Greetings fellow Rain City Readers! I’m a software engineer that has been working with Dustin to develop a better MLS search. Before I get started into what I’m doing, I thought I’d discuss the why I’m doing it…
My saga began when I had the opportunity to develop an NWMLS search web site for a local realtor. After spending several weeks, cutting red tape, determining what forms I needed to fill out, figuring out whom at my realtor’s broker I needed to bother, signing my life away and finally getting access to an NWMLS database, I was at the point where I could get real work done. Anyway, after I had spent over 40 hours developing standard search features (search summary with thumbnails, property detail page) and a few interesting ones (like customized HTML e-mail with property photos, customizable photo not available photos on search results), I sent her my bill.
Then things went south. Despite the fact that my client was warned ahead of time that my time isn’t free, she apparently expected that I would be price competitive with “canned” solutions such as those offered by iHouse & Superlative. On the one hand, I can’t blame her. A consultant can’t compete with a commercial product, because a commercial product has a lot more customers to help finance its development than a lone consultant does. Just because those companies sell solutions for $50/month doesn’t mean it only costs them $50 to design, develop & test the software! It still costs those organizations thousands of dollars (or more) to bring these products to market! However, if you plan on distributing software to 1,000 customers, you can charge a lot less per customer, than if you are only distributing it to one.
Anyway, after this failed business opportunity, I decided to contact Dustin and regroup. I wanted to develop a unique MLS service that would’ve given my client a competitive advantage (and she was more interested in price than value) and after reading Rain City Guide it became obvious that Dustin would see the value in what I could do. Besides, I’d rather continue to improve the code I was working on than send it to the hard drive in the sky.
Dustin & I, both share the belief that the real estate industry is in for some very interesting times as the reverberations of the internet revolution continue to change our society and business models. Dustin’s enthusiasm for the ideas I’m trying implement is contagious and we essentially worked out a deal in which I’ll continue to develop compelling MLS technology in my spare time, I’ll use him and his Rain City readers as a sounding board for ideas and beta testers (both marketing & development feedback), and in a few months time, ideally, I would have developed a really unique service that technology savvy realtors would be willing to pay for.
One of the cooler things I’ve done is turn MLS search results in to Google Earth files. Just download the Google Earth application, visit our BETA listings search page, click on the Google Earth icon, and see your search results on a 3D globe. Eventually, we’ll do similar stuff with AJAX style Mapping (although, right now I’m focusing more on things that haven’t been done yet) and other applications.
Most realtors have “me too” & “same old thing” web sites. One of the things I want to do, is give realtors the ability of exploiting the MLS data in way that is valuable and compelling to their clients and strengthens & reinforces their name/brand to their prospects. Having customized RSS feeds of MLS data, having proximity searches to points of interest (how far is this house away from a gas station?), and take advantage of all the cool location/mapping technology that the 3 giants of the internet are developing (Microsoft, Google & Yahoo), are just some of the things that could be done, but aren’t really done yet.
One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that currently only software engineers with access to MLS data can do these things. Unfortunately, we live in world in which most realtors don’t have the skills & knowledge that software engineers have and most software engineers don’t have free access to the raw MLS data that most realtors do, so things are moving slower than they otherwise might be. Obviously, waiting for the HouseValue’s of the world to develop this technology is an option. However, their business model seems to be marginalizing the value of a realtor instead of enhancing it. I’d rather take the opposite tack, since I suspect that my future customers would prefer to use technology to improve their competitive advantage against all comers rather than having it used against them and risk turning themselves into a bunch of “me-too” commodity realtors paying somebody else for random sales leads. (which is probably one of the reasons you blog!)
Right now, you can take a gander at the humble beginnings of our grand vision at http://listings.raincityguide.com/search.aspx. Granted we still have a few bugs that need to be fixed, and many, many more features need to get implemented. However, it’s my goal to turn this into something that would provide a compelling value for my future clients (realtors & their customers) and I welcome any comments that would help me, help you.