Established in 1997, eNeighborhoods is a leader in providing a comprehensive set of tools to help real estate professionals attract and retain home buyers and sellers. From their headquarters in Boca Raton, FL, the company provides real estate professionals with up-to-date, localized information available about properties, neighborhoods and schools.
Current eNeighborhoods clients include some of the world's largest MLS providers
and RE/MAX International, through the management of remax.com. The company also has strategic alliances with the National Association of REALTORS® and many of the world's largest real estate franchisors including: Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, GMAC, Keller Williams, and Realty Executives.
eNeighborhoods is a division of Dominion Enterprises, a leading media and information services company headquartered in Norfolk, VA, serving employment, real estate, automotive, recreation and industrial markets in the United States.
eNeighborhoods spent the last nine years putting their own user interface on top of a mapping product they licensed from a third party source. This attempt at self-mapping became a source for concern as mapping applications like Google Maps began taking off. "About six months ago we decided we no longer wanted to handle the mapping on our own," says Andy Woolley, the company's Vice President for Business Development. "We looked around and saw that others were beginning to pass us up. We said, 'Mapping is not a core specialty, let's find a mapping provider.'"
To move to the front of the pack in the mapping arena, the company needed a solution that offered extra features that home buyers and sellers are looking for. Providing key data—beyond price and location—is essential in a competitive market where real estate professionals build strong client bases by providing a maximum amount of current information to help them make the smartest choices when making the tremendous investment of a home purchase.
Some housing market information can now be accessed online by potential clients before they choose an agent. Because today's real estate consumers are more informed, they can also be choosier when looking for a real estate professional. The key to attracting them lies in the ability to present comprehensive market analysis in an eye-catching manner. "A big part of a real estate professional's business is attracting new customers," says Woolley. "Our products assist real estate professionals in marketing themselves to potential clients."
To take and keep the lead in real estate information, eNeighborhoods must stay on top of market changes and give clients an increasing amount of useful information, which they can then pass on to buyers and sellers. It also means being able to move forward in the changing face of clients' use of the Internet. To best accomplish these goals, the company needed a mapping product easy for IT to keep up with, easy for clients to use, and dependable for regular information updates.
eNeighborhoods compared several mapping products, including Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google Maps for Enterprise. "We did further research on the flexibility of their API and figured out what kind of licensing we could get, and quickly narrowed down to Google," says Woolley.
Numerous factors fed the decision, a key one being the great quantity of information a Google Maps search can quickly return. "Our products blend data from a variety of sources, enabling real estate professionals to produce a comprehensive comparative market analysis," says Woolley. He adds that such analysis enables real estate professionals to determine the value of a client's home and predict how quickly it can be sold.
"If you're a real estate professional giving a presentation to a buyer, it's useful to compare their current neighborhood with potential neighborhoods," says Charles Warnock, Director of Marketing for eNeighborhoods. "You can say, 'I know you have school-aged children, here's where top-rated schools are located.' Going forward with Google Maps increased personalization and made our products more interactive."
Google Maps for Enterprise aesthetics is another plus, adding visual value to marketing reports and postcards. "When buyers go out to look at prospective properties, their real estate professional should hand them a nice presentation to go with a tour of the homes," says Woolley.
As the developer for remax.com, eNeighborhoods oversees more than 2,500 individual RE/MAX office websites that collectively handle millions of listings. "With remax.com, if you go to the main website and search for homes in a particular city, you're handed off to a local office," says Woolley. "We're integrating Google Maps into the property search, as an addition to the current search and display tools, so that clients can search by map, and they can enhance their search by dragging the map around the screen. Every time you drag the map, listings in those areas are displayed on the map."
Another major integration is under way for eNeighborhoods. Currently, most real estate professionals in large markets, such as California, must subscribe to numerous MLS systems (real estate listings databases) to stay on top of all home listings. eNeighborhoods has an MLS data sharing service called MLSAlliance™ that links together different MLS services, so that real estate professionals are able to make one search for properties and retrieve results from multiple MLS systems. This revolutionary service also provides home sellers with exposure for their property to a wider geographic base of potential buyers. Google Maps for Enterprise will soon be added to MLSAlliance sites in California, Ohio, and Florida, giving real estate professionals in these markets access to all listings, with an equal amount of comprehensive data for each of those listings.
"We've been showing the Google Maps integration to the team at RE/MAX and to our MLS customers," says Woolley. "In short, they love it. They are really impressed at how quickly users can access information. With most other real estate search portals, it's about eight or ten clicks before you get to the listing information, and if you use their map search tool it's so complicated. It's not easy for the average computer user—you have to zoom in, and zoom in and zoom in before you get to a level where you can actually see properties. We've moved to one or two clicks with Google Maps."
And eNeighborhoods is also pleased with Google support. "With Google, there has proven to be a greater level of partnership than what we expected. That may not have been the case with some of the other mapping providers we looked at," says Warnock. "With them it was more like, 'Here's the license, good-bye, good luck.' Google is helping us figure out what we can do on the road ahead."