Background: I firmly believe business ideas are worth next to nothing; execution is everything. Additionally, I’ve talked to no fewer than 3 others who are either working on this or have thought about working on it — which is a good sign in my book since it means I’m not the only idiot who thinks there is a market for it. If there aren’t at least 5 or 10 people working on a given idea, it’s probably not a very good idea to begin with. In truth, the business opportunity outlined in this post is one I toyed with raising some money to build about 6 months ago. That said, I have now set my sights on chasing another, non real estate, business opportunity. So, for the young guns out there looking to make your mark on the industry, below is a business idea for you to ponder…
If you have a real estate website in the United States and you are an agent/broker, integrating listings onto it is pretty dang easy. Buy an IDX solution like Real Geeks, Displet, or Diverse Solutions (see Geek Build steering committee IDX recommendation) and plug the iframe into your site.
Side note: For the sake of this discussion, I’ll assume you already know what IDX is — if not, here are a few common questions answered.
Now, back to the topic at hand.
But what about if you are an agent or broker operating outside the United States? Say in Canada, Greece, South Africa, or Brazil? Getting listings on your website is not so easy. Why? Because there is no central repository of listings for your area (IDX) to pull from. You’re stuck with one of three options (see this post) for displaying listings:
- No listings
- Display ONLY listings you input onto your site
None of those options are what the home buyer wants. They want to see as many active listings searchable using the best UI possible.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to get a sizable listing database of listings (either in your country, your region, or worldwide) directly on your website? Wouldn’t it also be great if it was easily integrated into any WordPress website via a plugin similar to dsidxpress?
Which is why I think the needed solution is an international IDX (of sorts) built on top of a premium (read: paid) WordPress plugin.
The WordPress plugin would of course need to handle showcasing an agent’s individual listings on their own website complete with a slideshow supporting high resolution photos. Several of those listing management plugins already exist (such as Virtual Results plugin). But the plugin that doesn’t exist (that I’ve seen) is the one that stores all those properties entered and allows any site using the plugin to display those listings using a slick search UI. Agents could showcase their own properties but also all other properties in the “network” of plugin users. There are two primary benefits to this approach:
- More exposure for all the listings entered since multiple sites would be automatically putting them onto their site.
- A large subset of properties for buyers to search on any site using the plugin without having to manually add every single listing you want to showcase on your site by hand.
There are certainly challenges to this business opportunity. For starters, the obvious problem of how to keep stale listings out of the database so 2 year old listings aren’t displayed to buyers (which I know some agents will try to take advantage because it would drive them leads). After that you still run into the considerable cost of building the search user interface. Finally, you’ll certainly have to reach critical mass in terms of listings in specific regions of the world to make it an easy sell to other agents/brokers in that particular region.
As you can tell, I believe there’s an opportunity for someone to take a major foothold in the international real estate scene with a WordPress plugin that acts as an “international IDX” (for lack of a better word). While working at Virtual Results, we occasionally fielded calls from agents outside the US and the sticking point was always “how do we deal with the home search functionality in Canada (or Greece or Australia)?” In short, there was no easy solution other than iframing another search site. In addition to the fact an iFrame looks far from professional, it’s hard to even find a decent search experience to iFrame in many localities. Hence, the opportunity for someone to fill the void outside the United States. Who? Likely a WordPress website vendor like Virtual Results, savvy software developer with a passion for the international real estate space, or a portal such as Zillow, Vivareal, or iProperty.
What do you think? Legit business opportunity worth chasing? What are you waiting for?