Real Estate Connect Takeaways: The Future of Search

This is the second of my series on the 2013 Real Estate Connect in San Francisco.

A huge theme at the conference was the future of real estate. Agents, brokers, and industry insiders all attempted to look at what’s happening within the industry and determine what is to come. Within that broader spectrum, a lot of time was focused on real estate search, including a full panel discussion with executives from major real estate search engines.

Broker/Agent Search

A certain degree of concern was brought up in the Hear It Direct session and in the general sessions about the future of brokerage and agent IDX search and how would they be able to compete with Trulia and Zillow. Some suggested that the war had been won and that brokerages should accept that they cannot match the engineering prowess of the new search leaders. The buyers when asked how they searched online mentioned Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin, not traditional franchises or their agents’ sites. Others stepped in to defend brokerage/agent search as more timely and accurate, that perhaps the evolution would be broad search goes to the major engines, but when a client is ready to refine the search with the agent’s aid the value of that accuracy and timeliness can pay off.

One agent noted that they had already ceded search and were now focusing on sites that conveyed their local area expertise to potential buyers. They populated these with community-related videos to attract potential buyers and search engine attention.

Social Search

Another perspective referenced by the buyers was the use of search and reviews in choosing an agent and also vetting the other side of the table – sellers. An investment buyer researched the home, discovered who bought it last, and then searched for them on Facebook, Twitter, and the like to decide potential points for deal-making. Yelp and social reviews also came up as a tactic in vetting agents. You should accepted that you’re being reviewed based on your social media presence, even your choice of smart phones (one buyer mentioned that they questioned how tech-savvy their agent was if they were using a Nokia).

Clash of the Titans: Real Estate Search Engines

The culmination of this was the discussion between executives of Trulia, Zillow,, and Redfin with a moderator from Inman and a media specialist from Forbes. The tension between the competitors got palpable a few times, but they did a solid job of providing their vision of the future which includes a reliance on “big data” to personalize your search further by displaying data that is more likely to be valuable to you. For example, if you frequent dog owner forums, you may see more results close to off-leash dog parks without adding that criteria.

Rather than missing insights, I’m going to redirect you to the entire video below, or you can go to the complete story from Inman

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