With so many real estate questions, there are too many answers

Bear with me through a short hypothetical exercise…

I’m a consumer looking to move to a new part of town. I have a question, as many in my situation do, about what it’s like to live there.

What to do?

First, I scoot over to Zillow’s real estate advice boards. More than 277,000 question threads are there and it seems to be a pretty vibrant and active community. Top contributor sunnyview has answered over 15,000 questions alone.

Impressive right?

Dig a little deeper into the Neighborhoods topic however and you find yourself quickly overwhelmed by some pretty meaningless chatter.


Redfin’s Forums make it a little easier for me. They break things down by metropolitan area, but I still have to wade through over 120,000 open threads.

Too much work. Moving on.

Next I check out Trulia Q&A; Florida Realtor Bill Eckler seems to be the reigning champ there, having personally contributed over 8,900 answers out of a pool of about 140,000 questions.

Enthusiasm like this is commendable – but despite a fantastic interface, it seems that far too many of the threads on Trulia degenerate into a great big Realtor pile-on.


By now, I’m out wandering out on the wider Web and visiting some of the generic Answer portals. Believe me, there are plenty to choose from. And they all suck.

Mahalo, Amazon’s Askville, SMS service ChaCha (which just raised another $20 million in funding) and, of course, the granddaddy of them all – Yahoo! Answers – compete for my attention. But most of them seem to exist solely to sweep up Google Adwords dollars.

None of this is working.

Avoiding the Realtor pile-on

Seems to me that the problem with so many of these services is that they lack the right filters. I don’t want to filter by topic but rather by competency and trust.

Bottom line: Who is going to be answering my question and how do I know they’re not totally full of shit?

My social graph is the most powerful competency filter I have. In real life, if I have a question about plumbing I go to my buddy John who’s an engineer. If I need to find a developer for a new website I’m building, I ask my friend Rob who’s totally dialed in to the tech community. And so on.

The web can amplify this. And herein lies the big opportunity for real estate. A way to leverage your friends and friends of friends in an organized fashion to ask questions and receive quality feedback.

In other words, it’s a way of filtering out the Realtor pile-on, or least only allowing those that I know and trust to jump in.

Quora is a new site that gets us halfway there. Founded in April 2009 by Adam D’Angelo, formerly CTO of Facebook, Quora is an online answers service where the information is contributed, collected and organized by the community.

Importantly, your presence on Quora (mine is here) is built off your Twitter or Facebook profile so logging in brings your entire social graph with you – questions can then be directed to your followers and real names and real identities are then tied to the answers.

Trust is established.

So many questions, so little time

The opportunity to solve this problem is challenging but compelling. Perhaps the answer lies in a Quora-like site for the real estate vertical. Perhaps it’s a Peep.ly-like plugin that serves up connections in an “Ask the Broker” section of your website.

I’m not sure what form it may take yet.

All I know is I have lots of questions, but so far, no answers.