Some bold predictions from Mike…

I’ll be bold myself and summarize, but definitely check out Mike’s post for the details on his 2008 predictions:

  1. Zillow does not go IPO
  2. Barton drops CEO title at Zillow
  3. 5 VPs leave Zillow
  4. Redfin gives premium, full-price option
  5. Trulia gets more traffic than Zillow

A big focus on Zillow and not a bad prediction in the bunch.  Nonetheless, here’s my opinions on Mike’s predictions:

  1. Completely agree.   The only way I change my mind is if the mortgage product makes a HUGE splash early in the year (i.e. pre- RE Connect in NYC).  Zillow becomes a LOT more valuable if they can launch one more thing that captures public attention along the lines of Zestimates, and I think, but clearly don’t know, that Barton would feel like he was selling early investors short if he didn’t wait until Zillow did one more big thing (Smart Search clearly does not count).
  2. Disagree. Rich has to do one more big thing before he steps back from Zillow.  He won’t do it pre-IPO.
  3. Disagree. I don’t see this happening.   Again, it’d be like conceding defeat.   Too much money on the line for that.
  4. Disagree. I don’t see this one happening.   Redfin already started going down that path of premium services with the ability for buyers to pay for tours by the hour, but I don’t think Glenn can spin a 6% commission into TV appearances. I expect them to focus on innovative PR initiatives, since that is much closer to the their DNA.
  5. Definitely.  Although that means we’ll probably see even more of David G telling us Zillow’s internal logs show double the traffic.   (Good news if Zillow goes IPO: As Move was a publicly-traded company, I was told never to discuss internal logs…  Although I never found out why, I always assumed this was because there was a fear we’d have to open the logs to investors if we started talking about them.)

Interesting that Trulia shrunk the map…

on the default search results pages (i.e city pages) such as this one for Calabasas. In a timely coincidence, there was a good discussion earlier today on the post about neighborhood mapping
, where Jessie B pointed out that maps are really valuable for only a small subset of people moving to a new area.

(via Trulia Blog

Talking about Zillow’s neighborhood aggregation got me thinking…

…about how I tried to solve the problem at REALTOR.com back when I was on the product team at Move (May ’06 to Dec ’06).

Back then, I took over a mapping initiative because I wanted to create an interface to that could aggregate and display the vast amount of data within the grasp of REALTOR.com, Move.com, moving.com, etc. within a simple mapping overlay.  My first (and only) pass at the project involved working with the one engineer/architect at my disposal (a darn talented guy!) to develop a widget that was eventually implemented on each neighborhood detail page of REALTOR.com.  (To see an example, scroll to the bottom of the Calabasas page).

LA Heat Map

The options boxes on this implementation are pretty limited in that they only include a few datasets (i.e. average home and rental price, number of listings and rentals and medium household income) at a few listing levels (i.e neighborhood, zip code, and school district), but you can imagine that if the data is batched in at a fine enough level (census blocks for example), then it is somewhat trivial to add any new dataset and aggregate the data up to any level (neighborhood/zipcode/city/school district/county/state) using this basic design.

The discussion about Zillow’s neighborhood aggregation got me thinking about this because I can tell that a ton of work went into developing their overlays, and yet they are just barely touching the surface of the data they could be providing… It seems to me they’ve over-emphasized the importance of their zindex-type data when, my educated guess, is that relevant consumers (i.e. potential buyers) are interested in so much more.

I’m not going to say that the overlays on the realtor.com neighborhood project are better implemented (they’re not), but I think the concept I put together was closer to providing information that would be relevant to home buyers, which, after all, is the group most likely to be looking for neighborhood information.  In writing this, I feel a bit sad that it didn’t make sense for me to continue down the path of improving the overlay widget because until someone provides a much more slick way for consumers to filter and prioritize neighborhoods based on information that would matter most to them, I’m convinced some major innovation will come into this space.

Zillow’s Smart Search is…

working much better today than yesterday.

I love the aggregation and the fact that the neighborhoods/zips/cities/counties/states highlight the areas as you mouse over them.  Definitely well executed and not an easy thing to pull off for such a large area.

But Joel is very right to point out that content is king and in the world of online real estate, listings are the king of content. This is important when you start talking about regional statistics, but even more important on the level of individual listings.

Interestingly, this is the same issue I’ve had with Trulia since I can remember and, if I may say so myself, pretty well articulated in this article from March ’06 called Who is Trulia Serving?

“in somewhere like Washington (and Oregon, California, and I think most of the country), this strategy means that [Trulia] will never have the most complete database of homes (at least not under the current MLS system). Maybe I’m missing something, but I simply cannot see how this is going to win buyers over… Even an ugly search interface is better than a snazzy Trulia search if it includes a larger selection of homes that are on the market.”

With that said, Trulia has definitely surprised me at the progress they’ve been able to make with consumers considering they haven’t reached MLS-level completeness in any market (save NY) as far as I know.  Obviously, their focus on cutting listing deals with brokers early on has paid off in term of traffic, so there’s less reason than ever to think Zillow couldn’t find similar success by following a similar pattern.

(This post got me thinking back on the early days of Trulia and the time Sami and Kelly made a special coffee shop visit with the Rain City Guide community. That was so much fun.)