Hell breaks loose in the new listings war

I returned from my vacation last week to find my inbox and reader filled with talk about listing coverage, comprehensiveness and quality sparked by a somewhat ham-fisted PR gambit by Roost.

I had just written about this the week before. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. The fact that many of the most celebrated and trafficked real estate sites offer consumers a woefully inadequate view of the market is problematic.

Offering 70% of the inventory is OK when you’re selling, say, digital cameras; it is not OK when you’re claiming, with full–throated cries of “transparency” and consumer love, to help people make the most important decision of their lives.

Real estate has always claimed a certain kind of exceptionalism. Homes are not airplane tickets. Realtors are not stock brokers. And not seeing the perfect home in the next neighborhood over carries more consequences than not getting that new pair of Crocs in the color you really wanted.

I know: IDX is not perfect. And offering a full picture of the market dictates following Redfin’s lead by offering MLS listings, foreclosures (many of which are in the MLS as well), and FSBO’s side-by-side. But online real estate can and should do better than the gossamer fiber of broker feeds holding together otherwise great sites like Trulia and Zillow.

At the risk of sounding like a pedantic buzz-kill, I must admit that I found it hard to get truly excited about Trulia’s nicely executed iPhone app and smart commitment to mobile, when I know, sitting on my deck searching “all homes for sale” on my phone, that what I am actually getting is something different.

I am left feeling that this sort of innovation is akin to a restaurant that obsesses on the dishware — the means of delivery — but drops the ball on the food.

I am not picking on Trulia. I just wish they and others would circle back to and nail down some basic content requirements.

So I hope the debate continues. It’s healthy – and necessary.

Brian Boero