Search is a lost cause (IMHO), at least for the industry. Just like it took outsiders like Zillow & Trulia to overtake Realtor.com, it’ll likely take another outsider to make a serious run at Zillow & Trulia sometime down the line.
So, what’s the next opportunity the industry will be fighting to win?
Buyers find a listing, and then they need what? An agent.
What do consumers really want to know?
Who to trust.
That’s the reason people largely use a friend or a friend of a friend as their real estate agent. They trust those people. When you’re making the largest financial decision of your life, you want to know that you have a trusted advisor at your side.
What’s the end solution?
A destination I, as a buyer/seller, can go login with my Facebook account — and instantly see which of my friends (& friends of friends) are real estate agents. Team that with an agent reviews system, so as to see reviews about those agents. The bonus would be to have transaction history directly from that same experience. The hard part, as always, is scale. The solution requires all my agent friends to have signed up, put reviews into the system, and added (or associated) their transaction history to their profile. If you don’t get all — or a big chunk of — agents, I would rather just reach out to my 2-3 agent friends I trust individually.
In my mind, the starting point for that scenario is agent reviews — since that’s the extremely fragmented original content to make the solution defensible. Someone is going to figure out a way to get to critical mass of reviews. Once they do, they will be in a prime position to monetize the agent selection process. The question is, will the industry figure that out on their own and control that destination to bring the cost of leads down for agents, or will an outside player take the prize (which will surely end up as a pay-to-play destination)?
Who is poised to make a run at it? RealSatisfied, of course, comes to mind first. But there are other players such as and Reach150, HomeLight, and ReachFactor. Of course, Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com are all thinking about this opportunity as well.
Who do you think stands the best chance to be trusted as the industry leader in reviews?