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Entries Tagged as 'Microsoft'

What The Microsoft-Facebook Deal Means For Real Estate — Part 2: Revisiting Move.com Vs. ActiveRain

October 26th, 2007 · 9 Comments

Yesterday I, among many others, commented on the Microsoft-Facebook deal — though in my case, I’m more interested in the potential impact on real estate than I am in the specifics of the deal itself.  While yesterday’s post thought through the implications for real estate consumers in the mid-Peninsula, today I have some thoughts on the implications for real estate professionals, and in particular the ongoing legal brouhaha between Move.com and Active Rain.

A quick recap:  Move.com, the 800-lb gorilla of the online real estate world, was apparently in negotiations to buy ActiveRain, the 50,000-member strong real estate blogging site.  The price tag was rumored to be around $30M.  ActiveRain is now suing Move.com for allegedly reneging on the deal.

The $30M price tag certainly raised eye brows.  The BawldGuy himself wondered aloud in a comment on my first article on the issue whether ActiveRain was even worth $1M.  My back of the envelope calculation — based on the fact that Facebook was roughly valued at $250/user – suggested an argument for a $12.5M valuation for ActiveRain.  Yesterday’s news upped the ante for Facebook to around $300/user, implying ActiveRain may have a value of $15M.

Back to Microsoft-Facebook for a minute.  What does Microsoft see in Facebook?  Simple — it has the potential to become a finely honed online advertising machine, in which Microsoft can target users’ interest with pinpoint precision — not (as is currently the case with search engines) simply by what the user is searching for, but rather by what the users’ interests, group memberships, and friends’ list implies about his or her interests.  You’re a member of the groups “San Francisco” and “Wine afficionados?”  Perfect — we’ll serve you up with an ad for a weekend getaway in Napa.

What does (or did) Move.com see in ActiveRain?  Perhaps one of (at least) two things:

1) Yet another venue to rape pillage plunder charge agents for the Web 2.0 equivalent of “Enhanced Listings.”  Want to have a blog?  That’s free.  Oh, you want to actually be able to write something in your blog and have pictures, links, and comments?  That’ll be $4.95/month.  Want to get rid of competing agents’ ads next to your blog articles?  Another $4.95/month, please.  Want to “enhance” your blog so it shows up higher in a search on Active Rain?  $9.95.

2) A finely honed online advertising machine, a la Facebook, but specifically within the real estate industry.  Again, ads could be tailored according to the users’ group memberships and friend lists.  You’re a Coldwell Banker agent, and a member of the “Boise interest group”?  We’ll serve you up an ad from a competing Prudential franchise in Boise that’s looking to expand.  You’re reading an article comparing some of the different MLS search providers?  Bingo!  We’ll show you an ad advertising such wares, along with a one month free coupon.

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Tags: Active Rain · Facebook · Industry · Microsoft · Move.com

What The Microsoft-Facebook Deal Means For Real Estate — Part 1: The Real Estate Market In The Mid-Peninsula

October 25th, 2007 · 3 Comments

The blogosphere has been buzzing since yesterday with news of the Microsoft-Facebook deal in which Microsoft invested $240M in Facebook in exchange for a 1.6% stake.  To spare you reaching for your calculators, that gives Facebook a whopping valuation of 15 billion (with a b) dollars — not bad for a company with a 24-year old college-dropout CEO.  (Perhaps part of the attraction of Facebook for Microsoft was a sort of nostalgic deja-vu on the part of Bill Gates, who is also a Harvard dropout, and was also running an exciting and very successful company by the age of 24.)

I’ll leave the analysis of the deal itself to pundits far more knowledgeable on the subject.  What interests me as a real estate professional is the impact this deal may have on real estate in the area.

The connection, in my mind, is quite simply:  One of the reasons why the real estate market here in Silicon Valley continues to chug along is that the tech industry is doing very well.  VC’s are flush with cash, busy investing in the next big thing.  Many of the local tech giants are having good years.  The current bellweather of the local tech economy is Mountain View-based Google, and with its shares well north of $600 each, and its ongoing voracious appetite for skilled engineers, the Valley is feeling pretty brash and confident these days.  That confidence, and the cash that comes from stock options, translates into buoyed demand for housing in this area.

So what happens if Google, which currently can do no wrong, stumbles a bit?  What if it fails to hit analysts’ quarterly earnings target?  What if it even fails to beat expectations by as much as analysts thought it would?  What if its stock drops to, say, $300, over a one year period?

Without a doubt, that would have a negative impact on our local real estate economy, both directly — Googlers not buying as much housing — and indirectly — the overall attitude of the local tech economy getting soured.

Here’s where Facebook, currently housed in downtown Palo Alto, comes in.  The company reminds many of us of the pre-IPO Google of, say, 5 years ago:  great product, smart people, excellent management, modest cash flow, and HUGE ambitious and expectations.  If Facebook continues along the same trajectory, it may well be that in, say, three years, it becomes our local bellweather.  It may well have several thousand stock-option-engorged employees right at the cusp of their homebuying life stage.  They may well do for our local housing economy what the Googlers are currently doing.

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Tags: Consumer · Facebook · Microsoft · Mountain View · Palo Alto

Introducing The World’s Most Internet-Marketed Property: Come Along for the Ride!

April 9th, 2007 · 6 Comments

I've been waiting for the right opportunity to really push the envelope of online real estate marketing, and, well, it's here!

I'm working on a listing in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood that fits perfectly into this new online marketing world:  it's slick, chic, and contemporary, will likely attract a younger and web-savvy crowd of buyers, and the sellers simply love the idea of creating a buzz online.

We're passing on the normal full-color ads in traditional local media like the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, and we'll be spending that money online instead.  To hedge our bets, we will be placing open house display ads in print media.

I'll be collaborating with several real estate online marketing companies to promote this property.  They'll be showing me — and, by extension, my readers — how to get the full benefit of their products.  I intend to chronicle our adventures here and invite you to follow along.  If you have some ideas, feel free to join in!

I'll announce the first collaborator tomorrow.

In the meantime, as part of our adventures, let's see how high this site currently ranks for the search, "San Francisco Potrero Hill Real Estate" — I suspect it won't be that good, since I've never written about Potrero Hill before!

Sure enough, on Google, Yahoo, and MSN, I'm nowhere to be found, not even in the top 100.  :(


3Oceans doesn't rank at all in a Google search for



3Oceans doesn't rank at all in a Yahoo search for



3Oceans doesn't rank at all in an MSN search for

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Tags: Advertising · Buyer and seller tips · Disclosures · For sellers · Google · MSN · Media · Newspapers · Online advertising · Potrero Hill · Preparing a home · Real estate · San Francisco · San Francisco Chronicle · San Jose Mercury · Yahoo

Real estate office in a box (Part 2)

November 20th, 2006 · 2 Comments

photosynth.jpgHere’s another really slick piece of Web 2.0 software that may soon be a part of every tech-minded listing agent’s arsenal:  Microsoft’s Photosynth product, still very much in Beta.

What is it?  It’s sort of a souped up virtual tour, on steroids.  It stitches together hundreds of photos of a certain setting into a very believable 3-dimensional world in which you can zoom in and out, walk around, pan around…in short, get as close to being there without actually…being there.

I’d love to test it out personally, but currently there are two obstacles for me:
1) It’s not yet open for the public to play with; for right now the site only has canned demos.

2) It requires IE7 to operate, and I make it a policy to not be an early adopter of Microsoft browser products…plus QuickBooks 2005 doesn’t like it.

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Tags: Microsoft · Photosynth · Real estate · Technology

Fun with Zillow — #5 — Don’t invite David Blaine or David Copperfield to your home

September 20th, 2006 · No Comments

Zillow-bashing is a favorite pastime in the real estate blogosphere, second only to its cousin Redfin-bashing.

The Zillow bashers have (at least) a triumvirate of beefs with Zillow:
1) Its raw data is suspect
2) Its home-valuation algorithm, even if it were based on good data, could not possibly lead to an accurate Zestimate because it doesn’t, and can’t, consider non-quantifiables like views, amenities, smell, etc.
3) To protect consumers from over-reliance on a Zestimate, Zillow’s home page should have a big, bold disclaimer about 1) and 2).
In an effort to address 1) above, Zillow today announced that home owners would be able to “wikifi” their home’s data if necessary.
So is Zillow’s raw data (mostly from county records, I believe) really that bad? The results are in from a quick, highly unscientific study comparing Zillow’s data on 10 random properties in Menlo Park, CA, with local MLS records.
The county got 6 properties completely right. Of the remaining 4:
  • One was off by half a bathroom. Not so bad, unless you’re visiting there and drank too much beer.
  • One was missing a full bathroom, a bedroom, and 800 square feet. Better not invite too many guests!
  • The third had the correct square footage, but two bedrooms and a half bath had disappeared. Maybe that’s David Copperfield’s home?
  • The final one was missing 6 square feet of lot size (not a real problem since the lot in question was 21000 square feet), but the home itself was missing! Maybe David Copperfield and David Blaine lived there?

Zillow scores 90% for its data feed. Zillow had the right information for the 6 properties that the county had correct, and it had the same incorrect information on 3 properties that the county had. The final property (the David & David home) simply wasn’t there!A challenge to my fellow bloggers out there: If you have access to your local MLS and want to run a similar experiment, email me at and I’ll send you a link to an iRows spreadsheet I’ve set up.

Here are my results:

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Tags: For buyers · For sellers · Heat maps · Mapping software · Microsoft Mappoint · Real estate · Real estate data · Real estate mapping · Technology · Zillow · Zillow heat maps

Heat maps #1

September 19th, 2006 · No Comments

I’ll have to cross my fingers that Zillow hasn’t taken a page from Redfin’s book and trademarked the phrase “Heat maps.” I’ll take my chances…

I’ve been using Microsoft MapPoint for nearly three years now to present real estate data to my clients in an intuitive format.
Exhibit 1: Schools and neighborhood income

The little peach-and-yellow pie circles represent schools, with the amount of peach shading indicating that school’s academic performance (as measured by the API index) compared to all other California schools.

The green shading represents neighborhood incomes; the darker the green, the higher the median income, as measured by the 2002 census.

1 — (two spots) Very, very light shading; low income neighborhoods populated mostly by Stanford students. This is where many Silicon Valley enterpreneurs get their start-ups going.

2 — Moderate green shading; moderate income neighborhoods. This is where Silicon Valley enterpreneurs move to after they graduate and get their first round of angel financing.
3 — Dark green shading; very high income neighborhoods. After their start-up goes public, this is where the enterpreneurs move, to towns like Atherton.
4 — Dark blue lines indicate school district boundaries.
5 — A very good school, as indicated by the near full shading.
6 — An average school, as indicated by the ~50% shading

Tags: Heat maps, , Microsoft Mappoint, , , , , , Zillow heat maps

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Tags: Heat maps · Mapping software · Microsoft Mappoint · Real estate · Real estate data · Real estate mapping · Technology · Zillow · Zillow heat maps