Inman news had an interesting article today about how some of the innovative real estate search sites are causing headaches across the country. Considering all the conversations on Rain City Guide recently about the future of “data” this seems quite relevant and is a very interesting read. However, Inman will make the article subscriber-only after today, so catch it fast if you’re not a subscriber (or just read below for some of the more interesting quotes):
Out of companies that have released real estate search tools, the two most interesting (to me) are definitely Trulia and PropSmart. (The Inman article also features some background on Oodle, but they don’t seem to have the laser-like focus on real estate like the other two)
Here is Ron Hornbaker of PropSmart view of the situation:
While (Ron) said the response to Propsmart has been mostly positive from agents and brokers, he has received a bit of pushback from a few people in the multiple listing service community. “First of all, they’re using the word ‘illegal’ and … ‘copyright infringement.’ I’ve just been polite and talked to them. We don’t want to do anything people don’t want us to do.” Hornbaker said he has complied with the wishes of industry professionals who wish to remove their listings from being included at the site.
“My concern is they are speaking for way more interest than they should be. I do not believe we are a Napster-like model, and that’s what we’re being equated to,” he said, referring to Napster’s past problems in offering up a service that allowed users to illegally download music. “I would ask the people who say we’re doing illegal things to point out where the harm is — who are we damaging?”
That last quote would be sure to get a few comments from concerned agents should Ron have posted it on a blog… 🙂
The property listings displayed at Propsmart, he said, “are being used simply for display to consumers to point them to a home for sale. I would think that the opposite side of this could be argued more effectively: By restricting consumer access to the listings, that has more (potential) for being illegal.
“I believe it’s the seller who’s being forgotten in this situation. It is the seller we’re trying to stand up for and do the right thing for,” Hornbaker said, adding that sellers may not be aware — and may not approve — of efforts by brokers to block the listing from being viewed on some Web sites.
“I don’t buy the ‘copyright infringement’ for a second. They see their old model slipping away and they’re grasping at what they can,” he added. “We’re not trying to make money from the brokers. We’re not a middleman. We’re just trying to be a useful tool for consumers. I think this is going to backfire on the (opponents) in time.”
The gang at Trulia also gave some background on their view of where Trulia fits into the big picture:
Sami Inkinen, COO and co-founder at Trulia, said the site’s development team made a concerted effort to bring brokers to the table. “Most importantly, even before we launched we talked to all of the key brokers in advance to make sure the product was acceptable to what they want.” Inkinen said that Trulia is also careful not to access IDX, or Internet Data Exchange property listings information that is protected through broker agreements with MLSs.
While brokers seem to get it, Trulia CEO and co-founder Pete Flint said MLS’s are “frankly a mixed bag. Some of them have yet to understand … that this is in the best interest of their members. Some of them are not friends of innovation. Really what we’re focused on for now … (is) communicating how search is really positive to the real estate industry.”
Inkinen said, “We understand who we’re serving and we’re serving the brokers. We don’t want to own content. Our motto has always been the search-engine approach, the search-engine model — help brokers to place the digital yard sign on the Internet and then point to the actual source.”
Flint added, “We’re very aware that listings are a very delicate matter. We’re not looking to reinvent the industry in any way. We’re trying to improve things a little bit for consumers, and … a little bit for brokers.”
(Thanks to Jim of Central Virginia Real Estate News for tipping me off about this interesting article)