According to Leighton Dees, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Mobile, anyone recently involved in the home buying process likely used the Internet at some point while shopping. “The biggest issue for local consumers today has become where to go online for the best search results,” Dees said.
Many of today’s home shoppers jump from local brokerage site to local brokerage site looking for all available residences for sale. The lion’s share eventually winds up at Zillow.com; a national online real estate database launched in 2005. Zillow has been growing exponentially over the past eight years. In January 2013 alone, it registered over 44 million visitors to its website.
“Although Zillow has definitely achieved mainstream credibility, there are two major things the local market doesn’t know about it,” Dees said. First, it doesn’t have the entire active inventory on the market at any given time. It can take up to two weeks to update its database around the area after a new listing comes on the market. This is because it gets active listing inventory from third-party syndication (feeds from random real estate websites) instead of a direct data feed from the local Mobile Area Association of Realtors (MAAR).
Second, it’s “Zestimate” feature, which gives home value estimates from the website, can be inaccurate (7.6 percent or more) up to 50 percent of the time. The underlying issue is that the general public is oftentimes oblivious to these inaccuracies.
“This leaves area realtors bumping heads with the local community about how much their home is really worth. Not a fun position to be in when working with buyers,” Dees said.
“In my opinion, real estate is made up of hyper-local, unique markets across the country,” Dees said. “It’s like the weather. You can’t ask ‘How’s the weather in America?’ Too broad. The same analogy holds true in local real estate. In essence, however, this is Zillow’s position,” Dees said.
Enter The Mobile MLS (www.themobilemls.com). Solely created as a strategy to compete on the same playing field as Zillow, its goal is to perfect targeting in the online experience of home buying rather than information overload to the consumer.
Dees leads the marketing and design of the project along with a 10-member team designated to enhance the online experience for site users. They teamed up with an industry leading online marketing firm, Boomtown, to bring together the design and technology needed to develop this homegrown concept.
“We had to keep in mind a few realities of today’s online visitor while conceiving the strategy for the site,” Dees said. “First, online buyers don’t care about how great you say something is. Don’t make it about you. Make it about them. People are there for one main reason; to search for real estate. Second, if it’s not user-friendly, they will leave quickly. Keep it simple. Finally, for the site to really matter it has to be focused only on our area. It is continuously loaded it with community guides for each market. Not just demographic stats,” Dees said.
The site has 100 percent of the active listings of every brokerage in the entire region. It updates 24/7. It’s also accessible from any desktop or laptop and features a mobile version for iPhone and Android.
Looking ahead Dees states that he is only going grassroots with the website. “We’re only focused on the Mobile/Baldwin County areas. Period,” Dees said. The website went live on August 30 to the public and time will tell whether or not TheMobileMLS.com will succeed as a small, hyper-local alternative to the Zillow juggernaut.
Commercial real estate moves
Per Nancy Stone, VP of Commercial Real Estate Services at White-Spunner Realty, 13.3 acres bought for $2,492,000 ($4.30 per square-foot) in 2008 by the Mobile Hotel Partners — and roughly subdivided into three-acre sections for development — are finally being utilized.
According to Alpesh Patel with the Kana Hotel Group in Knoxville, TN, a Homewood Suites is now under construction at one such site located near the intersection of West I-65 Service Road South and Cottage Hill Road. A tentative opening date of Feb. 1, 2014, is planned.
Southern Fitness, a fitness studio and tanning salon, leased 4,800-square-feet of building space at 9070 Moffett Road, Suite 100, in Semmes. Plans are for it to open this fall. Angela McArthur of Prudential Cooper and Co., Inc. Commercial Division worked for the owner. Joey McCullough of McCullough Realty represented the tenant.
Burton Property Group recently announced that Mediterranean Sandwich Company leased a 1,250-square-foot location at Jubilee Square in Daphne, which would be the popular restaurant’s third location. It is slated to open in November.
Mediterranean Sandwich Company’s two other locations are in downtown Mobile and WeMo.
BPG also announced that Grandbridge Real Estate Capital, one of the largest full-service commercial and multifamily mortgage banking companies in the nation, recently leased 1,686-square-foot new office space in the BB&T Centre on Aug. 28. Their old location was 851 East I-65 Service Road South.
Mobile-based real estate firms Peebles & Cameron and Gleason & Roberds recently announced that they are merging to form NAI Mobile, a local chapter of the internationally managed network of real estate companies, NAI Global.
Effective April 2014, the local NAI team will be located at 56 St. Emanuel St. in downtown Mobile. Plans are to renovate the DeBriere Building, originally constructed in 1904.
Principals John Peebles, Allan Cameron, Tommy Gleason, Jay Roberds and David Dexter comprise the independently owned chapter. They are now part of NAI Global’s 300 members on five continents. Cumulatively, the new office brings over 85 years of experience to the local commercial and industrial real estate industry.
MiMo’s has recently reopened as Benjamin’s in the Loop area. Owner Michael Alidor purchased the restaurant March 2013, under the original moniker but always had plans for a facelift.
“I wanted to get away from the name that I bought and establish my own identity,” Alidor said. Named after his maternal grandfather — Benjamin Hankins — the eatery now offers country style cuisine with a family twist. Alidor plans to have a grand opening and ribbon cutting at Benjamin’s sometime this fall.
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