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Portal Report Card: Zillow tweets, Trulia and Redfin get facelifts, Realtor.com gets smart

As we move into the busy season for real estate, I’m going to keep a running scorecard of the big portals and Redfin, and their moves over the next couple of months. This month, I’m largely focused on improvements to their user experiences online and to their apps. But I’m also going to watch for big moves, new innovations and even key personnel hires or changes.

First, a full disclaimer: The grades I’m assigning have absolutely no scientific basis to them.

Zillow

Zillow announced that it will be the first publically traded company to take questions from investors via Twitter and Facebook. It also re-launched its mobile apps, moving all the search options under the “hamburger” icon and integrating its Mortgage Marketplace into the experience.

Grade: B+

I think Zillow’s openness on social media has done wonders for its brand and I like the new design… but I don’t love it. Somehow it feels like it has lost a bit of its personality. Maybe I miss the green from the new all-blue look. (Too Trulia for them, perhaps?) Also, I’m really beginning to think that the map is not the best view for real estate listings on mobile. More on that in another post, though.

Trulia

Trulia’s suite of consumer products, its website, mobile apps and iPad app all got facelifts too. Photos got bigger. The design got flatter. And in the case of the search results page on their website, they lost the left rail altogether and moved to a two-column layout.

Grade: A

I like the direction that Trulia is taking its design. Deep-sixing that left rail of refiners is like a blast of fresh air across the page. Trulia was the last holdout of the major portals on this front. Vendors and brokers, if you’re still desperately clinging to that wall of dropdowns and form fields on your website, do yourself a favor and move on.

Realtor.com

Realtor.com released school search in its iOS and Android apps this month. The feature lets you quickly find properties within specific school districts or boundaries with a quick tap. GreatSchools ratings are integrated, as are important data points like teacher/student ratios. Parents everywhere rejoice.

Grade: A-

I love all the innovation coming out of Move on the mobile front. They were first out of the gates with a draw-to-search feature, which still feels like magic. School search is a such a no-brainer and their execution here is fantastic. I love the speed and responsiveness. My only hesitation in awarding them an A grade this month is that the app itself is starting to look a little tired, with feature upon feature being piled on. I think this is an app that is screaming out for a UI refresh.

Redfin

Redfin pushed out a major design overhaul of the company’s website a few weeks back. They buried the previous design’s “cadaver blue” and splashed the walls Dexter-like with Redfin red (#A02021). The company’s tree logo also got felled. A quick survey of the comments on the blog post announcing the change shows people were none too happy with the change. Haters gonna hate.

Grade: B+

The new identity and red makes a ton sense. After all, the color is in the company’s name. I really like the cleanliness of the new site too, but their mobile apps still look like they’re the walking dead. On the upside, I never understood the tree logo. I always thought the man reaching towards the house could be interpreted as a thinly veiled Garden of Eden inference… maybe Redfin was real estate’s Original Sin?

 

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10 Responses to “Portal Report Card: Zillow tweets, Trulia and Redfin get facelifts, Realtor.com gets smart”

  1. Greg Fischer says:

    Joel, most of those comments on the Redfin post seem to be fakes. Their site still feels like it gives me the most information in comparison to the others mentioned. I like the redesign, they certainly needed it.

    Most of my clients are using Trulia, and by the comments it’s because it feels friendlier and cleaner. I don’t disagree.

    I prefer Zillow apps, but their desktop site is still lacking in my opinion. The front end design is fantastic, but once you get into the main search, it still feels a little underwhelming to me compared to what I expect it to feel like.

  2. Alistair Helm says:

    ,Joel

    An excellent initiative and something at Property Portal Watch we are keen to establish not just for US portals but for the many hundreds of portals globally. You beat us to the punch and for that much praise!

    I generally agree with your comments. I think Zillow is doing a stellar job of being a listed company – they are winning hearts and minds of investors. Trulia is a great battler, I always have the sense that they have at their core a deeper appreciation of the consumer. This is a consumer business after all as portals ultimately will be judged by the people who pay by the consumer engagement, retention, referral.

    Your comment about larger images on the Trulia app is very relevant. I have always been amazed over the years how pitifully small images are on US portals – an MLS issue I fear. This is a consumer service and consumers want images – way more than data! (more of this on Property Portal Watch shortly!!)

    I find the inclusion of Redfin very interesting – to my mind they are not a portal. They are a very smart (probably the smartest) real estate operation in the US. Their inclusion in this analysis (if I were Glenn Kelman) I would take as the sincerest form of flattery.

    Alistair

    • Joel Burslem says:

      Thanks Alistair,

      I would argue Redfin bears most of the same DNA as the portals (national ambitions and birthed as a VC-backed, technology play) only they have chosen a path other than advertising to monetization. While they are unquestionably a brokerage these days, they are much more “portal-like” in their approach to the business. Smaller regional players like HawaiiLife and Estately, fit this mold too.

      Guess it depends on your definition of portal… Maybe that’s a good topic for PPW to tackle. :)

    • Alistair Helm says:

      Joel

      That would make an interesting debate, however I think it is purely a US issue where due to the MLS ‘middle-man’ structure you have an ability for brokerages to showcase a broader portfolio of listings than their own.

      In my view a property portal is an aggregation of property listing on behalf of numerous brokerage that earns its income from advertising property on behalf of the customer (being the brokerage) in the form of listings subscription and or premium property advertising and agent advertising as well as 3rd party advertising income.

      The debate will be fun!

    • Joel Burslem says:

      I guess the question is whether the portal needs to be the one doing the listing aggregation, rather than drawing from third-party sources like ListHub or industry sources like IDX.

      The availability of IDX listing data creates a unique situation where you have a whole class of companies — e.g. Estately, Movoto, Sawbuck, Realestate.com and others — that are paper “brokerages” but I would argue much more portal-like in their business models.

      An alternative definition for a property portal is any website that creates a consumer destination around real estate listing data (regardless of source), whose income is derived from third-party advertising, premium property advertising, agent advertising, and/or selling leads.

      But you’re right, this is a distinctly North American phenomenon.

  3. Ran says:

    I love Apps

    Moved last week to New York and gave trulia for rent and zillow for rent a try, wasn’t happy!!!!

    After a week of torments I figured out the problem. the entire new York rental market is based on open listings, it means that the broker community in new York are trying to rent the same apartments, they have access to the same apartments…. The nightmare begins after you meet the first broker you called based on an ad you saw on trulia or zillow and realize you are not going to view the apartment you called about!!!! After meeting a few different brokers you realize this is the norm, they advertise irrelevant photos and attach it to any address they want to get an edge on the other brokers.
    After a hart to hart talk with a broker I learned something that is more disturbing, zillow and trulia are using the same fake data base…… the brokers send from their website admin auto posts to trulia and zillow, what’s the problem with that? The brokers have the same photos for years they just change the address to the area they want to advertise (the photos you will see will have nothing to do with the apt they will show you) click update and a new/old listing is on trulia and zillow.
    In the beginning I told you I love apps, so I looked really hard on the app store and found a brand new app called movement. This app is the best because they verify by geotagging each listing. When a brokers posts a listing on movement he is physically in the apt filming it, the phones gps verifies the photos location and time they were taken. I recommend it: movement-app.com.