, then press “start open house” to start the lead capture portion of the app.
The app begins to show a slide show of the images you’ve uploaded into the listing. When a user presses “touch to begin,” the app pops up a series of windows to collect data about your visitor, including name, email, telephone number and other details you can specify.
What’s particularly nice is that users can enter as much data — or as little — as they want. All they need to do is press “continue “ to move on to the next screen. This keeps the open house visitor in control, so they don’t feel like it’s the Spanish Inquisition as they browse about the home.
Unlock Contact Information
Agents who use Open Home Pro say that the iPad seems to warm up naturally reticent people, since they seem to like interacting with the iPad and are more willing to submit their contact information. Perhaps that’s because the app looks cool and friendly, and most people like tablets. It’s easy and fast.
Once the visitor has entered their information into the app, you can add notes about that person. The app automatically resets to accept the next entry.
Within minutes, the app sends an email to the visitor thanking them for submitting their information. In the Pro version of the app, you can customize this message to include a property website.
You can easily manipulate the app to acquire the information you most want about your open home visitors. For example, you can use the default questions in the app, or set up specific questions that will help you market the listing, find out more about the visitor, and grow your business.
The app even works well when there isn’t an Internet connection. Open Home Pro aggregates all the information you’ve collected about your visitors, then uploads them to the app’s web site 45 minutes after you close your open house.
This is a thoughtful touch that makes it easy for the app to always be in synch with the website. What’s more, after every open house, you’ll receive a report that you can distribute to your clients that shows who came — and what they thought.
Open Home Pro is a useful application built with the input of agents. It does exactly what it says it will: It makes it easy to collect and manage the contact information of open house visitors. It’s easy to use. It makes listings look great, and it’s also cool.
If the app has shortcomings, is that it doesn’t easily talk to other systems agents use, like CRMs. You still need to manually create listings within the app so you can show them at an open house. Yet found that this process took less than three minutes, so it was a minimal hindrance in my ability to use the app.
If you’re looking for an app to help you stay in touch with the people who visit your open houses, I can think of no better app than Open Home Pro. I think the HomeFinder acquisition promises to make an already great app even better.