A trip down the memory super-highway…

Top 10 stories of 2007 from Inman News (see the article for details):

  1. Subprime market implodes; housing downturn worsens.
  2. Blogging runs deeper in real estate’s blood.
  3. Foxtons closes shop.
  4. Foreclosure problem worsens; Bush announces rescue plan.
  5. Redfin and “60 Minutes” of fame.
  6. Trulia and Zillow get booted from Prudential Real Estate convention.
  7. Realogy goes private.
  8. Well-known real estate writer dies.
  9. NAR’s Gateway project announced.
  10. FHA goes modern.

All good and interesting news stories. But what would a blog post be without some after-the-fact quarterbacking. Here are my thoughts:

The subprime mess definity earned the list, while I think blogging is in there purely as linkbait. 🙂  Foxtrons never crossed my radar so I can’t say much about them, but I would have included the foreclosure mess in with the subprime mess (despite the fact that two smaller messes would be easier to clean than one huge mess). Redfin PR got proper kudos while Prudential made a PR blunder. Realogy business structure must be interesting to others and I simply didn’t know the author. I don’t have high hopes for Gateway (although I wouldn’t say the same thing for NAR’s investment fund). FHA… yawn…

And while am at it… here are two stories that would have made my list:

The launch of so many (already) forgotten sites. How about all the sites that launched with great fanfare only to fall off of everyone’s radar. Terabitz comes to mind.  Social networks like Zolve (which went from charging almost $1000/year to $0/year in its first few weeks) and Propertyqube also seem to have dropped off the map. And there were many (way too many to name them all!) “local” sites that were hyped by the RE.net at one point or another: MyHouseKey (kinda dead), SuperListingSite (completely dead), Localism, StreetAdvisor, and YourStreet.

Lack of fiscal restraint in the online real estate space. Money flowed into online real estate space: Terabitz with $10M in V/C money…  Zillow with another $30MTrulia got another $10M…  Redfin with $12M more

NAR and venture capital don’t…

…naturally go together.  But if anyone at NAR can pull off Second Century, it would be Mark Lesswing.

Real estate tech startups: it’s time to rev your engines.

“Lesswing said that the company is already accepting submissions for project proposals. He also said that he will be in attendance at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York next month ‘to continue the process of identifying new projects and qualifying existing projects.'” 

Neighborrow provides an interesting twist on…

…getting to know your neighbors online. The idea behind Neighborrow is that you would join a group of people in your neighborhood who have all agreed to share things.

Kristen over at Mashable thinks it is the algorithms that will make-or-break the site, but I’m thinking it is a much more uphill battle than that. They have to overcome both a listings problem (i.e. enough listings) and a user problem (i.e. enough users). And the fact that it appears you have to join a group in order to see (free) listings means that people are not going to just randomly stumble across relevant things in their community.

Nonetheless, the site looks good and it is still in “alpha.” My hope for them is that they have a solid plan for getting a critical mass of users (at least in a few early-adopter markets), because I happen to think relevant listings will make-or-break the site.

My favorite part of Vast is…

…just playing around with the ability to compare markets for different features. For example, did you know that Miami area leads the country in listings with waterfalls? North Las Vegas with birdhouses? (are there even birds in Vegas???)

I’ve seen a few keyword search tools around real estate listings and Vast hasn’t even tried to solve the some basic issues. For example, type “no pool” and you’ll get thousands of listings with pools!

But their real problem is likely to be credibility. Here’s how their website explains it:

“Vast always returns all the relevant results in response to a query, doing our best to sort the results according to the likely relevance to the user. In categories where we have listings for which we are compensated, this also plays a role in the order in which they are returned.”

With a little creativity, it seems there is always a better way to monetize than messing up relevance.

UPDATE:

Quotes from press release don’t inspire confidence in Vast.com’s real estate business, or at least not their PR firm. Here’s Ben Clark, head of the real estate business unit and ex-Zillow employee, explaining the opportunity:

“When I first heard about vertical search , I didn’t quite frankly get it,” says Clark. “But then someone said to me that [other search engines] search everything, but vertical search companies search a category. Vertical search is a specialization.”

Since (many) people rent/purchase based on…

…monthly payments, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to mix rentals and homes-for-sale based on this criteria. But now that I see it in action on HotPads, I’m not so sure (although it might just be the pulsating graphics that got to me). The folks at HotPads tried to help out by providing lots of variables that can be changed on the listing detail page (look for the Buy Vs. Rent Calc Tab), but my guess is that the results are sure to baffle the average consumer more than help.

In retrospect, I think the flaw in the logic is that people do not make the rent-vs-buy decision on a property-by-property basis.

(news of HotPads feature via screenwerk)

What happens to Adaptive Real Estate Services?

Remember that Edgeio, the web2.0 classified site, bought a major IDX provider about a year ago

Now that Mike let us know that Edgeio is closing its doors, I can’t help but wonder what will become of the hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of broker and agent websites that ARES powers.

Owner-updated Zestimates are like warts-and-all corporate blog

Favorite quote from Rich Barton in Wired interview:

Wired: Can sellers really be trusted to give honest appraisals?

Barton: It’s kind of like a warts-and-all corporate blog — stuff is going to come out that you wouldn’t want, but everybody ends up better. It’s a very modern concept. Smart homeowners get it: If there was a flood in the basement two years ago, it’s going to be found out. So let’s talk about the fact that it happened and what we did about it.