I said that I would try to record some thoughts on the evolution and development of www.placescompared.com. In 2007 our daughter Marianne, then a senior at Boston University, spent a working summer vacation and the fall academic semester in London. Between visiting Marianne and an effort (ultimately unsuccessful) to buy a London-based software company, I traveled to London probably 3 or 4 times that year. One of the changes that struck me was how much media exposure was given to buying properties overseas. The quality newspapers, TV and radio all had regular and well supported (in terms of advertising) coverage of the trials, tribulations and pleasures of owning second or retirement homes abroad. And in this context, abroad was an expanding concept. In addition to perennial favorites - France, Spain, Florida - people were looking at Croatia, Romania, southern Italy.
Several of our UK friends had already taken the plunge, having bought properties in France, Italy, Australia, Madeira ... it seemed that everyone was jumping on the bandwagon.
For several years my wife Sheila and I had been thinking loosely about what we might do in the coming retirement years, with France and Italy favorite destinations - at least in the 'what if?' stakes.
My own researches led me to the view that while there was a huge amount of useful material available online, it was hit and miss in terms of coverage; widely dispersed and often, reasonably enough, in the local language which generally stretched my limited linguistic skills to breaking point. By late summer 2007 I had started to sketch out in my mind a web site that would pull together information from people who had already taken the plunge and who would be wiling to share their experience with those of us still at the planning stage.
There is a huge difference between product development while working in a software company and product development when you are running another business, trying to buy a business 3,000 miles away and fitting in time to conceive, design and develop a moderately complex web site. It took me until March of 2008 to get matters to the point where I could usefully turn over my high level specification to a company of professional developers here in Maryland to produce a detailed functional spec which could be used to get some quotes for writing the code.
In June, thanks to an introduction by a friend in the UK I made contact with a UK/Indian offshore development company, Damco Solutions, and within a few weeks the project was underway.
My next posting will cover the actual development process itself - another learning experience!
Now it won't have escaped your attention that in the year or so from initial concept to first code writing, the economic environment in general, and the property market in particular had ... well you know. However I reasoned (or rationalized!) that economic cycles are just that, cycles and one day or another matters will improve and the forces that drove demand for overseas property will re-emerge and I would have just the resource that would be called for.
What those forces are exactly will be the subject of a future blog as will my idea on how to motivate contributors who might be a little more economically aware today than say two years ago.