Custom Apto Integration for Drupal Website

Strategy, Custom Web Application, Drupal, API Integration 

Thalhimer is the largest commercial real estate (CRE) broker in the Central Virginia area, and has been at the forefront of the commercial real estate industry since the early 20th century.

From leasing space in the first chain stores and regional shopping centers to leasing office space in the first high rise office buildings and marketing property in the first suburban office and industrial parks, Thalhimer has earned and maintained its role as an industry leader.

While history is important, Thalhimer is always looking to the future, driven by a continuing investment in technology and tools to ensure top-notch service.

In 2015, Thalhimer engaged COLAB to help integrate their broker and property information from Salesforce into their existing website. The new system we integrated with is called Apto, and is a CRM product for brokerages built on top of Salesforce specifically for managing customer relationships, properties, listings, deals and back-office.

Without an integration to their website, the small team needed help avoiding:

  • Duplicative effort when manually updating property listings and agent details on both Apto and the website
  • Lag time between updates in their CRM and when the marketing team would be able to update the website listing details (including flyers and one sheets)
  • Time spent on the phone with upset agents correcting mistyped or pasted listing details
  • Divergence of listing information when information entered into the website doesn’t make it back to the CRM

The approach was to build a custom Drupal module that would pull real-time property listings and broker information into Thahimer’s existing commercial website,, and to be able to manage that underlying content using Apto.

The Challenge

The Thalhimer website had been built by another company and was using an old system that wasn’t as robust as Apto. Our work involved both decoupling the previous system as well as adding the Apto integration.

Building on an existing platform can be challenging. Because of the infinite approaches to technical implementation, it is impossible to have full insight into the original intent of the website’s code. This. is especially the case for Drupal-based sites, but is an issue for WordPress-based sites as well. You must have a team that is experienced in technology to evaluate what exists and add features using a strategy that avoids breaking other parts of the site.

Additionally, the data format, structures, available fields, and so on were, in some cases, significantly different between the two systems. This meant that data needed to be reformatted on the backend and the front end needed to be modified to reflect the changes in data.

The Solution

We acted as an extension of the small marketing team at Thalhimer. We worked directly with Apto representatives to determine where data needed to come from and how it would be used on the website.

In some cases, we helped ensure that Thalhimer’s needs were met with the CRM itself. This included suggestions around additional fields or modules for Apto to build as well as the repurposing of unused features to help save time, money, and effort.

On the client side, we worked with Thalhimer to determine how to use the Apto data and what was best to pull and display on their website.

Not only did we write a new API service integration to pull data from a different source, we also had to change some of the underlying Drupal data structures and theming in the existing website to display the new information in a coherent way.

The Result

We completed a really smooth API integration with Salesforce and Apto. We successfully increased the efficiency of marketing team and their value to the organization. They no longer had to spend extra time manually updating listing/agent information on the website, correcting data entry issues, or figuring out how to consolidate information between systems.

We leveraged many complex relationships between Drupal content types within the context of, making it easy for the Thalhimer team to boost engagement and time spent on site.

We also combined the previously separate Newport News and Virginia Beach markets into a single Hampton Roads market on the Thalhimer website, supporting changes to their marketing and sales efforts. This also helped to simplify the user experience on the front end, and content management on the back-end.

Thalhimer stakeholders were thrilled with the results and have since engaged us to continue working on the site each month. This includes re-skinning the site to bring it in line with updated Thalhimer and Cushman and Wakefield brand standards and reworking the mobile and tablet display to make the site easier to use on various devices. Both these give a much cleaner, more usable, and more modern design, which you now see live at

Click here to view, let us know what you think via our Contact page, or give us a call at (804) 433-3582! We’d love to hear your thoughts on our approach and what types of pain points you have with your CRE website.