Technology

Online real estate's Winter of Uncertainty

Author
Brian Boero
No.
163
Date
02/25/08

"So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a
steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can
almost see the high-water mark–the place where the wave finally broke and rolled
back."

 

That’s Hunter S. Thompson writing about the apotheosis
and retreat of the 1960’s counterculture from within the decidedly un-sunny
season called 1971.

 

I’ve thought of this passage (and, yes, trivialized it)
lately in trying to figure out where the story of Web 2.0 in real estate is
headed.

 

I get these questions all the time:

 

"What’s interesting in the category right now?"

"What do you think of Zillow?"

"What’s the killer online real estate app?"

"What do you think of Trulia?"

 

And honestly, my answers have been a little thin lately,
my tone a little wistful. Things seem to have stalled since the orgiastic real
estate Web 2.0 love-in at Inman last Summer, where
I
, along with most everyone
else, was in the drum circle banging out:

 

wiki-wiki-wiki-UGC-UGC-blog-blog-blog …

 

Today online real estate is in a Winter of Uncertainty.
Zillow has not, and likely will not, significantly alter the real estate
experience. The company seems somewhat directionless. Trulia feels less
compelling now that so many others have joined the listings party. Few brokers
have embraced the "conversation" and become "transparent". Most agents resist
new marketing tactics because "they take too much time."

 

There have been positive developments or course.
FrontDoor launched (disclosure: they are a 1000watt Consulting client) and is developing a
compelling real estate media experience. And the assembly of agents who use Web
2.0 tools to transform their business continues to grow, slowly.

 

But the overall arc of the story bends towards slow
change, not rapid transformation.

 

Where does this leave us? Not in a bad place necessarily.
The drum beat  hasn’t become a dirge. We just need to recalibrate expectations. The Old Way won’t crumble overnight, no
matter how many beers we have at Bloggers Connect. I think we’re going to see
more plays like Roost, which did not aim to reinvent the entire online real
estate experience, but rather took one piece of it – IDX search – and improved
upon it. Or SquidZipper, which gives agents a neat little platform for
channeling their local expertise without throwing ten other features at them.

 

There are more of these companies coming. We’re working
with some of them. Think about it: has anyone really nailed online neighborhood
information? Or agent ratings? Someone will. You can count on it. But it’s
going to take time.

 

There will be no
online real estate revolution. No
tipping point. No tidal wave of change. Just a slow rising tide that
swells almost imperceptibly, carrying upon it those who seek, in time,
the
higher ground.

 

— Brian Boero