The Archipod — a totally slick idea! I want one!
This interview by Global Property exchange with Simon Baker, who just so happens to be the CEO of News Corporation-owned REA Group, features a few choice quotes about web2.0 start-ups in the real estate space. Here are the two comments that stuck out for me:
“You don’t have to look sexy to deliver.”
“Sites like Zillow.com get a lot of press and they look great but will they deliver? … I doubt whether they do more than US$3 million a year compared to Realtor.com’s US$300 million”
“Outside of Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, my advice [to would-be real estate portals] would be, keep your money. In fact, if you were given £20 million to start a new real estate portal, the best thing to do would be to [not to start the portal at all and] set up a consultancy to take the money from them.”
Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH
So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.
I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.
All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.
Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.
Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:
- Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Trulia, Rain City Guide, RealCentralVA, Amazon, Netflix, del.icio.us, Firefox, Zillow API, MySpace, LinkedIn, Altos Research, Property Shark, Market Snapshot, Homethinking, Redfin, Realtor.com, Zillow, Google PageRank
Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients
- MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Inman News Community, Zillow Discussions, Trulia Voices, ActiveRain, Google Reader (feed reader), AnnaLuther.com (RSS feed of listings), Mobile Reader
Using Blogs to Build Communities
- WordPress.com, Top Producer Blogs, Yahoo Mail, moving to seattle post, Real Estate Tomato, RealCentralVA, 4realz.net, Notorious Rob, Grow-a-Brain, Northern Virginia RE Guide, Altos Research blog, NELA Live, REagent in CT, St Paul Minnesota, FOREM, Blog Calabasas
I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…
And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!
I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!
…the “walk” in walkable.
The reality is that people who cannot walk often prefer walkable neighborhoods because they are more likely to feature handicap-friendly facilities (such as sidewalks, ramps, and crosswalks) than suburban or rural locations. In other words, just saying that an area is a walkable neighborhood or walkable city doesn’t imply that it is not appropriate for a subset of the population.
I’m somewhat of a night owl, so I thought I’d have no problem waiting out the U.S. launch of the UK site DotHomes. But it is getting pretty late and the U.S. version of the site still hasn’t gone live. 🙁
However, TechCrunchUK published their story (with the not so promising comment: “The question, is will the US – packed to the gunnels with property search engines and in a sub-prime slump – actually notice?“), so I thought I’d give my analysis based on what I learned from a good, long conversation with one of their co-founders, their press release and a bit of playing on their UK site.
Let’s start with the good stuff:
- They have slick crawling technology that does a great job indexing home listings from a variety of listing sites
- They have a well developed one-box search that allows for all kinds of inputs and actually delivers decent results
- They have a healthy sense of flair as demonstrated by their “I’m feeling wealthy” button
Whereas the recently released search site Roost.com appears to be going for the “kayak of real estate”, DotHomes is clearly going after the “google of real estate”. Like Google, they display only the teaser information on listings before sending you back to the original source (the crawled website) for more information. So far, so good!
However, I’m a bit skeptical this site will generate much interest or buzz in the U.S. for a number of reasons (none of which are fatal, but…):
- DotHomes is following less than a week after the release of the Roost.com site, which got some great buzz around the RE.net for having a listings aggregation approach that made sense (i.e. get all the MLS listings!).
- Besides entering a crowded space, DotHomes is also opting for a crawl approach to get listings, which will never compete in either comprehensiveness or timeliness with direct MLS feeds.(although it does allow for more freedom to add other listing types).
- And finally, I didn’t get the impression that the DotHomes team really understood oddities of the existing US real estate market. Some of the background material they presented made me think they hadn’t really done their homework in terms of really understanding the complex dance of agents, brokers, brokerages and MLS organizations that allow listings to get placed on the internet in the first place.
With all that said, I’ve been following the cofounders of this site for quite some time (including back when the site was called Extate.com). Artemi Krymski and Douglas de Jager are extremely smart guys and I’m sure that after they get some U.S. experience with this launch, they’ll regroup, adjust their tactics a bit and continue to produce interesting products that will keep us talking.
Roost.com is a real estate start-up that just launched their real estate search site….
During my conversation with Alex Chang (their CEO), he mentioned multiple times the similarities between Roost and Kayak… And I think it is safe to say that they would like to be the Kayak of real estate which would not be so bad considering Kayak’s success (and Eric at TechCrunch notes that Roost even shares a few board members Kayak. I believe they also share major investors…).
Like Kayak, Roost has:
- Clean “web2.0” interface.
- AJAX “magic” that allows for listings to dynamically change as option boxes and sliders are changed.
- A CPC business model that charges the brokers/airlines for hits that go back to their website.
There’s also some real estate-specific goodies, like the photos that open up “inline” and the ability to highlight only specific listings (to be mapped).
However, the real gold is that by teaming up with brokers to display their IDX feed they are able to display complete MLS listings. (The RE/MAX search site provided by eNeighborhoods does something similar, but without all the bells-and-whistles of Roost)
And while Greg is right to highlight the irony of Brokers paying Roost to send leads back to them, he’s also right to point out that “The IDX systems available at a monthly cost in many markets are so poor that Roost may prove to be a potent weapon in a broker’s arsenal.” My take is that if Roost can deliver consumers, then brokers will be happy to pay on a CPC basis… and the reality is that it only takes one broker to give their IDX to Roost for them to enter a new market, so they should be able to expand pretty quickly.
As a side note, I’ve always thought that this approach to getting listings for a real estate tech start-up makes the most sense… and I remember suggesting to Sami that Trulia should take this approach as oppose to going broker-by-broker at our coffee session in Seattle a few years ago. (I don’t care much for the CPC monetization strategy, but in terms of getting listings, it seems like a no-brainer to give a little bit to a local brokers in each market to get their listings.). However, I can’t blame Sami for not wanting to go down this route since the various MLS’ would have put so many restrictions around what Trulia could do that they’d never been able to release some of the things that they’ve done (like mixing MLS listings with foreclosure listings and opening up an API into their listing information).
Overall, I’d say that the Roost team has done a really good job with this first release! It’s a quality product that delivers as promised.
If I have one knock on the site it has nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with marketing. I simply don’t think the site is different enough from existing search sites to warrant continued buzz. I think they’ll get some great initial pick-up (considering it is a slick site with smart founders and investors), but unless they continue to deliver new features/announcements at a breakneck pace, I’m not sure how they keep people outside of the RE.net talking about the site beyond the next week or so.
(some names left anonymous to protect the innocent)
- There’s a hell of a lot of VC money floating around this industry. I was surprised at how many people there were with lots of VC funding. Joel seemed to notice the same thing: “a whole new crop of real estate search sites that are going to be hitting the market”
- Reporter from the REALTOR Magazine was in the audience of our presentation. (thanks to Ines for pointing out the story: NAR is opening their eyes to blogging.)
- Zillow dropped their beta tag.
- Zillow’s big press release (picked up by many others) was a case of “make-news”. I’d be worried for their business if they weren’t making the improvements they announced (adding more listings, improving the quality of Zestimates, dropping beta, etc.). Joel doesn’t write much about of the improvements, while Greg quotes it extensively and seems to gush about their RETS announcement, which even the Zillow team pulls back from in the comments.
- Trulia was profitable for at least one month last year expects to be profitable at some point this year.
- According to comScore, Trulia had more traffic than Zillow in December! (Congrats Mike on the awesome prediction)
- comScrore and Hitwise are measuring traffic on two different internets. (Hitwise shows Trulia with 1.45% of category traffic and Zillow with 2.28%).
- Also interesting from the Hitwise report is that Move.com moved from #2 to #5, while RE/Max moved from #2 to #5. That’s big enough news where I would have expected to see a Press Release. Realtor.com at #1 and Move.com at #2 is huge for Move, Inc., even if it is only for December. (Oddly, I’m getting all the Hitwise numbers for December from an Inman Blog article on my feedreader. The actually article was removed from their site for some reason, so maybe the numbers are butchered!)
- Vast.com acquired Adaptive Real Estate Services (ARES). (That answers one question, although it does not give me any confidence that Vast.com has thought out their listing content acquisition strategy)
- Lots of neighborhood projects coming out. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice to anyone looking to build a successful social network in this space. If you really want consumer adoption, you’ve got to have a clear answer to this question: “What’s the consumer benefit?” So, so, so many of the “social networks” I saw this week were focused around real estate professionals. ActiveRain was an anomaly. Be able to explain your consumer proposition clearly, or don’t expect success.
- With that said, VillageMaker from RealProSystems will likely be a success… in that agents will the product, not in the sense that consumers will use it. This is the ultimate social network with the real estate professional at the center of the transaction in that a real estate agents must invite consumers to this platform. Sounds great, except it won’t work for all but a few agents.
- I am now the owner of “all the marbles”.
- Google staff really don’t like it when you take pictures inside their offices. (Jay noticed this too!)
- Saul Kline is still the same great guy even after becoming CEO of Point2. (Frances has photos). His stated approach for moving Point2 forward is sound, although I’ll let him explain that approach when he’s ready.
- Lots of start-ups are twisting and turning to think how they an make their products more REALTOR friendly in the hopes of catching some Second Century funding! Mark Lesswing is a popular man at these conferences.
- I was surprised how many tech start ups get funding with only the roughest plans to get listings. Teresa gets that this is a mistake!
- Trulia launched their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly because nobody in the online real estate space has enough market penetration to think there are a finite number of users for their services. Trulia needs more listings. If this helps convince more brokers that they need to send their feeds to Trulia, then it is a good move. (Joel has an example of what the branded service looks like on FOREM)
- I really liked one startup and can’t wait until they launch in a little bit because I want to see how they market themselves. The product is an (solid) incremental improvement on search, but I don’t think it is enough of an improvement to go viral on its own.
- The beer for bloggers event is a great way to start off a conference. (photos on the Zillowblog and Sellsius).
- Teresa has some great photos from the week, including this action shot of me. Dito for Jeff.
- The WellcomeMat boys are quite the fun crowd. I really want to see them succeed because the technology is top-notch. Next step for them is figuring out a way so that their users don’t have to do their own marketing. If uploaded listing videos were getting hundreds (or even dozens), I think they’d be well on-their-way to being a a must-have product for most agents.
- I’m more bullish after RE Connect on Altos Research.
- Drew found a way to work at RE Connect. I’m not sure how he pulled it off.
- Professor Nouriel Roubini didn’t show up to RE Connect with the idea of making a lot of friends. He was consistently vocal in his belief that the downside to this market is going to be HUGE. He made Noah look like a moderate! (Here’s the video!)
- While I didn’t plan to go to many of the sessions, I surprised myself by going to only one session (see previous comment).
- I LOVE NYC.
- While I enjoy writing the occasional update, I’m simply not a good twitterer. On the other hand, Daniel is the twitter man.
- Apparently, there is a $15B dollar opportunity in the online real estate space since I heard multiple people throw that number around.
- Rumor has it that Cyberhomes is going to spend a LOT of money on advertising this year in order to reach out to consumers. This is a change from my take on their original approach in that they were going to focus on reaching out to agents by offering them a “white-label Zillow”. I like Marty Frame a lot, but I don’t think ads will do the trick. I hope they have one-more thing up their sleeve.
- Kris Berg is always lovely. Offline or online, she is one of my favorite people in the RE.net.
- Jay Thompson is another one that I found to be just as great in person. Networking with people like him is the reason to travel to NYC.
- The business mind of Damen Pace doesn’t stop moving.
- Rudy has some mad video editing skills.
- Daniel is the video man! It’s obvious he loves this stuff.
- As one would expect, Lockhart is quickly growing his team at Curbed and it was a lot of fun to meet them at the NYT party. From what I saw, Lockhart tried to dampen expansion rumors. He would only talk about Chicago at this point.
- BofA bought Countrywide. Lots of commentary on Jillayne’s post on RCG and Brian Brady’s post on Bloodhound.
- Redfin’s PR about returning $10M to consumers didn’t do much for me. I’ll be more interested to find out when they start making business model changes in order to get profitable.
- People have begun calling Rain City Guide “Ardell’s Blog” behind my back! LOL!
- Inman will soon be launching a new website with new features and a new design.
- Up Yours! Video TV war! Intothebox.tv rips on BrokerIPtv.com (around second 40). Not to take sides, but I was interviewed by the BrokeIPtv team at RE connect, and will be interested to see what comes out of that. On the other side, Rachel of Intothebox is oddly interesting… In watching, I just keep waiting for something to fall or break.
- I could never repeat linkation too many times. I keep repeating myself and people continue to act like it is new information. Please tell me if and when I need to stop with the linkation bit. 🙂
- ActiveRain introduced a few new people from their team. Rumor was that they have some funding that they will announce soon.
- Brendan King and other ex-Point2 folks were passing out business cards with the company name VendAsta. My guess is that the name is only temporary.
- Greg Tracy has branched out the BlueRoof brand to start doing consulting and website building for other real estate professionals. He “gets it”, so I can only imagine further success ahead.
- I really do enjoy just about everyone in the RE.net and real estate tech communities. 2008 is going to be fun!
Phew! Now I think I’m caught up so that I can get back to regular updates!
“Error Number : 311 Printer is in use or an error has occurred. If an error has occurred, eliminate the cause of the error.”
After getting this dumb error, I did all obvious things, restarted the computer, restarted the printer, upgraded the drives, searched, and found others who’ve gotten the same error, all without success.
Finally, after even more playing around, I think I’ve hit upon the issue that I have a “print head error” that requires repair service. 🙁 I’ll find out tomorrow when their customer support is open.