Friday Flash: Digs, Insights and thinking past the close

It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve talked and some stuff has gone down. Let’s get to it.

Zillow entered the $300 billion home remodeling industry with a new Web/iPad app called Digs.

Why? Well, the residential resale real estate marketing space is, in fact, a relatively small opportunity — about $7 billion. If Zillow is to continue growing, it needs to touch more housing-related categories.

First it was rentals; now it’s remodeling and design. Mortgage has been part of the mix for a while, but is a notoriously tough nut to crack. I’m sure more will come.

Zillow’s Digs competes head-to-head with Houzz, a company that offers a more mature home design marketplace and, incidentally, just closed a $35 million funding round.

We’ll see where this ends up, but it’s pointing toward the really big question a lot of people in real estate are asking these days: What happens to my customer after the closing?

Craigslist is uglier than sin, but darn if it doesn’t generate clicks and leads for brokers and agents who play it well. So we have to pay attention to it, even if we kind of wish it would just go away.

So anyway… TechCrunch broke the news that the site released “Pinterest-style” search results pages for a number of categories, including real estate. Here it is:

Craigslist-real-estate
Upload away!

“How’s the market?”

Consumers have never really been able to get an answer online. At least not a good one. Sales data from public records is weeks or months old and sales data from the MLS, when you can get it, is still an ex post facto kind of thing.

The way people do get the answer is to speak with an agent who can tell how many disclosure packets went out after the first showing on listing X, or how many offers were written on listing Y.

In other words, the data behind the sales data, shared before or immediately after the closing. It’s valuable stuff.

Well, Redfin has taken a stab at bringing this valuable stuff online with the release of Offer Insights. The brokerage is now publishing information essentially as they are written:

“To keep pace with the market, we get you the information fast. Because we capture all the details about an offer via the tools our agents use to prepare that offer in the first place, we can publish the details within seconds of submitting the offer to a listing agent.”

This is done only with client consent and certain specifics are withheld until after closing. But once the deal is done, they share everything:

“We publish data on whether we won, how many competing offers we faced, how long the property was on the market, how much our buyer offered compared to list price and the rough amount of our buyer’s planned down-payment.”

And if you think this is a forfeiture of Realtor value, you’ve got it exactly backwards:

“…if you want more detail about an Offer Insight, you only have to ask, via an online form associated with each Insight. The Redfin agent who wrote the offer will respond to your questions, usually via email, usually within a few hours.”

Sharing more information leads to more trust which leads to more business. When will more “traditional” brokers start acting on this?

FrontDoor, the real estate site owned by the company that brings us HGTV, is backing out of the listings aggregation game.

As of April, home search on the site will be powered by Zillow. The rest of the site will be re-focused on “in-depth looks at amazing properties”. In other words, the sort of stuff HGTV is great at.

I think we’re going to see more consolidation in the online listings space this year. Stay tuned.

A stealthy and talent-rich startup called Urban Compass has come up in conversations I’ve had in the past few weeks. Aside from a couple of articles in the tech press, there’s little known about them other than they are building a “platform of hyper-local knowledge and information to help people make their most important personal decisions.”

Um, I think this is going to be relevant to this real estate thing we have going. Keep an eye on ‘em.

As an aside, check out the founder/CEO’s bio. I really wouldn’t bet against this guy:

Urban-Compass-CEO

Facebook advertising remains a mystery to most real estate companies. I hope that doesn’t remain the case because I believe the social network may in time solve two really big problems for this industry: loyalty and seller targeting.

Consider two things:

First, Facebook launched an ad product called Custom Audiences last fall. It allows companies to find customers they touch outside of Facebook (offline, via email, etc) within the network. You just upload a list of phone numbers or email addresses and Facebook finds them. (Yes, of course it’s creepy.)

Sounds kind of stupid at first, right? But think about this a minute. If I’m a broker, I should know when people who bought with me five years ago might begin thinking of moving. I should know when clients that got a mortgage through my mortgage company in 2010 will be thinking about a refi.

And I could call them. I could send them mail. Or I could call them, send them mail and drive some timely brand impressions on Facebook.

Second, this week Facebook began testing something called “Lookalike Audiences” that’s even more interesting.

Let’s say I’m really clear on my target market, and I have that clean list of clients that I used for Custom Audiences. I can use that list to target more of the same kinds of people.

Smart stuff.

Stressed? Need to clean out the mental pipes?

Watch this twice and call it a week.

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