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The Required Hook for Every Consumer Real Estate Startup

The listing.

fish hook

Buyers won’t come without them. Sellers won’t come if you don’t have buyers. Buyers pay everyone’s bills.

The elusive listing, the hook every consumer real estate startup must focus on.

If you are focused on one market, just grab an IDX or RETS feed and you’re good to go. To grow and scale, of course, you need to cover more than just one local market. It’s no small task to get nationwide listings (as I’ve written about). You have several options, none of them perfect or cheap…

  1. Buy listings from ListHub (incomplete dataset at best)
  2. Merge IDX/MLS data across every market in the country (requires working with 900 MLS’)
  3. Direct from agents, brokers, and MLS’ (good luck, see you weary & broke in 5 years)
  4. Scrape them (won’t be appreciated, & certain to damage your reputation in the industry).

There’s a lot of other “stuff” associated with a listing — neighborhood reviews, school ratings & reviews, WalkScores, crime statistics, neighborhood and school district boundaries, local amenities, drive times, etc.

None of it matters if you don’t have listings.

At least in the consumer real estate arena, any startup NOT focused on slicing off a piece of the listings pie to attract buyers is in for an extremely turbulent ride. It’s the hook needed to get buyers to look at anything else, and to make any money as a long term business.

If you don’t focus on the listing? A startup has three possible outcomes:

  1. Get bought by someone who has listings (NabeWise acquired by AirBnB).
  2. Pivot to listings (WalkScore).
  3. Go out of business (virtually every other consumer real estate startup).

Your fate is tied to listings however you look at it, so you may as well accept that fact now.

What slice of buyers are you fishing for? How are you going to reach them? What are you doing differently to serve them?

[Photo via]

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • The only players who have broken through recently that I have seen is Homesnap (formerly Sawbuck) and Estately. Sawbuck/Homesnap used a listing-photo to video hook. Homesnap has dropped off since their rebranding. Estately is doing well in the northeast -they do have a nice search -but I do not see thier “hook” or differentiator

    • yup…very very hard for someone to break through on search. Estately has done a great job, that’s for sure. I’ve known Galen at estately for a long time & he’s here in seattle, but I don’t know as much about homesnap/sawbuck’s latest moves/improvements since they are largely east coast.

  • Dan

    There is at least one aggregator of MLS listing content (Wolfnet). You still have to be a member of the MLS whose data you are accessing (or at least your agent/broker clients do), but at least you don’t have to integrate with N IDX feeds.

    • yup, there are multiple IDX vendors who have aggregated idx feeds from tens or hundreds of MLS. RED has a bunch of this data already. But they largely only have rights to use the data for their own products, and can’t just “sell” access to anyone that wants it. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

      • Dan

        My understanding (based on experience) is that if you are a broker or an agent or a vendor who is providing technology to either of those parties, Wolfnet will grant access to the MLS data on the MLS member’s behalf. Of course, there are agreements to be executed and limits on how the data can be used.

        If I were doing a real estate startup and needed listing data nation wide, I’d definitely reach out to a company like Wolfnet to do the heavy listing of data access and aggregation.

        • Agree it’s worth talking to those types of folks.

          Note though, that using MLS data, requires you abide by all MLS/IDX rules..which are different in every market.

          • Dan

            Yes. Like you said, you have to deal with 900+ MLSes if you want full nationwide coverage (and you don’t get NYC at all). Going through a data provide just means you save some on parsing data, but you don’t save on MLS fees and paperwork.

            Would be interesting to know how many MLSes you would have to deal with if you wanted 50% or 75% population coverage.

          • 100 or 120?

  • Of course we beg to differ on point #3 above. We’re getting listings directly from brokers and agents through our transaction management system, and we’re scaling. The future is bright for Reesio 🙂

    • reesio is a B2B play though. not B2C. You can get away with not focusing on listings if you are selling into the industry rather than trying to reach consumers direct.

  • listings are the most budget friendly way of getting leads.

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