What makes your work worthwhile?

April 27, 2006

We build a lot of functionality and some of them have benefits that are easier to see then others. A recent bit of work is currently in beta.  It allows our members, real estate agents, to set triggers for certain events that happen on their websites and receive them as SMS messages sent to their cell phones.  Where it gets neat is when you see it in action – or read about it as it were.

One of our beta customers, Jay Thompson had this to say: “This is great, a client recently said to me ‘Wow, I just sent that email three minutes ago. Do you just sit by a PC waiting on email?’ When I told him I was actually on a bike ride, he was pretty impressed.”

This is the kind of comment that makes it all worthwhile.


Rich Data and Search Innovation

April 20, 2006

There are some pretty novel search applications beginning to shape up.  One of the more novel applications is in experimental mode at Microsoft.  This new technology would make it possible for a consumer (buyer or seller) to take a picture of a house with a camera phone.  Then that image could be used to search a web based database for more information.  Imagine a consumer taking a picture of house and then getting inside pictures, price or last sale price, specs and other information, right there on the spot! 


National MLS

April 20, 2006

  The idea of a “National MLS” has been floated around for years.  Lately, with the arrival of Google Base and consolidation of some large MLS’s the talk of a National MLS is heating up again.     

Hmmn, it makes one wonder what would/should a National MLS look like?  I guess that depends on one’s point of view.  One of the most common definitions for MLS is: A group of brokers joined together in a co-operative marketing organization for the purpose of pooling their respective listings. In exchange for a potentially larger audience of buyers, the brokers agree to share commissions. 

This seems like a fairly accurate description to me. So really, in some ways,  the MLS is a marketing organization.  In this organization Brokers “share” their “marketing assets” (listings) with other brokers and agree to share commissions.   They do this in exchange for a potentially larger audience of buyers.

Realtors clearly favor a National or some form of consolidation at least to a state level, according to the NAR 2006 MLS Technology survey that was just recently released.  The survey also highlighted a few reasons why, including:

  • The expanding market areas for brokers across MLS lines
  • The cost and inefficiency of belonging to multiple MLSs
  • The cost and difficulty of data aggregation across multiple MLSs
  • The need for MLSs to provide improved services in response to new competitors entering the real estate industry

Before I return to my musings about what a “National MLS” should look like I think it prudent to point out more problems with the current structure of the some 960+ MLSs out there.DATA CONTROLBrokers can’t effectively control with whom they “share” their marketing assets leading to many problems:

  • Brokers can’t measure how their “marketing partners” are contributing to the co-operative (if at all) i.e. do the partners bring “marketing assets” and/or buyers or are they simply bringing a fork to the potluck (as Dave Liniger puts it).
  • Brokers have no control over the integrity and reputation of others who are using their listings and, therefore, their reputations are connected with these people as marketing partners – guilt  by association.
  • Brokers have limited access to data (marketing assets) they provide to the MLS and have to effectively pay to get it back
  • Brokers have restrictions on how they may use their own, and each others, marketing assets.
  • Brokers cannot reuse marketing assets for other marketing in vertical search, partner websites, print, etc. This makes for multiple re entry for things like Google Base, Trulia, Oodle, Realestate.com, Yahoo Classifieds, etc.
  • Brokers have no control or insight into the level of service provided by the marketing partners forced on them. Thus they difficulty sharing commission properly based on amount of work and value the partner brings.  Equal pay for Equal work seems to not apply in the current MLS structure.

DATA STRUCTURE

In many cases brokers have little or no flexibility over the data types and data quality they can provide.

  • Brokers and agents are the experts on marketing yet have very little control of makeup of data set
  • Limited in qualitative descriptions, photos, sound, virtual tours, neighborhood info.
  • The limited and ridged structure of the data doesn’t allow brokers to accommodate the type of marketing information that consumers expect and sellers are willing to provide
  • The heterogeneous data sets (960+) make for a fractured broker (entering data) and consumer (providing and viewing) experience.

DATA  TYPES

MLSs  are unable or unwilling to provide for the new types of marketing assets that brokers will need in the future.

  • Current MLSs do not contain all the homes truly for sale – only those under contract.
  • Many New homes are not included (if not under contract).
  • FSBO’s , foreclosures, rentals and vacation properties are not handled properly or at all.

What does this mean?As a result Brokers are unable to satisfy the current demands of consumers let alone the ever increasing demands of the coming Information Empowered Consumer.  

What might a “New National MLS” look like and how could it solve the problems enumerated above?  Well, I am willing to step out on a limb and take a shot at describing how I think it ought to look.

  • A Flexible Homogenous data structure.  This means that it could be a bungalow in Toronto and a Rancher in
    Texas but it is still one data field that is the same everywhere.
  • Ability to accommodate homes not necessarily under contract such as new homes, FSBO’s , foreclosures, rentals and vacation properties.
  • Complete Broker control.  After all they are the ones that really own the data.   Brokers would have complete control over the “who what and where” of their listings or marketing assets. Brokers could then choose to only share marketing assets with those that bring something to the table (other marketing assets or buyers). 
  • Complete control would be easily managed by brokers over the all the National MLS participants with very fine grained control capabilities.
  • Brokers would have complete control of their data for their own use in any manner they desire that is authorized by the providing broker.
  • Automatic branded syndication of data.  Easy and automatic data flow to any media (Google, Yahoo, Realestate.com, newsprint, partner’s websites) that they completely control and could opt out of on a case by case basis.
  • A Democratic Community Based Rating System, much like the eBay sellers rating that would give them insight into their marketing partners.
    • Show what marketing partners are contributing (marketing assets and buyers)
    • Show work ethic and integrity of agents to help in deciding who their marketing partners will be
    • Response time rating
    • Identify service level of their marketing partners to help them decide commission splits based on the principle of equal pay for equal work
    • Consumer satisfaction ratings
    • Referral satisfaction ratings
    • Data Integrity ratings reflecting data timeliness and completeness.
  • Ability to allow home seller to participate (top ten things we will miss about our home/neighborhood).
  • Unlimited photos, descriptions, audio, tours etc. – in short allow brokers to utilize their marketing expertise

If you are a Point2 Agent member you will know that most of this already exists.  Our “Listings Platform” and Point2 Agent HandshakeTM already form the basis for the genesis of a National MLS. 

At Point2 we are committed to the future for real estate agents and brokers.  I would love to hear any thoughts on this interesting, albeit controversial, subject,


Interesting Quote

April 18, 2006

"Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."


No Shortage of Great New Ideas

April 17, 2006

I  had a conversation the other day with an old friend who is not involved technology.  As we talked the conversation moved toward technology and its role in society.  In particular he felt that we were getting close to the end of new innovation, that everything that could possibly be done was being done.  I only needed to throw out five or six ideas (without pause because I have been thinking of them for sometime) before he realized that he just had not opened his mind to new ideas.  Frankly, I was surprised because my friend is one smart cookie, it just goes to show that most people don’t take the time to dream.

So many good ideas and so little time.  Here is one of those tremendous ideas.   I really like this site because of the possibilities that exist for this technology in the real estate industry.   

I hope you enjoy this site:  http://www.riya.com

Who knows – you might already be in the database


Maps or Text Search – What does Cool Mean?

April 17, 2006

Many people are impressed by the map searches at sites like www.redfin.com , www.trulia.com , www.homepages.com, www.zillow.com, www.realestateabc.com, . I do agree that these sites are fascinating and are generally a great tool for consumers. That said I have always found actually usability, at least with respect to browsing homes, leaves a lot to be desired.

So why am I bringing this up you might ask, well recently I ran across a UK site that I found rather amazing. It is amazing in the same way that Google is amazing. It has an extremely simple interface, is lighting fast, predictive and intuitive. The site http://www.extate.com gives you an extremely austere screen that simply asks “Where are you searching” Typing any letter instantly produces a drop down of relevant locations and the number of listings in each. This just isn’t simply the entire list though, if you type a second letter even more refined locations (with less listing) will appear. I am not overly familiar with the geography of the UK but a quick inspection seems to indicate a highly usable system.

Once you click through the link you will find you can refine your search by price, bedrooms and agents. The refinements are speedy and cool. There is a also a system of “Tags” that allow you to look for specific features of a target property. All in all, this site rocks!

Personally, for all the money that the first sites I mentioned have spent, I find http://www.extate.com far more enjoyable and practical to use.

 I would love to hear what others think!

More about the guy that developed the site http://www.morewhite.com/archives/12


Seth Rocks

April 17, 2006

Any ideas on how we can get people to sneeze about Point2Agent like this? http://www.techcrunch.com/?p=181


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