It’s been 5 years since I last looked at the Barfoot & Thompson Real Estate App. I did a brief review of it back in 2013. That version was a finalist in the Designers Institute Best Designers Award and they continue to impress.
Now I must say that I tried the new app on the same iPad 2 that I tried the original app on and it kept crashing. I don’t have a problem with that because you can’t keep supporting old devices much as you would like to. So if you want to use it on a mobile device, I suspect it will need to be a little more current, than my tablet which otherwise continues to serve me well.
In many of my blogs and in my new free eBook 5 Top Mistakes, I talk about things you can and should do from the comfort of your home before you start looking at properties.
The best way to do this is using an app or website and Barfoot did not disappoint when it came to features.
They have mobile app versions for all of the current devices and they take advantage of functionality available. For example, as well as having panorama views and videos of properties, they even have Virtual Reality tools. If you are a geek like me and have lots of gadgets, you will probably at some stage have bought some VR or Virtual Reality Glasses.
I’m not a gamer so once I had watched a movie, moved through an aquarium, sampled a game and looked at some other scenery, I put them away and pretty much forgot about them until this morning.
What do they do? You slide your phone into them and strap the glasses on and it’s like a modern version of the old View-Master, which you must remember from your childhood days. I had one with Apollo. NASA 3D photos and my kids had them too. They offered amazingly real looking 3D views of photos.
What the Barfoot Mobile app does is let you look at a 3D walkthrough of rooms in some properties (in some cases inside and outside) by turning your head around. As you can see if you look closely at these images to the left, the photos are offset and with the glasses on, you can see the room as if you are really there. What’s more, you can turn your head around, up and down and it’s just like being there. You can totally get a feel for what the house looks like without leaving the comfort of your home and it looks just as amazing as the original View-Master did. It’s worth checking it out just for that experience. Watch out for vertigo as your brain adjusts to seeing things that aren’t really there.
Now if you don’t have one of these headsets, you can go to your local Consumer Electronics store and buy one for probably between $100 and $200, or you can go online like I did and get the same glasses I have as in the pictures above, shipped to your door for around US$16 by following this link. No kidding, it works great and unless you are a serious gamer, this is all you need.
Anyway, back to the app. The Barfoot & Thompson app is responsive, that means that the features are optimised for the device you use. It knows if you are on an iPhone, an Android, a tablet or a PC and it all works nicely based on their capabilities.
BUT, if you have access to a PC or laptop, that’s where you will get the best experience, simply because it has a bigger screen and most of us can get around and interact better with the computer. I’ll explain a few of the features, but you really need to try it for yourself.
First of all you can look for properties by all the attributes you would expect, suburb, price, Realtor, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, car parks and so on. No need to discuss those, any good RE site or app will have those.
But then there are some cool features. I’m going to share some images, but for the sake of privacy, I won’t show the location of the properties.
Something I noted back in 2013 was that not all of the features were available for each property and at the time it seemed in some cases that it was about the professionalism of the RE Agent, because some Agents had all the features in all of their listings and some had a few or none. It may also have been because it was still pretty new.
This time when I looked at features I found that whilst some Agents had pretty much all the features on their listing, others didn’t and it didn’t have anything to do with the value of the property because there were multi-million dollar houses that didn’t have a lot of the features. I suspect that customers have to pay extra for some of the features to be included in their listing. I also suspect that some people might be cagey about allowing any random person to view the inside of their house for sale. After all it would be a great way for a burglar to find their way around.
Some of these features are very cool. For example with the floor plan there is a basic architectural drawing, but also a 3D image showing the plan with virtual furnishings.
Another fantastic feature, which I have seen in other tools is the ability to style the property. For example you can change the colour of the floor, countertops, walls etc and visualise it the way you would want to see it. You might (like us in our current house) not like the colours the previous owner chose. Now you can instantly view it the way you might like it.
This is clearly an optional feature that costs the vendor more, so not every house listed includes it, but where you can do it, as shown above, it can totally change your perspective. By default you can save, print and share these views to get other people’s opinions.
Another great feature is that in the floor plan (but not the 3D view which I thought was a shame), you can populate the house with furniture. You can choose from 517 items, from a rocking horse or a bookshelf, to the bed and place them into the floor plan of the house.
You can see if the California King bed set will fit in the master bedroom, change the dimensions, move furniture, turn it around. There is a measuring tool so that you can see if you can reuse the custom bookshelf or if it is too big. You can add walls and even create your own text boxes and enter information into them to remind you what you were thinking at the time.
Of course it also has all the standard information like being able to see it on a Google Map, including satellite view, check the all important school zones and much more.
As per the previous version, you can in many cases also access documents like the LIM Report (In New Zealand this is the Land Information Memorandum, which includes a lot of really important information such as whether it is in a potential flood plain, risk of erosion (some of our coastal beach cliff properties are losing the fight against nature) as well as things like planning consents. In my FREE eBook I talk about things like alterations that a previous owner might have made without the required council consents, which is common all over the world. Whether you choose to purchase the property knowing they have made unapproved changes (that could impact on insurance claims or require additional work to be done, or even have council tell you to remove the modifications, you need to know about them. The reports have different names in different countries, and in NZ it is a LIM.
There are often lots of other reports available, like the Property Title which can be very revealing because it will tell you information like how many owners there have been and even what they paid for the property.
With these reports, if you want to view them, you have to agree that your email address will be shared with the Real Estate Agent. I think that’s fair and reasonable, again there is the issue of privacy and the Agent and Vendor have made the effort to make those documents available. You would probably be looking at them because you are interested and aty the very least, it allows them to see and tell the vendor that there is interest, even if you take it no further.
When you are looking at a property and genuinely interested, the more information you can find beforehand, the easier it is to compile the list of properties you will want to view.
For both the vendor and the buyer, access to these documents can lead to a quicker sale and reduce the often time consuming legwork. I suspect that there are various reasons why some documents are or aren’t included, but I do believe there is an element of the commitment to professionalism by the Agent representing the property, because you will find that some Agents consistently have lots of information for the buyer, while others consistently have very little. I know which Agents I would prefer to do business with. Again something I discuss in my FREE eBook.
I have just about written a book about this app and I have to say that I am as impressed as I expected to be, given the previous history, whilst also continuing to recognise that the delivery is only as good as the investments the vendors and the individual Real Estate Agents are prepared to make.
For my readers outside of the region covered by Barfoot & Thompson, in other cities or other countries, there will be similar apps and websites available to you that you can easily find via Google. Features vary and many are multi-agency and have a lot more information as I outlined in my previous book Buying a House – Using Real Estate Apps, Maps and Location Based Services which is available on Amazon. I am developing a course which amongst other things will feature information available in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada and the UK and the best place to keep track of that is via this link, or by subscribing to this blog.
The amount of information available is mind boggling and the challenge is to know where to start. There are things like local crime, your commute, public transport, amenities, climate change risk and much more.
I hope you found this blog interesting and are getting the idea that you can and should do a lot of research before you go and talk to any Agents. Using tools like this app, you can get a better idea of what you want and can therefore better brief an Agent, or potentially you can hone in on specific properties of interest and not waste a lot of time looking at properties you don’t want to see or buy.
I welcome your feedback and comments and just want to finish by saying that I have no affiliation with Barfoot & Thompson. They have no idea that I was writing this review and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.