The market is cooling but the competition is heating up. We’ll see how a downturn in the real estate market affects advertising online vs. in traditional media — it will test my “recession theory” as a leading indicator. However, the Internet is certainly here to stay in the real estate sector when it comes to consumer usage and local marketing. (U.S. homebuyers using the Internet went from roughly 2% in 1995 to 77% in 2005 according to the National Association of Realtors.)
Indeed the Internet may gain even more usage in a housing slump as consumers have the luxury to be more selective and do more online research and local sellers have to be more aggressive online to reach more discriminating buyers.
Against this backdrop Yahoo! relaunched its real estate vertical with more listings (3 million), a more unified look and feel and a great many new features and enhancements that make it as good as or better than most of what’s out there.
It borrows heavily from the appearance and functionality of Yahoo! Local, giving new prominence to maps and also building out communities and schools information and other user-generated content that help inform buying decisions in a particular neighborhood. HomePages.com has some of this content but the user experience is awkward in many respects.
The new Yahoo! site will also feature new local realtor advertising opportunities, including banners and graphical ads. Speculating, there are also numerous, potential “on map” advertising options (Trulia does this now). And PPCall would also be a good fit here.
Recently Yahoo! Search integrated Zillow’s “zestimate” home valuations into its search results. As part of this redesign Yahoo! has more deeply integrated a number of Zillow’s tools and features into Real Estate. It’s also integrating a number of real-estate “shortcuts” into search results beyond home valuations (mortgage rates, listings).
Compare a San Francisco, CA single family home (3 bdrm, 1 ba, under $900,000) search on:
- Yahoo! Real Estate
- Move.com (Realtor.com, which powers MSN and AOL’s real estate listings)
- Google/Google Base
- San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate (no results!)
- HouseValues’ HomePages.com (listings appear to be associated with a single agent)
- Redfin (recently became a discount broker)
In my quick and unscientific review of these sites I found the new Yahoo! site to be one of the best user experiences (Trulia was the other but didn’t have as many features.). Remarkably I found a “no results” result on the San Francisco Chronicle website. This probably was a malfunction rather than a reflection that there were no properties that met my criteria. But consumers aren’t necessarily going to give the site the benefit of the doubt.
Yahoo! Real Estate also has an interesting partnership with Prudential Real Estate that, among other things features a Yahoo! sign rider on select Prudential properties. That sign rider shows a unique ID number, which prospective buyers can plug into Yahoo Search and immediately be taken to details about the specific property. This also would work on smartphones, but isn’t rendered specifically for wireless.
Depending on whom you consult, Yahoo! Real Estate falls somewhere in the top ten most visited online real estate properties. These upgrades and enhancements should boost usage of the site. And Yahoo! has the competitive advantage vs. rivals of being able to drive users to the site with search shortcuts, mentioned above.