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The anatomy of building a real estate startup

Examining the anatomy of big decisions that go into building a real estate startup that most people never get to see or hear about – consider this a chance to take a peek under the hood of a brand new company and seeing how the gears turn.

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Building a real estate startup

It is my goal to share the triumphs and agony (and trust me… there is agony) I encounter while navigating the daily challenges of a start-up in the real estate industry. We are developing our own application to provide a better user experience to NuHabitat clients. As you might guess, we are on a limited budget.

I want to share a few of the issues we have dealt with in getting to where we are today.

Challenge one: beta app

My first milestone was to develop our VOW beta app. This would show proof of concept on several different levels and it would demonstrate our ability to produce a web application that replicated our entire MLS database. That is no easy task. We would also provide registered users with data they had not previously accessed unless provided by their agent. Days on market, historical price data and sold data is what I want to deliver to our clients. To some this seemed like a daunting task. To others, I guess it is no big deal.

While exchanging comments on a blog the other day, Russ Bergon, CEO of MRED said, “IDX v VOW. Again sounds good on paper. Years ago here in Chicago we add nearly 2000 VOW sites because of opt in versus opt out. IDX opt ins were at about 30% Today we have a handful of VOWs. Why? Because consumers did not want to register to see listings and we are now at near 100 percent opted in to IDX.”

Where are they now? Had I known, I would have just bought one on the cheap! That is an amazing statistic to me.

Challenge two: RETS

We are utilizing RETS, the Real Estate Transaction Standard. In simple terms, RETS was supposed to be developed to help standardize the delivery of real estate data and simplify development of real estate software. The problem is, to date, RETS has not accomplished its stated goal (to the best of my knowledge), however, they are making substantial progress.

One of the toughest issues we faced in working with the protocol was having no real instruction. My developers said documentation is poor. It may exist out there but we were not aware of it. I reached out to several different professionals for guidance. No assistance was offerred  from our MLS on how to code what we needed. We spoke with Mark Lesswing at NAR and he did his best to help. We called several consultants. For the most part, we were flying blind. The good news is that we were able to get past several issues with our data and things started to fall into place.

Challenge three: consumers’ real needs

From here it was necessary to determine what feature set to include in our beta release. With search at the core, we needed to decide if we should just create a simple search or have an advanced search as well? I have read blogs that question why the heck we have both simple and advanced search. Why not just one search? I kind of agree with that and think it is worth consideration. Do consumers use simple search differently than advanced? Is there a needed distinction between the two? I’m looking forward to the A/B testing we will create to answer this question.

Challenge four: moving pieces

Other considerations include the need for a a blog. You’re probably asking who would have a real estate site without a blog? I think you would be surprised. What about a twitter feed? A way to provide feedback? A contact us page? These are the things we needed to create a successful minimally viable product.

Some of you may think differently, but our goal was to get a unique search product operational and on the internet for consumer use. Call it a “Field of Dreams” if you want, but I believe that if you build it, they will come …IF you have a better value proposition. In the first month, we have over 500 registrations and over 2,000 unique visitors. All this for a no-name beta product that just wants to get consumers the data they are looking for – I was pleased with the initial consumer reaction.

Next steps

Following the development of core search, we are now faced with what to tackle next. The obvious features are map search and user profiles. There are challenges here as well and creating a unique map experience won’t be easy. Should we use Google maps, or Bing, or maybe even a different map? Believe it or not, there are other options. Do we use clusters or splatter the map with the maximum number of pins allowed? We will also include geo-location, specific boundaries and maybe even light box displays. I sure would like some statistical information on what map interface provides the best user experience.

Then there are user profiles to consider. This is where we are able to allow a user to create and save their user preferences, but more importantly, allows for us to begin tailoring the user experience. It may be customary for many sites to create profiles, but I believe in terms of creating a “sticky” user experience and keeping your clients engaged on a real estate application provided by a brokerage, you must provide a value proposition that keeps your clients checking in frequently. This will be our version of drip marketing, except the goal is to bring the clients back to me rather than always pushing to them.

We are still creating our basic user experience, but in my opinion this is the most critical element, because these are the things that users expect to be right. They expect accurate, timely data. They expect results to be fast. Lacking those fundamental qualities, you will immediately lose them to any other site, and there are plenty of them, so yours better be good.

As the leader of NuHabitat LLC, Jeff brings a unique qualification to the table with 10 years experience of buying and selling homes as a high-end luxury homebuilder while working with clients, agents and brokerages. Motivated by a unique set of circumstances, his goal is to provide a more efficient and economical approach to prospective home buyers and sellers in the modern day world of residential real estate.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Jake Williams

    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    nice article

  2. Akira

    August 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    For entrepreneurs interested in yet another “peek under the hood,” they can see two actual real estate development business plans here: https://www.caycon.com/real-estate-business-plan-consulting.php
     

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Ageism: How to properly combat this discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Ageism void

Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities, and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

Unfortunately, age discrimination lawsuits aren’t uncommon. We have covered cases for Jewel Food Stores, Inc., Novo Nordisk, Inc., AT&T, and iTutorGroup, all alleging age or disability discrimination in some form or fashion. This could be from using vocabulary such as “tenured,” hiring a younger employee instead of promoting a well-season veteran, or pressuring older employees with extra responsibilities in order to get them to resign or retire early.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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AI-generated content is against Google’s guidelines, so what now?

(BUSINESS) Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, says that AI-generated content is against webmaster guidelines. What does mean for content strategy?

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Google homepage on computer representing AI-generated content.

John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, stated that AI-generated content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines in a weekly online question and answer session.

Let’s review what that means for you and your content strategy going forward.

First of all, what is AI Generated Content?

Simply put, Medium defines it as

“[a]utomatically generated or Auto-Generated content is content that’s been created with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.”

Tools like writesonic or jasper are examples of AI content creation tools made to create content for a blog, social media, etc. If you check these websites, you will find that Google is listed as one of the many companies that use their services.

So, Google can use it but others will be penalized for using it. Can Google recognize when a user takes advantage of AI-generated content services for use on the web?

In the video Q&A, Mueller doesn’t confirm or deny whether or not Google is capable of recognizing AI-generated content. He is quoted as stating,

“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can take action on that.”

After countless searches about the Google webspam team and what actions they can take, it’s not immediately clear, but what seems to be the consensus is that it could negatively impact Google rankings and SEO.

What can you do?

If you are already using AI-generated content, the first thing to consider is do you need to do most of the heavy lifting or are you using it to generate ideas or a starting point? If you’re using it to fully write your next blog post, you need to reconsider this position and be sure to have a human add personal touches to your online content.

According to Mueller, using AI-generated content in ANY capacity is considered unacceptable. He states,

“[c]urrently it’s all against the webmaster guidelines. So, from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the webspam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”

Your best bet is to keep doing it yourself because right now Google has all the power over search and rankings. At least, until something changes.

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Social media and depression go hand-in-hand, studies show

(BUSINESS) Maybe this won’t come as a surprise, but the statistics sure are telling- having depression and social media usage are linked.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania believe they have found evidence of a link between depression and social media use. Many studies have attempted to show that social media use can be detrimental to your mental health, but the parameters of these studies are often limited in scope or were unrealistic situations. The UPenn study collected usage data tracked by the phone rather than relying on self-reporting.

Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, the author of the published study, says the bottom line is: “Using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

It should be noted that the study participants were college students who were randomly assigned to either use social media as they normally would or be in the experimental group that limited time on the three most popular platforms, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Hunt doesn’t believe that it’s realistic not to use social networks at all, but it is important to find a way to manage your use to avoid negative effects.

Depression is a serious problem for Americans, but is social media responsible?

The CDC reported that between 2013 and 2016, 8.1% of Americans over the age of 20 experienced depression in a 2-week period. About 80% of these people had difficulty with daily activities due to depression. However, “over a 10-year period, from 2007–2008 to 2015–2016, the percentage of adults with depression did not change significantly.” On the other hand, social network use increased exponentially during this time.

There have been other studies that link social media use and depression. It might be that the more platforms accessed increase the risk for depression. Another study found that it was the way people used social media that increased depression. Using it to compare yourself to others or feeling addicted to social media increased the feelings of depression.

But it’s unknown whether depression or social media use came first. Studies haven’t quite agreed on whether it exacerbates existing problems, or creates them.

How should we approach social media use?

Another report suggests that Facebook knew from the start that they were creating addictions. The people closest to tech believe that there are inherent risks for their children to be on social media. Scary? It should make you think about how and why you use tech.

If you find yourself having negative feelings after using social networks, consider limiting the amount of time you spend on those platforms. Get out and connect with others. Relationships can often reduce the risk of depression. Get involved in your community. It’s important to find balance in using social media and having connections with others. Spend time on what makes you feel better about your life.

There are still a lot of questions about how social networks and technologies affect society. In the meantime, pay attention to how you use these sites and be conscious of not getting sucked into the comparison trap.

If you are depressed and lonely, there is help available, and we ask you to make that difficult step and reach out – call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741. You can also visit their website to find your local NAMI.

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