Friday Flash: Movoto, Tango and advanced disruption

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these “Friday Flash” posts. I needed a break and, to be honest, doing it has always been like tiptoeing across a minefield. 

Really, you haven’t missed much. We can bottom line the last couple months pretty quickly, right?

  • People use mobile phones to look for homes.
  • Drones are awesome.
  • Bitcoin sounds like a swell idea for real estate.
  • Syndication is kind of complicated.

Anyway, joking aside…

When the monthly real estate website traffic rankings came out in February, there was a new name in the top 20:


Movoto is a real estate brokerage – only one of three in the top 20 (Redfin and ZipRealty were the other two). The rest were portals. But Movoto doesn’t seem to have agents. They just use other brokers’ listings, sourced directly from the MLS, to generate leads, then use other brokers’ agents to sell the homes.

Movoto gets a big referral fee on every transaction, the agent gets a commission, and the agent’s real broker gets to pay for the office rent and pencils.

It’s the “paper broker” thing – a phenomenon that, to the real estate industry, is like the weird noise your car makes that you resist getting checked out for fear of what you’ll uncover. Most people I talk to don’t really care about this issue, or at least recognize there’s nothing that can be done about it without provoking DOJ attention.

So it goes. But what makes this interesting is that Movoto was quietly acquired by a multibillion- dollar Japanese company that owns a large property portal in Japan. A representative from the company told Paul Hagey, the Inman News reporter who broke the story, that they intend to make Movoto “The #1 online real estate service in the U.S.”

I don’t think that knocking and pinging under the hood is going away.

Realogy announced its second FWD Innovation Summit this week. It’s a high-powered demo day hosted at Realogy HQ in New Jersey and attended by a who’s-who of real estate decision makers.

If you run an early stage real estate startup, make a point to apply ASAP. It’s a killer event.

Google launched something called Project Tango this week. Basically, they’ve created a phone with a deep spatial sense that enables one to create 3D environments.

No fancy gear, just the phone.

Techcrunch posted an example that shows a 3D view inside an apartment. It’s rough, but you can see the possibilities.

Most homes are still marketed with bad photos, bad videos or bad photos stitched together into bad videos. I think we’re nearing a tipping point, though, where stuff like what you see in this demo is going to become easy enough to be widely adopted.

When I think about what true disruption might look like in the real estate business, I think about Airbnb. This company, with a vision of “Post-hotel travel,” has managed to make millions of people feel that it’s OK to crash at a stranger’s place when travelling.

When a company can create connections between people about housing at scale, we ought to look at it closely.

This week, Airbnb required people that offer space through the service (“hosts”) to have smoke alarms and first aid kits installed. This might be looked at as a throw-away announcement, something that just makes sense. And it does. But it’s also a disruptive company matured to a point where it is adopting practices and standards of the industry incumbents it is messing with.

Kind of like a paper broker’s agent partner program.

Have a good weekend.


[Disclosure: Realogy is a 1000WATT client.]