There’s always something to howl about

Introducing Displet RETS / IDX: How I Spent My Summer Vacation….and the Following 2 Years

It all started with two phone calls to two separate IDX vendors:

Call #1

Eric: Hello. I really like your product and am considering moving from my current IDX vendor over to you.

Vendor #1: Great! Can I send you paperwork?

Eric: Well, there are a few features it’s missing – indexable listings and some conversion features I would like. Is there any way I can pay you guys to add these features for me? I have a decent budget for these features & understand that you would need to roll them out to the entire system, since you don’t provide custom IDX solutions.

Vendor #1: Sorry, we don’t take any customization orders.

Eric: Really? It seems like a win/win, since I get want I want, and you get to charge me to improve your own product.

Vendor #1: Sorry, it’s just something we don’t do.

Eric: hrrrrrm

Call #2:

Eric: Hello. I really like your product and wanted to get some more info.

Vendor #2: Great! What can I tell you?

Eric: Well, I already have a nice website and wanted to see if I could implement your indexable product on my own site.

Vendor #2: No, we have a proprietary system that it integrates with. You would have to move your site over. We charge $125/hour for that.

Eric: Okay…$125/hour is a little high, but I can live with that. I do tinker with code a bit and have some good, local vendors. Is there any way I could get access to just my site, once it’s moved over, in case I want to make my own customizations?

Vendor #2: No. You’ll have to use our developers and work on our schedule for any customizations.

Eric: Are you sure? It’s pretty easy to add directory specific FTP or shell access.

Vendor #2: There’s no way we can allow you to work on the site yourself or use your own vendors.

Eric: hrrrrrm

At this point, I was pretty frustrated. I spoke with a handful of developers in early stages of RETS projects with good, misguided intentions. They saw RETS from the consumer’s perspective, which is fantastic, but they didn’t understand RETS from an agents perspective – namely that the #1 goal is to generate leads.

From there, I made a call to who is now my business partner, Braxton Beyer. Braxton is a full time web developer and has been part time real estate agent for as long as I’ve known him – he was with One Source when we opened our doors in 2006. Because he likes to tinker with code, he had built a rudimentary RETS system on his own site as an exercise to learn a new language.

Braxton & I began working more and more on his own system. I helped him with feature ideas – always with lead conversion at the forefront – and Braxton helped prioritize what should be developed, and when. Within a couple of months we had another developer on the project. Within 2 months we had 2 more. At month 6 came our first true “client” – an agent in New York who wanted the system.

From there, things progressed quickly or slowly, depending on how you look at them. We’ve built the system to be incredibly customizable – agents have control over 100% of the stylesheets (CSS), 80% of the html, and can insert custom Javascript. When we build out any new feature, we also build out controls for agents to customize those features. Because of this, development can go more slowly than it would if we just made all the decisions for our agents.

However, the trade-off is that agents can work on the sites themselves, have their developer brother-in-law make modifications, or use their favorite vendor. What a “monopoly developer” might charge $125 for, our agents can do themselves, or allow the free market to help them get it done for much cheaper. Here’s a video example – adding Google+ in under 3 minutes:

We <3 WordPress around the Displet office and have released a number of plugins. You can insert listings using ~30 different search criteria onto any page, which isn’t new. What is new, though, is that our plugins interface with the RETS app’s conversion tools, so these pages convert as well as they should.

I personally use Displet to generate much of my own real estate business, so I care deeply about how well it can convert. Any time we build a new feature, the first question we ask is, “Will this result in more leads from the system?” If the answer is “yes”, then there’s a good chance we’ll build it. If the answer is, “No” then we ask, “Why should we build it?”

Displet is now in 21 markets and we’re expanding to wherever makes sense. We’re still technically in “beta”, but it’s analogous to Gmail’s “beta” tag three years ago. However, because we still need beta feedback, we have introductory pricing. If you think you’d be a good fit for our beta program, let me know, and let’s talk. If you have constructive feedback on the system, let me know, and let’s talk.


8 Comments so far

  1. Brian July 26th, 2011 10:34 am

    This is some great stuff! I have had the same exact conversations and have talked and or used most IDX venders. Why do we know more than most of them?

  2. Milan July 29th, 2011 7:19 pm

    Good stuff. I have had that same conversation many times. It’s amazing how many vendors don’t understand that customers will want and need to customize their products.

  3. Wayne July 31st, 2011 12:46 pm

    Congrats Eric!!! Great looking stuff in my opinion… I like the design and functionality…

  4. Hamid August 1st, 2011 5:43 am

    Sounds very cool! Looks easy to use..

  5. Eric Bramlett August 1st, 2011 8:42 pm

    Thanks Wayne! It’s been a long project, but I’m really happy with the results. Hamid, thanks for checking it out!

  6. Drew Meyers August 5th, 2011 12:56 pm

    Glad to see this product out there Eric. I know it’s been a long time in the making.

  7. Eric Bramlett August 5th, 2011 1:33 pm

    Thanks Drew! It’s definitely taken a while, but I’m getting very, very happy with the product.

  8. Cameron Keegan August 24th, 2011 3:23 pm

    It’s funny. I actually have a contact stored on my phone as “telemarketer”. There are roughly 25 phone numbers associated with that contact. The majority of them are “Google authorized advertising companies” (whatever that means), and the rest are real estate website providers (i.e. template sales people). I frequently send them to voicemail (which they never use), but sometimes I just answer in order to have some fun with them! 99.99% of the time, I know far more than they do.