Friday Flash: Pictures, knowledge and the Mayan listings apocalypse

In April, NeighborCity, a virtual brokerage, was sued by some MLSs for allegedly using listings data without permission. In September, NeighborCity countersued, accusing these MLSs, and the NAR, of antitrust violations.

Last month, the court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting NeighborCity from displaying the MLS’ photographs, which it viewed as copyright protected, but not the accompanying data, which it did not view in the same light.

This has caused quite a stir.

What if NeighborCity wins? What if hordes of outsiders crash through the doors of the MLS like Black Friday shoppers going apeshit at Wal-Mart?

Well, let me ask you this: what if a venture-backed real estate startup launched and began scraping listings from broker sites, used those listings to gather enough consumer eyeballs to convince brokers to submit their listings voluntarily, then grew that audience to the point where many brokers felt like that couldn’t back out?

Well, that would be Trulia. And in the seven years between Trulia’s launch and its IPO, commissions rose, the brokerage business model remained essentially the same, and real estate survived the worst market crash in 50 years.

I do not mean to diminish the value of listings data. And I know listings have ancillary value many brokers do not wish to dilute.

But purely on the “what if” question… well, I think we’ll be OK.

Redfin has had a notable couple weeks.

Early this month, the company released a Tour feature on their mobile apps that allows buyers to assemble and then schedule a tour of homes.

Sounds ho-hum until you consider two things:

First, this is executed really well and is worth studying closely. Arranging a showing or showings with an agent is that golden point at which a consumer steps forward and says, “yes, I am ready, lead me forward,” but most showing forms and call centers are a clicky sticky mess.

Second, this is Redfin inching toward a point where its low-touch reputation is not so damning. Line up your tour on the phone and a Redfin agent is on it, in the flesh.

If you’re a traditional broker, Redfin is paying you the compliment of imitation. Returning it may not be a bad idea.

And this week came Collections, a tool that allows users to create and share groups of property photos. Check it out.

Again, ho-hum on the surface. Pinterest-ish layout. Whatever. But consider that this is done in an MLS/IDX compliant way, which makes it possible for Redfin to gain all the stickiness and virality inherent in property photos on its own site. That is a novel thing.

IDX vendors: build this product. You’ll do well.

Oh, and Kelman did a video interview with Techcrunch this week in which he reveals that Redfin will do $50 million in revenue in 2012 and will end up becoming a much bigger company than Zillow, Trulia or Move.

Airbnb, the coolest online real estate company that isn’t an online real estate company, bought hyperlocal Q&A company Localmind. Localmind offers mobile apps that enable people to know what’s happening in a place, in the moment.

This come on the heels of Airbnb’s acquisition of neighborhood comparison service Nabewise and a serious deepening of the contextual information surrounding the inventory they are brokering.

Keep an eye on ‘em.

Marc, Joel and I are going to be at the Inman show in NYC after the holidays. Please join us. This year’s program is great. And the networking cannot be beat.

Facebook jumped back into local in a big way with the addition of a “Nearby” button within its mobile apps. You can now see the businesses and places around you, how they’re rated, and whether or not any of your connections have liked or check-in to these places.

No, I do not think we’re going to see a “Homes” category. But this is yet another place where brokers are going to have their social/local stuff together in 2013.

A few hours from now, I will shut my MacBook, throw my phone in a drawer, pour myself a drink, sit in front of the tree and glide into some holiday downtime.

Then, thirty minutes later, restless, I will get up, walk past the tree, open the drawer, grab my phone and check on Nudge sign-ups.

I wish for you your own brand of relaxation over the next two weeks.