There have been so many cool real estate sites popping up in recent years (Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, etc) that it seemed as if the monsters like Realtor.com were destined for obsolescence just as soon as the average consumer started trusting the new techno sites for their real estate search. But not so fast.
The NAR announced a recent take over of Cyberhomes assets and data, and is revealing an interested long-term strategy to compete with these new kids on the block. Will it work? Maybe. Who does it benefit? See this awesome article on 1000 Watt Consulting for an in-depth analysis.
This news made me recall another incredible article/piece of news by the ever-entertaining and brilliant Notorious ROB where he discusses how a little guy (think local real estate agencies) may have suddenly delivered a potential knock-out punch to the tech-heavy real estate start-ups of the last 4 years. In a nut-shell, ROB comments that a particular local real estate company has just unveiled a new website which competes and possibly exceeds the user experience and amount of data delivered by these tech start-ups. Big deal, right? Maybe not.
One thing is for sure: it’s an interesting time to be in the real estate industry. Who will survive? I’m not sure. I know that I’m constantly amazed by some of the tech start-ups like Redfin and the now bankrupt BuySide Realty/Iggys House who receive all this VC money and ALSO offer deep discounts. How can these companies be soooo top-heavy and programmer heavy and also offer deep discounts and also survive? I don’t know. I know that the only way we’ve survived while offering deep discounts is by offering a level of service that the above discounters don’t or can’t. We’re basically offering the same service as a traditional agent, AND we offer discounts. How? Our overhead is almost non-existent, no multi-level management, no VC money, no standing staff of programmers.
But that’s not enough, is it? No, I don’t think so. I think that we also need to provide great service AND a great user experience on our website. Which brings me back to the above point made by Notorious ROB: if little guys can deliver a big, satisfying punch on their websites then what will drive people to keep using the large tech sites? The answer to that question remains to be seen, but if the age-old adage that “all real estate is local” is true (which i think it is), then the answer is: nothing. If, in the near future, there’s no significant difference between the average local agent’s site in regards to data and user experience when compared to the big non-local tech sites, then there’s really nothing but recent momentum to keep carrying new users to those tech sites. And momentum can change.