History of the Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre and TeamFisher.com

TeamFisher.com was born on April 28, 1997.  At that time, I had a vision for this website and I wanted it to be far better than average.  That wasn’t particularly difficult as real estate agents didn’t have much of an online presence and it seemed that most sites that did pop up were little more than online brochures.  It was more like, “Hey everybody!  Look at me!  I’m on the Internet!”  Early on, we understood that people were using the internet for research and that real content would drive traffic and keep people coming back.  Many hours were devoted to content development and just as much effort went into search engine optimization.  Fairly early on we started earning top rankings in Yahoo, HotBot, Lycos and many of the others which were hugely popular at the time.  Later, when Google joined and began to dominate the fray, we maintained our top positions for keywords like, “Saskatoon Real Estate.”

We began advertising our listings including rich content and interior property photos.  Believe it or not, that was still pretty cutting edge at the time.  A year or so later, we developed Neighbourhood Profiles providing detailed information on each residential area of the city.  By 1998 we were publishing our “Average Selling Prices by Area” page which is updated annually and remains one of our most viewed pages to this day.  We began offering “New Listing Updates” by email and at that time we pulled those listing manually from the MLS computer, formatted them for email and sent them to our subscribers.  Later that year, we developed a custom html form that did some of the formatting work for us but it still took a lot of time and work to generate those updates. 

That same year, Realty Times, one of the web’s leading publishers of real estate related information picked up on us in a story titled, “TeamFisher: Online Import a Home Owners Best Friend, using the byline, “Sask-a-what?” (Yes, I actually wore that haircut).  Shortly after that, the International Real Estate Directory labeled TeamFisher.com, “an outstanding resource for buyers and sellers,” and gave us their “Prime Locations” award which is still only held by a handful of Canadian websites.  We later won awards from the Real Estate Library, the Real Estate Technology Institute, Critical Mass, REALS, the Learning Fountain and Vandema.

In early 2000, we branded the site, “The Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre” and continued our efforts to keep the site up to date and relevant. By this time there were literally thousands of websites providing a link back to our site on theirs.  Our New Listing Update Service was generating in excess of a hundred subscriptions each year.  Nevin Van Nest joined me as sort of an Internet service specialist ensuring that our subscribers received prompt notification of the latest listings and excellent service in the field.  Many of our subscribers were becoming our clients and our efforts were showing a good return.  Listings posted to the site were receiving excellent traffic on a daily basis, attracting inquiries and interest early in the listing period.

In 2003, we began offering the world class “Visual Tour” with all of our listings, big or small.  This fabulous software allows us to create tours with a virtually unlimited number of photos, both still and panoramic.  Today, the software allows text and voice descriptions, interactive mapping technology, and detailed property descriptions.

In 2004, we implemented a wireless mobile program with our web effort allowing us to receive and respond to the growing number of email contacts initiated through our internet marketing efforts.  In most instances we are able to answer email inquiries within minutes.

In early 2005, new software came available which would allow us to add a degree of automation to our “New Listing Update Service.”  With it, we could convert MLS data to web pages.  We opened a client service website at www.MySaskatoonHome.ca which would offer our clients private access to all MLS listings.  In addition to clients, guests are invited to sign up and once approved you are actually able to search the MLS database and view all local MLS listings complete with addresses, property photos, mapping, days on the market and pretty much anything else that you’d need to know about a home.  The listing database updates itself several times a day, directly from the MLS computer and always contains the newest listings.  Email notifications can be turned on or off depending on your motivation level and how quickly you want the information.

In 2006, the Internet marketing efforts were keeping us busier than ever.  Literally hundreds of home buyer inquiries had come in by summer.  We were managing not to fall behind but we certainly weren’t spending enough time in forward thinking mode. I knew that we had to make some changes if we were going to continue developing the site and explore new technologies.

After lots of research, I chose Point2, “the World’s Largest Real Estate Network” as the provider that could help me achieve my objective through it’s offering of the most sophisticated real estate tools in a functional publishing environment.  There are about 135,000 agents and real estate brokerage companies in the Point2 network.  

As a result of that move, we are now able to provide our sellers with an automatic listing syndication service which pushes data on their property to dozens of other websites including Google Base, Point2 Homes, Live Deal, Edgio and many more.  An additional syndication program sends data to RoyalLePage.ca, RoyalLePageSaskatoon.com, MySaskatoonHome.ca and MLS Online.  Listings which appear on our site can also be syndicated to the consumer through the use of RSS feeds and readers.  Further, the listings on our site can be viewed using Google Earth if viewers are using that technology.

In our second week of involvement with Point2, the Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre was one of the top 100 sites for pages viewed on the entire Point2 network.  Again, that’s out of a total of approximately 135,000 real estate websites, operating in every major market across North America.

Our latest venture focuses us squarely on the Web 2.0 phenomenon as we take our first foray into the world of blogging.  The potential for reaching and connecting with prospective buyers and sellers through Internet marketing just keeps on getting better and I love it as much as I ever have. 

I can hardly wait to see what next year brings for change.

Update - June 30, 2007

From the outset, I had my doubts about how effective "blogging" could be and whether it could add much to the Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre. Eight months, and 130 posts later I can only say that I'm thrilled by the results. We have succeeded in building an impressive community which regularly comments and provides feedback on our posts and the Saskatoon real estate market. Our website and the blog can be found on the first page of results for almost every major search engine and for almost every conceivable combination of keywords relevant to Saskatoon real estate. It's almost impossible not to find us if you're seeking information about the Saskatoon real estate market online. For several consecutive months, we've managed to host over 13,000 visitors viewing over 100,000 pages of information. Our visitor and page views results routinely double those of the average "Top 100" sites in the Point2 network. On a daily basis, about 200 people return to the teamfisher.com domain for a repeat visit and nearly 600 user sessions are initiated.

Our focus on quality photography for real estate brought us great coverage through the RE.net with two features on Realty Times, one on Inman News and features on dozens of other blogs. Buyers, sellers and real estate agents are often commenting on how well properties are presented. I'm amazed as this has been one of our strengths for several years and it has been painful trying to make a real marketing break through with it. We are finally getting some traction with it as "sight-unseen" offers from out of town buyers have become almost routine. They tell us that they feel like they've already been to the house. Very cool!

In June, the Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre became the top ranked site in the Point2 network out of close to 135,000 broker and agent websites from all over the world.

Lately, I'm receiving feedback on an almost daily basis about the quality of the site and its usefulness to those with an interest in Saskatoon real estate.

Meanwhile, our competitors continue to almost ignore the potential which exists online. We can't help but feel that this huge market has been left completely open for us. This is a mystery I'll never really understand.