Clarity and confusion in online real estate

Two important stories hit Inman News yesterday: 

"Realogy plans national IDX web-search platform"


"Consumer access in the cards for NAR’s real estate ‘Gateway’"

Right here, in two stories posted within hours of each other, we see the conflicted state of online real estate, the poles of a mania not easily shaken. The Realogy story offers a model for how any brokerage company might think about leveraging their listings inventory. The second reflects the uncertainty many real estate practitioners still feel about how to navigate the waters of web 2.0.

Realogy, for its part, seems to be executing a carefully considered listings strategy that began with a partnership with Trulia early this year and has since been extended, to varying degrees, to Google, Yahoo! and Zillow. The company recognized that these sites offer compelling distribution channels for its listings. They have extended their reach considerably, while maintaining control of their data – something any brokerage should find attractive.

Today’s announcement evidences an effort to leverage listings on their own brand sites as well, providing, in the words of CIO Craig Cuyar, "… a consistent and clear format, regardless of the listing source. Visitors to our brand Websites will be able to find all the local market information they are looking for faster and easier."

That may sound simple, but consider how jumbled most IDX functions sitting on broker sites right now truly are. This is a case study in getting back to basics using newly available technologies and media that many brokers would do well to emulate.

Such is the clarity that’s emerging in online real estate right now. Now let’s enter the mist of confusion that shrouds the elusive ‘Gateway’.

The Inman News article noted a number of things that I found really puzzling:

  • The idea that NAR would "restructure" its operating agreement with Move, Inc. to pursue an as-yet undefined venture.
  • The Gateway is being considered as a means to ensure that certain data are not presented "by others" when every data point mentioned by its planners to date already is.
  • Gary Thomas’ quote that the Gateway "Is not a national MLS. It could evolve to that at some point. If you wanted to make it that way, it’s up to you. It’s not our intent — but if that’s something you want to do, go for it. I won’t be up here doing that," illustrates just how fraught doing anything big and innovative in the MLS world can be.
  • The statement (also from Thomas) that the Gateway, while  designed for practitioners loaded with for sale listings, "…would not allow the offer of compensation and cooperation." This seems to me to exclude the glue that could make the whole thing come together.

I know it’s early. And there are people smarter than me working on this. But everything I have heard and read to date makes this project seem completely unhinged from any sort of strategy.

It reflects uncertainty, not clarity.

Brian Boero