ZipRealty never bought into the Web 2.0 free-for-all. By taking the VOW route, the company has steadfastly required registration to view properties and (gasp!) assigns those who register to a ZipRealty agent.
This rather businesslike approach to search has been extended to the handset with the release of the ZipRealty iPhone app (warning: iTunes link).
This app is excellent. Zip has managed to create a feature rich experience that does not feel complex. That’s a significant achievement.
But as I explain below, there are a couple important lose ends in the user experience that need to be addressed in an update ASAP.
First, the good stuff:
The app cuts to the chase: There’s no start screen search function. After a prompt to share location, the user is taken right to a display of properties (initially only recent solds, but more on that below) surrounding them. The search area can be modified from this point either by panning across the map or manually entering a location.
The user interface is fast and clear. One of my beefs with the Redfin iPhone app (which is generally excellent) was its clustering of properties, which I found confusing. The Zip app’s UI is more clear: The default map view is tighter, the pushpins are well done and color-coding plus a simple legend make it easy to differentiate between sold and active properties.
This is also one of the fastest real estate apps I’ve come across. And when the user is made to wait, progress cues are clear.
This app is all business. Viewing active listings requires the user to register. When the user does this, they are assigned to a ZipRealty agent or regional manager who is tied to various calls to action within the app. This makes lead capture and assignment a lot easier, and is something most brokerages simply couldn’t pull off.
Some nice touches. The app includes value estimates from Zillow, Cyberhomes (which makes me wonder what’s going to happen to all of these API partners in light of recent developments) and Eppraisal. Many of the estimates on the random sampling of properties I viewed varied by 20-30%. This is not surprising, and has the interesting effect of satisfying the user’s desire for value information while simultaneously making the case that it is useless.
Another nice detail is the photo display on the property detail page â€“ a filmstrip that’s just the right size and behaves just the right way.
The not-so-good stuff:
For all of this app’s lead generating promise, it comes up short in a couple areas.
First, account creation (which, remember, is required for viewing active listings) is very difficult. The user is taken outside the app to create an account. Worse still, the three-step account creation form to which they are taken is not even optimized for mobile display. There’s going to be a lot of slippage if that’s not fixed.
Second, the app is not tightly integrated with the ZipRealty website once the account is created. These things should fit together hand-in-glove. Whatever the user does in the app (e.g. save properties, save searches, rate properties, etc.) should be synchronized with their Website account and vice-vice versa. Redfin’s app does this really well. With Zip’s app, the interaction only works one way: Properties you save on the Website will appear in your iPhone app, but not the other way around.
These things notwithstanding, this is an excellent app that gets a lot right.