To me, the phrase “Forgotten Coast” brings to mind images of old Florida. Low ragged shrubs and palmettos. Palm trees obscuring the relentless sun, casting deep leafy shadows over quaint flat bungalows tucked in among the dunes. I am talking about the Gulf of Mexico coastline just east of Panama City. As you travel away from the condo towers the coast transitions from beautiful, broad beaches and sandy islands eventually to mangrove and saltmarsh. The mangroves create some of the most biologically rich places on the Gulf Coast, producing world-class fishing and bird watching and of course their famous oysters. Here, in this relatively quiet corner of the bustling Gulf Coast, something interesting is happening in the real estate community. In a time of rapid change and tumult in the industry, the Realtors Association of Franklin and Gulf Counties (RAFGC) has decided to make a mark for themselves, as innovators.
Last Tuesday, the RAFGC Board of Directors approved a proposal to engage in a design-build project for their next MLS. The new project will combine their existing MLS consumer portal, their mobile app and their MLS into a single new website, something that’s never been done before. For the last three years Solid Earth has been building a new technology platform we call Spring. Spring is a unified digital marketing platform built on a restful API designed to be configured several ways. Franklin has elected to use all of Spring’s capability and between now and next summer, they will receive these products in succession:
- Spring Portal – RAFGCs consumer portal, forgottencoastlife.com, will be transitioned to Spring and relaunched on the new platform as forgottencoastmls.com.
- Spring API – released along with the Spring Portal, Spring API provides a modernized RETS-friendly alternative for data syndication and distribution, as well as a broker-empowering way to interact with the dataset. It’s what’s next in #retech
- Downstream IDX / Office and Agent – along with Spring Portal, Solid Earth is also releasing a new IDX/VOW solution. This is a quick, easy way to provide high-impact mobile-friendly property search websites for brokerages and agents.
- Spring MLS – the RAFGC MLS has agreed to help design the last few pieces of the MLS feature set for Solid Earth. Spring has almost all of the features necessary to provide a standalone MLS but there are several utilities and administrative functions that need to be finalized. The best way to do that is with an actual customer so we are grateful to RAFGC for engaging.
To date, Solid Earth has licensed the Spring Portal solution to several MLSs around the country including SandicorMLS, one of the largest MLSs in the country. But, this is the first time we have won a contract for a full solution including the consumer portal, the mobility features and the MLS all in one IT project. For RAFGC this will be a game changer, creating a manageable, scalable platform through which their brokers can optimally market and distribute their inventory.
What’s new about this?
- It’s Unified – All traffic, professional, consumer, mobile, etc, is concentrated on one website, creating a common user experience for consumer, sellers and professionals alike. Everyone works in the same place so activity can be monitored and studied. Sort of like, what? Oh yeah! Zillow!
- It’s Complete – Like Zillow, it includes Public records, On and Off-market Listing Data (local rules permitting), Points of Interest, School Performance Scores, Neighborhood Statistics and just added: Neighborhood Health Care providers filtered by insurance provider.
- It’s Open – All data, real estate data as well as usage analytics and more are available through the API. Plus, using the Spring Rules Engine, listings can be edited from a broker’s own website or form, no need to use the MLS UI unless it’s what the broker wants. See how PlanWise has used the API to provide better, deeper integration with Spring.
- It’s Responsive – All pages, forms, photos, maps and features display equally well on a tablet as on a desktop. Smartphones, even Kindles can be used to access the site. No need for an app.
- It’s Pretty! – Real estate websites have not been winning beauty contests. This one is clean, uncluttered, bright and shiny. Designed by our dedicated User Experience Designer to be enjoyable to use.
When we were wrapping up the meeting last week in Apalachicola, I asked one of the Directors how they felt about being a guinea pig of sorts. From across the room, Gloria Salinard their lead staff person (Association Executive in real-estate-speak) said something I will always remember. She said:
“We’re not guinea pigs, we’re PIONEERS!”
Everyone, and I mean everyone, at Solid Earth has been searching for that special visionary customer, the one described in that Steven Blank book, the one who looks at your idea and says:
“Matt, I’ve never seen anything like that. It doesn’t look like the MLS we’ve always used so, it must be what’s next! We get it! Sign us up!”
So even though their brand is The Forgotten Coast, they will never be forgotten at Solid Earth. They are our pioneers and we could not be more proud of them. For information on how your MLS can join the unified movement, fill out this form and someone will reach out.