Knowing when NOT to reinvent the wheel, and when to build a hovercraft

 September 25, 2015


As is common among software developers, I’m an unabashed technology nerd — I love new and exciting things on the merits of their creativity, ingenuity, and enterprise alone. However, I’m also a technology pragmatist, and I place great value in making sure the things I use and make get the job done as cleanly and efficiently as possible — something that seems distressingly less common among many of my fellows, not to mention the multitude of hopeful companies that come and go in our industry year after year.

One of the reasons iHOUSEweb has kept me happy and engaged as an employee for over a decade is that the company shares my interest in constantly searching for the intersection of innovation and pragmatism.  Our collective goal is to make sure our products are as bleeding edge as possible while remaining the right tools for the job when it comes to building an internet presence as a real estate professional.  It’s not an easy task, of course, but the challenge of continuing to meet that goal in the ever changing landscape of web design and development never gets boring.

And of course a key component of making sure we are providing the best tools for the job to our customers is make sure we are using the best tools for our job. Two examples of what I mean:

1. Building custom hosting platforms, code frameworks, and core applications

Many of our competitors build their core products on top of off the shelf solutions, such as WordPress blogging software. On the surface, it seems like an acceptable choice: WordPress is an excellent piece of software, software I personally use and recommend — when I’m making a blog.  But the business demands of a fully featured real estate website are far broader than can be suitably handled by slapping a theme on top of boilerplate HTML and haphazardly bolting on a few custom plugins to attempt to provide important features unique to the real estate business, such as IDX search integration.

Our many long years of experience constantly iterating and improving on our products have proven time and again that when it comes to the core product, getting our hands dirty and building the full stack ourselves is the right choice if we want to be able to meet the specialized needs of our customers. As those needs change along with the ever shifting nature of internet technology and best practices, we’re able to respond quickly and efficiently to improve our product precisely where it’s needed.  Whether it’s a matter of upgrading our network infrastructure, updating our approach to MLS data acquisition, or simply making small tweaks to front-end markup to match the latest standards in search engine optimization, we have the tools and access we need because we’ve built them from the ground up.

And speaking of MLS data, we know that interactions with the listing databases maintained by your MLS are the lifeblood of your business, so we make them the lifeblood of your website as well.  It’s as simple as that. If we weren’t the industry leader in IDX services — covering well over 500 MLSs nationwide, and growing every day — and if those services weren’t intimately tied to every aspect of our product, we wouldn’t be the right tool for you.

2. Making smart choices for integrations and partnerships where appropriate

Of course, that’s not to say we insist on rebuilding the wheel when it isn’t called for. While we proudly design our core application in house, when a new innovation comes along that makes sense as an enhancement to what we already do well ourselves, we use it. For instance, recent years have seen an explosion in the world of redundant, high availability distributed data storage and processing through providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, and we make active use of these technologies to improve our already stellar custom hosting platform.

Perhaps the best example of this is our recent move to offering Google Cloud email services. Our excellent legacy email services already represented a rare and valuable feature in the world of real estate web solutions, but the chance to provide our customers with not only literally the best email service on the planet but also the bevy of other enterprise grade business tools included in Google Cloud was one we couldn’t pass up.  Making the transition has required a great investment on our part, but our commitment to making sure we’re both using and providing the best tools available made it a simple choice.


Any fly by night operation can throw a superficial skin on top of someone else’s code and make an eye catching website.  But our strong institutional focus on balancing innovation with pragmatism combined with our overabundance of knowledge and experience in both the worlds of technology and real estate are the reason why we’ve been an industry leader since the inception of the world wide web. Our products and services won’t just be modern, beautiful, and functional the day you sign up with us — they’ll stay that way year after year.


Ethan Knoop

By Ethan Knoop

Ethan has been a software engineer for iHOUSEweb since 2004. As a developer he strives to ensure that our products are as modern and forward thinking as possible while balancing the day to day technology needs of our customers. Ethan has a BS in Computer Science from University of California, Davis.