Why We Don’t Offer a Real Estate Map Based Search

Over the past few years we’ve encountered dozens of prospects for our idx solution that have asked ‘do you have a mapping solution?’ We’ve lost a few existing clients along the way because we were not going to offer it and they moved on to other vendors that do have it. Since I don’t do the actual selling, my answer has always been ‘because it’s stupid.’ Of course until now I couldn’t say that in public. We’ve obviously had a more politically correct way of handling this sales question, but my underlying answer has always been… it’s stupid.
Back in January, I was vindicated when Google announced that they would stop offering mapping in their Google Base product simply because they found that  visitors to their site weren’t using it.
One reason I think it’s stupid is because if I was in the market for a home the last thing I want to do is search out all those little bubbles to simply see the front of the house. Bubble on top of bubble? No thank you.
Isn’t selling real estate and from my viewpoint buying a home all about curb appeal? What curb appeal is there to look at bubbles on a map? I want to buy a home not a bubble. I know there are solutions that give you 5 or 10 at a time, but every time I have seen these types of solutions, I simply moved my eye-balls past the map and down to the thumbnails of the home, or keep my eye on the left or right hand side where the listings are. Sometimes their isn’t even a bubble on that map. I’m a southwest home kind of guy, living in Colorado, that’s not going to surprise those that know this area. However, there a lot of homes in my area that don’t fit that criteria, so why would I want to wade through a bunch of two stories or Victorian type homes?
Another more compelling reason comes from NAR’s own research. For many years now consumers have said that more photos of the home, complete descriptions and yes even videos and virtual tours are what they want to see. Less than half of people polled have said that mapping was a desirable feature they wanted to see on their agents real estate website.
At one point I broke down and said, ok I’ll see what I can do about offering a solution. I spent a couple of weeks programming that feature into our solution, and always came away saying it doesn’t work to my standards. Having access to data in over 30 locations across the country, there is less than a handful of boards that offer longitude and latitude in their data. This is the only correct way to point a bubble on a map in the right place. Couple that with the fact that unfortunately agents sometime don’t spell the addresses correctly. So the only alternative is to constantly run the mls data through a third party program to interpret the address to arrive at a longitude and latitude. In my opinion, it’s too many moving parts to feel comfortable that it will work with any regularity. My home for example maps on google, yahoo, and mapquest around 500 few to the west onto a vacant lot. I got a kick out of reading another idx vendors blog post about how the agents now have the ability to go into their solution and correct the marker. Really, as an agent do you want to spend your time verifying the little bubbles are in the right place?
The biggest compliment we get from our clients is when they tell us, someone contacted them because of all the sites they’ve looked at our solution is simple to use.  After all, do you really want to turn off a visitor to your website because they can’t navigate a wily and wooly property search?
Our philosophy has been and always will be in our idx solution a simple one. We don’t want our clients loosing out on potential leads because a visitor to their website needs to have the skills of a rocket scientist to navigate and search for a property. We have designed our idx solution to enable even the most computer illiterate user an enjoyable experience. Just remember, if a technology can be accomplished doesn’t mean it’s needs to be implemented. Do you or someone you know still have a blinking clock someone in the house?
For some interesting comments on what others in the industry say, you might want to check these links out. Plus you really need to read the comments to get the full scope of others positions.
The Future of Real Estate Marketing – Why the Map Based Search is Dead
Another Nail in the coffin for Map Based Search – Zillow goes back to list view
And from Brian Boero over at 1000wattconsulting:
“The debate over map-based property search Joel started last week continued over at Vendor Alley. Some really good points were raised – all underscoring the complexity of creating a great online real estate experience. My take: users will always tell you they “want” map search when you ask them. Frequently, their clicks will as well. They lie. Maps sounds good. They look cool. They can even be fun to play with. But let’s remember: the conversion numbers tell the true story.”

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Posted on by Rick Thomas