Houston Web Site Take On Bold New Look with Microsoft Mapping
One of the nation’s most popular Internet real estate sites goes live today after undergoing a sweeping “remodeling” that offers visitors a more contemporary layout, added features, improved functionality and richer content. The enhancements to HAR.com include new Virtual Earth mapping technology developed by Microsoft Corp., and are designed to address a meteoric surge in the use of the site, which began averaging more than one billion hits last March and continues to draw an estimated 900,000 consumers each month.
For more than a decade, HAR.com, the Houston Assn. of REALTORS®’ pioneering online resource for property listings, has been the go-to site for would-be home buyers and sellers. The Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) launched the site as a groundbreaking initiative in 1997, when few public Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sites existed in the U.S. ComScore Media Metrix, which monitors Web site traffic, has identified HAR.com as the only local Web site to consistently rank among the nation’s top 25 real estate sites.
“With the new HAR.com, the Houston Assn. of REALTORS® has redefined the art of real estate by packaging a vast array of user-friendly features and content for anyone seeking information about property in greater Houston,” said HAR Chairman Michael Levitin of HTownRealty.com. “Nowhere else on the Web will consumers be able to find a real estate site that offers this many resources in one convenient location. We’re confident that those who frequent the site will notice the improvements and quickly benefit from them.”
HAR.com has integrated Microsoft Virtual Earth technology, which provides detailed, high-resolution satellite-image mapping — available with aerial, bird’s eye and 3-D options—so that viewers can examine fine details of most properties and the surrounding area from multiple angles and distances. It also enables property searches to be conducted based on proximity to schools, hospitals, police and fire stations as well as businesses, such as supermarkets, restaurants and banks. Visitors to the site can search through the traditional process of selecting property options from drop-down menus and by highlighting a particular section of a map, also called a polygon, if they have a specific neighborhood, subdivision or area of town in mind. Properties that meet their criteria are displayed with colored pushpins that reveal detailed property information, including enlargeable photos, when clicked.
Property searches may also be conducted based on the newest listings available through the MLS. Search results may be compared side by side and bookmarked for those interested in tracking listings. Another feature enables those bookmarks to be integrated with several social bookmarking sites, including FaceBook, Digg and del.icio.us.
The new site now includes a listing of foreclosed properties, a feature that has grown in interest among prospective home buyers in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis. HAR.com is also the only REALTOR® association Internet site in the country to display detailed tax information for every property in the greater Houston and surrounding area. As before, the site is able to display text in multiple languages — Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, German and Italian —thereby accommodating the tremendous ethnic diversity of the Houston area population.
Visitors to HAR.com will also benefit from a transparent improvement – a more powerful and efficient search engine that provides more sophisticated sorting functions, expediting the process by which visitors find specific real estate information.
The home page and interior pages of the new Web site sport a completely new look that is the result of months of design planning by HAR’s Internet Technology team. The home page is topped with a blue masthead containing the Association’s logo, and prominently displayed below that is a row of large, brightly colored buttons for seamless access to the Find a Home, Find a REALTOR®, HAR REALTORS®, Commercial Properties and International Properties sections. Once inside the Find a Home section, medium-sized colored icons representing Featured Tools quickly link consumers to valuable information about scheduled open houses, real estate guides (containing detailed breakdowns of city/regional real estate market values, data regarding active listings and sales, U.S. Census figures and more) and home values. Visitors may search properties by various parameters, such as recently listed/sold real estate, most viewed/bookmarked real estate and most/least expensive real estate. An icon for daily alerts allows those who registered for free to receive automatic electronic updates about properties they’re interested in tracking.
“HAR.com was among the first in the nation to provide comprehensive real estate information to online consumers, and 10 years and more than a billion visitors later, applying the latest Web design technology to improve the delivery of that information was a no-brainer,” said HAR Technology Advisory Group Chairman George Stephens. “We’ve supercharged the site by enabling consumers to drill down to the specific amenities, locations, pricing options and other criteria to identify exactly the property they’re looking for along with a host of other valuable services, including accessing information with handheld mobile devices.”
HAR.com has won numerous awards during the past 10 years, including Outstanding Web Site honors from the National Assn. of REALTORS®.