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.

18 responses

  1. It’s been a while since I have been involved with the nuances of IDX. Maybe you can help me understand how the rules play out. In the case of Houston, one broker has republished the entire IDX data feed in Roost.Com. All of the leads go back to that broker.

    Is the future of listing distribution based on the size and ability of the broker to create these kind of relationships? It was my understanding that a single broker could republish the IDX feeds on their own site only, however, as is the case with Yahoo Real Estate and now Roost.Com that is unclear.

  2. That is a nice use of AJAX. It’s fun watching new uses come to the industry almost every day. Some are actually useful.

  3. @Michael: The way they are getting around this is by making the page the “Brokerages” page…so in a sense it is the brokers site…not roosts. That’s why you see the brokername.idx.roost.com in the url. Essentially they are an IDX vendor for the brokerages with a front entry way to drive traffic to their IDX search.

    @Dustin: I agree. The site isn’t different enough to warrant continued buzz for very long. I don’t see it as anything special.

  4. I noticed that as I surfed through the site but did not snap to the significance of it. Thanks for pointing it out Damon.

    Have those big feet of yours healed up from the NYC trip?

  5. Michael:

    Damon has it just right and one of the other things that they do is cookie you when you first arrive at the site so that the experience will continue to be brought to you by one broker. In other words, even if there are 10 brokers signed up to Roost in a market area, you’ll always see the same brokerage branding when you return to the site.

  6. Possible issues.

    (A) site structure may make it difficult to get organic results, so your comment about building buzz is 100% correct.
    (B) since the model is cpc some brokers will simply do cpc with the SE’s if roost cpc cost is higher.
    (C) Possible dissention from agents to broker / MLS for providing access to FSBO on same platform, which may cause brokers / MLS to pull feeds. (my guess this will be pulled off site in less than 3 months)
    (D) “even if there are 10 brokers signed up to Roost in a market area, you’ll always see the same brokerage branding when you return to the site.” – this may cause a problem where they cannot deliver enough traffic to multiple brokers signed up in the same areas.

  7. […] launch was well-covered and analyzed this morning by real estate industry bloggers Joel Burslem, Dustin Luther, Greg Swann, plus […]

  8. Alex from Roost here. Thanks for the great write up Dustin, really enjoyed chatting with you at Inman. Thought I’d clarify a few things for everyone:
    – First, our broker partners actually rotate through the search engine by session
    – Second, one thing that has kind of gotten lost is that the search engine is really only a part of the equation. Roost is actually a network of IDX compliant broker sites with a search engine sitting on top of them. Brokers receive these sites, and are in complete control. Those sites receive geo-targeted visitors from the Roost search engine depending on the broker’s needs/budget. Each broker site goes through standard IDX approval process with each MLS
    – Finally, Roost is a completely open/inclusive platform for any type of broker (large, small, independent, franchise group, corporate, etc)

  9. […] reveals the site to be a completely different animal. Dustin asked the question on his blog “Who Gave Roost Complete MLS listings?” and I would imagine when agents begin to discover the site they will be asking the same questions. […]

  10. […] 4Realz, Bloodhound, AgentGenius. There’s lots more, but these will get you started. […]

  11. As a small broker/owner, I placed a call into Roost two days ago and have yet to hear back from them. We’ll see how “open/inclusive” they are.

    Please check my site and get my number to call me at extension 303.

  12. Hi. I am also a small broker who would like to get more information on the pricing model.

    When the Roost “ers” get back to this blog, please follow my site link above and tell me about pricing and capability in the Reno Real Estate market.

    Thanks. Mitch

  13. […] Reasons Your Real Estate Blog Loads So Darn Slow, and the SolutionsDustin Luther — Roost.com, Who gave Roost complete MLS listings?Charles Feldman — Litigious Clients, Real Estate Agents: Are Litigious Clients Out to Get […]

  14. […] Dustin notes that piggybacking off IDX feeds is a great way to scale your listings database quickly,…. […]

  15. […] 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!). […]

  16. […] “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.” Dustin Luther, 4Realz.Net […]

  17. […] few months later at RE Connect, Alex was nice enough to give me a demo of Roost, and I was immediately impressed. His team is obviously focused on doing one thing right (real estate search) and they have the […]

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