Tech Thursday: Are you addicted yet?

After a Wacky Wednesday, I thought it might be time to return to real estate technology…

ShackPrices adds mass transit to their listing search and Greg continues to be impressed(so am I)

USA Today provides an idea for a potential update to ShackPrices… What if Galen included the emotional map of each area?

Speaking of new online mapping tools, Joel has a nice write up on a new home search site out of Toronto called Real Estate Plus that was built by Fraser Beach

The vFlyer folks published a huge list of Web2.0 sites… There are some obvious omissions (I would have found a place for sites like Cyberhomes, Sellsius, PropertyShark, RealEstateShows, HomeHugg and, of course, Shackprices), but overall, it was a valiant effort to capture the cutting edge of the online real estate front…

[photopress:dustin_reptile.jpg,full,alignright]The Real Estate Zealot gives some good background on using Yahoo’s JumpCut to edit and stream real estate videos… (If YouTube made the previous list, then JumpCut appears to have earned a spot as well…)

Nothing too big, but I have been working with some others to build some new themes and widgets for a WordPress website for a Move Trends website that went up a little bit ago… (Note: I also took control over the “hat” at the top of, so don’t be too surprised if I start sending traffic to random places! LOL!)

The release of the updated Google Analytics has been a real joy! I spent way too much time this evening clicking on the “Entrance Sources” option for popular pages on RCG (it feels much more informative than the previous layout). In the process, I’ve learned a ton about where and how traffic is reaching the site and I’ve actually learned that some of my previous assumptions were completely wrong. (However, considering I’m not using any of the goal tracking or funnel analysis, Seth thinks I should just quit… but I’m having way too much fun to quit…)

I’ve also been wasting spending way too much time on Facebook recently (it ramped up after Joel’s recent post). Fight it if you wish, but I predict online social networking is in your future…

UPDATE: Shortly after hitting publish, Trulia announced some major enhancements to their websiteBloodhound has the details (including a podcast by Bryan).

What a week!

First Zillow releases a new version of their web site.

Then Microsoft releases a new Virtual Earth (VE 3D in Firefox).

Then the a new Beta of is released.

Galen releases new ShackPrices features.

Ardell is using her Verizon EVDO card in Vegas, probably while playing the slots and sipping drinks with umbrellas in them.

Then I discover, Redfin is merging with Move and they also just sold a home in neighborhood!

I’m feeling WAY behind the tech curve today.  I’m going curl up into a ball and read my RSS feeds in a corner now…. 😉

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, let me know and I’ll try to write about it!

Start searching on

[photopress:ShackPrices.gif,thumb,alignright]As of midnight last night, is live. We have a post up on the ShackBlog about what you’ll find on our new site, but I’ll summarize it for our readers here:

What is ShackPrices?

[photopress:map_sample.jpg,thumb,alignleft] is a snappy Google maps-based real estate search site that makes finding a home better by augmenting each real estate listing with data about what is nearby, including the distances to nearby landmarks, nearby schools and nearby bus stops. ShackPrices also helps home buyers learn about cities and neighborhoods through reviews, statistics and photos. Home buyers can search for shacks (shabby to chic, of course) across all of Western Washington on

What makes different?

[photopress:tabs_1_2_3_4.jpg,full,alignright]You’ll spot some obvious things that differentiate right off the bat, including information about what is nearby every listing (check out the surroundings near this Ballard listing) and Suggested Shacks, which predicts houses home buyers might be interested in if they like any of the 20,000+ houses for sale on

ShackPrices is still in its infancy, so expect more handy features in the coming year and please let us know how we can improve your experience.

ShackPrices is Filling in the Blank…

The ShackPrices’ blog (run by RCG contributor Galen) just announced some slick new features for their site:

  • Permalinks. Makes it possible to email/link to specific results
  • Address Search. Easier to zoom into a specific property
  • Condo Information. Not just homes anymore…

So what is ShackPrices? ShackPrices is a King County specific Home Price Evaluation site. Operating in true Web2.0 spirit, these guys have taken King County sold home data and mixed it with Google Maps to create a map-based home valuation tool. By focusing on the Seattle area, locals might find that ShackPrices is a more useful tool than the obvious huge white elephant in the room. It is also worth nothing that others have had online home valuation tools for a while (and we recently released our own!), so it is nice to see that Galen takes stuff in perspective:

So is this the future of real estate search? I sincerely doubt it. I believe that online real estate search is a sliver of what it could be today, let alone what it could be tomorrow. We’re in the “glorified book

Real Estate Search Article

Search Engine Watch has a real estate search tool write up. It’s mostly links, but some of them haven’t been mentioned here. I like to think that our write ups are a little more coherent.

Not mentioned is the much improved (aesthetically) Redfin (even in the last week or two – take a look!) and the still nascent ShackPrices.


New Guest Blogger: Galen Ward

In the real near future, I’m going to be taking a break from blogging for a few weeks. However, I didn’t want the lights to go out on Rain City Guide while I’m taking a little break, so I’ve asked a friend of mine (who happens to run a great photoblog) to take over. He happens to be one of the two men behind ShackPrices, the creator of the Google map hack Los Taco Trucks, and an all-around fun guy. I fully expect his posts to be very entertaining.

By the way, I have a few more interviews queued up and ready to roll over the next few days, so keep checking back in for more of those…

ShackPrices Gets an Upgrade

It looks like ShackPrices just had their first major update.

ShackPrices is a Seattle-based outfit that focuses on helping sellers value (or “appraise”) their homes.

The new layout is clean and very straightforward. If you’re a King County resident curious to find out what homes in your area are selling for, then using their site will be a breeze. In addition, they have some nice goodies like a direct link from each home to King County Records (and bus stops!).

ShackPrices Screenshot

For what they are trying to do (provide information for home sellers), they do it really well… But it seems pretty obvious that ShackPrices will need to expand into helping home buyers at some point. The obvious missing ingredient is real-time MLS data.

With that in mind, I think the hardest part for them will be creating something that is not easily duplicable. Their interface is easy to use, but at it’s current state, a similar functionality is available to King County residents through Redfin. (and even more data is available without the mapping interface through Property Shark). In addition, Redfin is a few steps ahead in that they already have the infrastructure to display MLS data and to incorporate user/agent data.