Tag Archives: Local Matters

Real Estate: Are Multiple Listing Services Ready to Compete for Consumers?

With the rise of consumer-facing real estate sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia, it seems only natural that Multiple Listing Services would break out from behind the Realtor and brokerage firewalls, and provide truly local, for-profit real estate sites, complete with advertising and features.

Houston Area Realtors has been perhaps the most prominent MLS to do this. Another is MRIS, the mega-MLS covering the entire Washington DC. Metro area. Another large MLS that has had a consumer facing site is Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, NY, which has been active on the consumer side for over seven years.

MLSLI has a friendly site, complete with standard features such as neighborhood and school information. But now, the 20,000 agent-strong MLS, which is owned by the Long Island Board of Realtors and serves Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, says it is ready to overhaul its site for the social and mobile generation. Working with Local Matters, which has been focusing on the MLS market, MSLI says that its new, locally customized site will be up in 90 days; in time for spring, which is the peak house buying season.

MLSLI VP of Operations Jim Speer tells us the site will help spur his members to work more effectively with social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Many Realtors have been effectively using social media, but there is a still huge chunk that don’t. It will also include Zillow-like automated valuation models for homes.

The site will also be more agent-centric. “On our website, users will click on a listing and get direct access to agents and their office listing,” he says. “It is really a straight path to our agents and brokers members.”

Speer, however, believes the site will only be enhancing the role of the agents and brokers. It will probably never be a big revenue maker, he says. “Maybe it will offset some of our dues. But we don’t sell anything to our members,” he said. “There won’t be featured listings or advertising.”

Local Matters Unveils Search and Social Platform for IYPs

Here’s a question: How long would directory publishers sit back and let new companies such as RedBeacon, AlikeList and others disrupt the leads economy for SMBs with search and socially driven features such as Twitter and Facebook? Or Google, with Place Pages? That’s a question that Local Matters and other Yellow Pages vendors have obviously asked themselves.

Now Local Matters has come out with “Destination Search,” a new social platform that seeks to level the search and social playing field for its U.S. and international clients, which so far includes Dex B2B in the U.S; Truvo, European Directories and Pagini Aurii in Europe; and Yellow Pages Group in New Zealand.

Playing off a feature set originally developed for real estate multiple listings services, Local Matters’ platform includes state of the art social and search features. It also seeks to leverage existing strengths, such as business profile information.

Key features of the white label solution include enhanced profile listings; search optimization; integration (and easy sharing) with Facebook and Twitter; blog enablement; ratings and reviews ported from Yelp and other sources; and the addition of social media feeds on assorted online advertising.

Kris Skavish, Vice President of Products and Marketing, told us that Local Matters started planning Destination Search last September, with the specific intent of focusing on building rich local context. “A problem with online directories has been search relevancy,” she noted.

Another challenge has been to reconcile Yellow Pages headings with most searched categories, which are typically microheadings. “’Plumbers’ is too broad. You need to get to the correct root,” said Skavish, noting that Local Matters has also created custom microheadings for categories such as hotels and attorneys.

For instance, “romantic hotels” might be sought out in user generated content but not generally included as a category. Users can also rate pictures included in romantic hotels. Publishers can also insert content at the top of the page, or refine results. They can also create brand oriented categories, such as “Toyota.”

While Destination Search leveraged Local Matters’ work with real estate Multiple Listing Services, important differences revealed themselves, added Skavish. “With the MLS, you prove your value with a lead ” she notes. “It isn’t a ranking model. And in real estate, the default view is maps. But with Yellow Pages, it is an ad model. You want users to make an action.”

Local Matters CEO Mat Stover is speaking at Marketplaces 2010 March 22-24 in San Diego.

Largest MLS Launches Consumer-Facing Real Estate Portal

Multiple Listing Services are generally seen as technologically backward sites restricted to Realtors. But this may change, if a new consumer-facing model takes off. Specifically, Local Matters, the social media vendor launched by MapQuest founder Perry Evans, has teamed with MRIS, the mega-MLS based in the DC Metro area, to launch homesdatabase.com.

The site is similar to major real estate portals such as Realtor.com. It enables users to browse all the listings for sale and rent on the market; get fresh data straight from the source; search using simple natural language phrases; and receive email alerts on listings and open houses.

The latter is especially attractive, with houses featured in list views, or photo or map views, and easily zoomed on. Brokerages names and logos are also prominently featured.

In development for over a year, the project signals “a new local consumer portal that leverages the content and brand of the local MLS, and presents a robust and useful tool for local consumers,” according to a memo from Evans, who said he has worked on real estate innovation since 2002.

“Does the market need another consumer real estate portal?” asks Evans. “I’d answer that with a resounding YES! The focus in online real estate has been national, national, national, while we all know the market is local, local, local. We believe the MLS can be empowered to operate a consumer portal that best serves the local consumer, and evolves into a thriving trusted local marketplace for qualified and quality interactions between consumers and agents.”