There was a list of the Top Twenty Open APIs and Mashup Resources for Web Developers (which i Tweeted about yesterday) published two days ago that the web developers reading this blog might find useful. Not all the APIs mentioned are specific to real estate; in fact, I guess the Zillow API is the only one that is (full disclosure: I manage the Zillow API program) — but that’s not the point of this post. The point is that there are a ton of free APIs, both non real estate and real estate specific, for developers to use in order to build out comprehensive, interactive, and social real estate websites for their clients. The APIs I’m most surprised to have have seen more adoption for in the real estate space thus far are Twitter, Facebook, and Google Friend Connect. It’s no secret that most consumers have both a Facebook and a Google account, so utilizing the social graphs and content the respective APIs provide seems like a no brainer. Why have real estate website providers like z57, Advanced Access, Superlative, or Agent Image not enabled a way for consumers to log in to an agent website using their Google or Facebook account (or both)? If a consumer finds a particular agent site and likes what they find, a more personalized experience is one way to increase the “stickiness” of a website for a buyer. For instance, if a consumer who finds a Bay Area agent/broker site is interested in San Jose rather than Palo Alto, the agent website could be personalized to show listings and market information in that area next time they visit the site (and log in of course). But personalization requires that a consumer log in to a site to identify themselves (unless site is personalized by IP) — and filling out yet another registration form is certainly a barrier that many consumers won’t jump over. Enabling log in with Google or Facebook would all but eliminate that barrier. Further, why have IDX providers like Diverse Solutions, Wolfnet, and RealtySoft not enabled consumers to send specific listings to their friends & ask for feedback straight inside Facebook? I know the Gen Y population in the market for a home would use that functionality.
This post isn’t meant to bash the tech providers for not integrating these APIs — it’s meant to start the conversation regarding whether or not consumers would use the added functionality if it were available. After all, the more consumer friendly an agent/broker website is, the more likely the consumer will end up visiting that site over and over throughout their buying experience. That of course makes it more likely the buyer will use that agent to complete their home purchase, which is what pays the bills for an agent/broker at the end of the day. In my opinion, the website vendors who build the most consumer friendly product will win in the long run (a subject Robert Luna recently addressed on the DS blog).
If I’m wrong and one of these vendors — or another real estate technology vendor — have done a really cool integration using one or multiple of these “social” APIs and I just don’t know about it, let me know so I can check it out.