ANAHEIM, CA—Mobility in real estate is becoming increasingly more necessary and prevalent, as GlobeSt.com recently reported. Enter Common Areas, a new mobile app that allows property managers to note, manage and track clearly and simply property-management situations that need attention.
Developed by Casey Rue, COO at Marketplace Properties, a small boutique developer of shopping centers for the last 45 years, and CEO of the firm Common Areas, the app takes the place of clipboards, paperwork and endless emails and follow-up time by allowing property managers to see problems through to solutions all in one place. Rue, who has real estate experience in acquisitions and property management, tells GlobeSt.com, “I’ve always thought it’s been brain damage trying to get work done when managing properties. You use a clipboard, an iPhone and text, but there could be 50 different things going on with any given property at any given time. Communicating via email, voicemail, fax and letters; finding the issues by walking the property, then going back to the office to disseminate the information takes forever.”
Rue hired a team of software developers and an interface designer to develop Common Areas, which has been in beta mode for the last three years and is currently available on the iTunes store. He says the key to the app’s simplicity and effectiveness is communication. “People can do pretty much anything if they can communicate it correctly. Problems are mostly based on lack of communication. It comes down to the project: something didn’t get done right, and the people involved thought different things. This tool makes it really easy for anybody to identify an issue and communicate it in a way that’s easy.”
Common Areas is currently only available on the iPad, but a Web version is currently in progress to allow it to be accessed via any Web-enabled device such as an Android, tablet or desktop. In addition, a smartphone version that’s simpler than the iPad version is also in the works.
Rue introduced the product to real estate executives at the recent ICSC RECon conference in Las Vegas. “Nobody had seen anything like it or was using anything like it.”
The app allows users to create a location anywhere in the world and add it to their list. Via Google Maps, they can pin a property for action items, name it, assign it to a category (such as the parking lot, for example) and assign it to anybody in the world with an email address.
“You can take pictures of the site and upload those, and it sends an email to the person you want to take care of it asking them to do something,” says Rue. “When you go in to sign up for an account, that situation will be on your action list.”
On other systems that companies use internally, employees and tenants can report problems, but service providers and others can’t use them. “With Common Areas, you can start dropping action items with anyone you want, and they’re private. It’s like taking work-order software and mixing it with LinkedIn or Facebook. You can share it with anybody, but it’s actually a little more private than Facebook because you can choose with whom you share it.”
Rue adds that the system has the potential to be used by a variety of businesses, such as supermarkets (clean-up in aisle 4) and municipalities (citizens can report graffiti or a light out). “We’re designing it so it’s a universal platform for people to do work together.”
In addition, Common Areas has been created to be affordable. The app is free and can be used forever like Dropbox if data is removed periodically. “Ninety-two percent of property-management companies in the US have four employees or fewer,” says Rue. “They can’t spend a lot of money on software. With this platform, property managers will use it, but it will be even more valuable if service providers and vendors use it, too. We need to be price sensitive to these companies—a sweeping or cleaning company can’t afford expensive software. This way, they can turn around and start showing the other companies they work with that they’re tech savvy.”