By Maria Patterson
RISMEDIA, June 18, 2007-Introduced earlier this year, FindaHome.com believes it can bring a whole? new dimension to online home searches via the robust demographic data it provides. According to the San Diego-based technology guru behind the program, Patrick Jen, the ability to provide consumers with the information they crave will give agents a critical advantage in today’s real estate market.
Maria Patterson: What gave you the idea to mix demographics with property data?
Patrick Jen: I looked at it from a consumer point of view and thought about what I’d want to see when searching for a home. When I went on the Internet and couldn’t find the tools I needed to suit my needs, I realized there was a void to fill. You would think now that the Internet is more mature, that sites would be more robust-but some sites are still very crude.
I wanted to make a better version of what was already out there. I thought about what was important to me and what I would consider a typical consumer’s needs to be. When people are looking for a place to live, that’s where demographics become important-especially when you’re talking about kids and schools.
When people are moving to a different state or a different country, they have no clue what the demographics are. Now people can go to the Internet and zoom into a city using our mapping technology. It allows them to be like a bird that flies over the city. We show people the demographic data in a graphical format using the heat map’s colored overlays on top of the city. It allows people to zoom in on the cities that have the right demographic criteria for them.
MP: Why are so many real estate professionals resistant to providing more information directly to consumers?
PJ: There is a notion and a culture in the real estate industry that providing too much information to consumers empowers them too much and disenfranchises the Realtor. I say that is one hundred percent false. When a house is listed on the MLS, the consumer ultimately has to use an agent. So why not let consumers narrow down their choices so that when they come to you, they’re not wasting your time? ROI is so important in any business and time is a big investment. We see this program as a big time saver for real estate professionals. The knee-jerk reaction is, “What are they doing empowering consumers? That makes me less important.” The educated real estate professional knows that this is not the case and that they can use this technology to save themselves time.
MP: Will real estate professionals need to embrace technology sooner or later?
PJ: Technology is not going away. It’s going to get stronger and stronger. Consumers rely on the Internet to look for things. Everyone goes to Google to search for something-it’s the same thing with real estate.
MP: How can the FindaHome technology benefit Realtors?
PJ: Our technology is free and open to consumers. Once the consumers are in there looking for a home, they will need to contact a real estate agent. This is the perfect platform for Realtors to advertise and create leads. We believe the use of the technology in that direction will increase.
MP: I understand that FindaHome.com will have an international reach…
PJ: The technology has the capacity to do so-the maps can provide data sets on an international level.
MP: Why did you feel it was necessary to patent this technology, especially in the real estate industry?
PJ: Patents don’t necessarily get granted. Typically speaking, you rarely get assessed and approved on the first round, but we did. You should always get a patent when you have something unique, in case the market suddenly gets flooded with your technology.
MP: Why do you think that mapping and visual location-based applications have become so pervasive?
PJ: People are visual by nature. When mapping technologies first came out they were crude and hard to navigate. The actual interface with visualization of a city is getting more popular. We still run into people who say they are “not a map person,” but the future generations are all graphical and play videogames. Visualization of a place is the lure of mapping technology.
There’s also a lure from a practical standpoint, too. The first question people ask when they look at a picture of a property is, “Where is this?” They want to see an overview of the city and see a dot that represents the house.
MP: What sorts of unique technology solutions have you created in the past?
PJ: In the past, my previous invention was a speech communicator that allows people who can’t speak to use a hand-held device or pocket PC that would speak out loud for them. That was my first product and I ended up selling it to a publicly traded company.
MP: Explain why the FindaHome technology could never replace the Realtor.
PJ: The Realtor is the neighborhood expert. Technology can’t replace walking the streets. You see things about a property in person that you could never pick up on the computer. You have to be there to know the feel of the neighborhood and to even be able to throw out an offer on a property.
Realtors aren’t going to get obsolete. They’re the ones on the ground in those neighborhoods and know things that a computer could not. That level of expertise isn’t going away. Use tools like FindaHome to save you time, and then have customers come to you so that you can answer their questions and close the deal.
For more information, visit www.FindaHome.com.
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