Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

The cure for conference call hell?

Hate conference calls as much as I do? Check out ÜberConference. It’s from the guys who did Google Voice (Grand Central). The video below is great. I dare you not to see something that has happen to you on a conference call.

They are still in beta but you can sign up with the link below for advanced access:

ÜberConference Sign Up Link

The Vendor Alley Holiday Wish List

Not sure what to get your favorite Vendor for the holidays? Not sure what YOU want under the Christmas tree? Have no fear we’ve got you covered!

1. Bose-mobile communications kit -$30.00

Many of you have a Bose Noise canceling headsets for plane travel. They also make a great headset for conference calls from your mobile phone or on your computer with this great adapter.

2. Red Oxx -Air Boss $225.00

“The only carry-on bag you’ll ever need”. I love this bag, because I hate to check in.

3. MacBook Air 13″ $1,599.00

These are standard issued equipment at W&R Studios. My guys love them.

4. PlugBug! -$34.95

I love twelvesouth, I already own their BookBook for iPad and get tons of compliments. But they just released this and it’s pretty near the top of my Christmas List.

5. Jack Spade “Mill” Leather Dopp Kit -$155.00

I love the style of this dopp kit. My choice in color would be Tobacco (as shown).

6. Tweetbot for iPhone. $2.99

The new Twitter app for iPhone sucks. I just switched to this and love it.

7. Moleskine Classic Extra Large Soft Cover Ruled Notebook (7.5″ x 10″) -$19.95

I like Moleskine notebooks but not a big fan of the smaller hard cover versions that are so popular. I need a lot more space to write (and draw) and prefer a soft cover that fits better in my notebook case/backpack.

8. Field Notes $9.95 – Original

But if you are looking for a small notebook I recommend these. I’ve always have one available in my back left pocket for just like the ad says “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

9. “Get Excited and Make Things” Print (30″ X 24″) by Matt Jones $1,000 (They are out of smaller sizes)

We all need a little motivation sometimes and there’s nothing better than this to hang on your wallin your office/cube/ or in the home office. Inspired by the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters of WWII it reminds us the creating things are supposed to be fun.

10. Mophie juice pack plus – $99.95

For my day to day use of my iPhone 4S I don’t have any problem with battery life. But it seems when I’m traveling I need a little piece of mind and that’s why I have one of these in my bag (black, of course).

11. Origami Workstation -$29.95

There are a lot of iPad case out there that have built in keyboards. Plus I my normal set up at home with my MocBook is a wireless keyboard and mouse. I just like using a mouse rather than a trackpad if i have the choice. So this Origami Workstation really caught my eye. I get a good protector case for my wireless keyboard and it also serves as a stand and keyboard for my iPad. Brilliant!

You can also see this list on my Delicious Stack.

Happy Holidays!

The MLS system landscape and the MLS Vendor of the future.

A few thoughts about what I’ve been hearing and observing about the state of MLS systems and vendors

Flash’s dead, baby.

I’ve written about the problems and issues of some MLS vendors MLS platforms be written in Flash. and now this, Adobe announced they will no longer continue to develop a Flash version for mobile devices. So to me the debate ends here, MLS vendors who’s new versions rely upon Flash have two choices. Develop a separate HTML5 or equivalent version of their MLS system or create separate “native” versions of their MLS systems that run on mobile devices (iPhone, Droid, iPad, etc.). Either prospects are not great, but….

I’ve seen Discover MLS’ offering and now recently got a sneak peak at LPS’s REinsight new MLS system and was impressed (both are built using Flash). They not only look great, from a UI perspective, but there is some real innovation going on. One of things that struck me about LPS’s REinsight was the blending of the LPS public records data along with MLS data. This is great for creating all inclusive CMAs and other reports. Plus from a map search perspective you can see an MLS listing and also click on the property next to it (that might not be in the MLS database) and up pop public records data, which is super cool. One database, no need to exit out of the MLS system and log in to a separate app, the data is all on the same map/listing view.

I haven’t yet seen CoreLogic’s Fusion product (also developed in Flash) but I have to imagine an MLS system integrated with RealList data would be a hit. CoreLogic does have some hurdles, Tempo, doesn’t work on any browser except Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. And now Fusion won’t run on an iPad. Not anyone’s fault, who could have predicted the iPad’s popularity. But some MLS Vendors, like Solid Earth, appear to be heading to an “iPad first” strategy.

One argument I hear a lot from these MLS Vendors is that according to their analytics less than 2% of MLS subscribers are using iPad to access their current MLS systems. This is just whistling through the graveyard in my opinion.

The Octagon

The issues I talk about above really make for some interesting thoughts about the competitive landscape of MLS Vendors. I see a few scenarios.

Innovation. MLS Vendors who have MLS systems that run on multiple devices, won’t have to develop or mange multiple code bases. These MLS Vendors are free to leverage their develop resources towards other innovations instead of solving cross compatibility issues. A huge advantage as I see it.

Less choice. With the recent acquisition of Tarasoft by CoreLogic lowered the choices in MLS systems vendors. And with CoreLogic still dominating the public records side (has anyone really canceled their RealList contract as RPR has suggested?) are they getting “to big to fail”? Put in another way, do MLS Providers want to have a single vendor control so much of their mission critical applications and data?

It seems the value proposition for other smaller (alternative?) MLS Vendors are starting to get more attractive.

1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
2. More innovation
3. More personal service.

Sounds good to me.

New Business Models

The reality is that its hard being a pimp. MLS system sales have always had a long sales cycle and with the down real estate market not many large/medium MLS Providers are in a hurry to go thru a conversion. So some MLS vendors are opting to start new business models. FBS comes to mind. MLS Providers are also branching out. Metrolist’s Marketplace comes to mind.

Focus is also becoming a big factor. I noticed this in two areas recently.

1. LPS sold their broker and agents division (now R.E.D. Real Estate Digital)
2. CoreLogic recently sold their Membership Director product back to MMSI.

Welcome to the 3rd Party

I also see a big boon for 3rd Party Software developers in the future (hooray!) Managed and standardized databases and APIs are all in the near future. The aforementioned Marketplace is a perfect example of a new distribution model for real estate specific web apps to be sold. If MLS Providers and Vendors can successfully change the behavior of MLS members to look to buy these apps through a portal, and that portal is easily accessible through their MLS system, 3rd Party software companies stand to benefit immensely. Talk about “non-dues revenue”!

You are witnessing the rebirth of MLS Vendors

I see in 2012 MLS Vendors hammering out their strategy for the next NAR annual meeting Orlando. At that conference I think we are going to see a lot of new innovative stuff, not just from the product side but the re-invention of what it means to be an MLS Vendor going forward. I’m excited about the possibilities.

The Science and Art of REALTOR.com’s new iPad App.

There have been quite a few reviews about REALTOR.com’s new iPad app, Inman News did a great job and I love the thoroughness of what Agent Genius put together was awesome. I just wanted to focus on a few things I think are really special about the app itself, and why I think REALTOR.com has really knocked it out of the park.

The Science

Data, data, data.

What really sets this app far and away from the competition is the data. Nobody has more listings than REALTOR.com. So if Zillow or Trulia’s app were just as good (which they are not) as REALTOR.com’s iPad app you would be hard pressed to rely on their iPad apps alone to do any serious searching for real estate.

Area highlighter.

I think any well executed product has a bit of magic in it. In fact Steve Jobs called the iPad itself, magical. Being able to draw with your finger on to the map the specific area you want to live is not a new feature with online websites or even on mobile device (REALTOR.com’s iPhone app has this ability) But it really shines on the iPad. It just feels like…magic!

The Art

Just a few other things that I also thought worth mentioning.

First I noticed how much more enjoyable and what a better experience I have using the iPad app than actually searching on REALTOR.com. No annoying ads, a better use of screen space, and the interacitveness of the iPad experience really makes me prefer it as a primary environment when searching for homes.


Those of you that read my blog know I’m not a big fan of map search on real estate search sites. But I must confess REALTOR.com iPad app makes me a convert, at least on the iPad. Maybe because it reminds me of one site that I have mentioned in the past as my favorite implementation of map search; Estately. Take a look at the screen shots for the map display of Estately and the map display of the iPad app.

REALTOR.com's iPad App

Estately's map search screen

So it’s no wonder why I like it so much!

Recently viewed listings

This is something small but shows an attention to detail that I love about the app. Having a something as simple as a checkmark in the map marker to remind you that you have already looked at the listing is really a winner. It just adds to the overall experience of the app of being an efficient way to search for real estate.


The Gallery View

Another thing I believe is great products borrow something from the past. In this app it’s the “Gallery View”, Errol called this view similar to the magazines you would get at supermarkets and grocery stores back in the day. To me the layout reminds me of MLS books. This is especially true when you view the listings in portrait view (of course).

Would I change anything?

While the app is truly a great product everyone, especially a software developer like me, always has a few things they would change or add. For me I just felt the sharing features of the app were the least thought out. I can understand the issues of privacy but it would be really great to see better hooks and tie-ins between the agent and the consumer.

Well that’s it.

I congratulate the entire team at REALTOR.com for putting together such an inspiring piece of software!

Real Living launches new national website.

Competition is increasing on the national real estate franchise front. Real Living and GMAC Real Estate were both acquired by Brookfield Residential Property Services. The two companies were merged under the Real Living brand. The site was based upon LPS Real Estate Group platform. This is the first national real estate franchise site LPS Real Estate Group has hosted.

W&R Studios has had the pleasure of working with Matt Kaufman at GMAC Real Estate (now Real Living) , Brooks Burton (Real Living) and LPS Real Estate Group on this project. Lots of twists and turns.

Imagine this scenario; you have a huge Canadian corporation buy your company, then buy another real estate company, decide to go national as a single real estate brand. So you merge management teams, sell the new brand to your existing franchisors and hire a vendor and launch a new national real estate portal, all in about 12 months!

Having some experience with national real estate franchise portals I’d like to focus on one thing that’s great about LPS’s platform; Mapping. LPS has spent a lot of resources to ensure that their mapping display a full experience, including plot lines, roof top geo-coding, and bird’s eye views. Here some examples of what I mean.

Here's a listing displayed on Century21.com. The marker is on the wrong home, as you will see in the next example.

Here's the same listing on the new RealLiving.com. It includes plot lines and the correct positioning of the marker.

You can see on the new RealLiving.com site the marker in right on the rooftop of the home.

Curiously Century21.com did not offer any birds-eye views of the home.

Now let’s take a look at what happens you when only offer part of the solution. On remax.com they draw plot lines, but lack of rooftop geo-coding which makes the result somewhat comical.

As stated remax.com has included plot lines. But the marker is still way off.
You can see in the above example from remax.com without rooftop geo-coding the plot lines almost become a burden.

There are several things that I could call out but the mapping is the most demonstrative. It will be great to see how this site progresses, they are off to a great start!

Congrats to Real Living and LPS Real Estate Group!

C.A.R. Expo Recap

I wanted to share a few thoughts and observations about the C.A.R. Expo held at the Anaheim Convention Center last week. The event was fantastic. Good attendance and, at least from my experience, real estate agents were buying.

I barely had time to recover from CMLS 2010 in Chicago when we rolled in and set up our booth on Tuesday. There was a lot of “haven’t seen you in a long time” sarcasm from a lot of the vendors.

Opening day they billed as “Tech Tuesday” and the show floor was open from 5PM to 8PM. Of the 70 orders we took during the show we did over 10 on Tuesday so I was a nice start.

Simon Baker

We then proceeded to crash a party at the House of Blues where we tried to cop as many free drink tickets as we could munster. Then we ended up having dinner with the well-traveled Simon Baker and John Hart from ListGlobally, which bills itself as “a new and innovative global marketing tool for agents and developers” (think global syndication service). We went out for drinks with them the next night since I discovered that Australians are the only ones that can keep up with me. : )

Now back to the show….

Although I’ve seen the C.A.R. shows have lots more exhibitors the overall attendance was good. The Orange County Register had an article about the show you can read here, 1 and includes lots of photos.

I saw some interesting booths and products. One of the clever things I saw was at the Discover MLS booth. They were using a special display overlay device on an iMac to demo their MLS product. I took out my iPhone and shot this quick video.

I went to the MLS committee meeting hoping to catch the calREDD update. But had to leave early since the other topics took up a lot of time. But it doesn’t sound like I missed much. From what I was told Art Carter‘s update was less than 5 minutes.

Oh what a difference a year makes!

eNeighborhoods releasing iPhone and iPad app.

Just caught this is my Google Reader today. Looks like eNeighborhoods is releasing an iPhone and iPad app dubbed “Neighborhood Envoy”. It’s available on the iTunes store today. I think it’s great to see eN rolling out new apps. Below are a few screen shots of the iPhone version.

I can’t really give a full review of the product (it requires a subscription to their eNeighborhoods NEXT product), so I’ll comment on what I can see here.

Somebody needs to tell eNeighborhoods to turn down the brightness of the colors they use. The color scheme looks like a circus tent.

The name of the app, “Neighborhood Envoy”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. You would think they would leverage the whole Mexican/Spanish thing they have going on with “eNeighborhoods Mercado” and call the iPhone app something like “Neighborhood Amigo”.

But, in that case they wouldn’t be allowed to launch it in Arizona. ; )

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