Internet entrepeneur expects mountainestates.com to click as Web-based marketing tool
Post Independent Staff
A new business in Glenwood Springs combines technology and real estate professionals in a dot.com company that its founder expects to corner the market in mountain resorts. It’s called mountainestates.com.
Its storefront location at 716 Grand Ave. has the feel of an old-style business where people can drop in and browse. But once through the door, it’s a different matter.
Mark Hall, who started his real estate technology business in 1998 in Steamboat Springs, has installed state-of-the-art computer hardware in the office to support his Web-based business to create a marketing vehicle for real estate.
A large, wireless flat screen monitor in the front window scrolls through the properties listed on the company’s Internet site. Inside in the well-appointed conference room, an even larger screen displays a sophisticated “virtual reality” tour of a proposed housing development.
Hall offers sophisticated Web sites that showcase home properties and open land, with 360-degree views. He is also allied with a Canadian firm, Alpha Vision, that creates three-dimensional animation of housing developments still on the drawing board.
The idea behind the business is to offer property sellers what amounts to “an in-house media team, but it’s an out-source solution,” Hall said.
Instead of static architectural renderings, the animated presentation places prospective buyers in the picture, and allows the viewer to walk around and feel the ambiance.
He takes pictures of properties with a state-of-the-art, 360-degree digital camera. For open land Hall uses a camera mounted on a 40-foot tripod that gives a more global view than the usual still photograph.
“We’ve already gotten some strong interest, but it’s very expensive,” Hall said. A four-minute presentation runs about $50,000.
What Hall is after is not high-end marketing of bricks, mortar and sod, but lifestyle.
“Emotion sells,” he said. “Lifestyle can be shown in a virtual environment.”
With the present economic climate, creative sell is important.
“In the late ’90s we did pre-sells and had fancy sell centers, but not now,” he said. “Lifestyle is really what sells.”
“What drives the market is the expectation of buyers. When they see it they will want it,” he added.
He also wanted his dot.com business rooted in the real estate profession.
“I wanted a team of real estate professionals, and to be the go-to person” for all Realtors in the valley, he said. “We offer a full-service real estate office.”
Hall brought in broker Donna Fell, who has been selling and listing real estate in the valley for 18 years. Fell calls it the real estate office of the new millennium. “It’s cutting edge with its positioning. I love this opportunity,” she said.
A second broker is slated to come on board at the end of the month.
Fell’s Web site lists all the properties she’s offering for sale. A prospective buyer can go to the site, click on a specific property and see it room by room from every angle. The page also includes floor plans, brief descriptions of the listing and price.
For most computer owners, uploading the showcase pages will take about 20 seconds, Hall said.
Hall, who grew up in Provo, Utah, graduated in 1998 from Denver University with a degree in real estate finance. He moved after college to Steamboat Springs, where he set up steamboatestates.com.
“I tailored it to mountain resorts,” he said, where homes “have more distinctive features” and people buy because they are primarily interested in mountain living.
While selling fractional ownerships in ski area condos, he developed Web sites. Real estate people soon flocked to him for Internet support. But it was slow going at first.
“The Internet took off in ’96, but it didn’t dawn on real estate to have Web sites to market” their properties, Hall said.
As the concept took hold, Hall bought a wrap-around camera and started taking pictures for Web-based showcases of homes and property.
“That’s what launched me,” he said.
Hall moved to Glenwood Springs because it is a hub of Colorado mountain resorts, strategically located between Vail and Aspen.
“I wanted to expand my business and be between Aspen and Vail so I can be a central source, and developers and builders and Realtors can travel here.”
Hall plans an open house March 28, and invites people to come in and “see how a real estate company operates using this technology,” Hall said.
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