Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions that someone can make these days. It’s a life-transforming step, regardless of whether the new home is a few miles away, or across the country. And it’s one of the largest purchases many people can make.
There are some new looks to sites that focus on real estate lately. And a lot of information that was only available to real estate agents is being shared with people looking for homes.
If you haven’t seen zillow.com, which allows you to look at maps of locations, and find houses that are for sale in those regions, you’ve missed out on a fun and interesting new mashup of mapping and data integration. Within the last day or so, news of Google showing real estate listings has also come out, though those are shown through the Google Base service from the company, rather than as a separate and new listing service.
TechCrunch noted a week ago that Zillow has some competition in the mapping and display of homes for sale, in the shape of RealEstateABC. It’s kind of fun to look around these sites, and see what might be for sale around you. I wonder how helpful these tools are to people looking for homes.
Another service that lists real estate, but doesn’t provide the map views of Zillow and RealEstateABC, is PropertyShark. It has a more limited range of homes listed than the other two, but I was surprised by the amount of information that it showed for one home that I searched for, and the houses that surrounded it.
Chances are that Zillow will earn money by showing advertisements from partners like Google, and sales listings of homes from real estate companies. There’s talk of how the company will earn income, and how it sees itself alongside its competitors, in a February article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which discussed the company with founder Rich Barton.
So, what’s a real estate company to do, when faced with this type of innovation in the market?
Instead of a view from above, we may start seeing properties from the ground level, and the neighborhoods that surround them as well. A real estate news letter from last year predicts that most online real estate offices will offer online video within the next three years.
One of the companies that they mention providing such videos is Real Data Center, which is working on building “a drive-by database of the U.S. residential real estate market – videos of not just the houses, but also the streets and the whole area.” Real Data Center, armed with an address provided by a real estate agent or broker, will create a video tour of the home, the street it is on, and the neighborhood where it is located. And, they aren’t the only ones offering this service.
The founder of the company has filed a patent application for the process, and it was published earlier today:
Here’s the abstract:
A system and method of providing video drive-by data is provided to enable a street level view of a neighborhood surrounding a selected geographic location. The system includes a video and data server farm incorporation at least one video storage server that stores video image files containing video drive-by data that corresponds to a geographic location, a database server that processes a data query received from a user over the Internet that corresponds to a geographic location of interest, and an image processing server. In operation, the database server identifies video image files stored in the video storage server that correspond to the geographic location of interest contained in the data query, and transfers the video image files over a pre-processing network to the image processing server. The image processing server converts the video drive-by data to post processed video data corresponding to a desired image format, and transfers the post processed video data via post-processing network to the Internet response to the query.
Finding out about homes for sale online is a rapidly transforming experience. I expect that we will see sites like Zillow bundling more services, or at least advertising, around industries that are related to the purchase or sales of homes, such as title searchers, property assessors, movers, construction contractors, lendors, and many others.