Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

May 9, 2008
Who needs real estate agents when we have laptops?

"If something can be known it will be known."
So says Jorit Van der Meulen, vice president for partner relations at Seattle-based Zillow.com about the increasingly virtual world of real estate.
Earlier today he was on a panel with Google, Realtor.com and a Houston real estate agent telling the National Association of Real Estate Editors about the fast-evolving online dimension of selling and buying houses.

Remember way back in the old days of two years ago, when it was easy to say you had never heard of Zillow? Now it is a major cultural phenonmenon, and I would argue, a major contributor in lost worker productivity in offices where people use computers.

The Zillow panelist said the popular online site now has free home estimates (Fair and balanced? You decide) on 82 million homes in the U.S.
And HALF of them have been virtually visited since Zillow started becoming a household name, he said.

Zillow might never have existed had not Realtors so closely guarded their secrets and tried to keep the nation's multiple listing services a private domain.
"Zillow exists because we had the data and we didn't give it to people," said Bob Hale, president and chief executive officer of the Houston Association of Realtors.

Now I haven't personally visited the association's Web site, HAR.com. But Hale said it provides more information that people want than any other in the U.S. He called the site a one-stop shop for open houses, virtual tours, Google Earth views of houses, price changes in all the city's neighborhoods in the past decade and a list of all the Realtors who serve those neighborhoods. It also offers all its listings in seven languages.

Hale said surveys show that most buyers believe that information they find online is more valuable than what they would get from a Realtor. Still, he said, most people who first browse online eventually use Realtors. That little fact led to his prediction about the next big thing - which some real estate agents will like and others will hate.

That's Realtor Ratings. It's inevitable, he said. Just as Tripadvisor.com collects ratings on hotels, as you can see how people rate computers at chain store Web sites, so, too, will Realtors be rated, he said. Surveys, he said, show that many buyers want to see how others rated a Realtor before they pick one.

That's Web democracy for you.

At Realtor.com, Errol Samuelson, president of the Web site (still the most popular for Web searches of houses), said that despite all the progress of the last 10 years online, virtual real estate is still far behind other sectors such as stocks. He said it takes only seconds to get the most current information on a $3 stock, but it takes 24 hours to learn that the price has changed on a $1 million house.

The guy from Google, Justin McCarthy, member of the Mountain View firm's strategic partner development team, talked, too, but darn if I could figure out what he was really saying. In Google-speak it was all about how consumers always want more and want it faster and want it free.

Maybe that was a more complicated way of saying what Samuelson of Realtor.com concluded with as the session wrapped up: "The next five years will make the last 10 years look like nothing."

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



Jim Wasserman on Twitter

Follow "jimwasserman" on Twitter

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31