No, I’m not going to give you a magic link that will lead you to the ultimate real estate portal. I would gladly give you that link if I had it, but it doesn’t exist.
I thought that was a great question. It’s one I’ve been pondering since ThompsonsRealty.com went on line almost two years ago. My initial goal was to make our web site a “one-stop shop” for anything and everything someone looking for real estate info in the Phoenix area would need. I was (and still am and always will be) looking to build the ultimate real estate portal for the Phoenix market.
What information would the ultimate real estate portal include? Lots of things….
- Listings; with loads of photos. Sure there are many 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 (hat tip to the Rain City Guide for making me wish Century 21 was as with it as Windemere when it comes to tech stuff.)
- 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, student:teacher ratios, 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 / Social / Economic / Housing statistics. Not just the standard age/gender/race/population type stuff. I want detailed demographics and economic data including data such as current and historical trends for housing starts, home sale prices, wages, employment/unemployment, commute times, etc. Census Bureau type stuff, but for smaller nieghborhoods than they typically provide.
- 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 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 reported 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?
So there’s a brief run down of my vision of the ultimate real estate portal. In a nutshell, it’s all the real estate related information one could possibly need, in one place, and easily accessible. Is it possible to have the ultimate real estate portal? Sure. Basically all of the information is out there. The problem is, it is spread across hundreds of web sites and it’s hard to find. I can dig up just about any of the info I can think of. But I’m not a big enough propeller head to build the right kind of front end to assimilate it all. However, there are plenty of Ã¼bergeeks out there that have the technical know-how. We just need to hook them up with people who have the time, patience and financial ability to put it all together. The information load is probably too much for the wanna-be national level Zillows and Trulias of the world. But a local market-level “superportal” would provide a wealth of information to the consumer, and should not be difficult (at all) to monetize for an aspiring real estate professional.