A Better Way To Search Houston Home Listings

Here’s a brand-new home-search tool that will likely change the way you hunt for residential properties in Houston. And you can find it on the website of . . . a real estate agent working out of this Pearland strip center??

Actually, the new search tool is just a branded implementation of Diverse Solutions’ dsSearchAgent, which has been around for a few years in other markets, and received a major makeover late last fall. The same system might be hiding on some other area broker’s website, but this is the first we’ve seen it working with Houston MLS data.

What’s so special about dsSearchAgent?


Sure, the interface looks nifty, and it does gather a lot of information about a property on a single screen. Google Maps and Street View images are integrated into the listings, and so are Walk Scores.

But you’ll likely have the most fun with the search features. The application lets you mine listings for specific data that HAR routinely hides from consumers, like how many days a property’s been on the market, and what price drops have occurred and when. You can set it to show you, for example, only properties whose asking prices have been cut by a certain percentage — within a certain period of time. And it identifies and lets you search for “pre-foreclosures,” using a proprietary algorithm Diverse Solutions claims is more than 99 percent accurate. You can also use dsSearchAgent to search for-sale-by-owner properties listed on Zillow, but that functionality’s been left out of Silver Star Realty’s site.

Is this ready for prime time? ERA agent James Wheelock, who made the video above, reports that the system is still “somewhat in Beta stage and so we have occasional bugs in it.”

Photo: Silver Star Realty

17 Comment

  • Oops, heads up on the typo for Houston dsSearchAgent link, should be http://idx.diversesolutions.com/search/1938/63

  • Very exciting!!! Fun fun!

  • @Frank: Fixed. Thanks!

  • Wow…currently (casually) looking for a place and I’m impressed at first look..

  • Thank you SOOOOO much! Helps me a lot.

  • don’t get too excitd; appears their algo has some issues:




    there are 100s like this; idk if they had bad data entry for the initial price or what, but it makes the % drop feature suspect.

  • Hi, everyone! I think it is really great that my broker Richard Skotak has decided to stick his neck out for the direction I think real estate is moving in. I have come on at their brokerage as the technology coordinator and will be handling the web apps for the office.

    I had always enjoyed playing around on the internet, but never really understood the power it will soon grant to the consumer until I was sitting in a class at Cornell University listening to Jon Klienberg(the first individual to come up with a page ranking algo that was used for the basis of what Google is today) who was teaching a class on the natural formation of networks. Today I feel like we are sitting at a point where the consumer will take back the concept of marketing. I feel that as time progresses marketing will have to be so targeted it is not selling, but rather putting the information the consumer desires in front of them at the right time. I feel that will be a major win especially following the mess the secondary mortgage market is wallowing through.

    I have a major questions for the readers here. My broker has been debating what to do about showing sold homes data on the IDX search tool shown here in this post. He has permission to post the solds and would like to do so, however, to prestent the solds he is required to force registration. And the question then becomes “Would having access to real live sold home data be worth having to register as soon as you go to make a search?” If the majority of people would find the sold data so helpful they would not be turned off about registering then I believe he would likely post it as part of the search tool. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say on this topic and feel free to ask any questions you might have of me.

  • @bcd – I thought it would be good to discuss the percent price drop feature. One large problem with an IDX tool like this is that it is only as accurate as the data entered by agents. Many time agents make an initial data entry error on price. As is very obvious in the choices that you selected to post urls for. A simple extra zero that gets edited out by an agent during the data entry process can show as a major price reduction. If 300 of these error existed that would equal to about a 1% error rate in the data entry. If that is all of the issues I would say it is pretty good for a group who are not professionals at data entry. With that said I would really like to see greater access in the feed recieved from HAR. ERA Silver Star Realty is in a position where it is difficult to control the quality of the feed but at the same rate wants to make the home buying experience as transparent as possible.

    The brokerage will be rolling out another existing web script in the very near future that will allow for a nearly instant CMA of sorts that does not require one to speak to someone to recieve. It will plot the solds and actives immediatly around an address. Giving a savy individual the ammo they need to have an idea of where there home is likely to sell.

    The last web tool will hold graphs of the sales activity at the level of neighborhoods and zip codes. We would love to get an ear full on what the educated readers here would like to see, so please don’t hold your comments back.

  • @James Wheelock – It would depend what you planned to do with the registration information. A large notice saying you wouldn’t use it to contact me might entice me to register, but I’d probably still use BugMeNot or something similar.

  • @Ian – Thanks for responding. We have to keep accurate information to be allowed to present the solds. If we do not then HAR will yank our licensing to use the data. I would at least have to contact you once to assure that it was actual contact information. I for one hate spam and so can understand your not wanting to be bothered. With what I have said would we be better off keeping the two of them seperate?

  • @James Wheelock – I’m currently looking to make an offer on a house, and am forced to rely on my realtor for recent sales info.. that being said, I would definitely be willing to register for this functionality and I believe others would be as well.

  • @NolaNative – We will likely add the solds to the IDX here shortly if people will help us stay compliant by registering with their actual information allowing us to keep the records we need to have. I will discuss the feed back I have gotten here with my broker.

    If you would like to check on real sold data you can do so via the link below.


  • Hi James – I think handling registration is not hard.

    Ask people for the info. Do a double opt in, where if I register, you immediately send an email asking me to confirm with a link to do so, and once I click that, I’m registered.

    Then offer an easy to use preferences setting where I can tell you whether it’s okay to send me other kinds of email – AND HONOR IT. Also include language assuring me that you will not give 3rd parties my info, make it so I have to opt in to allow you to do that – AND HONOR IT.

    These are standard online marketing practices, though many sites do not follow them well. But if you do that, you will get a reputation for being a safe place to leave contact info.

    I love what you’re done – I hate how much information is hidden from non-realtors on HAR, and your interface is so much better (with HAR, it’s constant clicking back and forth, logging in over and over, etc).

    If you offered data on recent sales I’d register in a heartbeat.

  • @John – I appreciate the feedback and I think your suggestions are excellent I will discuss them with the programmers and see where we would be along cost and then make my suggestion to the broker. I look forward to earning the opportunity to correspond with you in the future.


  • HAR is following TREC guidelines by not publishing all listing information for the general public to see. For instance;

    -Days on Market (could weaken the seller’s negotiating position)

    -Agent Remarks (‘seller works swing shift and sleeps during the day, please do not open back bedroom door when showing’)

    As a seller, you have the right to know that certain information is only being shared for qualified buyers.

    One commenter said he/she is ‘forced to rely on my realtor for recent sales info…’ My question is, what’s wrong with that? If you’re working with an agent you trust, he or she will certainly know how to find comparable sold properties to present to you when it’s time to determine the value of the home.

    I am not saying that I disagree with other websites that attempt to provide the consumer with more information. I myself am someone who does lots of research prior to making any major purchases. However, it is important to keep in mind that the data is subject to interpretation, and that sellers have rights, too.

  • looks like a pretty cool little tool. I’m actually pretty surprised that HAR allowed it.

    “And it identifies and lets you search for “pre-foreclosures,” using a proprietary algorithm Diverse Solutions claims is more than 99 percent accurate”

    One thing I noticed here was this tool just identifies properties tagged as “short sales”. It doesn’t seem to find all of them though. Am I missing something here?

  • @diggity – You are almost right. There is no field in the MLS data base for short sales. It sometimes gets mentioned in the public comments but more frequently gets noted in the agent’s comments. The tagging on the search tool is placed there thanks to the algorithm sifting through the comment sections as well as the attached media.