Trulia, Zillow, Propsmart, Roost, DotHomes, Terrabitz (the list of contenders goes on and on) are some of the players in a race to become the new ‘National MLS Solution’. Initially a proponent of ‘anything except the current system’, I’ve sat back and watched hundreds of millions of dollars be sunk into the promise of a single website with all the listings in an easy to navigate user interface, only to be terribly disappointed.
I just don’t see any of them as an answer to the most important question revolving around online property search for every consumer:
Who’s got all of the listings?
I’ve talked with many real estate professionals about ‘working with’ Trulia, Zillow et.al, using their tools, what they like and what they don’t. Opinion varies from ‘just a novelty’ to ‘part of my marketing strategy’ to ‘F-em’ . The most compelling and consistent comment I get is that none of these sites contain anywhere near 100% listing penetration for a given MLS’ designated area of coverage.
During Inman NYC 2008 Teresa Boardman and I were chatting about various topics within the re.net world, one being Trulia’s recent releases. Teresa mentioned that after doing some research she found that listing penetration on sites like Trulia et. al. typically maxed out at ~20% of total available inventory.
‘I don’t understand or agree with the need for a national real estate web site at all. Most home buyers just look in one geographic location and do not need to see listings in all states.’
Teresa goes on to state:
‘Last time I checked both Trulia and Zillow had only a small percentage of the homes that are listed in the MLS listed. I guess since there are so many web sites with IDX solutions making all the listings widely available I don’t get the point of these national type sites that just have a few of the listings in a given area. I will go as far as to say that the sites are doing the consumer a disservice.’
So if I’m a consumer and I want to see EVERY PROPERTY thats currently on the market, none of these sites come close to fulfilling my needs, as a matter of fact I’ll probably have to go to all of them and still wonder if I’m missing out on that house. If this is indeed the case, which it is, I’m better off visiting a local rePros IDX fueled site. They may not be quite as sexy, actually downright ugly, but at least I know I can find far more listings than any of the (Third Party Destination Sites) TPD’s out there today. I also don’t want to be pitched from every sidebar and header of every page…the noise is deafening.
If I’m a rePro, I don’t want potential clients leaving my site, period. TPD’s (must) pull consumers back to their site to access a majority of features to quench their advertising based biz model…i.e. they offer some cursory level watered down application thats true purpose is to pull the consumer back the the TPD’s main site, akin to an arsenic laced olive branch offered to the rePro. ‘Here, take this cool little application stick it on your site and we both win!’ Ehhh, wrong. Although the intention may be positive, the result often is not in favor of the rePro.
The problem with the cornucopia of TPD property listing sites ultimately lies in the ways they attempt to achieve true ‘long tail’ property search: Their business model and/or their aggregation method. RePros don’t (won’t) like to give a TPD their lisitngs, only to be charged to feature them (this is the current MLS’ problem)…thus this model should be cast into eternal purgatory, floating rather meaninglessly between failure and marginal profitability, probably hoping they get acquired by MicroHoo...Secondly, rePros don’t like their listings scraped (for obvious reasons)…if a biz model relies on raw scraping, it’ll be scraping up loose change off the street to survive.
So where is the middle ground of killer technology and rePro listing penetration? I think BlueRoof is headed down the right path. Technology (Solvent) + rePro (Solute) = A Solution…one that both consumers and professionals can benefit from.
If like minded rePros (socially) networked together using some of todays (and tomorrows) killer apps, the TPD listing sites (1.0) value propositions could evaporate overnight…The open API that killed the Third Party Destination site…Et tu Brute?