Two years ago, there was a lot of buzz about outside companies trying to develop real estate web portals. Would they attempt to replace agents the way online travel portals had replaced travel agents or would they merely steal viewers from agent websites and then sell those viewers back to agents through sponsorships? Two years later the same questions remain, but a lot has changed in the growing real estate web portal sector.
Online Listings Are Now A Commodity
Trulia was one of the first outside sites with online listings. Last year Zillow joined the online listings derby. Six months ago, Zillow announced that they had almost 1 million listings. Two months ago, Overstock opened their new real estate marketplace with over 2.5 million listings. Clearly online listings have become a commodity. There are more than a dozen real estate web portals that now include listings. Most of these sites reserve the right to edit and sublicense your listings to other sites, so no matter where you or your broker send the listing, it will probably end up on most of the sites anyway. If the same listings are available everywhere, how will real estate web portals attract consumers?
Online Property Valuations Are Now A Commodity
Zillow's property valuation "Zestimates" were a great source of consternation when they debuted two years ago. Consumers loved the ability to see how much their home was supposedly worth, but real estate professionals disliked valuations that were based on incomplete data and a "one size fits all" formula. These days Zillow has access to more data and they have refined their formula, but it hardly matters. Competing real estate web portals carry online property valuations from Zillow, CyberHomes, and Eppraisal all on the same page. As with listings, it appears Zillow sublicenses their Zestimates. This raises an obvious question. Why settle for one valuation when you can compare several at once? If property valuations are available everywhere, how will real estate web portals attract consumers?
Agent Blogs Are Now A Commodity
ActiveRain was one of the original social networks for real estate professionals. The main draw was free blogs for real estate agents, brokers, and related vendors which were organized into interest groups and geographic communities. ActiveRain recently celebrated their 100,000th member. The same week it was discovered that Trulia was testing their own agent blogging platform. Trulia had already created a mechanism for agents to interact with consumers called Trulia Voices. That feature has been copied by other real estate web portals, too. If agent blogs and agent forums are available everywhere, how will real estate web portals attract consumers?
You Are The Only Competitive Advantage Left
Low barriers to entry and content syndication have made it easy for once innovative real estate web portals to copy each other to the point where none of them can offer consumers a unique, compelling reason to prefer their site. The only thing that can't be cloned or resold is you, the real estate professional. Your knowledge of the local area and your expertise in the area of buying and selling real estate is the only point of differentiation that is still available to real estate web portals, so when considering where and how you want to publish your knowledge and expertise, choose wisely!
Thanks for reading!