Monday, March 3, 2008

Suburb View

The fourth participant is Suburb View

Suburb View is an Australian Real Estate Search Engine. It displays Property listings on Google Maps, Google Earth, has full RSS Feeds, and is also available on the Mobile phone.

As a frustrated first homebuyer, Mark Ferris created Suburb View. In 2006 there were no real estate sites displaying property listings on a map. So he started working on creating these listings in May 2006. He began manually putting properties he liked on a map as major real estate websites had different amounts of listings.
In his words,
Searching for a property meant you visit one site, view 10 listings, click next etc. Then when you saw all of those listings, you would go to another web site and do it all over again. This is just too consuming, so I created the web site to do this automatically. Suburb View aimed to show all of suburb listings first, and then filter the results you don't want.

I have a price range I am interested, and a minimum amount of rooms. Having selected those options, I can see all the listings I want, and using AJAX I can then view the surrounding suburbs. The site is all about data, not page views.

With the ability to view property prices, I can then see where the more expensive properties are. It helps me look for the cheapest house in the most expensive street.
Let us explore bit further how Mark and his startup is going:

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A. 3 Months manually adding property listings on a map and 2 months creating the web site to do it automatically.

Q. What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
A. Fully Functional, the site has been running since 2006.

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. To find myself a property. I could have easily used the 1000+ development hours working a second job to help with my house deposit, but I chose to work on the site to search for a home. If the site helps me, or a visitor save money on a property price or rental then it has been all worth it.

Q. What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
A. Suburb View is a Real Estate Search engine and tries to provide the most real estate listings in Australia in the one place.

Q. What is unique about your venture?
A. On creation it was the first site in Australia to list property listings in Google Earth. Now it provides one of the most available real estate listings to people searching for Property for Sale, and Rental. The site is all about showing as much Property Data as possible, from as many sources as it can search.

Q. What market segment verticals you are targeting for?
A. Australian Property Buyers and Sellers, and people looking to Rent.

Q. What age group of people will be benefited most?
A. There is no Age Group, but the target audience is 18+ as that is generally the demographic searching for a place to live.

Q. How many users are using your services?
A. The site currently gets several thousand unique visitors a day, and using the old property listings, traffic is on goal to double every 6 months.

Q. What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
A. Word of mouth. I try to take on all user suggestions, and have the ability to easily change and modify the site.

Q. How are you measuring the success of your venture Are their any special mechanisms, tools in place to monitor the progress?
A. Success will be determined when I find my first house using the site. It took my parents a couple of hours looking for an Investment property on the site, and bought it the following day.

Q.What is the monetizing revenue model Is their any new model, which is being tried?
A. The revenue model is not a priority at the moment. The site currently uses Google Adsense. The site still is maintained week nights and weekends when I am not looking for a property. The main focus is usability, which means Advertising space is limited, and I don't want the site to be a flashing billboard.

Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
A. The Real Estate market in Australia is a mixture of Internet and Print. So you have people paying Real Estate agents to list their property on a Portal, and also in the local News Paper. The technology behind Suburb View is to make searching for all Property in Australia available in the one place. This consists of a customised Web Crawler that collects Property data eg Address, Price, Rooms, Bath Rooms, Car Spaces etc. then links directly to the sites.

The way Google, Yahoo and MSN deal with text for their search engine, Suburb View does it in a way for Real Estate listings concentrating on showing them on a map.

What are the main technologies used behind this start-up?
A. Google Maps, Google Earth. PHP, MySQL, Drupal CMS

Q. What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
A. It would have been the Google Maps API.

Q. Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
A. Yes

Q. What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
A. Linux (Debian), Apache Web Server, MySQL Database, and Drupal CMS for part of the site.

Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
A. Communication is done via Email

Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
A. Money has not been an issue. As sole developer I have had no outgoing cost, with the exception of web hosting. The only thing required is Passion. If I wasn't so determined to use Suburb View to find my first house, the site would have been given up long ago.

Q. What are the main barriers in general for people start their venture in Australia?
A. I would say population. The site technically has a limit of how many people in Australia can search for property for any given year. I get some international visitors but there is going to be a point where there could no longer be any growth until the site expands to a world wide Audience.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and market segment you are in?
A. The day Google starts accepting Direct Real Estate Agents listings, the Australian Internet Property listings is going to be in shock.

Q.Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture
A. Look at building a better mouse trap, and have a passion for what you do.

Thanks Mark for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hear from you on the progress of Suburb View. All the best for Suburb View and the competition in this carnival.

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