So PBL wants to play with the big boys of real estate!
I may be a small voice, but I think I have some experience with these things. If I were given a job of building a portal for success and money was no object, here is what I would do.
1. Free for Agents FOREVER . Agents are the only reason any portal would have a chance to be successful. Agents = content (listings) , content = consumers, consumers = advertisers. This is how Google do it and it is the model for the 21st Century.
2. Clean User Interface: Create a clean professional interface that caters for users of your site, and helps them find what they are looking for in as fewer steps as possible.
3. Include Resizable Mapping: Include a great mapping system for property searches. Mapping will be the king of searching for just about anything in the future. But make sure it takes up the majority of a users screen – in other words it can be resized to fit any size!
4. Allow imports from all XML Providers and listen to them for feedback. Send XML providers back information to place in their systems, such as property views, email enquiries. As more and more portals and websites become available XML providers are going to be in high demand. Hubonline, MyDesktop, Console, Portplus and others need to be become partners of these sites. Realestate.com.au provide great service to their providers as do Domain and Homehound, and just about all major franchises have their own system.
5. RSS Ready: Make sure that you site is fully RSS compliant. Allow users to subscribe to just about any listing type, from any area.
6. Consumer Rating System: Give them tools that mean something to them. Allow them feedback and possibly ratings systems that can be seen by agents only. Maybe a rating system (1 – 5 stars) that tells the agent whether the information provided was informative, the images were helpful and allow them to provide feedback to agents. Lifting the standards of listings is something realestate.com.au has done successfully over the years but it still needs to go further.
7. Advertising: Make advertising complimentary, allow small business advertisers to be able to advertise on the sites in specific areas. Builders, bricklayers etc should be given the opportunity to advertise in selected suburbs for a fee.
8. Media Centre PC’s: Create tools for consumers to be able to subscribe to and have data sent to their Media Centre PC’s so they can sit down in their living rooms and view the latest listings.
9. Open up your database. Create tools for developers to display your listings (with specific guidelines) on their websites, web logs etc. Create plugins for Firefox, IE7 etc
10. Non Compete Clause: Make a clause that locks in a deal with agents that they are all going to be treated equally in search results, no silver, gold or platinum deals that just squeeze extra dollars out of agents. WOW! if you go to a gold membership (only an extra $220.00 per month) you get a logo next to your listings!
Building something like this is not rocket science, but it does take time, I would have a team of maybe 5 developers and 1 interface designer. I would then focus on testing for about 3 months. If someone could build something like this (less than $500,000) then I think it would be a great start for a successful portal.
Then comes the hard part, getting it out there!!!! $$$$$ But I can tell you, $30 million dollars would cover it (Sensis and justlisted)