Deep thoughts & a shameless plug

Happy 2008 everybody

For most of the past 6 months, I’ve been working too hard writing e-commerce software at my day job. So, in case you’re curious why I’ve had a lower profile than usual, it’s because I’ve been spending too much time living in e-commerce land, instead of real estate land. On plus side though, our big project is nearing completion and my software engineering skills are approaching Ninja Warrior levels, so I feel good about the year that just passed. Fortunately, I’ve still been reading blogs actively, despite the fact I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. Frankly, my brain is kind of tired from trying to co-develop an Amazon clone for the past year.

As 2007 has come to a close, I’ve had to a chance to reflect upon what the past year has given us and where the future may take us. Despite the bearish real estate industry outlook nationwide, I’m an optimistic that 2008 will be a very interesting year. Here are my thoughts on the year ahead

Inman missed somebody

Although, Inman’s list of 10 people to watch is insightful, I personally would add Michael Wurzer of FlexMLS to that list. His recent passionate and tireless efforts to be an advocate for RETS, and his current efforts to bring many of the players of the industry together is very encouraging. I’d almost be willing to say 2008 will be the year of RETS, like 2005 was the year of the blog, 2006 was the year of AJAX maps & 2007 was the year of the feed. I’m starting to feel like RETS will be like NBA basketball in Seattle (just because it’s not here, don’t mean it’s not the real deal elsewhere), which is a marked improvement to how I felt a year ago. Perhaps, I need to write an Open Letter to NWMLS brokers, agents and vendors, similar to what Michael & David Harris have done to toward the industry?

Will data visualization be the next big thing?

I also think that Real Estate data visualization or analytics is bound to become a real big deal in the near future. The efforts of Altos Reasearch and Zillow are making it easy to convert market information into pretty pie & bar charts, and the heat maps from Cyberhomes and HotPads are very insightful. Granted, Wall Street has been doing some of this for quite some time, but I think the real estate industry is ready to take the next step. In order to create cool charts, you need the raw data, and RETS will make that possible (or at least much easier). Once Joe Broker can get at the raw data, the cool charts can come courtesy of Microsoft Office, Google’s new charting API, or something a bit more powerful. I get giddy just thinking about the possibilities.

I think it’s going to take more time, but I think heat maps are going to get much bigger / better too. With Microsoft finally adding first class geospatial support to SQL Server this year (finally joining the party that Postgress, IBM DB2, and Oracle were already at), and Microsoft’s & Google’s ongoing battle for control of digital earth becoming a fertile playground for other map/data vendors, I think the MLSes / big brokers will probably start embracing data visualization on their web sites, since the technology is becoming more affordable, easier to use, and because most brokers / agents want pretty charts & maps with their name & brand on it, instead somebody else’s.

The glass is still half full

Having lived through the great tech wreck (or bubble if you prefer) I think it’s helpful to remember that someday the mortgage meltdown and real estate slump will come to end. If you believe in the future of real estate in your community (and most of you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t), now is a great time to invest in your business or yourself while your competitors exit the business in bad times. If that means adding great people to your staff, encouraging the less effective agents to get out or get better or finding better opportunities elsewhere, learning more about technology, or just plain blogging more often, just do something, to make yourself better. When the market turns around, you’ll hopefully be more successful than ever with fewer competitors.

Also, despite the fact I often complain about the state of MLS data in the industry, the real estate industry aren’t the tech laggards they portray themselves to be. After the tech industry, real estate is probably a very close second in terms of blogging and consumer transparency. You’re probably among the leaders in using mobile technologies, you’re your helping push the limits mapping technology and helping vendors define the direction. For example, a typical e-commerce store finder is way inferior to the AJAX maps so many real estate web sites now have.

Warning: Shameless plug ahead

My star client (Gordon Stephenson of Real Property Associates) finally set up his Real Estate from the Trenches blog at I especially enjoyed his predictions for the new year post. I also had next nothing to do with it (I only helped w/ domain black magic and added links to their blog from their main web site), he did all the heavy lifting himself (see anybody can set up a blog). I also want to thank him for his business this past year, and introducing me to Rod Mar’s (Seattle Times Sports Photographer) – Best Seat in the House blog. I have a new appreciation for photography & the Seahawks thanks to his entertaining blog. Anyway, add them both to your favorite feed reader.

Hotpads: A Slick Search Tool for Apartments, Rentals, Sublets and Roommates

[photopress:hotpads.jpg,full,alignright]Thanks to John Cook post on Real estate timeline debuts, I found the greatest site for Apartments, Rentals, Sublets and Roommates I have seen. provides users with the ability to find dwellings based on Density, Per Capita and Median Age/Renters/Rent. They even use census data to color code their maps based on this data. For the property owner they create listings on HotPads is free and easy! If you are a landlord, they eve send your listings to Oodle and Google Base.

HotPads currently uses census data to color code our map based on a few different statistics:

  • Population Density
  • Per Capita Income
  • Median Household Income
  • Median Age
  • Percent Renters
  • Median Rent

Here are some examples from Seattle: Seattle, WA

Per Capita Income

Household Income

Median Age

Percent Renters

Median Rent

Even though rail stations are not available in the Rain City yet, with HotPads maps you can see various points of interest that might help you decide where to live:

  • Subway and Train Stations
  • Public Schools
  • Private Schools
  • Universities


Points are added to the map with their nifty icons:



Train and Subway Stations

They are currently listing the following rail systems:

  • New York City Subway
  • Washington, DC Metro
  • Bay Area Rapid Transit
  • Bay Area’s Caltrain
  • Boston’s MBTA
  • Chicago’s El
  • Los Angeles County Metrorail
  • Denver’s Light Rail
  • Dallas’s DART
  • Miami-Dade County Metro

As John Cook pointed out (looks like Galen has added Shackprices‘ GREAT search to the list), their Real estate timeline is pretty cool too: