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Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 7 years ago

Wisdom of the Crowds

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A Naples entrepreneur created WikiRealty, a site he hopes will draw crowds of people interested in talking about real estate.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Sanjay Kuttemperoor wants to tap into the wisdom of the crowds.

The real estate developer wants to get the public and real estate professionals to share real estate insights with a site he created called WikiRealty. It will work much like other “wiki” sites, which depend on people to contribute their knowledge.

The idea is to get enough people to contribute information about home listings and sales that it could be as valuable as a multiple-listing service, the closed information systems Realtors have created. “I'm trying to create a central repository for information,” says Kuttemperoor, 44.

Kuttemperoor says it's hard to find specific and useful information about homes from Realtors because many of them have general information about neighborhoods. Websites such as Zillow and Trulia are listing sites that don't have much public interaction.

Initially, WikiRealty is focused on residential real estate and is targeting Naples for its pilot program. But Kuttemperoor says he plans to add commercial real estate later.

Kuttemperoor, trained as an attorney, knows all about real estate. He and his family have been in the real estate business for years, including the development of Treviso Bay, a luxury residential community in Naples that was the subject of foreclosure.

With his family restructuring the development business and construction virtually at a standstill during the bust, Kuttemperoor decided to create WikiRealty as another business. Surprisingly, the domain name was relatively inexpensive, though Kuttemperoor declines to cite the price he paid for it.

Kuttemperoor started planning WikiRealty two years ago, but he had no luck finding programmers who could help him with his vision. “They all said you can't do that,” he says.

After searching diligently, Kuttemperoor found an engineer in Wisconsin who could engage software programmers in India and Russia. It's a hugely complex affair, giving homebuyers, home sellers and anyone in the business the ability to share information about any home or neighborhood. So far, he's spent $300,000 on the venture, which he says would have cost a lot more with U.S. staff.

Think of WikiRealty as a sort of TripAdvisor for real estate, where useful and relevant comments about a neighborhood rise to the top. Users (they have to be registered) are limited to 250-word entries, which keep them concise. “You can really get granular with your searches,” Kuttemperoor says.

For example, if you search for a home in a specific neighborhood, WikiRealty might have comments posted from local residents about noise issues or a nearby school. Or an attorney who has handled closings there may have dealt with unpaid fees that can derail a deal. Such issues are difficult to discover on a single website, and Kuttemperoor says he hopes WikiRealty can do that. “The only data I'll be buying is listings,” says Kuttemperoor, noting that he'll correlate the listings with neighborhood tips.

Kuttemperoor is reluctant to share details about the revenue model or the sales and traffic volume he expects. He says advertising could be one significant revenue source, for example.

To get the word out about the pilot program, Kuttemperoor started a social-media campaign that drew hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers in just a few days. Because of WikiRealty's unique content, Kuttemperoor says the site should pop to the top of search engines such as Google that place a high value on original content.

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