New applications, more robust agent reviews and increased efficiency are among the directions experts see the online home listing industry heading.
A panel of leaders from often-competing entities Zillow, Realtor.com, MRIS, Trulia, ZipRealty and Hubzu addressed journalists assembled for the annual National Assn. of Real Estate Editors conference Thursday. Here are their takes on what has been happening and what is ahead for consumers and agents:
Greg Schwartz of Zillow expects more changes on the transaction side. "In 10 years we've gone from dog-eared books to mobile applications," he said. Now apps will push content specific to an individual based on homes searched in the past. Beyond helping consumers find a home is finding a real estate agent who will advocate for them, Schwartz said. Agent ratings at Zillow have generated some interesting results. On a scale of 5, an agent who scores 4.8 gets more response than one with a score of 5, he said. "It is believable."
Errol Samuelson of Realtor.com said although 80% to 90% of consumers start their search for houses online, only about 9% start the search for real estate agents on the Web. "It's a huge opportunity," Samuelson said, and "the next big area the industry will focus on."
Too much bad information is a problem everywhere, said John Heithaus of MRIS. "There are 800 listing services and not everyone has the same information." Due to the complexity of the real estate process, he doesn't see agent reviews working well. "It is not like we are rating doctors," Heithaus said. "It just doesn't carry over to me."
Ken Shuman of Trulia sees the industry "going outside the search box" to something completely new to the consumer. Rather than enter a specific city, number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms, technology will send suggestions to consumers based on a combination of what they liked with what other people liked. "Then it will feed you back recommendations that you may not have ever thought of before," he said.
Lanny Baker of ZipRealty has witnessed technology furthering the speed at which deals are closing. Some 30% of homes on ZipRealty are selling in less than seven days as consumers become more confident and better informed by using online tools. "It is less disruptive to the consumer if homes are selling quickly," Baker said.
In a departure from a traditional listings site, Hubzu lets buyers bid on houses directly in open transactions. The model "drives multiple offers and lets the market decide what the price is," said General Manager Scott Wielar.
[For the record, 8:19 a.m. June 7, 2013: An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of Ken Shuman of Trulia as Shulman.]
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