There was, for a while, a sense of stalemate that had hit real estate search on the web. Frankly these days, you could be forgiven for not finding much difference between the map based searches on most of the major property portals.

It seems like a map-based view of search results and the much older list-view of homes returned seemed to be all we could expect out of search. But let’s be honest. It’s not the most exciting way to view properties on line; staring from space or reading down a list of houses.

That’s why I was genuinely excited when I first saw the Hawaii Property Galleries on It’s a particularly innovative and one might say, obvious way of displaying properties online. But I’m surprised I haven’t seen more do it.

It’s simple really. It’s all about the photos.

The properties are all organized into generic photo buckets; ocean views, condos, acreage etc. and once you click through to view, you can slide through each of the properties — up to 18 properties a page — indivdually. So if you want to compare all the photos of the master bedroom in each property you can, likewise if you want to compare all the kitchens. You get the picture. It’s fantastic.

I love the concept – but would love to see a little more finite control handed to the user. Right now the properties that are highlighted are chosen by Hawaii Life so it would be great to be able to tap the entire MLS and apply any sort of filter and create your own galleries. That would make for an incredibly powerful research and comparison tool.

Nevertheless, it’s a fun way to look for homes and more importantly, really makes me want to go to Hawaii!

Interestingly enough – Hawaiilife is an example of a former web-only play that has parlayed its skill at building search experiences on the Net to real world success (Blueroof is another that comes to mind).

When it first hit my radar Hawaiilife was a straight referral based play (see 10 Kick Ass Real Estate Search Sites). It’s since opened its first brick and mortar brokerages in Kauai and the Big Island. And, according to a company spokesperson, in just under 8 months they’ve secured close to $100 million in listings and brought on more than 20 agents. They plan on opening two more offices on Oahu (Honolulu) and Maui later this year.

So it begs the question, shall we see this sort of search experience on the Continent someday or, more pressingly, will will see Hawaiilife’s mainland counterparts borrow its business model too?

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