Wednesday, July 18, 2007

National: The end of the old MLS?

So you think that Silicon Valley won't have an effect on the real estate business? From today's San Francisco Chronicle, there is a new player in the home buyer's arsenal of online tools that works as an "aggregator" of information from the traditional MLS, craigslist, trulia, zillow, etc. in a netvibes type interface., the brainchild of a near-child, will go live with its real estate "dashboard," where users can create a personal page from for-sale listings, valuation tools, maps, photos, crime statistics, weather and neighborhood cafes, banks and airports. Whereas other sites usually provide a few of those resources, Terabitz says its hub aggregates all the information a home shopper needs -- from a place to peruse four-bedroom colonials to where to find a baby crib.

The home buyer (and for that matter, any lender, investor or potential seller) can view current inventory for sale and for rent from multiple sources, giving the home buyer more resources than most agents may have in their standard MLS database (also, it is the agent that pays an annual fee to input their listings into the database). It also gives the agent's potential clients the information of recent sales comps, a common request from clients when they're interested in making an offer or signing a listing agreement.

Terabitz works like this: The visitor types in a city or ZIP code. Then under tabs such as "listings" or "education" or "financing", there are icons representing different items - or "bitz" in company parlance -- such as Google's home listings, nearby colleges, neighborhood photos and local mortgage rates. By dragging and dropping the icons into the "workspace," users can choose which information they want on their page. The data is available in list form, or, for certain data sources, a layered map. From there, the user can save those snapshots and e-mail them to their friends, family or mortgage broker.

As Terabitz (or other online resources like it) gain acceptance as an aggregator of information for the "masses", additional venture capital will flow in an effort to make the site a "one stop shop" for the home buyer and sellers. As it's been reported recently, 80% of home buyers use the internet to find their next big purchase.

Ashfaq Munshi, CEO of Terabitz and a Silicon Valley veteran who was the former chief executive officer of Level 5 Networks, said he has raised $10 million from Tudor Capital, part of the Tudor Hedge Fund. Munshi plans to charge vendors for Real estate site has all kinds of info and "Do-it-yourself" features allows users to add data they want placement -- for instance, Starbucks would pay a fee for always being first on a list of local cafes. Terabitz would also make available, for a fee, sites for real estate brokers and others.

A real estate agent's ability to adopt and adapt to these trends in technology is half the battle in this business. It is essential to stay current with the trends in "end user" access.

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