How to Choose and Evaluate Real Estate Technology Systems

How to choose real estate technology systems

At ility, we have collaborated with real estate organizations on a wide range of projects. Time and again, we've encountered a recurring theme: deep-seated dissatisfaction with technology solutions. Countless property teams share stories of embarking on projects filled with optimism, pouring in significant time and resources, only to be confronted with the stark realization months down the line that the chosen system falls short of their needs.

These narratives underscore the paramount importance of due diligence, emphasizing that it shouldn't be a last-minute endeavor. The cornerstone of a truly successful engagement is posing the right questions from the outset. This guide is designed to arm you with questions for those initial meetings with potential vendors. Here's the criteria you can use for not only immediate project success but also long-term resilience and adaptability.


1. Integration Capabilities and Data Accessibility

Your chosen system shouldn't exist in isolation. It should embed seamlessly into your existing technological framework. The system's ability to integrate with existing or future tools, as well as the ease with which you can access and move your data, should be a major point of consideration. A truly integrated system ensures data flows smoothly, which, in turn, reduces the risk of data silos and inefficiencies.

Sample Questions:

  • Does the system have open APIs that allow for easy integration with other tools?
  • Are there any restrictions on accessing our own data? If so, what are they?
  • How does the system handle data exchange?
  • Have you integrated with [name of other system you might want to integrate with] or similar systems?
  • Are there any existing partnerships or integrations with other software or tools we use?

Red flags:

  • Being charged or having highly restricted access to your own data.
  • Absence of open APIs or a clear integration strategy.
  • Vendor does not have a history of successful integrations with systems similar to yours.
  • The solution is too rigid, making it difficult to adapt to your unique operational needs.

The right solution should prioritize easy integrations, ensuring that you're not restricted by predefined workflows and can collaborate effortlessly with other systems. While costs are a factor, ensuring that the system's capabilities meet your requirements should be the primary consideration. 

2. User Experience

A successful system shouldn't just work; it should work for you. Tailoring the software to fit your specific operational needs and the unique characteristics of your audience is important. Brainstorm which kinds of personas and users will need to be using the platform first. Then, you can understand if the platform is user-friendly and can be customized to cater to your main use cases.

Sample Questions:

  • What does the user journey look like in the platform for [property managers, fund managers, etc]?
  • How adaptable is the interface to our specific needs and use cases?
  • Can you show us a demo of the platform?
  • What kind of onboarding and user training do you provide to ensure smooth adoption?

Red Flags:

  • System lacks intuitive design or has a steep learning curve.
  • Vendor does not provide adequate training or onboarding.
  • Limited customization capabilities.
  • Previous clients report difficulty in adapting the system to their specific needs.

3. Data Security and Compliance

In an increasingly digitized world, the security of data is paramount. Real estate platforms often handle vast amounts of sensitive information, from transaction records to personal details. Ensuring this data remains protected isn't just a matter of regulatory compliance—it's vital for maintaining trust with your customers and partners. A breach or failure to comply with data privacy regulations can lead to more than just financial penalties; it can tarnish a company's reputation, erode trust, and result in lost business opportunities.

Many regions and countries have established strict data protection laws. In Europe, for instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set rigorous standards, with heavy fines for non-compliance. Similarly, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S. reinforces the rights of consumers over their data.

Choose a platform that can demonstrate its commitment to top-tier data security practices, adhering to industry standards and regulations. A system's ability to securely manage all types of data, including personally identifiable information (PII), is a clear indicator of its robustness and reliability.

Sample Questions:

  • What security measures are in place to protect sensitive data?
  • How do you ensure compliance with industry-specific regulations and data privacy laws?
  • How do you handle and protect PII specifically?
  • What are your protocols for regular security audits and vulnerability assessments?

Red Flags:

  • Vague or non-specific answers about data security practices.
  • No clear adherence to industry standards or regulatory compliance.
  • Lack of comprehensive encryption methods.
  • Absence of regular security assessments or audit processes.
  • No well-defined protocol for handling potential security breaches.

4. Support, SLAs, and Uptime

The reliability and efficiency of a technology solution are not just about its features but also about the support structure behind it. How a vendor supports its product can significantly impact your daily operations and your peace of mind.

Support refers to the assistance provided by the software vendor when issues arise or when help is required. Strong, responsive support can be the difference between a minor hiccup and a major operational issue.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) define the level of service you can expect. It typically spells out response times, resolution times, and other key metrics that the vendor commits to.

Uptime refers to the amount of time the system is operational and accessible. Higher uptime percentages (like 99.9% or "three nines") indicate that the platform is reliable and doesn't suffer from frequent outages.

Sample Questions:

  • What support channels do you offer? (e.g., chat, email, phone)
  • What are your standard response and resolution times for support queries?
  • What is your average uptime over the past year?
  • How do you handle system outages or major issues?
  • What are your SLAs concerning response times and system uptime?

Red Flags:

  • Limited or unclear support channels.
  • No clearly defined SLAs.
  • Uptime percentages that are below industry standards.
  • Absence of a clear communication strategy during system outages or major disruptions.
  • Inability to provide historical data or proof of consistently meeting SLAs.
  • Negative reviews from other customers

5. Future-proofing

Future-proofing ensures that your technology investments today remain applicable and efficient tomorrow, sidestepping the costly and resource-intensive process of frequent system overhauls. This is pivotal for real estate professionals, where shifts in market dynamics, environmental considerations, and new regulations can redefine the game overnight. Choosing a platform that's designed for adaptability means you’re not just reacting to these changes but proactively positioning your business for success, no matter the direction the wind blows.

Beyond the evident technological edge, a future-proof system also offers financial foresight. It helps avoid unexpected costs associated with abrupt transitions, software changes, or integrations, ensuring a smoother operational flow and more predictable budgeting.

Sample Questions:

  • How often do you update your platform?
  • How does your system adapt to new technological trends or regulatory changes?
  • What's coming up on your product roadmap?
  • How can the platform be tailored or scaled as my business grows?
  • Are there any costs associated with updates or new feature integrations?

Red Flags:

  • Vendor reluctance to share their roadmap for future updates.
  • Platform lacks modularity or flexibility.
  • Obscure pricing structures that might lead to unforeseen costs as your needs evolve.

Navigating the world of real estate technology can be a daunting task. With the landscape rapidly evolving and the stakes being remarkably high, making informed decisions is crucial. By arming yourself with the right questions and knowledge, you can cut through the noise and select systems that truly align with your objectives, both now and in the future. Remember, it's not just about the technology itself but how it aligns with and supports your goals, ensuring your organization thrives. Take your time, do your research, and always keep the future in sight. Your future self—and your bottom line—will thank you.


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Nisha Garigarn

Nisha has 8+ years of experience using technology to create delightful customer experiences in real estate. As VP of Solutions, she's helped deploy ility across 60 million sqft of real estate. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.


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