Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

New WAV Group white paper: “The Property Delta”

With the recent announcement that MOVE has acquired ListHub makes the focus on listing data more timely. That’s what makes this white paper from WAV Group such a good read.

Although the paper doesn’t paint a pretty picture for “professional” websites a couple things jumped out at me.

Edina Real Estate (on the LPS platform) is displaying a hell of a lot more IDX data than the other vendors, over 44 fields. The closest is RE/MAX (run by eNeighborhoods) which is displaying 32 fields. The others are just left in the dust.

Also the big difference in total number of listings on each site. Some of this is due to the fact that Realogy sites are still only display their own listings (LAME!) and others are showing all IDX listings. But the other factor is the “Zombie listings” that appear on the the aggregator sites like Zillow and Trulia.

Click here to download the report.

  1. So, Realtor and MLS websites, despite having better listing data that comes directly through a feed from the MLS, don’t function as well or look as good as aggregator sites like Trulia.

    In other related news: water is wet and fire is hot.

    Anyone who has spent the slightest amount of time examining these websites should have drawn the same conclusion without the help of lengthy report. Brokerage, agent, and public MLS websites are often poorly designed and typically lag far behind the technology curve. They handle less data, provide less information, and are less intuitive and aesthetically pleasing than sites like Trulia and Zillow. They also run slower.

    But the reason for this should be readily apparent.

    Trulia and Zillow live and die by their websites while most brokerage and agent sites are viewed as complimentary pieces. Trulia devotes all of its time and money to creating a better online experience and runs a very user oriented website. They regularly put in hundreds (if not thousands) of hours looking for ways to improve user experience and find ways to give home buyers information they didn’t even know they wanted. Re/Max and other national (or regional) brokerages have IDX sites that are property oriented. These sites are intended to steer users away from the internet and into the open arms of a local agent.

    The focus of these types of entities is completely different. For a company like Trulia, the website is the product that drives the business. That product is constantly being scrutinized and refined. For a real estate firm, the website is a marketing tool. The brokerage views the sale as the final product and the website as a tool to aid in the sale.

    The only way a brokerage is going to match a tech company is for the brokerage to think like a tech company (which would require devoting a lot of resources to the art of designing and running a major real estate website). This requires an entirely different skill set and is not something that many brokerages can afford (and if they can, the venture isn’t going to be profitable for at least several years). For most real estate professionals, creating and running this type of website is an unjustifiable risk.

    Furthermore, even if a traditional real estate brokerage decided that it wanted to jump in and compete with the tech companies for online eyeballs, it would have to overcome many obstacles. Brokerage websites have better data because they have direct access to MLS data feeds. Access to those feeds requires cooperation with local MLSs across the country. The Department of Justice can probably tell you that these local MLSs are not always welcoming to people who want to try and make a living through the internet.

    The truth is, the core businesses of the different types of companies analyzed in the report are vastly different. If a brokerage website were to match Trulia and Zillow, the brokerage would have to think and operate very differently from the norm. But the industry is often not friendly to companies that want to innovate.

    It wasn’t all that long ago that the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors declared that Google was a scraper site and that IDX websites could not be indexed by search engines. How can any brokerage reasonably expect to compete with online giants if it has to follow the rules of organizations that don’t understand the basics of how the internet operates?

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