Localism2.0 Launches

I got an early tour of the next version of Localism and I like much of what I saw… It’s a clean design that will give real estate agents plenty of opportunities to promote themselves (including by buying and/or creating new local communities). My guess is that this release will be very popular within the ActiveRain community.

Here’s my main criticism: When I put my consumer hat on, the purpose of the site doesn’t jump out at me at first glance.  As a new user going to Twitter, I know what I’m suppose to do (i.e. answer the question: “what am I doing?”). As a new user going to Facebook, I know that I’m there to connect with friends and family.   With localism, I’m asked to “go hyper local”… but I’m honetly not sure what that means… and it’s not particularly compelling when I get there since, as a consumer, there’s not a lot of ways for me to interact on the site… yet.

So here’s the good news.   The ActiveRain team mentioned that (1) they did their SEO homework and they’re convinced these sites will rank really well (only time will tell) and (2) they’re working hard to add more consumer interaction points (text, photo and video upload for non-ActiveRain members).   Assuming that at least some of the communities starts to get some serious traffic and the agents involved start to get some leads from the site, then I think they’ll have another winner on their hands.

Realtor.com Turns up the Heat and…

…I really like how they’ve mapped it out!  😉

The Realtor.com team recently turned on a “heat map” option within their home valuation tool.  Here’s a heat map of Ballard in Seattle where you can really see the detail of the more expensive areas (in particular the areas around the water!):

Realtor.com Heat Map Screenshot

It’s clean, fast and well implemented.  On my version of firefix (v 3) on a Mac, I’m not seeing the legend that others appearently can see, but that is the only hole I can find in the implementation.

To get an idea of just how detailed these maps are, it’s worth comparing to the previous implementation that exists on on the neighborhood page for this same area on realtor.com showing average neighborhood list price:

realtor.com heat map from neighborhoods project

I think it is also worth noting that neither Zillow or Trulia have done much to bring the same level of detail to the maps… For example, Trulia’s heat maps are limited to the neighborhood level with boundaries

Trulia Heat Maps

And the option to display heat maps on Zillow no longer seems to be available (although I did find this page which shows what they used to look like on Zillow).

heat map for the seattle area on Zillow

Anyway I love maps and think they can convey a ton of great information about neighborhoods and homes, so it’s great to see someone pushing the boundaries even if I’ve been giving the team a hard time recently for other issues (see realtor.com home values and realtor.com blog hack articles).

I’ve convinced myself that the one thing missing from Outside.in is that they…

…never made much inroads with the real estate community (or real estate portals for that matter).   Imagine if the Realtor.com team had bought Outside.in instead of building the neighborhoods project.

And it really doesn’t matter if it was Zillow, Trulia, AOL, Yahoo or Realtor.com, it could be a win for the real estate portal (lots of local traffic and increased SEO benefits for local terms), a win for Outside.in (monetizing within real estate is easy: featured agents, listings, etc. on neighborhood pages) and a win for consumers (a large portal could easily add more local data/content such as neighborhood stats and maps).

I’ve always felt that Outside.in had an interesting thing going and just needed some real estate influence to make it pop.   Maybe the new CEO in the restructured Outside.in will do a better job reaching out to the real estate community…

The 1st 4RealzEd event was yesterday and…

4ealzEdI think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂

Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH

So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.

I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.

All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.

Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.

Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:

Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients

Using Blogs to Build Communities

I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…

And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!

I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!

Going way back before I took my job at…

…Move, I landed a 30-minute meeting with Dan Rosensweig (COO of Yahoo at the time), where I tried to convince him that I should lead up a team for Yahoo to build a platform that would help real estate professionals market themselves at a local level using the various tools Yahoo had in-house (at the time, it was something like Yahoo 360, Flickr, upcoming, local business reviews, maps, listings, etc.).

Dan’s strongest argument against such a platform was that I should prove out the concept first by doing it myself since almost all of these platforms had APIs (and theoretically, he was right, but I was looking for a regular paycheck!).

Anyway, I only remembered this story after reading Joel’s post about Seth Godin’s new product: SquidZipper.

Even two years after my call with Dan, the market for providing a free, quality, and local marketing platform for agents is still largely undeveloped… and while one of the real estate focused verticals like Trulia or Zillow could theoretically fill this niche, it still seems like such a no brainer for one of the big guys like Google, Microsoft or Yahoo to take a page from Seth’s playbook and create a niche-specific platform for their various tools!

Seth’s platform is a great idea… but it is still missing the one thing that could really make a platform like this work: an abundance of consumers!

I think Jay may be reading a bit too much into…

…the “walk” in walkable.

The reality is that people who cannot walk often prefer walkable neighborhoods because they are more likely to feature handicap-friendly facilities (such as sidewalks, ramps, and crosswalks) than suburban or rural locations.   In other words, just saying that an area is a walkable neighborhood or walkable city doesn’t imply that it is not appropriate for a subset of the population.

Best Blogging Coffee Shops in The Valley

Now that I’m on my own, I find that I really enjoy working out of coffeeshops. And considering I’ve been driving my daughter to school some mornings in “the valley” of LA, I’ve been searching far and wide for places with free wifi and caffeine that I can plant myself for a few hours to get some work done.

However, I’m realizing that I was completely spoiled in Seattle where just about every small retail district in North Seattle had an independent coffeeshop (almost always with free wifi!). Here in The Valley, good blogging (independent) coffee shops are are nearly non-existent. (It’s worth noting that both of those links to go maps that are at the same scale!)

With all that said, here are the coffee shops I’ve found (although I’m definitely still on the lookout for more!):

Perks (yelp)
9028 Balboa Blvd
Northridge, CA 91325

Daily Grind (yelp)
18131 Chatsworth St
Granada Hills, CA 91344

Village Coffee Roasters (yelp)
23351 Mulholland Dr
Woodland Hills, CA 91364

Panera Bread (yelp)
19662 Nordhoff St
Northridge, CA 91328

Coffee Junction (yelp) Currently closed while undergoing renovations
19221 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91356

View Larger Map

I’ll happily update this post to add more coffee shops in the valley with free wifi, so please don’t hesitate to let me know if there are others!

EveryBlock is the agregation point for…

…all things local and it appears to be well done (here’s North Beach in San Francisco).   What I like is that it is a site dedicated to local content that does not require an active social network to be useful.  It’s just local, publicly available data… and lots of it.

They’ve got photos, news articles, crimes, permit info, and more.  The only piece that appears to be fairly obvious that is missing is blogging.  But then again, maybe they didn’t want to take on OutsideIn… At least not at this stage.

From a business point of view, I imagine the ad revenue opportunities are decent assuming they can get a regular crew of locals to follow their feeds on a regular basis.   I also like that the overhead on a site like this has to be pretty darn small considering it is just agregating feeds from elsewhere.

There is also a syndication play they could make.   The big guys (Realtor.com, AOL, Yahoo, etc.) are always looking for quality local content, so I would imagine there is some money to be made in being the best source of aggregated local content.

Final head’s up: At the moment, EveryBlock it is only available in Chicago, NYC and SF.

(h/t to Social Media)

I love that Zillow just…

…opened up their neighborhood boundary data.

Having lots of experience dealing with graphical files of this nature (I was once considered a GIS-expert back in my engineering/planning days), I am positive that Zillow will have a massive amount of work on their hands should they start to get any data files returned with different definitions from users, but the idea is great.

One question for someone who has the tools to play with the data.   Are their neighborhood definitions free-form or are they based on an existing geography like zip codes or census block groups?

(Thanks Jon for the find!