Searching for Real Estate Made Easy: Geo-Fences Plus Mobile Phones


Market Analyst

It's Saturday morning. Joel and Rebecca are walking their dog through a neighborhood in Austin, TX. As they walk, they chat about the movie they saw last night, what they're going to make for dinner, and the big trip they have planned for next weekend. You wouldn't know it by listening to their conversation, but the couple is also house hunting.

They cross Brodie Lane when Joel's cell phone buzzes in his pocket. It's a text message that reads:

Mobile Real Estate Final

Joel says to Rebecca, "We've got a match from our real estate company. It's only four blocks away. Let's go see what the house looks like."

Within minutes, the couple is outside the 714 Longview Rd. home. It happens to be exactly the type of home they wanted, in the exact neighborhood they wanted to live in. They call their real estate agent to set up a viewing.

How did this happen? How was the couple instantly notified of the opportunity, perfectly merging buyer requirements, location and timing? The answer involves a combination of "geo-fencing," mobile phones and GPS technology.

If you're a tech savvy real estate agent or property manager, this powerful combination of technology represents a great opportunity to gain new clientele. Many real estate buyers do not have the time to review new listings online, travel to viewings or patrol their desired neighborhoods for opportunities. But the vast majority of real estate buyers do have mobile phones they carry with them nearly all the time.

This technology would help real estate and property management companies capitalize on business that may otherwise slip through the cracks. Software Advice would like to see this type of mobile marketing become a permanent feature in today's property manager software systems to help advertise real estate and rental properties.

Let's see how that could be done.

Geo-Fencing + Mobile Phones = Powerful Real Estate Marketing

What if a buyer looking for a place to live didn't have to do anything beyond choosing what features they wanted in a home? What if a buyer was automatically alerted to nearby properties that matched their needs?

This is what we're talking about with the next generation of mobile real estate marketing.

The use of "geo-fences" surrounding properties really drives the location-based marketing engine. A geo-fence is a virtual boundary surrounding a geographic region. When a person with a mobile phone crosses a geo-fence boundary, a notification is automatically issued to that mobile phone. Traditionally, geo-fencing has been used to send alerts when users exit a certain area, instead of entering one.

Geo-fencing has been used in conjunction with GPS technology for a while now and for a variety of uses:

  • Tracking senior citizens with Alzheimer's;
  • Ensuring mobile employees don't travel outside of certain areas; and,
  • Monitoring hazardous cargo, to name a few examples.

We're confident that someday, we'll be able to add "Market real estate" to that list. Here's how we see this new form of mobile marketing working in the real estate industry:

Create geo-fences. Before real estate and property management companies set up their online portals, they'll need to create geo-fences around all of their properties. This will ensure that if a qualified user crosses the geo-fence with their mobile phone, that user will be notified about that property.

We'd like to see geo-fencing modules built into today's property management software, allowing companies to quickly create geo-fences around their properties by drawing them on a digital map.

Collect buyer needs online. Real estate and property management companies can create online portals on their web sites, where prospective tenants and buyers set up notifications tailored to what they want in a property.

For example, a user could create an alert based on square footage, number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, special amenities, and zip code, to name just a few of the myriad of options available. Once they've entered their cell phone number and submitted those housing preferences, all they have to do is carry their phone with them to receive notifications.

We'd also like to see today's property management software vendors integrate these online portals into their systems. Many property management software vendors offer web site design and hosting packages to their customers. A geo-fencing module could be another module that's presented as an option to a management company when they purchase the software.

Let the notifications begin. The notifications are where this entire concept of location-based mobile marketing comes together. The geo-fences have been set up. Users have entered their housing preferences online to receive notifications. All that is left is for the users to go about their normal lives, with their GPS-enabled mobile phones, of course.

When they get close to a property that matches their wants, they'll be automatically notified on their mobile phone. Property management software can then integrate all of these contact points with customers into their CRM system, to track the effectiveness of the messages and review properties with clients.

House hunting couldn't get much easier than that, could it?

The Benefits

Hopefully by now, the benefits of this unique marketing method are clear.

First, since the user opts in to receive these marketing notifications, there is no feeling of intrusiveness or annoyance as with unsolicited messages. This type of marketing is perceived as a service, not an intrusion.

Second, from a marketing standpoint, notifying the right person, at the right place, at the right time about your product is powerful.

It's the holy grail of marketing:

  • You have a desirable product;
  • You have identified the person that wants your product; and,
  • You can automatically tell that person that your product is nearby.

Finally, this marketing method is scalable. A real estate or property management company could theoretically have dozens (or more) of users taking advantage of this service at any given time. Beyond taking calls to schedule viewings, it wouldn't require any extra labor on the part of the management company.


We don't expect this spin on mobile marketing to be installed in every real estate and property management office tomorrow. But whether through geo-fence triggers or other GPS-centric methods, the real estate industry will undoubtedly continue to make a huge effort over the next few years to connect with buyers and renters through their mobile phones.

The technology is too compelling to ignore.

What are your thoughts on geo-fencing's affects on real estate marketing? Too far-fetched? The holy grail of marketing? Share them in the comments.

For more information about property management software, visit our specialized guide here.

  • deannadial

    This is the only way to find a house these days. I also use this technology for market research in trying to sell my house: walk around the neighborhood, see what else is for sale and BAM your competitive analysis is done. We often wow our very savvy realtor with our knowledge. If he was using this tehnology, he would be waaay ahead of the game…

  • kerry melcher

    Where can I sign up? I would love it and my clients would love it! I find my clients like to do more and more of their research on their own. They want my expertise in pricing, negotiating, marketing and matching. I want my Buyers to get as much info as they can.

    Seriously–where can I sign up?


    • Chris Thorman

      @ Kerry

      Love the enthusiasm Kerry! Unfortunately, the application does not currently exist for real estate. Geo-fencing technology is being used to notify retail shoppers when they’re close to their favorite stores but that’s about it. I imagine somebody will come up with something like this for real estate in the near future. Thanks for reading!

  • Corona Short Sale Agent

    Sounds like a terrific application. Hopefully if will make the move to real estate soon.

  • @CBRELongBeach

    I love the way you think! I taught a class about 6 months ago on Web 3.0, and used as an example of driving down the street and your Nav screen will display different advertising based on where you are, but I didn’t know about Geo-Fencing. I was just making a point about what Technology’s future holds. After reading your post, I know a lil more and I am even more excited. I will be watching closely the advancement of this technology!!! Great story/Great post!

    Stay Blogging My Friend!


    • Chris Thorman

      Thanks for the kind words TheRECoach. I’ll be keeping an eye on the latest advancements too.

  • Tim White

    Can you give us some idea of what’s available in the mobile space today that us Realtors can use in marketing our for sale inventory.

    • Chris Thorman

      @ Tim White

      Just sent you an e-mail about that.

  • Gregg Collum

    I’d like to know what I can use to market my ranch listings using this tech platform.

    Are there devices/software whereby if someone passes my office I can send a text alert for ranch property.

    • Chris Thorman

      @ Gregg

      As far as I know, there isn’t anything commercially available for personal use when it comes to geo-fencing and automatic notifications.

  • Tricia Pearson – Pearson Real Estate

    Great post and info Chris. Congratulations on winning Jason Crouch’s contest.

    • Chris Thorman

      Thanks Tricia!

  • josh

    Chris –
    Very excited to read this. Xtify is commercially available to do this today.
    The Xtify SDK will allow any service provider to geo-fence any neigborhood (or individual property) and build triggers for sending notifications. We are not a Real Estate service, but you or your readers can build one with our SDK. I would expect that we will soon see services like this from Zillow and others that have developed robust mobile applications.

    I’ll reach out to show you a demo.

  • Christine Donovan

    Like Kerry, I think this would be a great application. Based on your post, it didn’t sound like it existed. And, you’ve unfortunately confirmed that in your comments.

    I think there are a lot of tech savvy buyers who would love this type of convenience.

  • RealEstateCafe


    The comment trail above suggests that tech savvy home buyers are already ahead of listing agents, so

    (1) Why limit your vision to a broker-centric flow of information,

    (2) Why limit notifications to properties already on the market, or

    (3) Individual real estate listings when there could be a “Menu of Savings Opportunities” delivered through a platform like

    See Real Estate Cafe blog post (12/13/09):

    Translating 2010 predictions into Menu of RE Consumer Savings

    Josh of, I’d love to be included in any site demos you make to the real estate industry and would be willing to help organize one targeted directly at home buyers and sellers, particularly FSBOs!

  • Brad Chandler

    Is there a provider that is working on the application that we can sign up for on their website – and they’ll alert us when the app comes out?

  • RealEstateCafe

    See follow-up blog post:

    RE TECH: Mobile Real Estate Apps: Will Geo-Fencing create a Geo-FSBO Future?

  • brendon

    Stumbled across this post and found it very interesting! I think there will be a few more mashups to help realtors sell propety and better analyse their markets by 2d barcoding and mobile internet solutions. I think that the way forward here is wap rather than app, as you want the largest group of potential customers to have access to the solution. All in all a great narrative. Thanks

  • Erik Hansen


    This is a very interesting and exciting concept. I do believe buyers get excited and start driving around or walk their desired neighborhoods looking for signs. However, I am skeptical that prospective tenants stroll around town or cruise through neighborhoods looking for “for rent signs.” Tenants seem to be less specific about neighborhoods and get their lists of propective homes from craigslist.

    I will definitely give this intriguing idea further thought.

  • Barrett Powell

    Do we really need geo-fencing to accomplish location based real-estate? There are a number of companies with GPS phone enabled apps to alert you of opportunities near your location.

    Not to rain on the parade, but there are issues of privacy that need to be figured out. This technology can also be misused to track someone’s movement. I can see someone hacking geo-fencing enabled server to let thieves know when you’re away from your house.

    Good idea, we just need to work through all the issues as well.

  • Compare Mobile Phones

    Stumbled across this post and found it very interesting! I think there will be a few more mashups to help realtors sell propety and better analyse their markets by 2d barcoding and mobile internet solutions. I think that the way forward here is wap rather than app, as you want the largest group of potential customers to have access to the solution. All in all a great narrative. Thanks

  • Garrigus Real Estate

    This is awesome stuff! Buyers will clamour for this type of user-ability. Sorry if I missed it, but how can I get a hold of software?

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