Friday Flash: free data, QR code fatigue and the FSBO virus

ReadWriteWeb wrote up a new online travel site called Wanderfly that got me thinking about the current buzz around “lifestyle search” in real estate.

Onboard Informatics has been a leader here, having released an api that allows publishers to create search experiences integrating demographic and point of interest data. But the interfaces I’ve seen aren’t thrilling. Play around with Wanderfly a bit and you’ll see where I think this could head. Really interesting site.

This notwithstanding, I remain skeptical about lifestyle search. People, I suspect, “want” real estate lifestyle search in the same way I “want rock hard abs” – it’s an attractive idea that requires just a little too much to actually pursue and offers results that may, as they say, vary.

VisualTour, one of the largest virtual tour providers, announced that they have integrated QR codes into their platform. That means an agent can generate a QR code from their VisualTour account and affix it to a yard sign as a means of connecting the sign to the virtual tour they’ve created.

No, this is not an earth shaking announcement. But I mention it here because I’ve noticed something of a QR code backlash lately. This is unwise. Real estate “moved on” from email marketing too soon. It moved on from blogging too soon. Video was sooooo 2007.

Short attention spans and an unwillingness to invest in good execution on these platforms led most on to the next sexy technology of the month. The resulting dance hasn’t been pretty.

QR codes are manifestations of a really important trend that should not be casually dismissed: The growing connection between physical places and objects and the digital world. Hasn’t that been the underlying ambition of our 15-year online real estate endeavor?

Virtual Results released a wordpress-based agent website product. It’s nicely done. The IDX is handled by Diverse Solutions. I have been waiting for the days of animated .gifs and Flash intro pages on agent websites to end for years now. It’s taking too long. I’d like to see more products like this – soon!

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a “National broadband map” that illustrates where Americans are well and not-so-well connected. That’s neat, but what caught my eye was the list of free APIs they make available to developers. The list includes demographic data from the Census Bureau in addition to various APIs for connectivity that could enable some cool map overalays on a real estate site.

AirBnB is one of those companies that glances off the edge of online real estate but is worth keeping an eye on. Their site connects people who have a place to sleep (an apartment, a room, a floor) with people who need to crash somewhere.

Well, they announced this week that they’ve booked 1 million nights. That’s pretty amazing in my opinion. Getting people to open up their pads (in many cases, their primary residence) to others online, without an intermediary, would seem far-fetched a few years ago. Kinda like people marketing their own homes for sale online…

Keep an eye on this site. The FSBO virus may go dormant, but it will never die.

We wrote about the group messaging phenomenon in our Spotlight e-newsletter two weeks ago, arguing that there were a ton of real estate uses cases around these sorts of apps. This week Beluga, a group messaging start-up, made things even more interesting by adding location to the mix. This means, for example, that not only can a small group of people now communicate more efficiently via text, but they can also see where every member of the group is at any time.

I think this is a very handy home search app!

That’s it for now. If you have something you think it worth noting here, drop me a line. I won’t guarantee I’ll write about it, but I promise to take a look.

Enjoy the weekend!