Take a moment and consider how much information you collect every day from your residents, owners, and properties. From your books to your residents’ technology adoption, there is a well of hidden value buried beneath the surface. Many real estate management companies already know that they have all this data that can help them make their operations more efficient and enable sound decision making – which is exactly why an open API is so current.

So why did Buildium release an open API? It all comes down to the property management industry’s need for access to data and how property managers can benefit from it.

Patrick Rubeski, VP Engineering at Buildium, says, “Here you see more of an industry linchpin around data access and the ease and ability to use that data to make good business decisions. Now you really have the ability to access access your data through countless tools, and even to build your own.

And that’s going to be really important because we’re seeing a tremendous amount of activity in the industry. There are really great products up and down. This gives you the ability to easily integrate with those products and also do it in a really custom way if you want.

In the following post, you will not only get an introduction to what an open API is and how to think about using it, but you will also hear directly from those who conceived and built Buildium’s new, open API.

Want to see detailed Buildium customer use cases? Check out our guide: 8 real estate management business goals that Buildium’s Open API can achieve.

What is an API?

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of rules and definitions that allow different pieces of technology to communicate with each other. A well-built, secure and well-documented API is the foundation for software development. An Open API essentially gives any developer the ability to create software that can be connected to an external platform (in our case, the Buildium application) to write or extract certain data.

Think of an Open API as a carrier. There are items that you can order from a catalog and the courier delivers them from the warehouse to your home. This is called “reading” data. However, the difference with an open API is that: you can send your requests back to the warehouse via courier to “write” data too.

Buildium Open API

In general, the integrations that take place fall into 3 categories: customer integrations, direct partner integrations, and a marketplace – where enterprising developers can sell their own inventions (more on this later). These are by no means new forays into the tech world, but a true open API and marketplace was not common in the property management industry until RealPage was introduced RPX to push our industry to think differently.

How does an open API work in property management software?

At its core, an API helps connect two different systems together and serves as the point of contact that does the communication and the heavy lifting. As mentioned above, an API specifies the specific rules (or protocols) that must be followed to collect or transmit the requested information. It’s not the same as getting the keys to the castle, as you always have to rely on an intermediary who has their own set of very specific rules.

To understand the inner workings of an API, it is necessary to define the key components that make it work properly.

API endpoints: The digital gateway between two systems – it is the place where both systems work together. An endpoint is how the API accesses the data it requests. Which they are depends on the rules of the API.

API key: The authentication code or password that each API integration needs to connect and also to identify the system making the request. Every time this happens, it keeps a record of it so the system can keep an eye on everything, which is especially useful as APIs become more popular. Usually, each API key is associated with specific access rights.

API request: This is the whole reason you set up an API integration: to make requests to send or receive data. An API request occurs when a developer adds an endpoint to a URL and calls that data.

Now that you understand the key terms in an API, let’s take a look at how to use it.

What can property management companies do with an open API?

Like most things, you want to know how each piece of technology is going to generate value for your business and customers. Just because a new, shiny technology exists, doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.

As many already know, real estate management platforms exist as a central hub for real estate management activities. And since it’s an efficiency-driven industry, where scale can drastically affect profitability, the more property managers can do within one platform, the more profitable they’ll be.

Reporting and Workflows

Now let’s use the Buildium API as an example to understand what property managers can do with it. From lease metrics to internal technology adoption, the Buildium API opens up more than 20 powerful endpoints that allow you to easily retrieve core datasets in real-time, via standard HTTP requests. According to Howie Mulcahy, Software Development Manager, “We’re seeing two key things that are emerging now as we get more feedback: reporting and workflows.”

Regarding reporting, a community association property management company may need a custom report for their board — and so it might make sense to get that data and feed it into another dashboard.

When it comes to workflows we are talking about integrations that help with property management activities and tasks. A property management company may need to put some data in a Google sheet to help with revenue, for example. It doesn’t matter which of the two categories, it’s crucial to calculate how much time is saved. If you break down an individual task, how much faster did you create that one task for your team?

Open API or not, the fact is that many real estate management companies may not want to develop and maintain software that relies on an integration – and that is perfectly legitimate. This is where the market concept gains momentum.

For a technical guide to all things Buildium API, visit developer.buildium.com.

The Marketplace Concept

When you think of a marketplace, you usually think of industry leaders like: AppExchange from Salesforce and Atlassian Marketplace, who have successfully created a culture and business model that attracts enterprising developers to create new pieces of software. For many small businesses, the absence of development is an incredibly attractive prospect as they don’t have to pay for their own development team.

Moreover, a powerful concept behind any market is the idea of ​​the democratization of that technology. A marketplace can level the playing field and lead to new startups finding their niche if they do it right.

An open API brings so many more possibilities, many of which are hard to imagine at first. One thing is certain, if an open API makes the real estate management tech stack easier for most real estate managers, then it will be successful.

And to sum it all up, Rubeski notes, “You can now access that data to use however you want across your entire ecosystem — across your entire technology stack. And that’s really empowering.”

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