A look behind the Shack, Part 1: Speed Kills


Really, in the world of the web, slow speed kills. And most people only think about the length of time it takes a website to load when it is taking eons to show up. For static sites, meeting the magic four second page load time isn’t too hard, but for sites with lots of “dynamic content” (fancy menus and whatnot) and maps, it becomes sort of a trick.

Many (most?) fancy real estate search sites are plagued by slow load times – see the real estate 2.x person’s site reviews to see scathing analyses of how long it takes to for many sites to load. In light of this, we took great pains to make our site both feel and be speedy and, if I don’t say so, I think we’ve been pretty successful. On my old-ish computer, the Seattle real estate page typically loads in under 10 seconds (we could still do better on this!) and house detail and nearby pages typically load in under 3 seconds.

One of the tricks we employ is we don’t actually shuffle visitors from a complete page to a completely new page, which means we don’t have to reload the time-consuming Google Map or any of the stuff on the sidebar. Instead, we load little subpages within the site using AJAX (which is, I believe, a dumb acronym). When you click to see the details for a house, we only load up those details and leave the side and top of the site alone and intact. When you click back to the map tab, it’s already there waiting for you because it was just hiding behind the house information.

There are some other tricks that are much more technical: before we launched in December we did a bunch of optimization to cut down the time it takes our database (with over 30,000 western Washington properties currently for sale) to find and spit out the houses that match each search. Currently it it returns the ‘shacks’ that match your search within a second of you dragging the map around – the rest of your wait is the time it takes to actually send and display that information on your screen.

The dynamic updating introduces a can of worms of it’s own, including longer development time, but we think the tradeoffs were entirely worth it.

This is the first in a series of “Behind the Shack” themed posts. If you are especially interested in one aspect of ShackPrices.com, let me know and I’ll try to write about it!

Danger Will Robinson!

[photopress:lis_robot.jpg,thumb,alignright]The MLS data is already “Garbage IN” today, before noon on the first day of the new year.

Not only is garbage going in, but it is also coming out, with some VERY popular public search sites showing properties as “ZERO days on market” that are NOT new listings.

Well, at least those trying to fool the public ended up the fools.  Yes folks, same glitch this year as last year.  Agents who jumped in without testing the water first, thinking they would get that NEW mls sequence of 27xxxxxx…failed in their efforts.  The clock didn’t start over and so re-entering their old listing to get a 2007 number didn’t work.  Kind of falls into that “You can’t kid a kidder” arena.

Yes an agent IS allowed to “get a new number” IF there is a huge price change, or the owner takes the property off and puts in a brand new kitchen.  In other words there are some exceptions to the rule.  But most of the ones who tried to “grab the brass ring” today, did so against the rules.  Same price.  Same old listing.  Just trying to get a new number. 

But the real “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON” message here is to the consumer’s seeing ZERO days on market!  Do NOT run over there to be the first to see it, and the first to get an offer in, without first checking the REAL property history on “purported to be new” listings.