Last week’s Real Estate Connect was fantastic. Brad and his Inman team delivered a first rate show for the 1,000 + attendees. But the mood of the event is hard to characterize.
The tone was reserved, if not quite somber. The enthusiasm for online innovation was still there, though it never approached the blog-drunk rapture of last summer’s San Francisco event. There’s also no clear "story" coming out of the show. And I guess that’s ok — if you’re comfortable with shades of gray.
So here, then, are my own rather discursive observations on the event and the State of the Online Real Estate Category as of early January 2008:
- It’s been nearly two years since Zillow launched; Trulia is on year three. And most still talked about them last week as if they were launched yesterday. It’s a testament to their execution, but also the failure of anyone to make a truly big play in this space since 2005.
- "Listings are a commodity" is settling into a cozy place in our conventional wisdom. And with all the classifieds and real estate listings sites sucking up broker feeds these days, it makes a little bit of sense. But there is another (and, I would argue, better) way, amply displayed at the show by HGTV’s FrontDoor (Disclosure: FrontDoor is a 1000watt client).
- Further along these lines, two deals announced at the show – Trulia co-branding its search for newspapers and the Zillow/Trulia/Yahoo! embrace of a listings standard – make it ever more clear that listings are fast approaching the sort of ubiquity that demands differentiation along lines of service and experience. It will be interesting to see who nails it.
- People in the industry are starting to get that "Web 2.0" means much more than blogging and mashups. You saw this in many of the sessions, where brokers and franchise execs talked with more nuance about the sensibility underneath the Web 2.0 phenomenon than they had at earlier conferences.
- A company selling both stealth websites and a neighborhood social platform for Realtors had a big booth in the exhibit hall, thus providing a physical monument to the struggle of those in the industry confused by change.
- The MLS category is hot! And, no, this is not just the jetlag talking. I’m here to tell you that there was more progressive talk among the EO’s and service providers in this space during the three days at Inman than there was all last year. My belief that 2008 will be the year (some) MLSs flex their muscle continues to grow.
- Destination websites in our mobile, fragmented industry are a tough sell – with consumers and pros alike. The coolest things I saw were those apps that reside within broker sites or serve up useful information to consumers on the go.
That’s it. For now.
— Brian Boero