Zillow Comes Out of Beta

Zillow LogoWhenever I hear a site is coming out of “beta,” I roll my eyes. This is because whether we call something “alpha,” “beta,” “gamma” or “delta” what matters is the user experience. But Zillow, which came out of beta last night, is doing a bunch of concrete things to make the user experience better and the make its Zestimates more accurate.

There’s an improved algorithm, which is apparently taking more data into account and is more locally sensitive. In addition Zillow’s marketing VP Spencer Rascoff told me that about a million homeowners have claimed their homes and modified the data on the site, improving the accuracy of the Zestimates for those homes. Zillow’s Zestimates have been criticized in the past for being inaccurate. But Rascoff says the changes have fairly dramatically improved the overall accuracy of the site’s home valuations. He also said that Zillow now has listings and Zestimates for almost 90% of US homes, whether for sale or not.

Zillow is also embracing a common data standard with Yahoo!, Trulia, Oodle and others that will enable listings feeds to go to many destinations more easily. Unless MLS services find ways to become a kind of “agency” of sorts for their member brokerages, and facilitate the delivery of listings online, they’ll be gone in a few years because of direct feeds.

As I’ve written about several times, Zillow has a significant deal with a consortium of newspapers, which I characterized as partly a reaction to perceived dependence on Yahoo!. Zillow (Rascoff) has disagreed with my characterization.

As I mentioned in my SEL post on the Zillow announcements…

Borrell Associates estimates that online real estate-related advertising is worth $2.9 billion today. Traditional US real estate classified advertising was worth just over $5 billion in 2006 according to the Newspaper Association of America, while the National Association of Realtors estimates that total real estate ad spending in the US is roughly $12 billion annually.

On the advertiser side, there’s mixed evidence about the adoption of online advertising by realtors. Yellow pages and local search executives (in a poll I conducted late last year) cite realtors as the SMB category with the highest online advertiser penetration behind only auto dealers. Last year, Peter Zollman’s Classified Intelligence presented a mixed picture of local realtor online advertising. Inman News offered some data that supported the trend toward online but had some different findings.

Real estate is a category that is rapidly being transformed by online. The competition between Zillow, Trulia and Yahoo! is driving the considerable innovation, which traditional media cannot hope to match. However, market fragmentation and other factors (broker inertia, culture, complexity of online) will ensure some level of spending in print newspapers and other traditional advertising vehicles for the foreseeable future.


Related: Yahoo! announced a direct listings program today:

Yahoo! Real Estate today launched its new online property listings program, allowing franchisors and brokers nationwide to post their complete set of home listings on the site for free on the Internet’s #1 real estate website. Prudential Real Estate Affiliates and Realogy Corporation, two of the industry’s largest franchisors, are among the first to participate in the service, enabling their teams of real estate professionals to market their full catalog of property listings on Yahoo! Real Estate. Realogy’s franchise brand networks include CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA and Sotheby’s International Realty.

Several other leading real estate franchisors and brokerages have also elected to participate in the Yahoo! property listings program, making Yahoo! Real Estate one of the most comprehensive sites offering listings of existing homes for sale. These brokerages include: Assist 2 Sell, First Team Real Estate, GMAC Real Estate, Help-U-Sell, Houlihan Lawrence Real Estate, Illustrated Properties Real Estate, Intero Real Estate Services, Keller Williams Realty, Keyes Company, Long & Foster Companies, RealEstate.com REALTORS, Real Living, Realty Executives International, Weichert Realtors, and ZipRealty.

4 Responses to “Zillow Comes Out of Beta”

  1. Gainesville Realty Says:

    Zillow needs to do something fancy if they want to stand out over Trulia. Trulia’s got the new user integrate their search in to you rweb site feature that is sure to get them lots of market share.

  2. ResourceShelf » Briefs: Zillow Comes Out of Beta Says:

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  3. retrove Says:

    I agree with your comments regarding the MLS but they are still the intial source of data entry currently and more importantly the mediator of real estate commission rates between the real estate agents. They may re-invent themselves with better public access and more seo friendly designs and become the lead platforms for agents as T / R / Z are trying to do.

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    […] firyace article is brought to you using rss feeds.Here you will find the latest real estate news for buying and selling homes.Real Estate today launched its new online property listings program, allowing franchisors and brokers nationwide to post their complete set of home listings on the site for free on the Internet’s #1 real estate website. Prudential Real … […]

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