The era of "Yeah, we have a mobile app" has officially ended

“To be honest, I think the iPhone app — maybe not in this first version, but out on the horizon — might be better than our Web site”

That’s Zillow COO Spencer Rascoff in an Inman article covering the launch of the company’s iPhone app.

It’s a remarkable statement. And I agree with it. But I would go further: The Zillow iPhone app as it is today is better than Zillow website.

It’s killer: A magnetic blend of utility and fun in the palm of your hand.

This is a moment worth thinking about, for it is the first time a mobile online real estate experience has exceeded its big-screen counterpart.

Information in context. The right stuff in the right place at the right time. Optimized for a mobile form factor. That’s powerful. But until now it always seemed a bit out of reach. I’ve written about the mobile opportunity in real estate a lot over the past couple years. It’s always been an anticipatory exercise. Now we have something really good, now.

Rascoff reported on Saturday that after only two days, 8% of Zillow’s searches are coming from iPhones. The number of searches per user will decline, but the number of users will only increase. This will be a heavily used application.

Think about it: Trulia’s iPhone app is nice. But searching on is better.


Well, think through the use cases. For example:

A couple plans to go out looking for open homes on a Sunday. They drive to a neighborhood, then open the Trulia iPhone app and see what’s open around them.

That doesn’t sound right, does it?

Now this:

A couple is driving to the home of some new friends who live in a neighborhood nicer than their own. They like the neighborhood and wonder what it takes to live there. And, like most Americans, they are status-conscious. So they open the Zillow iPhone app and check out sale prices, Zestimates, and the price their new friends paid for their home.

That, to me, makes more sense.

We are now past the point when “having a mobile app” is good enough. The fun part has started – developing truly useful software that enhances consumers’ real estate experience where it matters most: Away from the desk.

Some questions I have:

1. Will the app be overloaded with data and features like the website or will Zillow create a suite of apps?

2. How will advertising be placed into the mix? Big brand sponsorships? Geo-targeted Showcase ads?

3. Does the dubious accuracy of the Zesitmate become less of an issue in a mobile context? In other words, will users be more willing to accept less perfect information if it is delivered more perfectly?

I don’t have the answers. But it will be fun to watch them emerge.

Exciting stuff!