Real estate portal Zillow is branching out into rental listings and search, offering visitors the ability to use the monthly payment they can afford as a search filter to compare rental housing and homes for sale side by side on a map.
Landlords and renters are already part of Zillow’s growing user base, and the new rental listing and search service should prove popular with consumers who are undecided about whether to buy or rent their next home, said Chief Operating Officer Spencer Rascoff.
One in four people who plan to move in the next three years say they intend to look at both for-sale and rental properties, Rascoff said, citing a poll by Harris Interactive.
As was the case when Zillow began displaying for-sale listings three years ago, rental listings will initially have to be entered manually, one property at a time. Zillow will charge landlords and property owners $9.95 to list a rental home or apartment for 180 days, primarily to prevent spamming, Rascoff said.
Zillow plans to start accepting bulk feeds of rental listings at no charge from real estate brokerages and property managers during the first quarter of 2010, Rascoff said.
At launch, only a handful of rental listings in the Seattle area are available on the site, and the company expects it will take some time to build up its database, although Zillow had 1 million for-sale listings within a year of launching that service.
Bulk feeds now account for 97 percent of Zillow’s nearly 4 million for-sale listings, Rascoff said. The company has decided to start charging real estate agents, brokers, builders and homeowners who want to enter individual for-sale listings as an incentive for them to provide accurate, up-to-date information.
On the rental side, "The trick will be getting listings liquidity," Rascoff acknowledged. "Every product trying to create a marketplace has this kind of chicken-and-egg problem."
In this case, the chicken-and-the-egg problem is that landlords want their listings on sites that attract the most renters, and renters are attracted to sites that have the most listings.
In addition to the online classified service Craigslist, which is free in many markets, Zillow will be competing with a number of other established rental property Internet listing services, or ILSs.
According to data aggregator Hitwise, five of the 20 most visited Internet sites in the real estate category center around rentals: Rent.com, Apartments.com, MyNewPlace, ForRent.com and Apartment Guide.
Still other sites primarily geared around for-sale listings — including Realtor.com, the most visited real estate site on the Internet — also offer rental listings, although typically that site contains only a fraction of the apartment listings that are available on Craigslist and apartment-focused real estate sites. …CONTINUED