By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
A little office on Elms Road houses a technology business that serves Realtors and their clients nationwide with a way to check out houses and neighborhoods for people who have to move quickly and don't know much about their new homes.
Michael R. Baumann II, president of MLS EARTHview LLC, says his is the only service that blends the capabilities of multiple listing services and Google Earth to get the facts on residential properties and their surroundings.
The MLS information can tell a prospective buyer all about the house and details of its financing, and Google Earth can zoom in on the neighborhood and the street and tell about nearby traffic arteries, churches, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, bars and so forth.
"We're the only company in the nation that combines both features," he said. "As an example of how useful it can be, I know of a homebuyer who found just the right house at the right price but didn't know that it was just a quarter-mile from a railroad track with trains that came through at all hours. Google Earth would have told him."
He serves 62 regions covered by MLS listings such as the one maintained by the Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors, and individual real estate offices become customers. He has the FHAAR MLS but only four client agencies in the Fort Hood area. He serves others as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. He has seven employees working on the Web site, and four of them live and work remotely.
"We stay busy with the technical work, and I haven't knocked on enough doors," he said. "But this is a niche marketing tool for Realtors, and most of them think they don't have time for marketing, so they keep on working with outdated materials. What we have can make their jobs so much more pleasant and exact."
Basically, a Realtor can buy the service and either work in front of a screen with the client or refer the client to a Web site that will show up on the first page of a Google search to show all the house and neighborhood features when the desired attributes are typed in. For example, all three-bedroom houses in San Antonio listed between $150,000 and $200,000.
If the criteria are that vague, the computer will show a forest of houses. Then, the search can be narrowed progressively down to two or three houses the client wants to see. He can find the neighborhood features and as much verbal and visual information about the house as the MLS affords.
"The buyer can do all this research at home at 2 a.m. if he or she wants. All the Realtor needs is a name and e-mail address," he said.
"Statistics show that 87 percent of homebuyers start their search online, anyway," he said, "and 95 percent use an agent. If you do a search by yourself, you'll turn up many thousands of Web sites and have no idea which will serve you best. This system can show you."
Features he highlights for Realtors on his Web site are a saved search Hyperlink builder that adds and deletes houses as necessary, "soft lead capture" that eliminates the need for assembling a great deal of information about a client who is still looking, which can alienate him, and complete HTML customization of image fields.
"We've removed all the confusing search criteria and extra complexities," he said. "Our optimized functionality and streamlined design make MLS EARTHview a convenient tool that you and your clients will actually enjoy using."
The three-year-old company is a spinoff of a family business started 25 years ago by his father including TRS Telephone Systems next door. He still does some work with the parent company.
"We remain small because we prefer to work on a handshake agreement," he said. "We lose money sometimes because we'll make an estimate that turns out to be too low, but we stick with the original price quote. We've foregone expanding because we want to keep working that way."
Baumann can be reached at (254) 449-7722 or (888) 397-0510.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.