I’ve convinced myself that the one thing missing from Outside.in is that they…

…never made much inroads with the real estate community (or real estate portals for that matter).   Imagine if the Realtor.com team had bought Outside.in instead of building the neighborhoods project.

And it really doesn’t matter if it was Zillow, Trulia, AOL, Yahoo or Realtor.com, it could be a win for the real estate portal (lots of local traffic and increased SEO benefits for local terms), a win for Outside.in (monetizing within real estate is easy: featured agents, listings, etc. on neighborhood pages) and a win for consumers (a large portal could easily add more local data/content such as neighborhood stats and maps).

I’ve always felt that Outside.in had an interesting thing going and just needed some real estate influence to make it pop.   Maybe the new CEO in the restructured Outside.in will do a better job reaching out to the real estate community…

Been crazy for a few days getting ready for…

…in Realty Quest.

Here are some of the things I wanted to talk about this week, but haven’t had the chance:

  1. 4RealzEd is coming to Pasadena on May 30! The buzz from the first two events has been wonderful and I’m already seeing people sign up without any real marketing on our part! I love it!
  2. Move, Inc lost $4.6M in Q1 and not releasing “transformational” product. About the only positive news is that they are “announcing” a beta site that has been live (with a link from the homepage) since December. I feel bad for my previous colleague in marketing who has to spin this stuff.
  3. Keller Williams gets Zillow fever. Consider the great relationship between Top Producer (owned by Move) and KW, this must have been particularly painful for Errol Samuelson (runs both Top Producer and Realtor.com)
  4. Trulia teams up with the Silicon Valley Ass of REALTORS.  The traditional walls are slowly crumbling.
  5. Seattle times reporter/blogger wonders covers conference with Move, Zillow and Google and wonders who will create the real estate destination portal of the future
  6. Todd announces RE BlogWord… A special real estate track for the popular BlogWorld conference in Vegas. My guess is that there will be a bunch of big names from the world of real estate social media so this should be a lot of fun.
  7. Had a great, GREAT, meetup yesterday (dubbed: Doctor’s Note Gathering) with real estate and tech folks from the valley.   Linda and Ted had nice write ups!
  8. Getting excited about a panel this year at Inman led by Jeff Turner called: Growing Pains: Take Your Blog to the Next Level (more announcments around RE Connect are sure to come!)
  9. Krunching.com launched earlier this week. I like everything about the site (from the perspective of a  first public launch), except the business model.  I think they will either need to be a tech provider (i.e. selling tech to consumers/professionals) OR a brokerage (commissions!), but not both.   Otherwise, the site is great and I look forward to seeing more!
  10. Niki let me know that he launched Homethinking Mortgage earlier this week.   I feel bad that I haven’t had more of a chance to check out the site, but ANYTHING Niki does is worth checking out.   Some of the things, like the heat maps of average loan amount, are interesting, but I just haven’t taken the time to figure out how they will be useful!
  11. BeatYouThere launches (yet) another national real estate search site.  I kinda feel bad for anyone trying to start up in this space at this point, even if they are well funded.   Incremental improvement in the search just aren’t going to be enough at this point.
  12. And speaking of things that will be forgotten about in a few months…   I like Louis a lot and he’s definitely doing a great job reaching out to the online real estate community, but…
  13. CyberHomes redesigns the site.   I can’t help but wonder when will they start seriously marketing to consumers?

David G: What if Zillow got “Quantified”?

We all know that external sources of traffic are off, but what if you guys “quantified” the site so that a third party could transparently track your traffic?

I think that would be a great way to nip the traffic question in the bud.

And by the way, I “quantified” RCG about two weeks ago and, not surprisingly, the uniques from Quantcast are really close to Google Analytics (maybe 5% lower at most).

Is Zillow worth $225M?

It’s a great question

I thought I’d dive into this question a bit so I started writing a killer-post! My thought was to put together a fascinating post that described likely revenue opportunities at both Zillow and Trulia and I was even going to go so far as to estimate the value of Trulia…

However, after multiple iterations and rewrites, I’m simply not happy with where the post was going so I deleted most of the text and thought I’d let you create your own story out of my notes:

  • Zillow: uniques: 2.2M, revenue: ?, estimated value: ~$225M
  • Trulia: uniques: 1.9M, revenue: ?, value: ?
  • Move: uniques (R.com + M.com): 10.1M, revenue: $286M , value: $503M
  • HouseValues: uniques: 430K, revenue: $59M, value: $56M*
  • ZipRealty: uniques: 1.2M, revenue: $104M, value: $118

Zillow took the fun out of mortgages

My take on Zillow has always been that accurate Zestimates was never particularly important to their business… What mattered was that people were talking about them. Zillow’s first strike of brilliance was that they took something that was traditionally complicated (getting a home value) and made it better than simple for consumers; they turned it into a fun game (“Honey, let’s go check how our home value changed since yesterday!”).

With mortgages, Zillow went to the other extreme. They took a process where consumers view it as somewhat of a game (“Honey, how is the broker advertising this low rate going to screw me over now?”), and made it boring. Before you get mortgage rate quotes, a consumer has to fill out a long form with all kinds of financial information (boring!).

But the result is that pre-vetted lenders will view an (anonymous) version of a consumers profile and then make appropriate quotes. Brokers are expected to stick by their quotes, because if they don’t then consumers will give them bad ratings.

Here’s what I like about Zillow Mortgages:

  • It’s a well-thought out idea that appears to be well-executed
  • It’s awesome that consumers are in control of their information throughout the process and their personally identifyiable information is kept private. And eBay-style ratings of lenders will (over time) give consumers a great indication of how well a lender performs
  • Zillow is not charging any transaction or referral fee to lenders (only $25 to run a background check), so lenders have almost no reason to not try it out.

The problems I see have less to do with the product itself and more to do with some of the business and marketing implications of the project. Here’s the two main issues I see:

  • There’s something to be said for mortgage companies that optimize their operations so much that they can not only provide competitive rates but also consistently acceptable service. However, the very nature of the program seems designed to create a downward spiral for lenders where they need to find the lowest possible point that they can bid and still stay in business. While this is great for consumers, it can be dangerously addictive for companies that are looking to create a viable long-term business. A great case study of the danger of this type of behavior comes from a story where Vlasic went bankrupt after introducing low-priced pickles at Walmart. Either way, this really isn’t a problem for Zillow, since there will always be other mortgage lenders willing to take their chance at providing an efficient mortgage product to consumers.
  • There’s nothing sexy about this tool. Unlike Zestimates, which were relevant to almost every homeowner, mortgage quotes are relevant to a much smaller population. And without the benefits of voyeurism (“Honey, let’s have fun with a few lenders today and fill out a fake mortgage profile on Zillow!”), I just can’t see how they will achieve the buzz that they got with Zestimates.

As you can see, even the negative stuff is just not that bad. Compared to the existing situation, the fact that Zillow made mortgages boring is obviously a plus for consumers who want to get the most value out of the loan process.

(Full disclosure: Zillow is a sponsor of my 4RealzEd seminars, and so are many other companies in the online real estate space, so assume that this article, and pretty much most of the articles I write, come with a clear bias!)

Trulia headed for success, while Zillow going to flop? The Industry Standard…

thinks so.

On Zillow’s failings:

“Zillow is so 2006. The business model is based on advertising CPMs, and now that the real estate bubble has burst, it’s much less fun to track the (sinking) value of your home. There’s more competition as well, including Trulia and Redfin.”

On Trulia’s success:

“If location, location and location are what real estate is all about, then business plan, business plan and business plan are why Trulia is rising to the top.”

(h/t Trulia blog)

Rich Barton is preparing to roll out a new startup called…

glassdoor with an ex-Microsoft/Expedia team. Rentbits thinks the name indicates a new real estate company, which would seem to scream conflict of interest with Zillow…

Considering Rich could probably self-fund a company like this, I can’t help but thinks he gets funding because he just enjoys the process.

(via TechCrunch)

Zillow gives us some remodeling porn, and…

… surprise, surprise, it’s fun!

The idea is that they provide two photos of different rooms (or areas) of a house, and you get to vote on which one is better.  The process is simple… View, vote and repeat.   Getting the hang of the site only takes a few moments and it shockingly addictive.

Another feature is that you can sort rooms that rank high (kitchens, for example), which could provide some interesting remodeling and staging ideas.

Play around for a bit and one thing that will stick out is the poor quality of many of the photos.   If you’re anything like me, then you’ll likely find yourself not voting for a room because the photo is out of focus, the angle is bad or the lighting is inadequate.   I doubt it will be news to anyone reading this blog, but good photos are important and Zillow’s Dueling Digs does a great job demonstrating the benefits of great photography.

(h/t Spencer)

Joel’s waiting for a listings shakedown, while…

consumers continue to get more places to see listings:

The Zillow story has to be the more interesting of the two… because, unless Zillow is doing something funny on their backend, this is the first example that I’m aware of where a large MLS has agreed to commingle their MLS data with FSBO data.

In other words, if you’re a consumer searching for listings in the area covered by the New England MLS, then you’ll be able to use the single map interface (Zillow’s) to see both MLS and FSBO listings.

That’s HUGE…

The only catch, at least as far as I can tell, is that the system is opt-in for the agents of  MLS PIN, which means that Zillow is not likely to get true comprehensive listings as the deal currently stands.