You are breaking my heart Redfin…

I will start with a caveat. I am a owner in a real estate development company and I am not primarily shopping homes for clients, but instead buying properties to develop and build. That being said, you may think I have nothing but critiques for any other real estate company… not true! Dustin and I have been playing with mapping applications in regards to real estate for a long time. This is actually the way I was introduced to RCG.

Way back then we (LTD, not Dustin) were attempting to integrate what was not being done… Aerial parcel mapping of real estate listings. Around that time Redfin launched a pretty slick product. As a visitor of Redfin my only complaint was the size of the viewable space. There was no site out there that utilized the whole page like Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. The size and detail of the photos (at least in the PNW) were great and although not that recent at the time, much better than using what else was out there.

My biggest gripe with Redfin has been their use of space, most notably the size of their map. In my eyes you could get an idea of the neighborhood, but not a great idea without knowing the area already. Virtual Earth’s full size maps on the other hand were and are great. NWMLS made us change the name of the map because of the words MLS in the URL. MLSMAPSONLINE (image to the right) used the full size maps and parcel data much like Redfin, except we choose to use an opaque layer over a part of the map to maximize the user experience. We stopped working on that product when Zillow launched and we realized it would take too much $$$$$ to stay in the game.

Anyway as I said I am a guilty of using Redfin. When John L Scott did a great job when they launched their new site using Virtual Earth. A great job, but were still missing many of the features that made Redfin great. Redfin was much faster than the NWMLS for a simple search and easy to drag the map to increase the prospective area. I still never understood why they used such a small area for the map, but then again, they were my competition so I wasn’t that worried about the problem.

Then I heard they launched a new version using Virtual Earth. I was so excited when I caught word I quickly ran to my mouse and was ready for the thrill, but I was quickly let down when I saw they kept the same map size and page orientation.

Here is the image from Redfin

Here is the image from Shackprices

It would be great if when using Redfin you could see how the house sat on the lot, what size is the front yard, where the driveway is, in this pick the massive amount of trees in the front and rear yards, etc. I am sure the parcel box will be changed right away, but I am surprised about the map size and location of the content. There is plenty of room on the monitor, so I am confused. MLSMapsOnline used the vertical orientation, so I know it can be done.

In then end, this blog is not about a critique, but instead a nudge nudge.

Seattle Street of Dreams – 2006

Robbie, Stephanie, Harrison and I went to the Street of Dreams together yesterday. What I enjoyed most, was their company. What Harrison (age 3 1/2) enjoyed most, was the school bus ride from and to the car. His first ride on a school bus.

The house I liked best, though not everything about it, was of course the highest priced one at $5,500,000, but I’d want it moved somewhere else with a view. Because I am a “view person”, not everyone is, I came home and liked my own house better than any of them.

Trends, products, styles, features…a run down. I guess I’m “jaded” by having seen lots and lots and lots of houses all over the country, because I didn’t see anything I liked, at least not that I liked in that setting. House number 6, which is purportedly “sold” was the best of the batch, all things considered. Best lot, house that seemed appropriate to the lot and setting, house that seemed appropriate for the area. But I’d like to “live in it” for a week or two like a timeshare. I’d want to move it to the bottom of a ski resort and timeshare it out for two weeks at a time unless I could afford it as one of many homes as a “getaway” house. But then I’m a City Girl who can’t be rustically oriented for more than two weeks at a time. I get hives.

Lots of too much dark, caves, caverns, pitch black theater rooms, stone inside the house, even a clay tile roof inside the house. Lots of too much “old” as in new made to look “old”. Coming from Philadelphia, I know what old looks like, and that’s not it. Two of the homes had a very dark “wood” floor that was supposed to look like the floors of an historic home. Not. Wide plank…yes, dark, yes, waves in each and every plank…not. Someone said it looked like it was made out of plastic.

Every house had a “butler pantry”, I think, and I was evaluating them all. One was totally off as if the designer didn’t know what a butler pantry really was all about. A butler pantry, copied from historic homes which were likely homes patterned from England, is that small galley between the dining room and kitchen with counters and cabinets on either side. It originally did not have a sink, as any water used by the butler would have been the “soda water” type in a bottle to freshen and make new drinks for the guests. For a “butler pantry” to be “true”, the butler should be able to stand in it and see the whole dining room table from it. He watches and quietly comes out as needed to fill a wine glass, freshen a drink or refill the string bean bowl as it gets low. The vantage point should be such that the guests do not really see him most of the time. So the one butler pantry that had only one side and standing there gave the butler a view of the backyard? I don’t think so.

Stephanie noticed this and it was a riot. In one house there is a fish tank inside the shower. Cool, but…the other side of the fish tank built into the wall was not in the master bedroom, it was in the hallway! I went into the shower and did a little dance as Stephanie stayed in the hallway to see if she could see me moving about. All of the people in the house were laughing and talking about how the kids in the “West Wing” could sneak down the hall and watch Mommy and Daddy in the two headed shower through the fish tank.

Moral of the story is NEVER go to The Steet of Dreams with a Real Estate Agent. They look at what’s wrong…not what’s right, at least this one does. Mostly the homes were not “true to themselves” mixing modern smack against historic replica features. That new sink that looks like a laundry tub (modern) next to an island with an Early American spindle table leg built into the corner. The pantry with relatively cheapo looking shelves, with a crystal chandelier hanging in the middle of the pantry. Better to hire a carpenter to build the shelves in, if you are planning to hang a crystal chandelier up between the Frosted Flakes and the Pop Tarts.

So Robbie and family got a taste of what looking at homes with Ardell is like. They look at what’s right, I look for what’s wrong. Robbie kept wanting me to give an opinion of value and projected days on market…but that’s something I do after I get home from showing property, as it is a “data” driven function, not a WAG 🙂