Editor’s note: We scoured the industry in search of behind-the-scenes technology innovators driving change for real estate. In this special Inman News series, we share their stories, but the five people and companies we chose are by no means the only pioneers in real estate. There are hordes of innovators out there, and we’d like to hear all their stories. Drop us a tip if you have someone in mind. (See Part 1: Age doesn’t stop Baird & Warner’s innovations; Part 3: A perfect online real estate marriage; Part 4: Bridging islands of real estate technology and Part 5: ‘Lazy’ investor turned tech pioneer.)
Everyone knows the importance of the adage, “Neighborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood,” and William Meadow is capitalizing on the concept.
Giving a new twist to the concept of drive-bys, Meadow is building a drive-by database of the residential real estate market – videos of not just the houses, but also the streets and the whole area.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based Real Data Center, founded by Meadow in early 2004, will make it possible for agents and home buyers to not just view homes, but virtually drive down the street and see entire neighborhoods online for a small monthly fee. The company’s Web site, RealDataCenter.com, is slated to launch this month.
“If you find a dozen homes that match your criteria, our system will show you where they are and give a view of the neighborhoods,” said Meadow. “You can see videos of nearby amenities such as schools, houses of worship, grocery stores, pools and golf courses.”
Agents and buyers will be able to access MLS data, county property records and satellite aerial imagery with property lines across multiple counties, cities and suburbs, Meadow said.
“Then you can generate a customized map, a drive plan with all the neighborhoods you like, and have all the information put in a PDF and e-mailed to you. This can be done by an agent, or the agent can empower the client to use the software.”
The database is accessed online, Meadow said. He plans to charge a monthly fee to brokers for “well below three figures a month.” The fee structure has not yet been finalized, he said.
Real Data Center has some competition from companies that provide similar services. VisualTour.com of Coral Springs, Fla., sells software that enables agents to create neighborhood or home tours using digital still photos. VideoHomeTours.com of Des Plaines, Ill., a real estate photography company, has created a number of community video tours, some of which are featured on the company’s Web site. The cost is between $999 and $10,000, according to the VideoHomeTours site. The company’s core product, however, is still-photos of homes.
“We’ve got several brokers in Florida up and ready to go,” said Meadow, who would not give the brokers’ names, saying they were not ready to announce their involvement. “We are in discussions with brokers all over the country.” The plan is to have the broker pay one fee for all of its agents in a given city.
“Our entire site will be private-labeled by whoever our licensees are,” Meadow said.
“The real value proposition for an agent is you’ve only got so many hours in a day. If you have a buyer who wants to look at 24 houses, you can tell them to ‘browse through these and we’ll go to the ones you want.’ And from the buyer’s point of view, how many hours can they save?” said Meadow.
The mechanism for making the videos is fascinating. Four wide-angle video cameras are magnetically mounted on the roof of the videographer’s car, operating on juice from the car’s cigarette lighter.
“Our camera-wide array is the same as your visual ability,” explained Meadow. “This matches the angle of your eyes. We make it more a human experience.”
A laptop in the car with a global positioning system gives voice instructions to the driver. The laptop captures the video and stores it on a very large hard drive. Then the captured data is shipped back to the company’s Jacksonville headquarters and loaded on the servers.
“Typically within 30 days of contracting, we’ll have 50,000 homes online,” predicted Meadow.
“We will hit the luxury properties first. Our sweet spot is people who market high-end property where the high commissions are,” he said.
“It’s a good idea,” said Vlad Ponomarov, a producer at CAV Media Corp. of Napa, Calif., a video production company. Ponomarov said there are a number of car mounts that compensate for vibrations and movement, making the project “doable.”
“The police are doing something similar with mounted video cameras,” Ponomarov said. “You’re going to see more and more of this kind of thing now that DSL has been widely adopted.”
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