It was a beautiful Portland summer morning. Quiet. Cool. Before the heat of the day really started cranking up the thermometer.
Between juggling a fussy baby and and even fussier Labrador, I finally got to my local Starbucks for my morning coffee. In the calm of that moment, staring over my steaming cup, I pulled out my iPhone and fired up the new Facebook app. Nothing unusual there: part of my morning routine these days is to see what’s been happening in my friend’s and family’s lives.
Only this time, I checked-in first and let them all know where I was.
Check-in behavior like this has provided the foundation for all kinds of popular apps of late (Foursquare, Pegshot, Gowalla, just to name just a few), has distracted others (Yelp) and has, no doubt, firmly established geo-location as one of the hot new services in the mobile category.
So when Facebook launched its Facebook Places product last week, it came as a pretty big splash and, I think, threw some cold water on this party. Thanks to the sheer weight of the social network‘s user base, this mechanic is soon going to be ubiquitous.
What’s left, therefore, is just the sprinkling of features on top. The layering of ego (Foursquare’s mayorships), design (Gowalla’s badges) or gaming (Booyah’s Monopoly-like MyTown) give each of those services their own unique flavor. And it remains to be seen which, if any, have any real staying power.
Facebook has effectively commoditized the check-in.
All this got me thinking, though. This is where things for real estate start to get really interesting.
My cup of coffee was going to get cold.
What does the check-in mean for real estate?
So far, we’ve seen only a handful of geo-location apps built exclusively for real estate. The first, Agent Footprints, is launching soon and was built by the guys behind Neybor.com. It promises to document (through the check-in) “a real estate agent’s professional life including listings, sold properties, and more importantly, visited properties.”
Basically, an agent can check-in to any of the for-sale properties in the system and indicate that they’ve viewed the home. I got a demo of this app recently and it’s pretty darn impressive. The implications at both the broker and agent level already have us thinking of ways this can be utilized.
The other, HomeFinder.com’s Race for the Home event in Atlanta, is going down on September 18. Through a partnership with the SCVNGR, 1,000 of HomeFinder’s home buyers are going to compete in a series of location-based check-in challenges in an effort to win a down payment on a new home.
[Disclosure: 1000watt Consulting has performed consulting services for Homefinder.com in the past]
And while both of these are creative examples of business and consumer-focused use cases for the check-in, the greater potential here is staring at us in the face.
Coffee is getting colder. Ideas smoldering.
In real estate, the check-in by itself is largely meaningless, but bolt that check-in to a simple qualitative query – like “Did you like this property?” – and bingo, you start to have something really interesting.
Brian and Marc and I have talked at length about John Battelle’s idea of the Web being a database of intentions.
So with a simple yes or no response added to a check-in to a home, you start to have a series of geo-coded markers of intention, in real space, tied to real homes.
This is powerful stuff. In the aggregate, this data could serve to power Amazon-like recommendations to a home search. Sliced and diced it could even serve to help determine the saleability of a home itself.
Shared through a filtered social graph, this could even serve to aide the home-buying process among families.
But why stop there…
- Imagine a Weeplaces-type visualization of color-coded “likes” and “dislikes.” Rolled up at a macro-level, this could give us fascinating insight into the popularity of certain neighborhoods.
- Imagine an enhanced StreetAdvisor.com with a leaderboard for every block, the most popular homes floating to the top.
By now, my coffee was ice cold. Perfect, given the rising heat of the day. I stood up, gathered my belongings and wandered up the hill in my village back towards home. On my way I noticed a new home that had just gone on the market.
I thought to myself, man, that’s a cool house. If there were only a way to tag it, like it and share it.