An interview with Curbplaces.com

CurbPlaces.com is an entry into the Charlottesville/Albemarle (CharlAlbemarle) real estate search market. To my knowledge, they are the only local search site in town other than our local gorilla, mycaar, which has proven to be an addictive site visited by voyeurs, active buyers and sellers and homeowners checking in to see how their property’s value is doing.  Much like The Hook and C-Ville don’t compete directly with the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post, CurbPlaces may not be competing with Trulia, Zillow, et al. Daniel Strickland, the founder and president of the company, was gracious enough to answer a few questions.

Q: Who are you?  What is your position in the company?

A: My name is Daniel Strickland.  I’m currently the President / Founder of Cloudbrain, a web development company I started in 2003 after leaving UVA (I was a Computer Science major).  Right now there are four of us in the company and we work out of an office on Water St.

Q: What is CurbPlaces.com?

A: CurbPlaces.com is a website for exploring real estate in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Q: What inspired you to start a local real estate search site?

A: Several things.  I love Charlottesville and I’ve always wanted to build a Charlottesville-focused website.  There has been a lot of innovation in the last year or so in mapping and data “mashups”.  A real estate site for Charlottesville seemed like a natural fit and a fun project.  It also made sense to base a local website on the smallest unit of locality (your house).  Several months ago I was helping an out-of-town friend who was thinking of moving here search online for real estate.  That was painful process and pretty much what got me motived to start working on CurbPlaces.

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Q: What brought you to the area? How long have you been here?

A: I came Charlottesville as a UVA first year in 1998.  I’ve been here ever since.

Q: What do you envision the site looking like in six months?

A: The hope is that CurbPlaces.com will be the premier website for exploring local real estate information.  I’d also like to expand beyond real-estate to other location-specifc services ( i.e. services that would work well with maps).

Q: Who is your audience?

A: Anyone interested in residential Charlottesville / Albemarle real estate.

Q: Are you going to focus solely on Charlottesville/Albemarle or will you seek to expand to the greater Central Virginia region?

A: The goal is to build the best site for Charlottesville that we can.  There are no plans to expand to other areas right now.  A lot of websites make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people and that just doesn’t work.  There is a lot of room to grow and innovate within this market and that is the plan.

Q: Do you have anybody with real estate experience on staff or with whom you consult? Why or why not?

A: We don’t, simply because we are too small of a company right now.  I have several friends that are agents and I pick their brain on the industry.  My real estate experience is limited to purchasing a home (and I’m not even sure how I accomplished that).  When I explain the CurbPlaces idea to people, a lot of them start talking about how the Internet is going to replace real estate agents, but that is not how I feel at all.  I very much see CurbPlaces as a partner or complement to agents.  Purchasing a home is a huge deal and I wouldn’t recommend replacing a professional with a website any more than I’d recommend consulting Wikipedia instead of a lawyer before your big court case.    CurbPlaces‘ goal is to connect people with neighborhood and street-level information.  When it comes time to buy or sell, get an agent.  That being said, if there are any tech-savvy agents that are interested in talking to us, we’d love to talk to you.

Q: What would you be able to offer these agents? What could they offer you?

A: We bring  lot of technical expertise and Internet-know-how to the table.  We’d be interested in talking to agents with an understanding of the market (the needs of agents, buyers, sellers).  That is just a starting point.  Like I said, right now I’m interested in talking.  This is very new and we are still exploring the different directions we can take CurbPlaces.

Q: What do you want to tell people about your site?

A: The website is CurbPlaces.com.  Please visit it, use it and email us with suggestions, comments or criticism.  And tell a friend.

Q: Are there any sites that you seek to emulate or learn from?

A: I’m NOT a fan of the big Real Estate 2.0 players: zillow, housevalues, redfin etc.  For a lot of reasons, but mostly because they come across as too impersonal and corporate.  Blogs are great and I look at a lot of the fun and successful blog sites and platforms for inspiration.  I like the connected-ness of it all and that’s something I would like to bring to CurbPlaces.  Flickr and FaceBook are great examples of information-heavy websites done well.  They are also just plain useful and fun.

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