Technology

As Estately grows, so does consumer choice

Author
Joel Burslem
No.
454
Date
03/02/10

DC residents now have a virtual panoply of real estate search sites to choose from.

Estately, the IDX-powered online brokerage, just moved into DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia today, adding 60,000 new homes and condos to their database.

In addition to Estately, lucky Mid-Atlantic residents can thaw themselves with dreams of warmer springtime home searching by hitting a slew of MLS powered sites like Homesdatabase.com (run by local MLS heavyweight MRIS), Sawbuck Realty and national brokerages like Redfin, among others. (Full disclosure: 1000watt Consulting has performed consulting services for MRIS and Sawbuck in the past.)

In addition to the new states Estately added, they’ve revved up their site by optimizing their page load times (now 50% faster, according to the company), redesigned map balloons (now 100% prettier!) and some great new features like auto-suggestions for searches and the ability to search by price drops.

With so many great MLS-driven options available to consumers these days I wonder if we are witnessing a meaningful challenge to broker feed-driven plays like Zillow and Trulia. While these national search sites pioneered many of the advances we now take for granted (e.g., maps, deep neighborhood data pages, rich listing pages) it turns out that the real turf war is where most of us suspected it would end up: at the local level.

Technology and user experience (UX) are ultimately not the differentiators they once were. With time all of that is eminently replicable. The big online real estate sites are getting squeezed from the bottom up by players in all corners.

For a local search play these days, a bare minimum should mean offering 100% of the active MLS listings in any given market. No longer is it good enough to skate by on a pretty face with an incomplete view of the market.

But ultimately, despite this hard reality, the final battle for mindshare must be won through marketing. That starts at a high level with site design but is going to increasingly play itself out tactically on the streets of DC and metros across the nation through social media, branding and advertising. It’s about connecting consumers to a search experience in a real, meaningful way.

While it stands to reason we may be on the cusp of a Golden Age of Search, access to all the listings is still the heart of any search experience, and the real victors in this battle will be the ones that position themselves accordingly.

Photo by john weiss