Interview with Ken Oxenrider - CEO of BeautifulProperties.Net
January 20th, 2003
Editor: What motivated you to create BeautifulProperties.Net?
CEO: Well, I have several friends in the real estate business and in conversation with them I learned there was a need that was not being served online. It really is that simple. I'm a programmer and I guess it was easier to see because of that.
Editor: What need was that?
CEO: It seems others were already doing this type of thing. By that, I mean online real estate databases, but they were not customizable and functional enough for my friends. For example. The biggest name out there provides only a simple database that looks nothing like any of my friends main sites. This meant that when a visitor clicked the link to view their properties it was obvious to all that they were leaving my friends site. With our online software, the realtor can select colors and layouts to design a similar looking page to match their existing site, and they can customize all the features to their particular needs. When a visitor clicks the database link and the database comes up it will have the realtors logo, colors, etc. and the transition is almost seamless and very professional. We are hosting the databases on our server so there is nothing to install on the realtors end. Still, the transition is transparent to the surfer.
Secondly, the database page was filled with advertisements and links to competitors. Now this is not something that is very desirable. It's difficult enough to get people to visit your site so why would you want to divert them away to competitors listings or ads that do not benefit their site? With our setup, your visitors never see any ads connected with the database period. It's your database and we are not going to intrude that way.
Editor: Heres the big question. Why would I even want a database? I can get a webmaster to list the properties.
CEO: This question takes us right back to my friends comments and gripes again. It seems every time they had a new property or a property change they would have to pay their webmaster again to make that change. Now suppose the webmaster is busy with other clients. If that happens, and it did quite often, there is a delay updating the property list. With this database, any employee of a realtor from the receptionist to each of the sales people can gain access and immediately update anything to do with properties. The property update interface uses a different password than the administrative interface so management still maintains control of the security and design features.
So the object was to create a database that would be easy to design and update. One that would incorporate all the features a professional realtor would want to showcase his properties. A system that would not require the services of a webmaster. I certainly think we've managed to do just that. It's more bang for the buck as I've heard people say.
Editor: How much programming knowledge would a realtor have to know to design the look of their site?
CEO: None really. It's all based on simple forms. They can pick colors from a pop up list or use the exact color code now being used at their main site. Uploading a logo for example is as easy as browsing to the logo image on a persons hard drive and clicking on the Upload button.
Editor: So they can use their own logo image.
CEO: Not only that. They can upload up to seven images for each property listing and a text document. When it comes to designing the site itself, they can upload images in regard to their affiliations too and even up to twenty images to go along with employee biographical information. It's actually more than just a property database but has many features for use by realtors and they are all customized for them.
Editor: What if they don't have a logo to upload?
CEO: The program will detect that and display their company name in a choice of fonts and colors.
Editor: Tell me about the biographical information.
CEO: We create a page linked to the realtors database that features info about all employees with their photos. This page can be linked to directly from the realtors site without going to the database first. We also have an optional real estate search engine available.
Editor: What about realtors that don't even have a site? Is there some way they can benefit from your databases?
CEO: Certainly. That's another advantage of our system. It has enough extra features with built in custom links to stand on it's own. If a person has no site they can simply give the url of their database. Everything needed is there to sell properties. If a realtor has nothing online but an email address to receive inquiries, they can get started.
That reminds me. I should point out I guess that you could even use your own domain name and have that domain take people directly to our server and your database. Your domain name would stay in the url window and our domain would never show to the public.
Editor: How long does it take for you to build someone a database?
CEO: Actually, the realtor simply fills out a request form, clicks submit, and their account, files and all, are created instantly. No waiting at all. Right now we are offering the first month as a free trial. A person creates an account and tries it for thirty days free. If they want to keep it, they submit payment by the end of that thirty days. In any event, they are never charged for that first month. It really only takes a few minutes of exploring the software to realize the many benefits.
Editor: Can a person just look at a typical database and fool around with it a little without actually creating an account? I guess I'm talking about a sample database or something like that.
CEO: Well when I first thought of this sample thing, I figured they could just create an account and try it out. It eventually crossed my mind that people may not want to take the time to upload a lot of properties and photos just to try it out. Consequently, I decided to make a full fledged demo version exactly like the real thing. I also added about ten sample properties, complete with pictures, so realtors could take a good look at how it works without spending a lot of time building it up with properties. This is now online and ready to go. It's a link called "Interactive Demo" at the top of most pages. I should point out that the contact forms will not work unless the person creating their demo account uses their real email address. They would also get the chance to see how our property maps work. That's a link in each property page that pops up a map showing exactly where the property is located. They can upload or delete photos, properties, whatever, to their hearts content. Each demo is created as a stand alone demo and has all the features found in the real thing. Both the demo and the real databases have genuine static pages. This means the search engines will be able to find and catalog your properties. This is very important and something you won't find anywhere else. It means we give the customer quite a bit more in the way of bytes on our server but it is the key to people finding your properties using search engines.
Editor: Do you mean each property is given its own html page and it stays there? I've never heard of this being done with a database.
CEO: That's exactly what I mean. Whenever a realtor creates a new property for the database, we actually generate and write the full page to their company directory and it stays there until the property is deleted by the realtor. It's there when the search engines index the site.
Editor: Now that is pretty amazing. And your right, I don't know of anyone going to that much trouble or expense.
Editor: People might not want to type in their real email address for the demo though. Junk mail you know.
Editor: Thanks. I think that answers most of my questions.