Coldwell Banker introduced a fresh take on real estate search today with the launch of its new web site at beta.coldwellbanker.com. Besides a tarted-up user interface, the new site offers a couple of intriguing new ideas that I think push the innovation needle in the right direction.
The first of which is the new site now knows where you live. It uses your IP address to figure out where you are searching from and automatically offers up properties from that area. IP address detection itself isn’t particularly new, but I like that the team behind the site are thinking of ways that it can be used to help streamline the real estate search process for consumers. What I’d really love to see however, is for this idea to be taken even one step further by integrating the location awareness built in to the new Firefox browser (see New Firefox Brings Location to the Browser).
…allows consumers to give a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘thumbs down’ to various images that are displayed – similar to how popular music sites learn users’ preferences based on how they rate different songs. After rating various photos, consumers can then submit a query and the BlueScape technology will identify homes that might be a fit. Developed to help consumers actively looking to purchase a home as well as those still in the “dreaming phase,” this visually driven approach to search is new to the real estate category.
The tool works exactly as described. You’re presented a series of seemingly random “lifestyle” and real estate related photos; photos of mountains, pools, different styles of homes etc. You give each photo a thumbs up or thumbs down rating and after a period of time you can ask Bluescape to return your results.
The process is actually kind of fun (although the music got a little annoying after a while). Presumably, the more photos you rate the more accurate your results are. But it would be nice if the site gave you some indication of how many images a user needs to rate before good results are returned. Personally I just kept clicking until I couldn’t take the music anymore.
The results Bluescape returned were definitely intriguing – and at a national level the results were fairly close to the images I’d flagged. When I filtered the results to my local area however, things got a little rougher. For some reason, Bluescape recommended I live in a strip mall. Hardly what I’d call my “dream” home.
I’m not sure this is a problem with the algorithm behind the suggestion engine or if it was just my taste in photos. Very well could be the latter.
In any case, despite a few little glitches like this (and the fact the site doesn’t play nice with Safari web browser), it’s great to see a brand like Coldwell Banker thinking creatively and outside the box when it comes to real estate search.
The goal for any real estate brokerage in the coming months is going to be how to differentiate your real estate search site from the sea of Google Maps and pushpin clones that exist out there. Finding your own unique take, or angle, on search while staying true to your brand will be the most challenging, and rewarding task ahead.