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The Next Major Consumer Win in Real Estate

You may remember, Zillow’s early positioning: Find the value of any home, without giving up your contact information (or some close iteration of that).

Every home owner, buyer and seller wanted to know what houses are worth. But they most certainly were not willing to give up their contact details to a real estate agent to find out. Yet, in 2006, that’s precisely the only way they could get an estimate for the value of a home. Until Zillow unlocked that data previously only available to real estate and mortgage professionals behind paywalls.

The number of people interested in home values grew exponentially when provided on their terms.

Where am I going with this?

Fast forward to today. There is a major consumer pain point lurking out there.

Owners, buyers, and sellers ALL have specific questions they’d like answered by trusted, skilled, and knowledgeable real estate professionals. But they most certainly do NOT want to give up their email address or phone number to get them answered. Everyone in this industry knows lead generation is largely spent sorting through bogus or crappy leads. In fact, just yesterday Zillow’s Greg Schwartz was quoted saying “Traditionally, close to 50 percent of such numbers on rental sites ‘lead to dead ends’.” I don’t know the exact percentages, but the same dynamic exists in the residential sales space.

Yet, giving up an email address or phone number is largely the only route to getting a personal answer now. (Or they can resort to Zillow Advice, Trulia Voices, or some other Q&A to ask something publicly in the hopes of an answer).

That is…until someone changes the game, and provides a trusted environment to interact with professionals on the consumers terms.

Inquire about any property and get trusted answers from professionals, without giving up your contact information.

An anonymous, yet secure way to communicate, and give the consumer control over when they expose their contact information.

Real estate lead generation 2.0.

There is zero doubt this is coming. As I’ve said before, at the end of the day, the consumer always wins when you think about the consumer technology space. And being able to get personalized answers without giving up an email or phone number is what the consumer wants. Like it or not, they don’t want to submit a form, talk to you for 5 minutes or trade 2 emails, only to be put on your email newsletter for eternity on some sort of crappy drip campaign. An anonymous, yet trusted & personalized, way to ask questions and get responses will significantly increase the number of buyers who will engage — giving real estate agents a way to engage and earn trust earlier in the buying process.

The question, is who is going to capitalize with the first mover advantage?

I happen to have a very, very good idea for the right mobile app to deliver this consumer experience. In fact, most of it is already fully designed. If you are a brokerage, franchise, or startup/vendor interested in bringing it to market quickly, schedule a call with me.

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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  • Jason Patton

    I use Zopim ( on my real estate website specifically for this purpose. It functions like a chat window where prospects can send me messages and questions without having to login or give an email address. It works well when incorporated with a full IDX feed.

    • Yup. Some people do use chat clients like that. But it only really works in real time, right? What happens if the buyer leaves? The only way to reach them is to get their email or phone. And, even so, the buyer knows nothing about the, person answering their inquiry so there is close to zero trust.

      • Few buyer visitors make use of zopim on a real estate site simply because I suspect they really are “just looking”.

        To your point, first, Zillow just took the old lead gen of “What’s your home worth” phone#s, websites, an. postcards and flipped its head. It changed overnight from housevalues attracting crappy leads to Zillow having an audience and selling adspace agents.

        Realtors already give away so much of their power (knowledge) that it is foolish to expend even more time and effort doing what you propose when they should be out developing relationships that really build their business.

        I have an idea for you, though. Residential is pretty much done foe now. They’ve given up and sold out to a variety of interests. How about you investigate commercial real estate? Now there is a shadow world of pocket listings and lack of clarity

        • The opportunity is to make the process of interacting with a professional, less of a formal process.

          I do have rental questions right now. But I’m scared to death of giving my email address to the wrong agent or property management firm and being stuck on their crappy drip systems & newsletters for eternity. So I don’t even bother asking. Until I am 100% ready…but then it will become an urgent thing and add unnecessary stress to my life. Right now, there is an opportunity to build trust early in the process…and if rental agent X does that, then it’s not even a question of who I turn to when I am fully ready to move forward on a deal.

          Tinder makes dating more casual. Sure, you get more looky loos who are not totally serious…but you get exponentially more people engaging overall because they know THEY control their own privacy. They can block who they want, talk to who they want, and ultimately only reveal their true identity to people they are interested in truly getting to know.

  • I’m not sure how much I would invest in replying to an anonymous consumer. It could easily be a competitor or some other “trap.” It can be tough prioritizing which leads/ consumers to work with at any time and I’m certainly more likely to want to work with “real” people than anonymous ones. If you’re not ready to work with a real estate professional that’s fine by me.

    This is a “top of the funnel” type problem for agents without much business. Again, you are likely to attract less experienced agents with this model and then the consumers get lower quality service than they would with a more experienced agent. I guess I have the same problem with this as I do with “floor time.”

    • I’m confident this can be solved by the right product. I talk to people on Tinder. I don’t know their full identity, but there are signals they aren’t anonymous people.

      What if you knew the anonymous consumer had connected FB, Twitter, had a credit score of 730 (verified), was interested in homes in 98075, had “liked” 23 homes between the prices of 440k and 650k? What if you knew they had a credit card on file?

      • Jonathan Washburn

        They’re not really anonymous on Tinder since they connect with Facebook. With Houseline we currently require everyone to register before they can use the app, but are considering allowing people to use it anonymously. My vision when creating Houseline was to provide users with the ability to get housing information through in-app messaging anonymously, however we also have to weigh that against creating a viable business.

        • You could make buyers connect on FB too, and just hide their name or only show initials.

          Happy to chat more about this..I’ve thought a lot about this product.

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