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MTO Interview: Behind the Great Real Estate Plug-In

Recently Roger Theriault released a new plug-in for WordPress that makes displaying and marketing your real estate listings on your WordPress blog a snap. This new plug-in is called “Great Real Estate.” I was amazed with the thoroughness of this first release. ?In my opinion, Roger has built powerful plug-with lots of future potential. See my introduction to Great Real Estate here.

Shortly after I discovered this plug-in I reached out to Roger for an Interview.? I was intrigued and wanted to know more about the motivation behind the product and more about the future road map. Please enjoy our conversation below.

Hello Roger, I’m very impressed with your new real estate plug-in. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Are you a real estate agent?

Yes, I’ve been an agent for 4 1/2 years, with Illustrated Properties, specializing in listings. I’m also still in web development. I was with Motorola for 13 years and was their first corporate content “webmaster” in the days when they didn’t have a corporate web department and the various product groups were just starting to get on the web. I got into the real estate industry in 2002 (starting with mortgages) after Motorola started shutting down its facility here in Palm Beach County, Florida. I may wind up doing more software development and less real estate. I’m originally from Canada and grew up doing both software development and photography and publishing, so the web kind of brought the two together for me and real estate allows me to continue that.

What was the motivation behind your Great Real Estate Plug-In for WordPress?

I have always been an advocate of content management over HTML editing of web pages. I developed custom content management at Motorola’s paging group back in 1996 and when I set up my real estate site in 2004, I developed content management capabilities using PHP and MySQL so my site would be consistent, and to make it easy for me to add photos and update listings. Late in 2007 I started using WordPress and this year decided its content management capabilities were mature enough that I could toss all my old code and rebuild upon WordPress. A good web presence is becoming even more important in real estate every year… I’d always planned to create a solution for other agents to use, and the ability to make a plug-In with real estate functionality (and not have to worry about the complex engine it runs on, or replicating other features), allowed me to finally accomplish that. That’s what’s great about building on WordPress. The plug in is still a work in process… my goal is a plug-In that is clear, not convoluted, and that supports real estate practices around the world and not just the US. (Hopefully the plug-In is already relatively easy to install and use for the average agent.)

In your mind what advantage does WordPress offer real estate agents?

Just a few years ago agents had a choice of two evils: a very expensive custom designed website that might tie them to a developer or solution provider (and usually difficult to update), or a template real estate solution that resulted in less than optimal search engine friendliness. Content management capabilities have been poor. When your site has the exact same boilerplate on buying or selling as a few thousand other sites and it’s not specific to your market, you’re not going to turn up in a search. I’ve always suggested to other agents that they write all their own web content, or if they hire someone to help them write, that it reflect them and be unique, useful, and highly relevant to their market. Closing procedures are vastly different between California and Florida, for example, and consumers need specifics. It’s still a local industry requiring local knowledge. WordPress allows you to have a unique site at a low cost, and easily create new pages without worrying about HTML or paying a web designer each time you need to tweak your wording. It just hasn’t allowed agents to manage their property listings as well as a custom or template real estate site. Hopefully I can help with that.

Can you share any future plans for “Great Real Estate” Plug-In?

Sure! Part of the future of the plug in is going to come from user feedback. I’m already hearing from some agents who want to use it for vacation rentals. They need a few extra fields and things. And the first release only has the basic features to get your listings exposed… so I have a small list of ideas for additional features and modules. The next release will have a few extra “featured homes” widgets, including a map display of all your listings (you can preview that at http://rogertheriault.com/listings), and some admin user interface improvements. Maybe a few more XML listing syndication formats.? I don’t expect every install of my plug-in to come from an agent, there are a lot of WordPress service providers setting up sites for agents, but I know from my experience that the interface will need to be agent friendly so the agents can use it as part of their business.

Some possible new features might be a Flash “virtual tour” app that could be an option for presenting a listing on a click-through from sites such as Realtor.com. Not as a replacement for XHTML but as an additional interface. And I’m also looking at a showings manager so that agents can keep track of home showings. This would lead to a home seller login so the sellers can see how their listing is being managed and facilitate better agent-seller communication.

Most of the features are aimed at listing agents at present. The quality of marketing and relationship management between an average agent and a good agent can really make a difference in how quickly a home sells and a seller’s satisfaction level. I think listing agents need to provide the best possible marketing and service to succeed so consumers can get better value and be less likely to turn to some of the “post your listing” sites out there, and this Plug-In will hopefully help many agents do just that.

Thanks for your time Roger! And for all you real estate agents looking for a powerful and effective way to display your listings with WordPress you have a new tool! Have fun activating!

About Reggie

Reggie Nicolay is founder of the real estate technology blog MyTechOpinion.com, and is the Vice President of Marketing and Social Media for the Realtors Property Resource® (RPR), a property database for REALTORS®. Reggie was named one of the 100 Most Influential Leaders in Real Estate for 2010 by Inman News.