"Seeing" the future of online real estate

A couple weeks ago, Frontdoor.com released its City Guides product [Disclosure: Frontdoor.com is a 1000watt Consulting client]. This is worth noting for several reasons. The user experience is first rate; the balance between content and design, data and vibe is pitch perfect; it supports the decision to live a life somewhere, not just to buy a house.

Their implementation of real estate-relevant APIs is well done. They’ve done a great job organizing Yelp reviews in each city, and display local events through eventful.

A slice of life

But it’s their use of Flickr that got me thinking.

Flikr has been around for a long time. It has been plugged into thousands of websites and blogs. But the volume of geotagged photos it holds is now to a point where users can get a good visual sense for most any place. Frontdoor.com is taking advantage of this.

Check out Fairfield, CA

Or Athens, Georgia.

Or how about this: My wife is from Marshall, MN, a small town way out in corn country. Flikr brings it to life. This image illustrates why my wife now lives in California.

You get a slice of life from each of these places, usually seen through the eyes of people who live there. I may know that Athens is a college town, but now I can actually see what a University of Georgia college student looks like these days. I can look at a map of Marshall mashed up with points of interest, but this gets me deeper.

These photos pull you back from the tight focus on the home and touch on the blurry edges of decision making. And this, I think, presents really interesting possibilities for online real estate.

I am not certain what those possibilities will amount to. But the confluence of visual search, location awareness, Street View, online video, and massive stores of goetagged photos will get us closer to “virtual real estate” than we could have imagined even five years ago.

Something else to consider: There are hundreds of millions of photos sitting within MLS systems across the country. Most brokers have thousands of images they’re not using. We focus so much on listings data; is there hidden value in the images?

Brian Boero