Archive for the 'Development' Category

Cutting edge tools for Real Estate Search

2 snippets on the future (one as close as this Saturday) of real estate search.

Zillow just amazes me. While the industry keeps bickering these guys just keep innovating. I need to find another South African (Dave Gibbons from Zillow voice can be heard on the video below) to narrate my Cloud CMA and Dwellicious videos, his voice is great.

For the complete story check out, Zillow Blog: Introducing Zillow on iPad: Home Shopping Re-invented

And also check out these two grad students at MIT. Real estate meets Minority Report!

The Realtor and the iPad

The Apple iPad, real estate software, and sales. – Part I

Okay so I’m jumping on the bandwagon and writing a post about the upcoming release of the Apple iPad. This post is going to focus on how I see real estate professionals using the device, Part II I will focus on how I see real estate vendors using the device. You might also want to check out Gahlord Dewald’s article on Inman today as well.

The Realtor and the iPad:

One thing that’s really important and people should understand is that it’s important that your apps are 100% web based and they work on Apple’s Safari browser. Lucky for us Cloud CMA works great on Safari! Another important thing to remember is that many popular real estate apps, available in Apple’s App Store, will be ready to rock right out of the box. Lots of choices and it will be interesting to see how they translate from the iPhone/iPod Touch to the iPad.

Many MLS systems will not run on the iPad and if your agent website uses Flash consumers sitting on their couch with their iPad searching for listings (the iPad doesn’t support Flash) on your website will get a poor experience.

While I think it will be possible for some web-based real estate software applications to be used on an iPad I think the real win will be with displaying output: reports, graphs and interactive charts (which will also be a challenge for developers to create without using Flash.) Just imagine flipping through pages of a CMA while sitting at the kitchen table with a seller. But there is a danger here, which I’ll get to later in Part II.

So I think web apps that generate output and allow manipulation via “What If” scenarios of that output will be awesome, for example:

1. What if the interest rate went to 6%?
2. What if I lowered the total commission to 5.5%?
3. What if we listed the house below $500K, what does that do historically to the DOM?
4. What if we based the List Price on avg. $ per square foot instead of the median of the comps.?

This will make a listing presentation a truly interactive and collaborative experience.

Or imagine real estate agent handing their buyers an iPad as they go out on tour. Any comments and ratings will instantly update the buyer’s final report output.

Will REALTORS embrace using the iPad for searching the MLS? Not likely. Will users use the device to fill out forms? More likely. Will REALTORS use the iPad to show reports (i.e. PDFs)? I think this is a no-brainier. As a software company we are excited about seeing the possibilities with the iPad and what new software applications the real estate industry will come up with. We’ve certainly got more than a few ideas ourselves!

Cloud CMA now includes Yelp.

Cloud CMA integrates Yelp!

My business partner Dan Woolley likes to refer to Cloud CMA as a “platform”. Meaning he can develop all sorts of fun and useful report pages based on the data available. And our preferred method for non-MLS data is the use of APIs (application-programming interface). An API is basically a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a web-base software application or Web tool. Currently Cloud CMA uses about 15 different APIs.

We get all sorts of ideas for different report pages for Cloud CMA. Today we released something that has been in works for quite awhile.

We are very excited about this new Yelp integration with Cloud CMA. Now we can show a report page with the closest restaurants, and their Yelp score, to properties in a Buyer Tour or Property Report.

So real estate agents will “foodie” clients can now automagically include this in their Cloud CMA reports. And when their clients are viewing the reports as a PDF they can click right through to the restaurant’s Yelp page.



Bon Appétit!

Putting it all together- The look and feel of Cloud CMA

This is Part VI in our “Does the world really need a new CMA program?” series in which we blog about the creation of our latest web application, Cloud CMA.

Putting it all together- The look and feel of Cloud CMA

First things first I have to start out by giving credit to our design partners at Wake Interactive. Damien and his guys did a great job on Dwellicious and really blew the doors off with the design concepts for Cloud CMA. As I said before we did about 20 demos in San Diego and everyone was blown away by the UI design of Cloud CMA.

Our goal from the start was to lessen the steps in creating a report. Cloud CMA may not do everything that other CMA applications do but it damn well was going to be the most intuitive.

We also wanted to really do something innovative with the way data is displayed and sorted. One of our biggest arguments/discussions/brain storms was centered around the use of grids/tables. Dan thought grids were too old school and wanted to come up with something new. I was worried that while a grid/table might be old school, they worked really well when you wanted to sort and display data.

No Grid!

We went to what we call “listing cards”. They convey information in many ways: numbers, text, color and iconography. See the screen shot below:

Voilà!

You can change the order of these cards (say for a buyer tour) by simply dragging them:

Just click, and drag

When you deselect the listing it simply fades in to the background (very sexy!):

Bad comps don't die, they fade away....

If you want to see further information about the listing you can simply click on the “Detail & Adjustments” link to expand the card:

Listing Card- Expanded view



We think listing cards will be a hit with our customers.
They convey a ton of information with just a look. You also don’t have to open another window to see more detail. They might not be useful when you have a lot of listings to sort through, as in an MLS system, but with smaller lists we think they are the new hotness!

We also used this card concept in how we display saved reports. Once you have created a report we save it as a card under the respective tab.

My saved reports

These cards show the report name, when it was last updated and have action links to either edit, delete, email or print reports.

A saved report

So by ditching the grid, opting for more white space and using color and iconography we really think we have done a great deal to make Cloud CMA, for lack of a better phrase, a truly “Web 2.0” application. There have been sacrifices. It the pursuit of simplicity Cloud CMA will not be as flexible as other CMA applications. But with flexibility comes complexity. We believe Cloud CMA has the right mix of intuitiveness and a rich feature set.

Next up, getting MLS data in to Cloud CMA. The fight for simplicity rages on….

Full Spectrum Real Estate

This is Part V in our “Does the world really need a new CMA program?” series in which we blog about the creation of our latest web application, Cloud CMA.

Full Spectrum Real Estate

Having just got back from NARDiego Dan and I are super pumped up!
There is something special/exciting/nerve racking/terrifying about showing your product for the first time to people outside your company. We gave about 20 private demos to MLS executives and industry colleagues and the response was fantastic!

What I want to talk about today is what I like to call the “Full Spectrum” reports Cloud CMA generates. In a nutshell reports from Cloud CMA augment MLS data with information we gather from top real estate and data providers across the web (or from “the Cloud”, if you will). Currently we access about 11 APIs. What’s an API? According to Wikipedia: “An application programming interface (API) is an interface that a software program implements in order to allow other software to interact with it, much in the same way that software might implement a user interface in order to allow humans to use it.” APIs we use include: a Walk Score from Front Seat, Maps and area photos from Google, demographics, interest rates and recent home sales from Zillow, and school info from Education.com.

Real Estate's Top Sites!

We think of Cloud CMA as a platform. A platform that can access any database. The trick is then to create compelling reports with this information. In the case of Cloud CMA we blend MLS data will relevant data we get from these APIs. We then create what we like to call “Big, Bold, and Beautiful” reports. We believe that today’s consumers expects their real estate professional to provide more than MLS data but also from other real estate websites they have been searching and exploring.

Big, Bold and Beautiful Reports!

Another wonderful benefit about using the data from these great sites is that the information is dynamic. Most agents will email a pdf of the Cloud CMA report they print and present. Cloud CMA pdfs include lots of “hotlinks” so reports come to life when their clients wish to further explore the information provided.

Finally, Cloud CMA reports aren’t just a pretty face, they have a purpose, too! The layout, page order, content and design are all about taking clients to the next step, whether it’s making it an offer, or signing that listing agreement.

Next up, “Putting it all together” or “In which we send your existing real estate software back to the stone age.” ; )

If you can use email, you can generate a report on Cloud CMA!

This is Part IV in our “Does the world really need a new CMA program?” series in which we blog about the creation of our latest web application, Cloud CMA.

UI- Oh My!

Form should follow function so before I share some of the design elements of the Cloud CMA user interface I want to briefly discuss what key innovations we have included.

Today I’m going to talk about the first.

1. If you can use email, you can create a report on Cloud CMA.

Recently Dan Woolley sent out this Tweet:

DanTweet


Cloud CMA is really a report generator.
When we launch Cloud CMA it will be able to generate 3 types of reports:

CMA
Buyer Tour
Property Profile

The idea of using email to generate reports came from using services like TripIt and Posterous. Here’s how it works:

Assuming a Cloud CMA subscriber has already set up their account (loaded their profile and contact information, and chosen a default report theme). Now a Cloud CMA subscriber can simply generate reports by sending an email to one of 3 email addresses:

emailaddresses

In the example of creating a Buyer Tour. All the Cloud CMA subscriber has to do is give the report a title, such as “The Rudolph Family” in the Subject Field, and the MLS numbers of the homes they wish to include on the tour in the Subject Body of the email. That’s it!

BT EMAIL

In mere minutes a completely customized and personalized report will be emailed back to the agent. The agent can then print the report, forward the report to their buyer, or both.

Cloudemail

And if the agent wishes to do so they could include their buyer email address in the CC: field and the buyer will receive the report once it is generated!

Of course they can alternatively log on and use the Cloud CMA web application to create the report, but if they already know the properties they want to include on the CMA, Buyer Tour or Property Profile they can just send an email.

frontpage-bird

This is also a great way for subscribers to use Cloud CMA via their mobile phone. We are also playing around with creating reports by sending a direct message to @CloudCMA on Twitter.

Next up, MLS + API = Something Special

Cloud CMA Logorama!

This is Part III in our “Does the world really need a new CMA program?” series in which we blog about the creation of our latest web application, Cloud CMA.

Cloud CMA Logorama!

We had a lot of fun last year when we asked readers to submit their ideas and give their opinion on logos for Dwellicious.

This year for Cloud CMA we were under a tighter schedule, so we didn’t publicly post the logo candidates we went through. But, since I got a lot of great feedback from our Dwellicious post I thought I would give you a quick walk through of our design process and selection of the final logo for Cloud CMA.

First, the name. For us, the word Cloud had 3 separate meanings/vibe.

The first is obvious: “Cloud” is synonymous with “the Web”, or “Internet”. One of our main goals with Cloud CMA was to augment MLS data with the best data/information from the Internet’s most popular real estate and community sites.

Our second inclination was to have a name that reflects a calming or blissful vibe. Something from nature. This would extend to the web application itself, something that is easy and maybe even a pleasure to use.

The third was a slightly arcane reference to one of our previous product names, “Lightning”, because where does Lightning come from anyway? A cloud!

Round 1

Below are the two design references that were first submitted.

R1 Version A

R1 Version A

R1 Version B

R1 Version B

I was immediately drawn to the B version of the logos. To me, the use of negative space that made the cloud was subtle (too subtle?), but also created a kind of “speaking bubble” effect as well, which I thought might add to the social nature of the application.
Both Dan and I hated the font.

The B version seemed too “sci-fi” to us. Some feedback we got from others we consulted said it looked like a logo from a pharmaceutical company.

Round 2

They added the “bar” to the “A”, but kept the stylized “M”, which was growing on us.

R2 Version A

R2 Version A

Round 2 Version B

Round 2 Version B

We were playing with the idea of calling the application Cloud CMA or Cloud CMA & Buyer Tour. In the end, we decided to drop the “& Buyer Tour” reference even though the application did more than just a CMA report. In this round we had asked our designer to add a “+” symbol to reflect that the CMA report did more, but as I mentioned we decided to drop the “+” altogether and just use Cloud CMA.

Also, we thought the green pea color was wrong and wanted to see what it looked like if the bottom was a sky blue, giving the effect the cloud was in the sky, not coming over the horizon.

Here’s what that looked like:

Round 2 Version C

Round 2 Version C

The effect made it look like “teeth”, so we scrapped it. We also settled on the “cloud” being over “CMA”, not centered on the whole phrase, “Cloud CMA”.


Round 3

In this round we focused on coming up with the correct color green for the patch of grass. We experimented with some other colors. (It’s pretty hard to see the differences on this screen capture). We also started to figure out how to incorporate the product slogan, which is, “Sales Are Looking Up!”.

Round 3 Version A

Round 4

R4 Version A

R4 Version A

We were pretty happy with the color green we chose, and the placement of the slogan. So, I sent the logo around to a few friends and colleagues to get further opinions. To my surprise, a few of them still saw “teeth”. Not good!

I thought more about it and suggested our designers come up with an asymmetrical cloud. We would lose the “talking bubble” effect and a bit of anchoring to the “M”, but I thought it would be worth another round of proofs.

The final logo.

By making the cloud asymmetrical we lost the “teeth” effect, and we knew we had a winner!

cloud-cma_sloganfinal

The funny thing about a logo is that the product starts to become more “real” when you give it an identity. Now the really hard part was about to begin….

Next up, UI, Oh My!!