SAN FRANCISCO — The titans of the online real estate business took the stage Wednesday at the Real Estate Connect conference to talk about the future of real estate. Execs from companies Trulia, Redfin and Zillow were all on stage, and vocally weighing in about what they think is the next big thing.
In at least one respect, the response was unanimous: The industry will move away from the old model of simply searching for a house, shifting to a new world of personalized real estate recommendations.
“We’re just trying to treat people like people, not just as a nation, as a person,” said Greg Schwartz, Zillow’s Chief Revenue Officer.
[Note: Schwartz's title has been corrected since this post was originally published.]
Social networks have been doing the same thing for a while in an effort to provide better recommendations, and better serve ads. But searching for a house is a far more high-stakes transaction than finding a new Facebook friend. In the past, companies have built complicated search tools that put much of the burden on users themselves.
“There’s 20 fields on Zillow, Trulia and Redfin, and I guarantee you that nobody searches on any of the fields,” said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. “At least in our experience, every time we add a new constraint, no one uses it, and what (Trulia CEO) Pete (Flint) and Greg are talking about is making a recommendation based on deeper knowledge of a consumer.”
“But making a recommendation that’s really smart, that’s the name of the game right now, because sometimes people don’t know what they want.”
Each of the companies has its own approach to making that happen. Trulia’s currently betting on Trulia Suggests, a system that allows people searching for a home to use a Netflix-like rating system to refine their search.
Flint describes the process as a means for consumers to say “…I like this one, I like this one, I don’t like these other two, show me more like the first.” “It just takes the headache out of searching for properties.”
Zillow has decided that it wants to be the Android of the real estate search world. They’re creating open APIs that other real estate companies will be able to integrate into their apps in order to use Zillow’s data. ”We’re going to operate an open ecosystem platform at Zillow,” Schwartz said.
Redfin is preferring to focus on making real estate agents as tech-savvy and customer-focused as possible. Kelman said, ”We’ve had customers say that it’s like going from the space age to the stone age, as soon as they were recommended from a website to a real estate agent, they felt like they were no longer in the 21st century.”
It’s also possible that Redfin agents will soon be able to have access to analytics about which aspects of a house draw a buyer’s interest. Kelman alluded to the idea of using sensors to track potential buyers while they’re touring a house, and feeding that information back to the seller.
Previously on GeekWire: Redfin vs. Estately: Which tech company is most innovative in the real estate biz?
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.