A new Internet portal launches today with a depth of real estate-related content created by a thousands-strong community of real estate professionals.
The site, RealTown.com, also features links to hundreds of multiple listing service-operated property-search Web sites, a database of properties maintained by real estate technology company Point2, and an agent-search tool.
The new site includes a consumer-facing collection of information from Internet discussion groups, industry articles and blogs. The goal, according to founders, is to empower consumers and real estate professionals alike with a centralized source of relevant real estate information.
Saul Klein, president and CEO for Real Estate Electronic Publishing Company Inc., the company that is launching RealTown.com, said, “It has always been in our vision to do this — to create a place where content form the people of the community has a lot of value. We had this idea 12 years ago.”
RealTown.com joins other sites, such as ActiveRain.com, that offer user-generated content and an online forum for real estate professionals and consumers.
InternetCrusade, as the publishing company is better known, has fostered the creation and maintenance of online communities through simple Internet discussion groups, and now counts about 40,000 members of its various real estate-related communities. There are about 25,000 members, for example, in the RealTalk community, which features daily discussions of industry issues among real estate professionals. Members seek advice and share ideas through the RealTalk network. Internet Crusade’s communities also include separate discussion groups for MLS professionals and for Realtor association executives, for example, and a network of bloggers.
InternetCrusade also manages the e-Pro Technology Certification Program through which Realtors receive technology training. The agent-search tool is currently limited to e-Pro members though Klein said there are plans to expand that to a broader group of licensed real estate agents who sign up at the RealTown.com site.
Real estate information, said Klein, “happens to be the driving force in everybody’s life right now.” Some discussion content is private for members of specific groups, while other information is open to the public. The site does not require registration, though registration is required for those who post content at the site.
Planned enhancements at the site include a system to rate the performance of real estate agents, Klein said, and to package content for publication in other sources. “The whole idea of ‘citizen journalism’ — allowing content to flow from the masses — is a universal idea,” he said.
And the new Web site will evolve through community recommendations, he added, “Whatever you want we’re going to give it to you. It’s a community where we take very seriously the input from people.”
While the site can be used to link consumers with real estate professionals, Klein said there is no charge for the online leads generated through the site. There are plans to allow advertising at the site and to offer some paid services, he said.
Klein said the InternetCrusade community has relied on grassroots growth that began with a simple e-mail network. There are an estimated 2,600 bloggers who participated in the RealTown Blogroll, and Klein said InternetCrusade offers free blogging tools for those interested in becoming active bloggers.
Other InternetCrusade managers assisting the creation of the new portal are John Reilly, chief information officer and author of “The Language of Real Estate,” and Mike Barnett, chief technology officer and a developer for the RealTown community software.
According to a company announcement, “RealTown.com integrates citizen journalism and professional journalism, giving equal editorial weight to articles from both camps, tapping the great resource of undiscovered talent and knowledge and making it available to everyone.”