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John L. Scott’s Neighborhood Wizard was just the latest by a web site to clean up map based real estate search (see The Evolution of Map Based Searches). And while I called it a ‘gimmick’ in my earlier post, it is an important step forward towards making map searches more usable.

Point2 Homes has released a new release of their site recently that adds a similar feature by layering on a search box over a Google Map. This is a pretty significant release for Point2 that really brings their map search functions up to par.

First impressions – the overall design of the site is pretty utilitarian and the house icons were a little too cartoony for my taste. It also doesn’t work in Safari. But these are merely quibbles, functionally the site hits a home run.

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Switching between the move icon and the drawing icon is slick. Drawing a search box around the area in which you are interested and then refining it as it zooms in, has always felt to me to be the most natural way to start a search. John L. Scott’s “Etch a Sketch” is perhaps a little more refined, but Point2’s implementation just feels easier to use.

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Once you’ve defined the area you’re looking in, the Point2Homes map makes good use of AJAX to dynamically load the listings in the right sidebar, as you click on each. You can switch between the listing description and the search filter quickly and search results are reloaded dynamically as you refine your search. I liked this alot, it works very smoothly.

For each listing, you get a thumbnail image and a basic run down of property features (beds, baths etc.) – though if you want more information on a listing, Point2Homes takes you to off to a separate page. One feature I really like was how it knew the name of which neighborhood you we’re searching in (sometimes I didn’t know the name) and offers to show you more listings as well.

Ultimately, the biggest drawback is simply the lack of listings – Point2Homes pulls its listings from individual agents in its system rather than an MLS
feed or broker feed. For that reason, I can’t see Point2Homes ever being a mainstream real estate search page.

It’s too bad really, their innovations will probably go largely unused. What I’d really love to see is some sort of map search Frankenstein, that culls the best features from Point2 and Trulia, maybe throw Shackprices and Redfin into the mix too.

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