Tag Archives: real estate

Redfin’s Glenn Kelman at Inman: 16 Markets by end of 2010

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told Inman Real Estate Connect attendees in San Francisco yesterday that his “customer first” brokerage is likely to be in 16 markets by yearend 2010. The site is currently in 12 markets and employs 100 agents.

Redfin’s apparent progress is seen by some as evidence that the advantage goes to brokerages that minimize their risk (namely, keeping agents around that underperform). With Redfin, agents are on salary and don’t do prospecting. Instead, they focus on customer service, and are paid, in part, based on satisfaction levels.

“We’ve been doubling every year,” and have had a good run for the last 12-16 months, despite the bad economy, said Kelman. The last two months, however, have been flat as tax incentives have expired. Kelman further noted that the Bay Area is Redfin’s most profitable market, although Washington D.C. and Los Angeles are the company’s largest revenue producers.

Redfin got in the national press recently because one of the 10 Russian spies had been employed as an agent. Kelman noted that the Boston-based agent was “a very dedicated person. It didn’t gibe with the person selling homes for us.”

USAA Teams with Vast.com for Real Estate

USAA, the giant financial services company for military families with 7.4 million members, has partnered with Vast.com, the vertical meta-search and database company, to develop a real estate site to round out its offerings. We see the effort as part of a broader movement of retailers and merchants providing more ancillary services. USAA, itself, kicked off the trend by offering autos via a relationship with Zag.com.

In regards to real estate, USAA has run Movers Advantage for 15 years. It is a service which provides consumers with cash back for allowing them to provide Realtor referrals. But this is the first time that USAA will provide a real estate site with a comprehensive database of for sale and rental listings, along with real estate decision information, such as neighborhood and school information. There will also be an iPhone app.

The current effort has been incubated over the past 13 months. It grew from a relationship between Vast and Cartus, the relocation arm of Realogy, the largest U.S. brokerage conglomerate. To us, it makes a lot of sense, given the high propensity of military families to move. Using the Vast.com database, users can search any place in the country and get information for communities where they may not have any familiarity.

Zillow Extends Ties with Yahoo Real Estate; Will Power Listings

Zillow announced today that it will power Yahoo’s “for sale” listings, in much the same way that Cars.com powers Yahoo’s new and used cars listings. Zillow typically carries four million + listings. The announcement spearheads a slew of online real estate announcements prior to next week’s Inman Real Estate Connect conference (which I am attending),

The enhanced Yahoo and Zillow tie doesn’t achieve the “buy a slot” status of other Yahoo vertical outsourcing — it would have been too expensive for any of the major real estate portals — but it also goes well beyond the current Yahoo-Zillow relationship,which basically consists of Yahoo’s syndication of Z-estimate home valuations. That has been in place since 2006.

Under the new deal, the two companies bring together the real estate websites that have the second (Zillow) and third (Yahoo) highest number of unique visitors, per ComScore. The deal, which is symbiotic for both companies, shows how things have changed from five or six years ago, when Yahoo itself was seen as a major threat to use open Internet listings to dominate real estate advertising. Now, Yahoo is basically content leveraging its sales relationships with national brokerages, while Zillow focuses on the content and local accounts. Real Estate remains highly profitable for Yahoo.

While Zillow listings won’t go up on Yahoo until later this year, the two companies are immediately coordinating their sales efforts. Zillow’s “Premier Agent” program will be extended to Yahoo Real Estate. Current Zillow advertisers will be offered the chance to extend their relationship to Yahoo. Additionally, Zillow’s local “Showcase Ads” and “Featured Listings” will automatically be extended to Yahoo, making it easier for both sites to reach a quorum of users. For Sale By Owner advertising will also appear on both sites.One thing that Yahoo doesn’t get access to in the deal is Zillow’s burgeoning display business.

Trulia Branches Out into Rentals

Trulia, which is ranked a Top 7 real estate site by Comscore, has followed the lead of Realtor.com and Zillow and added rentals to its site. The rentals section features all of Trulia’s functionality, such as neighborhood information, mapping and ratings information, and filters for relevant searches such as “pets allowed.”

The site also offers “search on the go.” Roughly ten percent of Trulia’s usage now comes from mobile devices. Trulia’s mobile Web site is compatible with the iPhone, Blackberry and Android platforms.

Trulia rentals covers the gamut from multifamily to houses. Listings will come from Independent Listings Services, as well as from brokerages and landlords. There are “millions” of units on the site at launch, with more than 25,000 in New York City.

One advantage of Trulia rentals, per CEO Pete Flint, is Trulia’s ability to assume hosting duties for listers including the hosting of contact info, images of units and floor plans, and other information. That separates Trulia from some of the rentals aggregators in the market, such as Oodle, he says.

Flint notes that 30 percent of the site’s visitors are typically looking to either rent or buy. The market trends are “absolutely in favor of renting,” he says. Overall, rentals “are as large as the ‘for sale’ business.”

Separately, in an interview with Business Week, Flint deflected rumors that Google has been looking into buying the company. Trulia uses many of Google’s features and it would seem to be a nice fit. But Flint told BusinessWeek that the real estate market isn’t strong enough to appreciate the site’s full value this year.

As an alternative, the company is looking for an outside investor that would let employees and owners cash in their shares without waiting for an initial public offering, similar to Facebook’s arrangement with Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian company; and Yelp’s arrangement with Elevation Partners.

Inman NYC: Google and Trulia?

Rumors have been flying that Google is poised to buy Trulia, “the real estate search engine” that competes with, among others, Zillow (which just said it is aiming to IPO in 2011).

But according to reports by attendees, no information was forthcoming at Inman’s 2010 Real Estate Connect conference in NYC, where Google Director of Local and B2B markets Sam Sebastian addressed the audience. Sebastian did note however that “we’re actively looking to acquire one to two companies a month.” (Note: This is a corrected quote, per an investigation by Greg Sterling. A previous version suggested he had specifically said “real estate companies.”)

The Trulia rumors have been partially fueled by the development of Google’s new Place Pages, a merchant profile feature that could theoretically be used develop a national Multiple Listings Service, competing with Realtor.com. If that were the case, Trulia would probably help enlist agents and brokerages.

But there is “not some evil plan we have in Mountain View, with millions of folks talking about how we want to take over the real estate markets,” said Sebastian. And there really are no plans to focus on Place Pages for real estate.

Sebastian did note, however, that brokerages were finding out Google’s advantages on their own. “Agents have always been pretty engaged in buying keywords and targeted ads from Google to drive traffic to their Web sites,” he said.

Trulia, itself, reports that it has come off a gangbuster year, with 62.3 million unique visitors, and 45 percent more visits, and 105 percent more page views. Along with increased engagement, Trulia reports that “consumer interest in homes exploded, with nearly 1 million home buyer inquiries sent to real estate agents in 2009.”

Zillow Adds Rentals to Real Estate Listings; Introduces Premiums

Facing up to the reality of a real estate market in which many houses for sale end up becoming “shadow” rentals, Zillow has added rental listings and information to its real estate services. At the same time, Zillow is attaching a $9.95 premium for listings to be posted for six months, which represents the first time that the ad-supported service has ever charged for listings. The fees include unlimited photos.

Zillow’s new fees, however, will only be assessed for “manual” listings that are not part of the feeds that Zillow receives from its primary sources, which include brokers, 200 Multiple Listings Services and 171 newspapers. Just three percent of its listings are said to be“manual,” representing a potential rental listing market of 120,000 units.

CFO Spencer Rascoff says that he expects to see strong demand for rental information. The company points to research showing that 25 percent of its four million unique visitors are “dual tracking” rents and houses for sales, seeing whether they can get a better deal from renting or owning. “No one expects price appreciation anymore. All you have is an option to pay for a house outright,” says Rascoff.

The rental option gives users an option to view rental costs a la carte, or against “for sale” information. While adding rentals would theoretically pitch Zillow against rental publishers such as Apartment Finder, Apartments.com, ApartmentGuide and My New Place, Rascoff says Zillow’s offering is really oriented towards single family homes, or small complexes, while the others are oriented towards large property managers. “A third of rental units are single family homes,” he says. “More than half of rental units are four units or less.”

Inman SF Connect: Realtor.com CEO Steve Berkowitz

For years, Realtor.com has been widely predicted to fail, even with an audience that is more than twice the size of its next closest rival. Its technology has been considered un-innovative, the quality of its customer service has been questioned, and pricing has also been considered out of line.

But new CEO Steve Berkowitz, the search innovator who launched Ask.com and most recently ran MSN, says that the company’s brightest days may still be ahead of it. Speaking at Inman’s SF Connect, Berkowitz said the company has amazing amounts of real estate knowledge in its executive ranks, a “couple of hundred thousand” customers and has unparallelled customer service, whatever the reputation.

“We have 150 customer service reps taking calls every month from a couple of thousand of real estate professionals,” he says. “We’re willing to pick up the phone on an hourly basis.”

The biggest task confronting Realtor.com is probably getting its underlying technology up to speed, notes Berkowitz. The company has 200 engineers toiling away in three locations, but they have to grapple with a legacy system.

“We’ll take 25 percent of the engineering talent and focus on what needs to be done under the surface,” he says. “That will free up the front end” and let Realtor assume its more natural role as a marketing consultant offering products at every pricing level. It is a business that is so local that it really needs to be done at the local level,” he adds.