I started blogging about Dirt (my startup idea) a few weeks ago in the hopes of finding a technical cofounder to join me in my journey to change the real estate industry. And while I am still searching, perhaps one the biggest benefits of blogging about my idea is that it’s forced me to bring additional order to my various sketches, wireframes and UX designs. It’s also forced me to clearly articulate what I’m trying to do.
I spent a number of months working with Toronto-based agency Jar Creative on Dirt and at the time we were fixated on “real estate activity.” Specifically, finding a way for people to discover, track and share the real estate activity happening all around us. I still think this is a valid objective, but I’ve been questioning how exactly to go about this. One way to do it, is how I’ve outlined here: by having a property-only newsfeed. Users would follow properties and people and this would create a custom newsfeed surrounding their interests.
Evolution of the idea
But the other thought I’ve been having is to allow people to build their own property portfolio, just like real estate companies and moguls do. The effect would be similar to above (users would receive updates on the properties they’re interested in), but it would be done through a kind of virtual property ownership.
This is what I was getting at with this sketch:
Here’s an example: I’m walking down the street and I see a property I like. It’s not for sale and so there’s little information available online. There’s no MLS listing, although if I google it, I may find an old one. Similar to when I described the Problem on Greenlaw, I may have a bunch of questions surrounding this property: Who owns it? When was it built? What was the last sale price?
So what can I do? Let’s add it to my virtual property portfolio. I take a picture of it and locate the address/property in the Dirt database (or ideally it’s done automatically from the photo). It then gets added to my Dirt property portfolio, such that when updates do become available (for example: it goes on the market), I get notified. It would also allow me to socialize/network around the property to find the information I’m looking for — a forum, if you will, for these discussions to take place.
Why is this better?
One of the big things I think this subtle change does better, is that it taps into an innate desire to own stuff. Home ownership is heavily subsidized and promoted, particularly in the US, and this would allow people to build virtual property portfolios. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, once argued that the best social networks tap into one of the 7 deadly sins (WSJ):
“Social networks do best when they tap into one of the seven deadly sins. Facebook is ego. Zynga is sloth. LinkedIn is greed.”
Putting this spin onto Dirt would do exactly that. People would be given a quick and simple way to collect properties they like — without all the messy legal fees and mortgage commitments. It would also help to create a unique brand for Dirt. Instead of “user x is following property y”; it would be “user x has added property y to his/her portfolio.”
Of course, these properties are actually owned by somebody in real life and so that’s a consideration, but could this not be the way to truly socialize the real estate industry?