Friday, January 15, 2010

Handheld Device + Redfin = New Killer Tool

I got frustrated with somethings in the real estate business recently. One thing in particular was the fact that buyers were asking me to show them properties I knew nothing about. I got calls that went something like..."Oh Jeff, here's one I want to see." or "Jeff, can we see these. I'll send you a list." These were listings I had never seen, they were growing in number, and they were coming from other MLSs like Santa Clara, San Mateo, etc. Santa Clara County MLS currently does not cooperate with Alameda County, so if this is new to you, it might be a little complicated.

For example, let's say a Santa Clara broker gets a Fremont listing but does not have the Alameda County MLS subscription. It happens a lot. It will only show in their MLS not mine or maybe not yours. Well, frustrated, I not only found a way to get the info, what's more, I found a way to be alerted on my handheld device the second any listing anywhere comes on the market--thanks mostly to redfin. I like redfin; I am not so sure I like the picture of Maiwand and his attache on their Fremont (east bay team) home page, seems a bit smug, but they work with a great product. No one can deny that, so perhaps the photo is fitting.

Perhaps other mega home search sites have this function too, but redfin has a very intriging method of alerting homebuyers of new listings as they happen, and that is RSS saved-home-search-feeds. RSS (Real Simple Syndication), some call it, is quite cool. In short, just about any data can be compiled, organized a certain way then sent over the internet in nice neat readable packets to users by way of what is referred to as a "feed." The sender of the data (server side) pushes the information to the user on a regular basis (client side). I guess after getting over 12 million in funding from Microsoft's cofounder/investor redfin has a bit of R&D behind them.

Here's the killer application I made or rather "mashed." Tired of getting out searched by buyers, I am now on the forefront of home search mega mania. I'll show you what I did. Here's what you need:
  • A free account--easy to set up.
  • A handheld device, blackberry is what I have.
  • A Viigo account (recommended instead of Google Mobile Reader) Viigo is an RSS app for the mobile device, very cool.
  • Recommended, but optional, you can get a Yahoo Google Reader account or Google Reader I am not referring to a mobile You only need it on your regular online accounts for the laptop or desktop. These online apps make configuring the Viigo handheld account much faster and easier. You simply add the feed to--my yahoo, add to google, netvibes or rss in the second image below snipped from redfin. Don't worry. I will get to that.
Go to and set up your My Redfin account. After you search in redfin and want to save the search, redfin takes you to a naming window where you ok it. Go to the bottom left of the screen and select RSS. See the image here.

Name it. Save it. Then, it takes you here. Oooo. This is what I meant when I wrote, "my yahoo, add to google, netvibes or rss" earlier.

If you have a Google Reader or other RSS app on your regular online account with Yahoo or netvibes, you can easily attach the RSS feed you just created in redfin to it. The idea is to sync it to the handheld. If you click "add to Google," shown above, it takes you here.

and here

If you already have Google Reader on the handheld, it should work, but I heard it was a bit clunky. Viigo seems to do better. For mobility's sake, you should click "add to Google Reader." Google reader now has a live feed for homes that come on the market that match your criteria you set up in your My Redfin. Remember that when you are in the redfin property search/save step you can specify listings that just came on "yesterday'"or you can give it a time frame that you are comfortable with then do the saving steps above. I saved about 10 searches in my redfin account this way.
  • Fremont 300-400
  • Fremont 400-500
  • Fremont 500-600
  • Fremont 700-800
  • Fremont 800-900
  • Union City, etc.
After doing the steps above, I ended up with 10 or so feeds added to my Google Reader account online automatically after clicking the "add to Google Reader" button in My Redfin. Go into your Google Reader online account using your laptop/desktop. Make sure everything is there and it displays the way you wan it to. I selected the option to export an OPML from Google Reader. It gives you an .xml file. Just save this Google Reader export file to a place you will know where to find it later because you will import it into Viigo. Here are the images for that. In Google Reader go to Settings>Reader settings

In the Settings page go to Import/Export here.

Next, choose "export your subscriptions as an OPML file" below.

Just remember where you put your OPML (.xml) file. You'll need it.

So, next is Viigo. Go here. Download Viigo by any means you see fit and get it on your handheld device. You can use, mobile link, pc, text, etc. They give you all the options. Once you verify the install, you can go to your online laptop/desktop Viigo account. On the handheld, you may have to close Viigo and open it again to have it refresh correctly.

In the online account for Viigo laptop/desktop you can import that OPML you exported from Google Reader (.xml) now by using the fouth option when on your new Viigo online account page. This menu box is on your laptop/desktop online Viigo account under My Viigo after you sign in.

Or, you can even add whatever you have on Google Reader by using the Add Aggregator functions. Just remember your user name and password for the Reader not Viigo at that point.


Once you have:
  • saved searches in refin using the RSS option,
  • added them to Google Reader (or your preference)
  • exported them as an .xml,
  • installed Viigo onto the mobile device,
  • imported the .xml into Viigo,
  • Close and open Viigo again (it takes time updating, so be patient),

you will have a killer mobile app that gets pushed feeds from all MLSs redfin has (which is all of them) for the search criteria you set up the day they hit the market.

If a property is not in your MLS area and you can see it in the Reader on Viigo, you will need a way to get the agent file for showing info, phone numbers, etc. Look on the web for the address. Eventually you can get ahold of the agent. They will be happy to give you the agent printout if you have an interested buyer.

It is important to note that since the feed is embedded with a few redfin strings, you may not want to set this up going directly your buyer unless you have a solid relationship. redfin offers commission rebates in the feed. Money tempts people to do things they normally would not do, so do not tempt them. I "earn" my commission thank you. Besides, the real professionalism of an agent shows mostly during the escrow and not just in locating the home.

Anyway, now I am turning my buyer's heads to look at new listings that match their criteria instead of them turning my head thanks to redfin, Viigo and Google Reader.

Viigo also has weather, sports, finance, etc. for your feed enjoyment.

If you have a Q or 2, let me know, I certainly do not mind showing you how to get it up and running.
By Jeff Pereyda

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