RealBird Virtual Tour released - with Google Street View, Google Earth and more

We released the RealBird Virtual Tour product during the weekend: a low cost add-on to the free RealBird single property website. It is an MLS-friendly virtual tour service,  which utilizes most of the technologies we developed over the last year for the free single property websites.

This new product closes a very important loop in our listing marketing platform: The free RealBird Listing Publisher provides many ways to reach home buyers with minimum effort through 1) organic search engine marketing 2) automatic syndication to classified ads portals 3) unique and growing set of listing widgets for publishing on blogs and social network like ActiveRain 4) and additional tools to make it easy and fast to manually post on classified sites - like Craigslist - that do not allow automatic syndication.

With the new, low cost RealBird Virtual Tour add-on, you can now utilize the MLS too, as a distribution platform for your online listing presentations. IDX searches are ubiquitous home buyer tools on real estate websites nowadays. In order for your listing to be highlighted on IDX searches with the virtual tour icon and link, you have to include an unbranded virtual tour though. The RealBird Virtual Tour provides both unbranded and branded version so that you can fully comply with your MLS regulations. It is an optional add-on and costs only $9.99 per listing or $14.99 when purchased with a property domain name. As far as I know, the RealBird Virtual Tour is one of the most cost effective virtual tour on the market to reach home buyers through widely deployed IDX searches.

Unique features include:

  • Large Google Street View where available - your virtual tour is now also a neighborhood tour
  • Complete web analytics - get detailed traffic analysis for your virtual tours using Clicky, Google Analytics and MyBloglog. You will be able to see which local competition brings the most traffic to your virtual tour
  • Unlimited variations of design themes with background images and color themes
  • 7 different maps and live traffic report

See some of the examples below. You can preview your virtual tour, by creating a free RealBird account (or log in if you are already a member), publishing your listing with the Listing Publisher and preview your virtual tour using the links provided. Both branded and unbranded. Make sure you upload high quality photos for best results.

The virtual tour is an optional, low cost add-on to the free service, and we are really excited about the capabilities. So go, check it out and let us know what you think and what you would like us to add to make it even better.

Here are a few examples:

2.7 AC wholesale nursery
Janie Coffey's listing is one of the most unique designs and properties in RealBird.

See the unbranded Virtual Tour
Branded Virtual Tour



Fort Worth, TX single family home
Listing by Brenda Magness, Brenda Blaser & Pam Yoakum Realty Group. Note the Street View and the Market Statistics tab.

Unbranded Virtual Tour
Branded Virtual Tour



Holliston Massachusetts New Construction
Listing by Bill Gassett.  The screenshot shows the embedded 3D Google Earth.

Unbranded Virtual Tour
Branded Virtual Tour

Let us know what you think.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com


Driving directions with Street View - makes sense

The Google Map's driving directions now includes Street View to aid your navigation. The concept makes a lot of sense. One of the hardest things in getting from A to B using regular flat maps and satellite photos is knowing all the tricky turns one may encounter and not having any visual reference while driving. Google now makes it easier to overcome some of these obstacles by providing detailed close-ups of your turns and surroundings through Street View.

Here are some issues I still see:

  1. Coverage is still very limited to make Street View a standard for consumer navigation
  2. I could not find any information on how often Google updates an already photographed area and how often they add new coverage. Out of date imagery might be a problem if one picks an obsolete visual reference.
  3. While standard, "flat" driving directions can be printed and you can take those directions with you on the road (still the most common way of using online directions unless you have a GPS system in your car), the interactive Street View might be no help, once you leave your computer. You still have to memorize those reference points

What I'd like to see in terms of new features:

  1. Access to this new feature through the API. One can develop similar custom application with the already available API, but it is unnecessarily complex. Google could just extend the current Directions API to make this implementation a no-brainer with their existing routing API. I guess they will, shortly.
  2. GPS Navigation version. Again, I guess, this is already in the works, but having Street View available in car navigation systems can make a lot of sense. It is more of a user interface design challenge, than getting the data there. Current navigation systems are optimized for providing enough information while trying to keep the driver's eye on the road for most of the time. Showing Street View on the car's GPS screen can be very distractive, unless some smart UI is designed.
  3. Mobile version. Once Street View hits the mobile devices, the biggest value I believe is in aiding navigation. Actually, while brainstorming with myself, I found, that probably the most useless IPhone application would be the one, which shows Google Street View at your current location on your IPhone. Rather than just looking around, you would stare at your IPhone screen to see what surrounds you. For aiding navigation on the other hand, with the proper user interface, Street View can be valuable on mobile devices as well. It could help you identify surroundings to help you decide whether you are on the right track to get from A to B
  4. I still believe, that the most important technical addition to the current Street View technology would be to enable developers to add interaction and project media into the Flash component itself. Rather than just controlling the imagery, one could enhance it with additional information, just like you do with regular Google maps through the API.

In any case, just like we anticipated, Google is pushing Street View very  seriously and we can assume that a lot of new announcements will be coming on a regular basis.

See Google's introduction video below:

As many of you might have read it on our ActiveRain post, RealBird is featured on the Google Maps API blog (actually one of our clients RealBird listing website using Street View).

Make sure you see the chain of events which led to being featured on Google using the power of blogging.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com


Street View API released - 28 hours later we are online

Google finally released the Street View API  yesterday. It is pretty neat, although it came short of my expectation of allowing 3rd parties to add hotspots and flash media into the Panorama itself. Maybe with their next release. Nevertheless, the API is clean and powerful and even allows animation controlled from Javascript. We've been promoting Street Views embedding into single property websites and blogs for real estate estate neighborhood presentations, but from now on, the API eliminates the need for the manual tasks.

Hopefully, Google will speed up the addition of new cities. Through the new API implementation, new coverage will be automatically added to the RealBird listing websites, even if coverage is currently unavailable.

This is indeed a great, great feature for real estate. I bet, many new applications will pop-up now that the API is available. Check out the RealBird examples below to see how powerful this new neighborhood tool is when integrated into single property websites.

Denver, CO auction - check out the bargain alert also !

Denver home for sale

Boise, ID single family home

Boise, ID home for sale

-- Zoltan Szendro

RealBird.com


RealBird Listing Publisher 3.0 released

It's been a while since our previous major feature release of the RealBird Listing Publisher single property website and listing syndication service. We have been adding and improving features on-going, like support for the Google Street View widget and Microsoft Bird's Eye View, embedded slideshow and new default theme, and today, we have a major upgrade to announce with many unique and powerful presentation and marketing features. See below the list with examples.

Virtual open house - Live chat with your visitors

Chat widgets For the first time, you can use your single property websites as interactive presentation tools; effectively: virtual open houses. You can engage your visitors right on the spot, interactively, real-time, before they browse away to check out other listing websites. The new Listing Publisher provides you a way to add  3rd party chat widgets of your choice. Just like with the 3rd party video and slideshow support, we do not limit you to a particular provider, use one of our recommended services or add your favorite chat application. You can use Plugoo.com, Meebo, or Kyte.tv for audio and video chat, LivePerson.com for proactive chats or any other services you prefer. Many of these chat services also run on mobile devices so you will be able to participate in conversations even while you are on the go.

Tip: You can even provide live shows and market reviews using ustream.tv or similar services. Just like with syndicating the embedded RealBird MLS search tool, and getting additional real estate services one step closer to potential clients, you can  use the distributed single property websites to capture traffic for your live real estate shows. The options are pretty much endless.

I highly recommend to add the Plugoo.com chat widget to your RealBird sites, at least. With Plugoo, you can keep using your regular IM (Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo Messenger) to interact with your property websites' visitors, even from your mobile devices.

Example: Tina Merritt's listing : Popular Baylake Pines

Real-time market stats and lead capturing - powered by Altos Research

Market stats We met the guys at Altos Research more than a year ago, and we have been talking about integration ever since, but never got the time to actually do it. This time we pulled it off! For over 6,000  zip codes in the US we are now automatically include a "Market Stats" tab, a large, up-to-date median price chart for the zip code and a lead collector for your visitors to request more market research data. Within 1 hour of the release, one of our client received the first lead via this service. IT WORKS !  This is one of my favorite new features. New markets are added ongoing, so even if it is not yet available in your market, keep this feature on, we will include the charts automatically as soon as your market is available.

Example: Stunning Custom Home in Keller, Texas - www.705wickhamcourt.com

Mini Single Property Website widget to embed in sites and blog posts

The Mini Single Property Website is a new, powerful listing widget in your viral marketing toolset. If you like the original slideshow widget, you will love this one. Besides being nice and effective it has two major improvements. It is a viral widget: it provides you and your audience a way to quickly and easily grab and share it on social networks, social bookmarking sites and through email. The widget also maintains the visual theme of your single property website including the unique photo backdrop feature and custom color theme. No more boring widgets, spice it up as much as you wish. Stay tuned for new  RealBird viral marketing widgets coming soon. We are already working on some. See the current set of real estate widgets RealBird provides.

Example courtesy of Janie Coffey

Update: Embedded widget removed due to some bug with the Typepad blog hosting platform. Thanks for Rick at Phoenix Real Estate to point this out. We found the fix. the widget is back again below

See it in action on Janie's Horse Properties blog or see one embedded in this Philly real estate blog

What's nearby: powered by Google

This new feature turns your single property website into a local information hub. Your visitors can easily map any points of interest around your property with the built-in Google Local Search. Most importantly: schools and city amenities. Check it out on Bill Gassett's Medway, MA single property website. E.g. Enter "schools" in the text box on map and get instant nearby results.

Bargain alert - Notification if your list price is below Zillow's Zestimate®

Bargain alert The new Zillow API mashup will show a bargain alert on your site if your list price is below Zillow's Zestimate®. It is an automatic marketing pitch for grabbing the attention of the visitor, using the industry standard Zillow Zestimate® for emphasizing bargain pricing. If you property is priced above the Zestimate®, the feature becomes automatically hidden. We only use Zestimate® when it helps you with your online marketing efforts. This is an optional feature, you can turn it on and off, just like with most of the RealBird features, but I think this is an excellent tool as it merges the best of the features of RealBird and Zillow and only used when it benefits your marketing efforts.

Example: Highlands Ranch, CO listing  or Wonderful Ranch Home


Printable flyer with a twist - private labeled driving directions included

Printable flyer Many of you have been asking for it and now we have the solution: a printable version of your single property website. We also added an invaluable tool to it. You clients can print driving directions together with your flyer branded for you with your photo, logo and contact information. A new editor is provided in the member area which lets you configure the description and feature highlights. Having an optimized content for printing helps you create a flyer which prints pretty without changing the content on your full-featured property website and also helps you with search engine marketing by providing a second version indexed by search engines with related by slightly different content.


"Listing slug" - excuse us for the name, but this is powerful SEO

We borrowed the term from the Wordpress blogging platform, which uses "post slugs" for blog post Url customization. The concept is the following: having relevant keywords in the Url may increase search engine ranking. Having some variation between your property title's keywords (also important SEO content) and your Url keywords may increase ranking even more.  Besides helping you getting better ranking, this feature can also help you with better click-through rates once your property site is found by search engines.  Google and the other search engines also highlight keywords in the Url on the SERP (Search Engine Result Pages) which increases click-through rate. By default we use your property website's title in the Url, but for even better keyword targeting, you can override the single property website's Url keywords with related, but slightly modified terms. This is an advanced feature. If it is confusing, you can just skip this feature. RealBird will generate this for you automatically using your listing's title. To access this feature, use the configure tab in the listing editor.

International distribution

Through our syndication partnership with DotHomes ( a UK company ), we are now bringing international exposure for your listings. This is an automatic syndication feature. Publish your listings on RealBird and they will be automatically distributed to DotHomes.com (They are in the final stage of the implementation so it may take a few more days from the date of this post to have your listings appear)

Tracking more details of the property website activity

For those of you who are crazy about web analytics, we added more tracking via Clicky's new Ajax tracking code. Please note that this feature is only available for Premium Clicky subscribers.

Private labeled real estate yellow pages

Last but not least, we have released our first service of a series of upcoming team marketing tools. The RealBird Private Labeled Yellow Pages lets you private label the RealBird real estate yellow pages portal at SearchOnMaps.com. See the example below. Enter a US city, zipcode or address and see the private labeled portal.

Benefits:

  • Branding and lead generation
  • Team marketing - the RealBird community markets each others' listings
  • Backlinks to your site and blog from a portal with high PageRank
  • Single property websites are co-branded also
  • It's free

Example widget:

See it also on Katy Schaff's blog embedded in the right sidebar

If you like to be featured on this blog by showing one of these features on your own RealBird listing sites, just comment on this post with your RealBird link included or send us an email.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com


More Street View Cities

Just in: Google added 12 more US cities to its Street View coverage:

  • Albany, NY
  • Schenectady, NY
  • Boise, ID
  • Juneau, AK
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Manchester, NH
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Durham, NC
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Salt Lake City, UT

See our instructions on how to add Google Street View to your single property website published with RealBird

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com