Prime Positioning

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Written by Nathan Stubbs

Van Eaton & Romero hopes its new location-based website will help usher in the future of real estate shopping.


It’s the old mantra in the real estate business: location, location, location. At Van Eaton & Romero, the old adage is getting a 21st century re-application, as Acadiana’s largest independent real estate firm prepares to launch a new location-based website to help revolutionize the way people shop for new homes.

The new site, launched Wednesday, Aug. 25, at vaneatonromero.com, is tailored toward mobile smart phones and iPad-like devices, all of which now come with a built-in GPS identifying a user’s location. Van Eaton’s new site will instantly map the user’s location, pinpointing all the listed homes in the surrounding area. Users can navigate through a street grid map, overhead satellite photos or through a street map-photo hybrid function. A column alongside lists the homes and their prices, which users can then click on to pull up photos, virtual tours and other information. Users can also filter their GPS searches by list price, square footage, acreage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

The site follows some national trends taking hold in real estate. Recently, iPhone applications such as the Complete Realty Apps — which provide listings for home sales, rentals and foreclosures, sorted via GPS map and other filters — have been among Apple’s most downloaded apps (other apps promise to show the last sale price of any given property location). The Van Eaton site guarantees to show all the listings in the Acadiana Multiple Listings Service, or MLS, and Van Eaton also plans to expand the site to give the user a more complete, localized experience — identifying points of interest such as parks, entertainment and shopping areas, as well as overlaying school districts and other local maps.

Van Eaton CEO Bill Bacqué got the idea for the new site while attending the annual Gathering of the Eagles real estate conference put on by industry magazine Real Trends. All the buzz at the conference, held in May in Dallas, was over the iPad and the exponential growth of mobile Internet users (experts estimate that by 2012, more people will be accessing the Internet through mobile devices than traditional PCs). The conference also focused on the GPS applications inherent with these mobile devices, and what that means for real estate. The idea is that someone driving through a neighborhood who sees a home he likes should be able to pull out his smart phone, pull up his exact location, and see all the info on the house and other comparables in the immediate area. Users can also program in neighborhoods they like to get notified when new listings in the area come on the market and share listing info and photos with friends.

“It was really one of those presentations where you get kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment,’” Bacque says. “And when I saw that I said, ‘You know what, that’s really where we need to expand in our Web services. I believe over time that is going to be the game-changer [for real estate].”

“Location-centric is I think where a lot of people want to be going with their Web applications,” says Chad Theriot, president of CBM Technologies in Breaux Bridge, which developed the site. “That’s what Van Eaton’s trying to invest in.” Theriot adds the site is ideal for users with larger iPad-like devices that offer a bigger screen with more pristine images. For mobile users, the site can pinpoint any location within the entire six-parish MLS region serviced by Van Eaton. For users not logging on from a device with a GPS, the site will assume Lafayette.

“From a technology point of view,” Theriot says, “I think that the main thing is that Van Eaton is giving people access to information the way they want it. They’re trying to get into the kind of network young people are into and using more and more.”
— Nathan Stubbs


New owners bringing IceGators back to Cajundome

Chuck Anselmo Jr. and Chuck Anselmo III are the new owners of the Louisiana IceGators, and the father-son team is bringing the hockey franchise back to the Cajundome. On Aug. 16 the Cajundome Commission approved a two-year lease agreement with the IceGators. The deal requires the Cajundome to spend an estimated $324,000 on equipment and also includes several safeguards for the facility, such as a $125,000 deposit and an option to cancel the contract if attendance drops too low.

After drawing record crowds in the 1990s, the IceGators folded in 2004 due to mounting losses and dwindling attendance. Last year, bar owner Danny Smith revived the team, which played its home games in Blackham Coliseum. In May, Smith told ABiz the team lost money in its inaugural year, but with an improved roster and the return of General Manager Dave Berryman, he was optimistic looking ahead to the 2010-2011 season.

Smith did not return a phone call seeking comment on his sale of the franchise.
The new owners appear to be newcomers to the sports business, but have retained Berryman as GM. About the team’s return to the dome, Anselmo Jr. tells The Advocate: “Down here, if you’ve got beer and contact sports, you’ve got a success.”
Chuck Anselmo is listed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office as president and director of The North Ridge Estates Owners Association Inc. in Carencro. Charles Anselmo III is listed as manager of All States Roofing Systems LLC of Lafayette.

The IceGators are expected to drop the puck on the new season in late October. For more information, check the team’s website at www.icegators.com.
— Nathan Stubbs

BP cases consolidate in Big Easy

On Aug. 10 U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans was selected to preside over the more than 300 lawsuits filed against BP and other companies as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. An order issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential “tag-along” actions are being transferred to Barbier’s court. The New Orleans federal court is the best place for the litigation because southeast Louisiana is the “geographic and psychological ‘center of gravity’” for the cases, according to the order.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell also made the case for consolidation in New Orleans, the Eastern District of Louisiana. The lawsuits include the personal injury/wrongful death actions, 1990 Oil Pollution Act cases and claims, and the limitation of liability action filed by Transocean.
 
“The impacts from this catastrophe are, and will continue to be, most keenly felt by Louisiana’s citizens, including the families of those Louisiana offshore workers who lost their lives in the explosion; those who were injured; the fishermen and their families who depend on Louisiana’s natural resources for a living; the citizens who live and work along the Louisiana coastline, which is already fragile and disappearing at alarming rates,” Caldwell says.

Opelousas attorney Patrick Morrow argued in front of the MDL panel on July 29 in favor of consolidating the suits in Lafayette. BP wanted the cases heard in Houston, but the U.S. Justice Department and Gulf of Mexico plaintiffs, including property owners, restaurateurs and fishermen, all hoped to see the cases play out in New Orleans federal court. Morrow said Lafayette would have been a good compromise venue.
— Leslie Turk

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