Free IDX solution?

I met the guys from softRealty in Atlanta last week and they convinced me the have a pretty good thing going. Their plan is to offer a free IDX solution to agents that is ad supported. (They also offer a $30/month solution that is ad-free).

They’ve got two* one thing working against them:

  • My guess is that most agents will stay away from any solution that puts ads on their website

Like most IDX solutions, they’ve built the backend so that it can be framed into other agent sites. I’m not a fan of framed solutions, but the price is right, so it will be interesting to see if they get buzz as they roll out into markets beyond the Atlanta area…

* whoops!

[Update:  I notice I get a lot of traffic from folks looking for technology solutions to this post.   If you’re one of them, head over to my real estate technology tool shed where I’ve got lots of information that can get you up to speed quickly]

Who gave Roost complete MLS listings?

Roost.com is a real estate start-up that just launched their real estate search site….

I had a chance to meet the Roost.com team at NAR in Vegas and was impressed with them… so I was downright excited when they offered to give me a preview of their site at RE Connect (see comment #1).

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:

  1. Clean “web2.0” interface.
  2. AJAX “magic” that allows for listings to dynamically change as option boxes and sliders are changed.
  3. 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.