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Top Apps for Builders & Developers – Build Homes with a Smartphone

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Toolbox for Apps for Builders

If you’re a homebuilding industry pro, there are some great Apps that can help revolutionize your project management, bring client presentations to a new level, access a wealth of construction information and generally make your life easier. These Apps literally bring the tools to your fingertips.

We reviewed hundreds of Apps to find the best Apps for builders and developers, to help you and your clients 1) evaluate land for new homes and development projects, 2) manage the construction and homebuilding process and 3) build a “Digital Toolbox” for handling tasks while on a site. The good news is that while there is more expensive desktop software for some of these functions, these 15 top Apps for builders are easy to download to your mobile device and range in price from Free to $40.

Start with a few Apps that can help you evaluate and buy lots and land for your next project:

  1. iTopoMaps ($7.99, iPad & iPhone) and Gaia GPS ($19.99, Apple & Android) – When scouting for new projects, no longer do builders or developers have to sit in their vehicle in front of what could be a potential development parcel or homesite and look at the dense vegetation while wondering what the site’s elevation really is like. Both of these Apps are powerful tools for developers and builders who are evaluating potential properties because they put USGS topographic mapping capabilities in your hands at the site. Although hikers created the Apps, they are useful for homebuilding industry professionals prospecting lots for a new home or a site for a new development project. You may not be able to see the deep ravine that bisects the property from the street, but with these Apps you can “see” the elevation changes (and your location) plotted on a map. BONUS: Save time and money by avoiding trespassing charges!
  2. Geo Elevation ($1.99, Apple & Android) – In addition to a topographic view of property, it often helps you (and your client) to see a a cross-section elevation chart to really get a feel for the change in elevation on a homesite. Geo Elevation generates your current elevation readings, or lets you input specified figures, so you can print cross-section charts using either points from the field or specific contour lines from a topographic map. With this tool you can evaluate whether you can just do minor sitework, or maybe you need to look at the walkout basement plans instead. Elevation Chart ($1.99, iPad & iPhone) is an App that has similar cross-section elevation features.
  3. Screenshot of Geo-Measure App

    Geo-Measure

    Planimeter ($4.99, iPad & iPhone) – Curious about how many square feet or acres are in a potential development parcel or house lot?  This App measures distances and land areas on maps based on satellite imagery, so you can plot lot lines on your Smartphone or Tablet. You also can use this tool to estimate the amount of material that is needed for a job (e.g., driveway, decking) based on area. Geo Measure is another App with similar features ($1.99, Apple & Android).

  4. Easy Measure (Free, iPad & iPhone) – Now homebuilders can use their Smartphone camera to take all kinds of measurements in the field. With Easy Measure you can determine approximate lot lines by measuring from your location to a tree or other landmark in the distance. Use this App to measure dimensions of rooms or building footprints for existing homes. When evaluating whether to buy a vacant lot, you can use this App to measure the distance from your proposed house to an adjacent house or garage and even determine the height of trees or nearby buildings to help you get a feel for scale. Try pairing this App with the PhotoMeasure App (below), so you can take your measurements with your device and then record them on an image of the site or a building.
  5. Homesnap (Free, Apple & Android) – Homebuilders and developers often need to understand the submarket for existing homes in an area when they are in a vehicle scouting for potential development projects or homesites. But it never fails that the “For Sale” flyers are all gone when you stop to check the details about a listed house near the site. With Homesnap, use your Smartphone camera to take a photo of a home that’s listed in MLS and the App will deliver the price, size and other listing information to your phone.

After you find the right land for a project, it’s time for some planning:

  1. Construction Cost Estimator ($19.99, iPad & iPhone) – All the information and features you need to estimate construction costs right at your fingertips. This App helps you put together your own cost estimates and proposals, or lets you double-check the pricing given to you by a subcontractor. Note that it is an additional in-App purchase ($49.95) to add data from 3 different construction costbooks covering over 30,000 common construction tasks and items (costs even are localized to zip code levels). All you do is search for a cost item and input the quantity, then it can be inserted directly into a proposal or report in the App.
  2. Architect’s Formulator ($9.99, iPad & iPhone) – Even builders, developers and architects can use a little math help every now and then, especially when estimating for a job. This App features over 400 formulas to help your estimating and project planning when dealing with electrical, carpentry and plumbing calculations, among others. Use the App to estimate the bricks, studs or joists needed for your job. In addition, this app also features an estimation tool with concrete and excavation/fill formulas, plus many extras like steel design and parking area designs.
  3. Project Planner HD ($5.99, iPad) – Plan and manage multiple home building and development projects in this App using the Gantt Chart format. Another similar App for project planning and Gantt Charts is SG Project Pro ($39.99, iPad). Although not as sophisticated as some full-featured project management software, these reasonably priced Apps can help keep you organized and give insight about your critical path tasks so you can keep your project moving forward and on schedule.
  4. Civil Engineering Calculations ($9.99, iPad & iPhone) – Fine tuning site work plans for a new project? Use this App to perform some sophisticated civil engineering calculations on your iPhone or iPad. Helps simplify calculations for vertical curve, traverse, tangents and area. A quick way to calculate or check points on a roadway profile. Also helps you calculate flows for pipes and channels.  The Android version ($1.99) has fewer features.
  5. PadCad ($17.99, Apple & Android) – A simple Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tool for your Tablet. This is not a full-featured CAD program, but it’s easy to use and helpful for drawing preliminary design ideas or in-field sketching. Use PadCad to provide professional looking visuals for your clients or colleagues (that look a lot better than hand drawn sketches), so you can show building footprints or floorplan ideas.

Try these Apps for builders when you’re at the worksite: 

  1. Screenshots of PlanGrid for iPhone

    PlanGrid

    PlanGrid (Free, iPad & iPhone) – Now you can leave your rolls of plans and blueprints in the vehicle (or even at the office). PlanGrid allows contractors and developers to collaborate digitally with their engineers and architects using the most up-to-date plans for your project. Easily upload plans online, and your entire team’s devices will automatically sync in real-time with the new plans. Zoom in, take notes directly on the plans and add progress photos via the App, so you can remotely update the project team with your comments and screenshots through the Cloud. Also includes punch list functionality, where you can mark tasks directly on the plans through your device and then sync them to the team. This App can greatly simplify the work life of builders and developers by coordinating the project design, management and build out process. Offers some in-App purchases.

  2. PhotoMeasures ($5.99, iPad & iPhone) – An excellent tool for the worksite. Just take photos with your device’s camera and then use the App to add measurements on the image. With PhotoMeasures, measurements are able to be presented in clear type and with directional arrows. This tool can help you document measurements while in the field, and allows you to pass along measurements to team members and clients in a visual and easy to read manner.
  3. Siteworks ($39.99, iPad & iPhone) – Designed to help contractors manage punch lists and field notes. Use your device to add your comments at the exact location that you need on your uploaded PDF plans for a project, and annotate the plans with photos of the conditions. Easily input a description of the issue and then identify the trades involved, related stakeholders, completion deadlines and more.
  4. Home Builder Pro Calcs ($4.99, iPad & iPhone) – This App includes dozens of construction calculator modules for just about anything you need in the field or in the office. Sophisticated enough for industry pros. Perform calculations for concrete/paving, electrical, flooring/finishes, foundations/grading, framing and masonry (among others), as well as unit conversions and business calculations. Another similar App is Build Calc – Advanced Construction Calculator ($19.99, iPad & iPhone).
  5. iHandy Carpenter ($1.99, Apple & Android) –  How do you get a carpentry toolkit in the palm of your hand? Nothing comes closer to iHandy Carpenter, putting a ruler, protractor, bubble level, plumb bob and surface level all in one place. And not only is it practical, but it has a stylish wood-grained interface that looks beautiful. This App won’t replace your actual tools, but it may help out in a pinch when you don’t have the tool you need. And while there are many other trade-specific Apps available these days (electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc.), we thought we’d highlight iHandy Carpenter as an example of a trade-focused App that was done well.

    Screenshot of level from iHandy Carpenter

    iHandy Carpenter

 

We hope you’ll find many of these Apps useful in all the stages of homebuilding, from searching for a site, to planning the project, to the actual construction process. We realize that Apps are not likely to replace your real tools (you can’t use your Smartphone as a hammer), but many of these Apps can be pretty powerful and their mobility provides a good bridge between the field, your truck and the office.

Check out our two other App review articles about “Building a Home with a Smartphone” – one article describes 10 Apps that empower real estate agents and brokers when working with clients who want to build a new home, and the other reviews 8 Apps for your clients and potential homeowners who want to build a home.

And leave a comment if you have any favorite Apps that weren’t included in this list.

 

Author’s Note: For this article we have tried to focus on standalone Apps that can assist users on a project management level or that may be useful in the field. There are many trade-specific Apps, as well as add-on Apps that act as a mobile interface for existing enterprise software or other online services for homebuilding industry pros, but those types of Apps were not within the scope of this review.

 

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Discussion

    • says

      Thanks, Tim. Glad you found the information useful. You may want to read our other 2 recent articles about Apps too. Those articles review several different Apps, and approach the new home process from different perspectives — one article from the view of a potential homeowner and the other from the view of a real estate agent helping a client who is looking for a lot and building a home.

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