5 Replies Latest reply on Oct 14, 2011 1:38 PM by cortlanddavid

    Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate



      Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate


      Hello. I am new to filemaker and have recently purchase filemaker pro advanced for the purposes of creating a database for my business. I am a real estate broker/agent specializing in investment real estate. I currently use a product called REA which is database solution built for the windows platform and specifically for commercial real estate. I won't go into my list of problems with the program. Suffice it to say that I want to create my own solution. (I've provided a link to the REA website so people can visualize: http://gorea.com/new_to_REA/screenshot_tour.php). 

      My database consists of properties and their owners/contacts. The properties include a variety of intrinsic data (type, # of units, APN#, year built, etc. etc.). The contacts linked to those properties typically consist of simple contact data (name, address, phone, email, etc.). One important characteristic is a 'notes' fieid. I need to be able to have a button that to add a note (and have that start with a time stamp) for the purpose of tracking my calls and conversations. 

      Ideally, I will have a database that can sort either by property or by owner. In some cases, one owner or investment group may own multiple properties within the database. I would like all those linked to the single source. However, I should also be able to scroll through all the properties in a list format. 

      Since I am new to filemaker, can anyone point me in the right direction? Should I simply begin with one of the templates (say, contact management) and modify it? Or should I build from scratch? Any help is greatly appreciated. 

      Thanks -

        • 1. Re: Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate

          Have you invested in any training in FileMaker such as a tutorial? Have you acquired a book on it?

          Such resources will help you acquire the basic knowledge you'll need to get started. We'll help you all we can, but such "self education" will better enable you to both ask questions and to understand the suggested solutions here in the forum.

          I suggest you outline on paper the basic design of what you want/need to do. Try to organize your data into logical groups that can be expressed as a list. Each such group will become a table in the database and you can map out on paper how data in one table links to data in another and this will tell you how to get started in building relationships between the tables. In your post, I can see mention properties--where one record describes a specific property offered for sale, contacts--where one record describes a single contact that could be a buyer, seller or other person involved in your real estate transactions, and "notes" which need both a field for the note and a timestamp field to record when the note was created. Such notes might be linked to a specific contact, a specific property or a record in a table yet to be identified in your design process. That's just three tables out of many that you'll need. Presumably, you'll need another table where you document each real estate transaction with links to properties to access info on the property, a link to contacts to access contact information on the buyers and the sellers--plus others like appraisers, loan officers and contractors just to imagine a few possibilities.

          And that's just barely enough to get you started. I suggest that you think small and simple to start out and then add more tables, layouts, scripts etc as you acquire the skills and identify additional needs. Don't hesitate to total scrap a design and start over if you find your first design doesn't pan out like you thought. Learning how to work with the basic FileMaker features are pretty easy, comming up with and implementing a good design that will effectively meet your needs is anything but easy.

          • 2. Re: Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate


            Thank you for the quick reply. Yes, I have watched several tutorials today (just purchased the product) and have a basic understanding. However, there are so many options it is a bit overwhelming. I like your idea of writing things down on paper - which I will do. However, your description of my project is much more complicated than my existing database actually is. 

            This is not about transactions necessarily (but hopefully working through it results in them). In other words, these are not just properties for sale and contacts are buyers or sellers. I don't need loan officers or links to info on property access. All that is way too involved and unnecessary. The database is simple: Properties within a certain geographic region and of a certain type (office, apartment, etc.) and their owners (think tax records). That's it. I just want the two to be linked to each other in the obvious sense. As per notes, this need only be a simple box on the contact page to keep track of the converstions. Perhaps one note section on the property page to add any additional data (past sales/owners, etc.) not entered into a field.

            Your answer actual highlights why I posted on here - to get advice from the user community to help me NOT over-complicate the design/implementation of the program. 

            • 3. Re: Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate

              Sounds like you are on the right track. I mentioned those features as options typical of what are needed in many real estate businesses and as examples of how creating a "paper plan" can help you identify the tables you'll need for your relationship.

              • 4. Re: Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate

                I use Filemaker for my own commercial real estate database and created it from scratch.  It works great and has the benefit of being able to be modified to exactly suit my business needs as they change.  You might start your Flemaker database by copying the general look and feel of another contact database with which you are familiar, knowing that most things can be changed later.

                You might consider first setting up a table for Contacts and then another for Properties, with the two linked relationally in a one-to-many relationship by a numeric identifier.  A portal showing these multiple properties can then be placed on the Contact Form.  In a Property form, you can also place some ownership information from the Contact table so that when you pull up a property by its address you can immediately see who is the owner.  Sorting both tables is easy within Filemaker.   I also use the GTRR (Go to Related Record) command to jump from the Contact form to the linked Property form.

                I would also set up other tables such as Last_Talked and Last_Sent.  Each of these two tables could have a notes field and an automatically entered date field allowing you to enter multiple information about subsequent conversations and submittals or letters and emails.  These two tables would also be relationally linked to the Contacts table in a one-to-many relationship.  I would suggest these two latter tables are viewed in portal rows placed on the Contact form.  You can also have the portal rows automatically sort so the most recent conversations, submittals or notes are shown first.  

                As opposed to using a button to start entering notes about a conversation, I simply have a scroll bar on the side of each portal and when I scroll down it shows me an empty row to be used.  Then, when I finish entering notes in this field, the date and timestamp field automatically is entered and is viewed adjacent to the notes in the portal row.

                Furthermore, tabs can allow you to have access to more information than would be reasonable on one page.  Information on different Tabs might include the contact's mailing address and investment requirements.  My Contact investment requirements are set up with check boxes such as Industrial, Office, Hotel, NNN, as well as location preferences.

                There is also a great website tool within Filemaker that can be linked to Google Maps allowing you to automatically show maps and even a street view of your Property addresses.  Good luck.

                • 5. Re: Need to create a relational database for commercial real estate

                  Paradoxical -

                  Thank you so much for your thorough response. The database you created sounds more or less perfect. I will use your answer as a sort of guideline and may reach out to you further with questions. Your knowledge of Filemaker is obviously much deeper than mine so I will set out to learn the basics as PhilModJunk suggested prior to asking questions. 

                  Sorry for my delay in responding but thank you again for your input.