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Captain's Blog, June of 2011

June marks Hawaii Life’s 3rd anniversary. Three years ago, Hawaii Life was all of 5 agents operating out of a little 2nd story office on the east side of Kauai that most people couldn’t find even if we gave them directions. Today, we’re over 100 brokers and agents in 5 offices all around Hawaii. We’re the #9 residential real estate company in Hawaii, and we’re one of the fastest growing companies in the State.

We welcome the growth, but it comes with growing pains, too. We haven’t done the best job at keeping everyone informed about the behind-the-scenes projects we’re working on. We haven’t lost our focus on improving the technology we provide for our agents, clients and customers… but there have been a few curveballs thrown our way lately.

First up was Bethany Hamilton, the Kauai surfer who lost her arm to a shark a few years ago. What does that have to do with our technology projects? Well, a lot. Bethany Hamilton’s website was hosted on the same server as www.hawaiilife.com, and when the movie, Soul Surfer, came out, the traffic to her site went through the roof. As a result, www.hawaiilife.com was running very slow. Have you ever been to a website that takes forever to load? It sucks. So, we had to switch servers. (I have a way of making things sound really easy, but this was no simple task.)

We’re still finding all sorts of little glitches that were related to moving our very robust website (and some pretty cool software in the background) over to a new server. There were periods of time when our Search Alerts weren’t working, so our clients weren’t being notified about new listings on the market. We had issues with our e-mail server, data feeds, and our listing marketing systems. Fortunately, we’re back on track… but the server switch took time away from all the cool stuff we’re working on.

Next up on the list of black holes in time was RETS (Realtors do love their acronyms). RETS stands for Real Estate Transaction Language, and was designed to be a common language that real estate websites and MLS providers can use to simplify the process of sharing listing data. Prior to RETS, all of the different Multiple Listing Services were providing their data in different formats, which required a website like www.hawaiilife.com to speak different languages, with different code, all in order to display a listing for the consumer to see. (Hawaii has three different MLS providers, who all spoke different languages.) The implementation of RETS required a lot of organization on our end, and a lot of time.

Fortunately, the payoff to getting over these hurdles is huge, because now we can focus on all the cool stuff

  1. On Maui and Oahu, you can now search by condominium project. We’ve just made this feature available, and I’m sure there are some bugs… but the beauty of it is obvious. Our clients and agents can now save searches for their favorite condominium complexes. It’s a massive improvement. We’ll have it up and running for Kauai and the Big Island soon.
  2. We have way more data on our listing detail pages now. This was another benefit of RETS. We now display a wide variety of information that previously wasn’t available. Flood zones, annual property taxes, acceptable terms, and even a ratio of the tax-assessed value compared to the listing price are now on our detail pages. Granted, it’s not very pretty… because we haven’t dressed it up yet. But that’s next. Delivering complex information in a simple and understandable way is an art, and it takes time. Our listing detail pages are the most-viewed pages on our website, so we’re committed to making them as comprehensive as possible without being over the top with unnecessary “features”.
  3. Keep your eye on the home page. HawaiiLife.com has been copied by more companies than I care to mention. (We even had one company on the Big Island literally copy every single page, verbatim). Most of these websites are created by vendors, not the real estate companies themselves. So, they have no idea what works and what doesn’t… they just copy what we’ve done, assuming it all works. It doesn’t. One of the great aspects of our company is that design, programming, and de-bugging (ugh) is all done in-house. So, we know that doesn’t work. While we’re flattered that there are now innumerable websites that look like www.hawaiilife.com, we’re going to make the competition work a little harder to keep up.
  4. The Hawaii Life blog is getting a facelift. Fortunately, our blog gets a lot of readership… especially by people who are seriously interested in buying or selling real estate. We have some incredible authors at Hawaii Life, and they’re committed to sharing their knowledge of the market (and more) through our blog. But our blog was never really ‘designed’. We just put up the basic format and then added a few WordPress plugins over time. We haven’t given it the love it needs, and now that there’s so much traffic to it… it’s becoming a much higher priority. Stay tuned, we’re going to make some pretty cool changes.
  5. Agent and Team Websites, coming soon. Individual agents and teams have been requesting websites since we first opened our doors in 2008. At first, we had a version of them, which were ok. But they weren’t designed in a way that allowed them to grow as www.hawaiilife.com grew. It wasn’t scalable. Now we’re working providing a comprehensive solution that will allow agents and teams to have their own domains, and promote their listings, blog articles and lifestyle information in a simple, easy-to-use format.

I use the royal “we” in most of the updates above… but the reality is that we have a team of some of the most talented programmers, designers, and search engine optimization specialists in Hawaii. They deserve the credit.

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kristina shugars

June 20, 2011

Super cool captain! LOVE IT

kristina shugars

June 20, 2011

Super cool captain! LOVE IT

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

June 20, 2011

Thrilling news. Truly. Although some of our Big Island “competitors” are busily announcing fancy new websites, they have no idea that it’s not about the website. It is about understanding how customers want to use technology…and how we as agents can leverage technology in our business model. I’m proud to be associated with Hawaii Life and our incredible TECH TEAM.

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

June 20, 2011

Thrilling news. Truly. Although some of our Big Island “competitors” are busily announcing fancy new websites, they have no idea that it’s not about the website. It is about understanding how customers want to use technology…and how we as agents can leverage technology in our business model. I’m proud to be associated with Hawaii Life and our incredible TECH TEAM.

Heidi White

June 20, 2011

Under the Big Island moon you all do shine! Well you all shine all the time really! Yes your wonderful team makes it happen for us island folk! Working with you is a pleasure!
We (Real Estate)have evolved and I love it!
Mahalo!

Heidi White

June 20, 2011

Under the Big Island moon you all do shine! Well you all shine all the time really! Yes your wonderful team makes it happen for us island folk! Working with you is a pleasure!
We (Real Estate)have evolved and I love it!
Mahalo!

Captain Marvelous!

June 20, 2011

It is so exciting to hear all the updates and past news that we didn’t have a clue about the “whys” … I am inspired for my week ahead!

Captain Marvelous!

June 20, 2011

It is so exciting to hear all the updates and past news that we didn’t have a clue about the “whys” … I am inspired for my week ahead!

Ron Margolis

June 20, 2011

thanks for the update cap’n. Keep up the good work and make sure the ship stays on course.

Ron Margolis

June 20, 2011

thanks for the update cap’n. Keep up the good work and make sure the ship stays on course.

Gary Bland, RS

June 20, 2011

Aloha Matt,
I really enjoy setting up my condo searches for clients. This was a great deal of hope for my clients. Great job on the way the site has been at top of many search words for all of the islands. I can’t wait for the next updates and know that you will provide all of us at Hawaii Life better chances with success supplying our clients with up to the minute information in order to cut down on questions and get them to writing offers. Blogs are really great for all of us to take placement on the web. I can tell you that my blogs are at the top of search words on any subject written about because of the platform of Hawaii Life. Simple fact BLOG= Clients. Great to hear we are keeping up with internet changes.

Gary Bland, RS

June 20, 2011

Aloha Matt,
I really enjoy setting up my condo searches for clients. This was a great deal of hope for my clients. Great job on the way the site has been at top of many search words for all of the islands. I can’t wait for the next updates and know that you will provide all of us at Hawaii Life better chances with success supplying our clients with up to the minute information in order to cut down on questions and get them to writing offers. Blogs are really great for all of us to take placement on the web. I can tell you that my blogs are at the top of search words on any subject written about because of the platform of Hawaii Life. Simple fact BLOG= Clients. Great to hear we are keeping up with internet changes.

Ben Welborn, R

June 20, 2011

Way to go Matt. Thanks for all of the hard work that goes into running Hawaii Life!

Ben Welborn, R

June 20, 2011

Way to go Matt. Thanks for all of the hard work that goes into running Hawaii Life!

Byron Barth

June 20, 2011

Daily, I am amazed at what has been done in ONLY three years. It’s hard to imagine where the Company will be three years from now. It’s a huge compliment when others imitate Hawaii Life. Ironically, they only raise the bar on themselves by trying to keep up.

Byron Barth

June 20, 2011

Daily, I am amazed at what has been done in ONLY three years. It’s hard to imagine where the Company will be three years from now. It’s a huge compliment when others imitate Hawaii Life. Ironically, they only raise the bar on themselves by trying to keep up.

Claire K. Bajo RS

June 21, 2011

Congratulations Matt & the Awesome Hawaii Life Crew! I love being a part of a leading edge real estate brokerage, and top #9 in the State is HUGE for the time you’ve been around! Thanks for all the tools that contribute to our success as a company and as individuals, and I look forward to change.. always knowing it’s for the better! Blessings & Aloha!

Claire K. Bajo RS

June 21, 2011

Congratulations Matt & the Awesome Hawaii Life Crew! I love being a part of a leading edge real estate brokerage, and top #9 in the State is HUGE for the time you’ve been around! Thanks for all the tools that contribute to our success as a company and as individuals, and I look forward to change.. always knowing it’s for the better! Blessings & Aloha!

Jeanne E Buboltz RB,CRS,GRI

June 21, 2011

Matt and everyone else included. You are amazing!The positive enthusiasum, sharing,and intelligence by all is wonderful. This zeal and professionalism,in turn, makes Hawaii Life one of the most exciting Real Estate companies in the State.Let alone a future spreading on to the mainland. Your ‘behind the scene’ updates are appreciated by this Realtor, who has been used to selling the ‘outdated’ way. Thank you!

Jeanne E Buboltz RB,CRS,GRI

June 21, 2011

Matt and everyone else included. You are amazing!The positive enthusiasum, sharing,and intelligence by all is wonderful. This zeal and professionalism,in turn, makes Hawaii Life one of the most exciting Real Estate companies in the State.Let alone a future spreading on to the mainland. Your ‘behind the scene’ updates are appreciated by this Realtor, who has been used to selling the ‘outdated’ way. Thank you!

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