HomesForSale

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An edited version of this article also appeared in Inman News on 2/27/15

Realogy’s New Portal HomesForSale.com: Innovation Bomb or Smoke Bomb?

It’s a clean, almost minimalist design, but the slogan “all the homes, none of the games” has zero benefit to sellers or buyers. A slogan should pierce the market’s greatest desire, differentiate your offering in the marketplace, and hopefully be memorable.

Instead Realogy was so focused on Zillow Group, and I am guessing at trying to impress their agents, that their tagline must be pointed at these two demographics. Within six weeks they will remove it and place a politically correct, committee approved, generic house-site type slogan. No Innovation Bomb here.

The URL “homesforsale” is well chosen from a search engine SEO perspective: as in ‘homes for sale in New York”, etc. If they get some solid articles and information pertaining to each metro area they operate in the search engines will probably migrate them to the top of the search results list within 30 days.

The “Home” link in the header menu is quite old fashioned; especially since the logo does the same thing.

I tried the big search box for my home town, Denver Colorado, and got the popup below. You won’t see that notice at Zillow. I am afraid they will need to mess up their home page with links to areas they actually have homes in. No Innovation Bomb here.

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Scrolling down a bit I see “better, fresher information”. What is that symbol a steamy, fresh pile of MLS information?

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Instead create a cool icon: “New homes every 5 minutes”, not “our real estate listings come direct from the local multipole listings service and they’re updated multiple times a day.” Realogy’s accountant must be writing prose for the site. No Innovation Bomb here.

I don’t even know what the next symbol is. And an AVM and sold comps were “insider information” about ten years ago. Which begs the question that comes to sellers and buyers minds with the last part of the statement “—the insider information that’s normally reserved for real estate pro’s.” If I have what they have, why do I need them? No Innovation Bomb here.

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Then they clutter up their site by bragging about how there’s no clutter. Just stay clean and lean; the market will notice that all on their own. You don’t see Disney Land bragging about the 5,000 people running endlessly to keep their parks pristine—it just happens, and the visitors do notice how perfect everything is all the time.

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I just had to click the “local Info & Insider Advice” link. Wow, it’s “available to both homebuyers and homeowners alike.” A good thing as it may be hard to tell which I am from this side of the internet. No Innovation Bomb here.

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The search tools are standard IDX style stuff: price, number of beds, number of baths, property type, and lot size type parameters. No Innovation Bomb here.

I decided to do a map-based search and just stared at whatever the default homes that opened up were. Nice, a home for just under $1 billion dollars, in Maryland, but with no address and only 4.5 baths, but the taxes are only $2,463—see the rich just keep getting richer and pay almost no taxes. At this price I was too scared to hit the “payment calculator” tool: I’ll just have to keep it on my “maybe” list.

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Okay, so I checked out the second property above, it’s only half a billion dollars, much closer to my budget than the first one. Pretty standard IDX details with a little enhancement. I tried and tried but could not discover the instant valuation I was expecting—you know the secret insider stuff bragged about on the home page.

I did come across a “recently sold properties” tab and tried that. I don’t think these are all really comparable to my half-billion dollar home. They range in value from $312,000 to $652,000. They’re asking $499,999,999 for mine. And the map shows the comps on the other side of main roads, and maybe some of these are in the swamp, I don’t know. There’s a lot of blue stuff that looks like water all around them, and this is Florida. No Innovation Bomb here.

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Where is my elusive automatic valuation? I had to jump back to the header menu for the insider information then follow another link promising “Home Value Report”, then paste in the full address and below is what I got.

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Oh no, it came in at $537,680 to $684,320. So that means, if I can get an 80% loan on say $600K ($480K), my down payment will be about $499,519,999. I’ll do it!

In Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One he lists “Seven Questions Every Business Must Answer”, let’s try them out on Realogy’s portal.

1: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements? Smoke Bomb here.

2: Is now the right time to start your particular business? Ten years ago was; Smoke Bomb here.

3: Are you starting with a big share of a small market? No: a miniscule share of a big market. Smoke Bomb.

4: Do you have the right team? Not based on the form and function of this website. Smoke Bomb.

5: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product? Yes—zillions of brokers paying 35% referral fee serving clients. No Innovation Bomb here though.

6: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? What’s their position? Just more of the same way real estate has been sold for fifty years using technology launched by others ten years ago. I’m thinking Smoke Bomb.

7: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see? Only if you rip the eyes out of Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, and every IDX site provider and AVM producer on the planet.

No Innovation Bomb here. Sorry, the new Realogy site gets a “smoke bomb” rating.

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