Tag Archives: Zillow

Zillow Starting to Add Realtor Reviews

On average, people only move every six years or so. So there aren’t likely to be as strong a list of reviews of real estate agents as there is for pizza. But that hasn’t stopped Zillow from adding reviews of real estate professionals to its Directory.

The company started collecting reviews in December and now says it has “thousands.” The reviews are connected to an agent’s Zillow profile, providing a richer picture for potential Realtor advertisers. The agent’s answers to various consumer questions are also part of the profile, as it is with Trulia’s Directory.

The drive to have more reviews is something that is felt across verticals. It is among the biggest reasons, for instance, why Angie’s List sponsors its Big Deals – to add reviews to its home and trade profiles. In a release, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff says that “Agent Reviews are another huge step towards transparency for buyers and sellers.

When visitors use the Zillow Directory to search for a real estate agent in their area, results are sorted by local agents with the highest overall ratings and greatest number of reviews. Ratings are on a 1-to-5 basis, with 5 being “very likely” to use again, and 1 “very unlikely”.

Consumers can compare agents’ overall ratings, as well as ratings across several categories of service including: process expertise, local knowledge, responsiveness and negotiation skills. Along with ratings, qualitative reviews further help consumers understand a former client’s experience with that agent.

Homethinking, which launched in 2005, has had some experience with agent reviews. But it tightly integrates the reviews with the agent’s transaction history, providing more of a 360 degree picture.

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.”

Zillow Earns First Profits; Ups Rascoff to CEO

Zillow, after five years and $87 million raised, says it is now in the black for the first time, after focusing more on revenues.

The online real estate company, which competes with brokerage sites, Trulia and others, also announced that CFO Spencer Rascoff has been appointed CEO, replacing Expedia Founder Rich Barton, who becomes Executive Chairman and focuses on a heavy portfolio of vertical investments, such as Avvo.com, the legal site.

Rascoff and Barton , in a phone call yesterday, tell us that the company is currently driving revenue on Zillow.com, Yahoo Real Estate and Mobile from five key revenue streams, including its Mortgage Marketplace, display, national advertising, local advertising and mobile advertising. The latter channel has become especially critical and now accounts for 20 percent of usage on weekends, says Barton. “Real estate is the ultimate local shopping experience,” suggests Rascoff.

The mortgage marketplace, especially, has become one of the company’s fastest growing areas as well, with 314,000 mortgages leads being processed on the site, up six fold from August 2009 , when it was introduced. This compares in the balance to four million homes being listed, and 150,000 rental listings. Twenty—five percent of home shoppers are now looking at home rentals as a point of comparison, says Rascoff.

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.

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.”

NAA 2009: Paying Attention to Newspapers (Still)

Next week is the Newspaper Association of America’s Annual Conference in San Diego. I’ll cover Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s keynote on Tuesday, in which he’ll express his support of the newspaper industry despite Google’s very public axing in January of its PrintAds newspaper partnership (the talk is being streamed live at 10am PDT).

Newspapers, of course, aren’t in very good shape right now. Long term, their traditional model may not be sustainable. But if you are trying to reach the local audience, they deliver an effective yield, with local readership of maybe 25-30 percent. You can’t match it.

Yahoo is relying on its ambitious newspaper consortium to help in a number of ways. Among other things, its newspaper ties supports HotJobs, provides inventory for national advertising, and sells behavioral targeting.

Zillow is another partner that is banking (somewhat) on its ties with newspapers.The Z-estimates company expects a healthy bump from this week’s launch of a real estate search partnership with 180 newspapers, including The Tampa Tribune and 100 small weeklies owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. among its first rollouts.

In coming months, additional papers will launch, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Winston-Salem Journal. Besides search, Zillow is providing real estate advice features and mortgage information and calculators.

CFO Spencer Rascoff says he especially likes the strong newspaper brand. The Tampa Tribune has “close to 100 percent brand ID in its locality” he says – something that a new brand like Zillow wouldn’t have on its own.

Going into the annual conference, I’m not very interested in hearing about the various life-support efforts that newspapers have had to undertake (but there will be a lot of that). In my backyard,The LA Times has shown the way by ending the poly-bagging of the morning newspaper so that my sprinklers destroy the paper; wrapping each section with an overlapping ad that needs to be peeled off before I can read it; enclosing AARP membership materials since I am probably ready for it (not); and making me specifically ask for credit when I suspend the paper for vacation holds.

In my hometown of San Diego, I find it especially depressing that the local paper (which has just been sold to an equity firm at a fire sale price) is perhaps most identified with the homeless men selling it at red lights.

But I’m always very interested in hearing about what newspapers can do as a powerhouse local brand with daily frequency that delivers to a large percentage of the community in print, online and now on mobile. The footprint won’t be as large, the news coverage won’t be as extensive, and substitutes may develop equal effectiveness. But the opportunities beckon.

In fact, as we see at conference after conference, newspapers have more experiments going on in local community, information and commerce than any other sector in our interactive local media space. It isn’t entirely because of any special nostalgia that I keep an eye on this industry.