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A Hugh Jas' Project

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hughjasle

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Just launched my business and am debating how to best proceed. Keep at it on my own on a shoestring, bring in a partner, seek funding or a mixture of any.

My business is based in the residential real estate market. I came to this rather large niche first as a customer when I discovered the need. In short, I built a portal for rental property owners to post their property listings online. Yes, yes, yes there are plenty of others already doing this including some freaking huge public companies. I know. I have done my due diligence. I live in Las Vegas like a few of the members here. Even though there are many companies out there targeting this niche, the very unfriendly CL .com is still king here and most if not all places. I’m not going to go into detail about all the other competitors and their faults, let me just sum them up in a quick list from the top of my head:

Fraudulent/bait-and-switch/misleading listings, posts with no pictures or no information on the rental, can’t contact the agent/property, way too difficult to search through the listings, costs too much to post, flooded with old and expired rental properties, etc.

I am to out clean up the nonsense and offer a simple-to-use website that allows users the ability to search for all the properties via a map and have the ability to filter each property to only show what features they want or need. They will also be able to do so knowing that the properties on the site are real, available, and contain all the necessary information as well as pictures. While I obviously cannot guarantee that each property is real I will have processes in place to combat and highly discourage fraudulent listings.

I am starting in Las Vegas only. I will scale it out once the Vegas area is a success and can model out what works best. It will be a very hands on business to begin with. Without going into the entire process and marketing plan, the business will work like this:

Build up the database with listings. Market the site with the listings in place in areas where the customers are already looking. Build up a steady user base. Set out a sales team to personally visit all the apartment complexes in the area to sell them on posting their complexes on the site (shouldn’t be a difficult sale). Continue the heavy marketing till the site obtains sufficient direct users to declare my business as the go-to site for rental properties in Las Vegas. Then scale it.

I would love advice, opinions on the site, etc. The site is in a very simple state as I was burned trying to outsource the programming and ended up having to build it myself. I know enough to know that I know nothing when it comes to programming.

I would like to keep my company name from being tied to this thread, but I don’t mind letting everyone here go see the site. The website can be seen at rent @ blz . com just change the @ to a normal ‘a’.
 
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Chitown

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Although I'm no expert on site design -- and I realize you are in beta -- I like the simplicity of your layout, so far. I agree with everything you mentioned up top, with respect to bait/switch tactics and expired listings. Also, landlords who don't return calls are a pain but there is no controlling for that variable.

Adding an "Apartment" option to your drop down box would be ideal. That way renters could distinguish between apartment, townhouse and condo.

This company has been around for years and are killing it -- Los Angeles Apartments, Orange County Apartments, and San Diego Apartments They would be your primary, non-CL, competition here in the L.A. area. Their site is a little busy for my taste but I can't argue with success. Santa Monica is one of the primary sub-markets for them.

A new site could feature Venice -- which is a quirky, artistic beach sub-market in West L.A., Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo Beaches which are beach cities in the South Bay sub-market or Silverlake which is a hot, artistic sub-market in the Eastside of L.A. There are plenty of other sub-markets, of course, but I wanted to throw out some examples.

Also, just a wild value add idea -- singles and families have different criteria when seeking shelter. (As a father of three, ask me how I know.) Singles are attracted to entertainment and social attractions like coffee houses, hip restaurants, great dive bars, etc. While families look at things like school districts -- the stronger, the better -- and day care options. Perhaps you could provide crime stats for the different neighborhoods.

If renters could access that information on your site through a map or drop down feature that would be nice. I know I would appreciate something like that.

If I can think of anything else, I'll throw it up. Hope this helps. I wish you well with your project.
 

CommonCents

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another popular site to look at is VRBO. Many of those are up for longer term rentals as well. Good lead source to spam ;)
 

hughjasle

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Adding an "Apartment" option to your drop down box would be ideal. That way renters could distinguish between apartment, townhouse and condo.

This is in the works as we speak. Apartment complexes are very different than the others and thus require a different layout and pricing structure. They are also going to be the bread and butter of the the business as Apartment complexes tend to advertise wherever they can within the industry, and unlike individual properties, they keep their listings indefinitely.

This company has been around for years and are killing it -- Los Angeles Apartments, Orange County Apartments, and San Diego Apartments They would be your primary, non-CL, competition here in the L.A. area. Their site is a little busy for my taste but I can't argue with success. Santa Monica is one of the primary sub-markets for them.

Thanks for this - I will be able to check up on their business later this weekend. I am in SoCal for the weekend for a wedding. I did just quickly look at their front page and can quickly see that they do have traction in the area. I do also see what you mean by 'busy'. wow. But success is success. And if someone can do it better.... :)


If renters could access that information on your site through a map or drop down feature that would be nice. I know I would appreciate something like that.

I have thought about this and now hearing it being addressed by others makes me want to look back into it. There have been other sites created focused on this specific point (ie Hotpads). Problem is non of these sites made it nation-wide whereas sites that focus on just listing the properties do. If I can find a way to incorporate this idea but keep it simple I will. Thanks for the ideas!
 

hughjasle

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another popular site to look at is VRBO. Many of those are up for longer term rentals as well. Good lead source to spam ;)

I am only familiar with VRBO by name and a quick run through of their site as it seemed to be that their focus is solely vacation rentals (and rightly so given the name). I tried checking my area for normal rentals and didn't see any on the first page so I left.

I did however skip over to their pricing page before I jumped ship. They have the same pricing policy that I am trying to avoid. They charge more while giving more (higher in search results => pay more; more pictures => pay more; be 'featured' => pay more; etc.). I am trying to keep a simple structure and keep things equal. I hated having to look at 'featured' listings before for seeing all the others. However, I do realize that most sites have adopted this price structure and they might have done so for a reason. Time will tell if I need to change my thinking. Thanks for the input!
 

Michael Raphael

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As a web developer I will first start off with just give you pointers on your site design and then hopefully you can start by there. Please don't be insulted I really just want to help and give you a harsh opinion to help you.

First off, the header/banner is just dull. It is doing nothing for you, in fact, I am turned off by it as it looks like something a freewebs or wix would provide with their template layouts. I understand you want to have a city because you are doing real-estate but there are other ways of doing this that look much better.

Second, your navigation bar is just in a bad place, it feels almost disconnected from the site. Also you need a logo, something you can brand yourself with, put on business cards, on signs, documents, etc.

On a side note, the about and all those other links is killing you. Display them all, in fact maybe add it in the footer cause right now your footer is just a big block of nothing.


Once you get passed your banner/header, the site gets better. I love the white and blue color scheme, it is great for your type of business.

Although its very clean and sleek I feel like it's empty. But it is nice and does it's job so can't complain. Advanced search is cool feature. Actually I love it, really cool job there.

So all in all your website is a 2.5-3 / 5 Which is great. Just fix the banner, have a logo, better navigation, and more content on front page, just looks a bit naked.

Otherwise great job and sorry you got burned. If you would like some advice message me I can try and help.

So here comes the content/business perspective. I think you should have a more organized menu. Create more options, near downtown, away from the city, you have all the typical stuff, but when you purchase a home you are also looking for location, what's to do, property size, etc...

Look at the top real-estate companies and see what their home page contains, and try and mimic (but make better).

Message me again if you need anything, have a call and have to take so I will just finish this sentence... Good luck!
 

hughjasle

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This is the most recent interview at Mixergy. com. Apparently, the founder of this company was scammed while looking for an apartment.

ApartmentList: $10M In Revenue After Only Four Years? – with John Kobs | Business Tips

I was able to listen to this last night before bed. I was disappointed that they didn't go much more into the business itself during the interview. I felt they spent more time on the process of coming up with the final idea. I do like their business and their site. It is very nice and clean. As quickly covered in the interview they seem to make their money by congregating all the listings from other sites and charging a fee if the property gets listed. I didn't find how much they charge for this or how they verify it. I like their site and their idea, but it still doesn't address the problems I aim to solve. Eliminating the fraud, scam, and nonsense as much as possible and I believe this is done by controlling which properties are listed. By simply collecting the posts of other sites and publishing them, you can't set the rules as to who posts and what they post. I want to keep that control and not give it up.
 

hughjasle

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First off I wanted to that you for giving me your opinion and it wasn't taken as a burn or anything like it. I know the site sucks from a development and design standpoint because I am the one who made it lol. That's not good thing. But to respond to your comments:
First off, the header/banner is just dull. It is doing nothing for you, in fact, I am turned off by it as it looks like something a freewebs or wix would provide with their template layouts. I understand you want to have a city because you are doing real-estate but there are other ways of doing this that look much better.
Noted and will change subsequent to other changes (see below).
navigation bar is just in a bad place
I would LOVE to get some pointers as to where to move it. This might also be solved when I have the front page redone (see below) but wont necesarily fix it on the other pages unless I adopt a new header format complete with menu to change across the entire site.
On a side note, the about and all those other links is killing you. Display them all, in fact maybe add it in the footer cause right now your footer is just a big block of nothing.
I can move that entire section to the menu no problem. If you don't mind me asking (for learning purposes) why are they 'killing' me? I don't want to make that mistake again...
have a logo
Will be hitting up Fiverr for a logo shortly.

My idea is to change up the front page into something more modern. Looks like the hot thing to do now is have a background image and hardly anything else. Examples of what I mean can be seen at Website Showcase Of Modern Design - 39 Examples . I just have to come up with a way to still have the main search bar that is currently on my site re-styled to go on the new homepage and also find a way to have the rest of the site go along with that same design. Any thoughts on accomplishing this is more than welcome :)
 

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