Matt asked a question of the AR community — “If you were going to create the ultimate informational real estate portal for consumers (buyers and sellers), what would it include?”
I thought that was a great question. It’s one I’ve been pondering since ThompsonsRealty.com went on line almost two years ago.
So what do I think the ultimate portal would contain?
Info. And tons of it. Info to the point that I don't know if a nationally scoped site could pull it off. But equally as important as the info contained, is the ability of the user to access it.
There's lots of great "box talk" in the blog Matt posted. Be sure to check it out.
Below are some of the thoughts and opinions I just posted on The Phoenix Real Estate Guy. I had to save a little bit of uniqueness for the "The PREG" (and I wish I had a different acronym for my other blog...)
What information would the ultimate real estate portal include?
- Listings; with lots of photos. Sure there are tons of sites out there where people can view listings. But listings are what most real estate site visitors want to see, so my ultimate portal has to include them. No registration for this would be my choice. There are too many Trulia’s out there that don’t require it, as well as individuals sites. The ultimate real estate information portal must be a free source of information.
- Home Evaluations/Valuations. Yeah, there’s Zillow. But automated valuation methods (AVMs) frequently can’t “see” many things. “Unzillowable” factors mean that at least for now, consumers need a way to request a valuation from an agent. Some AVMs proclaim their “proprietary methods” can encompass anything. Don’t be so sure.
- Easy automated listings. In the Phoenix market, like many others, the number of listings is climbing steadily. Consumers need a way to get automated listing updates.
- Map based listings search — as an option. Some LOVE map based searches. Some loathe them. The ideal solution would provide both a map based search as well as the more traditional by location/size/style/ammenities searches. The best map based search I’ve run across yet is from Windemere
- A community events calendar, that could be updated by users. I just recently found Trumba.com, and implemented one of their calendars on my site. A user updated calendar would be ideal, though how you’d keep the nimrod spammers off it, I don’t know.
- School information is critical. Boundary maps, testing scores, etc are all something real estate site surfers like to find.
- Crime statistics. Yes, there are a gazillion places to find crime stats on the net. But having a nifty zip code and/or map based search of state and fed stats would be very cool.
- Demographic and economic statistics. Not just the standard age/gender/race/population type stuff. I want detailed demographics and economic data including current and historical trends for things like housing starts, home sale prices, employment/unemployment, etc.
- City level legal info. Easy access to city ordinances, zoning codes, building codes and permitting processes and forms.
- Neighborhood level legal info. A repository of Home Owners Association CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions — “the rules”) would be incredibly handy.
- City and neighborhood amenity info. This encompasses a LOT. Information on Parks & Recreation, children’s activities, churches and synagogues, swimming pools, libraries, sporting facilities, restaurants, shopping and other commercial operations–the list is lengthy, but you get the point.
As important as the information would be, how that information is accessed would be almost equally important. A portal type site needs an intuitive search capability. Extensive and deep cross-linking would be important, as well as having multiple sources for information. I don’t want to see test scores just from the school district. I want to see independent confirmation that those test scores are correct.
User interaction would be a key component to a great real estate portal. A blog is an obvious step in the direction given its ability to take user comments. A web based FAQ or Wiki is another avenue that allows a website user to interact with the webmaster and other users. But blog’s, FAQs and wiki’s are half-duplex communication systems–interaction can happen, but only one direction at a time. Full-duplex communication (think telephone) would be the ideal situation, but short of VoIP, I know of no current Internet based full-duplex system. Maybe that’s part of what is in store for us once we get past Web 2.0 and head to Web 3.0?
Thoughts and opinions are of course welcome!