We know from marketing studies that more buyers and sellers of homes are heading towards the internet for examining their real estate needs. As shown by by the jozsoft blog, brokerages are not doing a good job at their own marketing efforts on the web, which has allowed sites like Trulia, Zillow, and Zoomf to come onto the marketplace to fulfill a need. However, if a startup could leverage the technology of a larger search engine, would these sites be effected?
I like to follow the developments of how the real estate industry interacts with the consumer on the internet, because I think that this medium has the power to change the way real estate functions. When Yahoo announced that they would allow webmasters to create search sites on their platform, I was intrigued. I went to one of my favorite blogs about alt search engines to read of this development. If you are interested in how internet search is developing, you have to be reading altsearchengines. I frequently read, but I never comment. With the above post though, I was curious about how such an event in search might effect those (specifically in real estate) in creating new ways to find information in niche areas, so I left a comment.
Charles Knight was kind enough to respond, suggesting that I present my question to those sites themselves to see what they think. No one has responded to me as of yet, but I began to look at what they were doing, and how they could be effected. First, it is incredibly easy with open source software to put the elements together for a site which could compete with these sites. For a means of creating listings, I can take a program like the one from OpenRealty.org. To allow forums, I can place either phpBB or Yabb (I just installed phpBB, because I think that an inexperienced person like me can eventually master it). There are open source wikis, but I am using the WordPress platform for my blog, which creates an environment that I like for presenting information to the consumer. With a little knowledge of HTML and StarOffice( but I could use OpenOffice), I can create some decent pages. To complete the picture, I could go to Yahoo for their search technology.
All of this will not allow me to effectively compete with a site like Trulia though. I have to first know how to make these pieces work together, while using effective SEO to draw visitors in. The real advantage of these other sites is reflected in a recent press release from Zillow. They are creating a committee of industry heavy weights to help guide their development. The connections that such sites have position them to remain competitive against a determined beginner. Many in the real estate industry do not like Trulia and Zillow for various reasons, but these sites do rely on the industry to help provide a space that consumers enjoy. Sites like Roost and DotHomes have not allowed the consumer to find all the information that they need (although, DotHomes may add such interaction to occur- this from when I spoke to one of the founders). This may give a new site a way to create an even more specific niche (lets say Houston Real Estate). There are sites that already do this, but if someone came from the RE industry, they may have a better understanding of what the consumer needs, so they could create a better site.
Just to see where I could take this site, I wish to add more of these pieces here to comprehend how this can benefit the consumer. I think that if an industry professional from real estate and internet marketing came together, they could create a place on the web to serve the consumer well, but it may not be profitable. If we focused only on Houston real estate, how many searches could we really hope to garner. With around five thousand home sales in the city last month, there was about 1000 searches relating to the real estate market here. Yahoo’s offer would be helpful to them; however it may not be the most profitable for those who adapt it. It may be, but in my imagined scenario, it would be more for a person with a vested interest than for a new business model. You can always weigh in with your thoughts; I would be interested to hear them.
In the end, I think Redfin presents the most likely candidate to change the real estate industry. The search engines will continue to prosper because of what they provide to the consumer, but Redfin’s model goes to the core of how the sale of a home should be done.