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Yahoo Real Estate and Zillow have entered into a partnership that will place targeted ads that real estate agents and brokers purchase from Zillow in property search results on both sites.

In addition to bringing Zillow’s "Premier Agent" advertising program to Yahoo Real Estate, the agreement calls for Zillow to manage a common set of for-sale listings for both sites.

While Zillow will serve as the exclusive provider of for-sale property listings information at Yahoo Real Estate, Yahoo will continue to control the look and display of for-sale listings at its site, and will maintain separate databases of foreclosure properties, newly constructed homes, and rentals.

Executives with the companies — the second- and third-most trafficked real estate sites on the Web — said the partnership will allow them to claim a greater combined audience for advertisers than the top-ranked site, Realtor.com.

According to the latest report from Experian Hitwise, Realtor.com had a 5.73 percent market share in the real estate category in June, followed by Yahoo Real Estate with 4.55 percent and Zillow with 3.75 percent.

Once the partnership is fully implemented this fall, "It effectively doubles our exposure, and our ability to put advertisers in front of consumers," said Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s chief operating officer.

There’s only about a 10 percent overlap between visitors to Zillow and Yahoo Real Estate, Rascoff said, and the companies are "quite confident" that together they will be seen by advertisers as having a greater reach than Realtor.com.

Because listings and advertisements have become so closely intertwined, it makes practical sense for Zillow to also handle for-sale listings feeds, said Steve Schultz, head of Yahoo Real Estate.

"The listing is, in many cases, part of the ad product, so it’s very difficult to separate out the discussion," Schultz said. "It’s important for clarity for the agent or broker to have one phone number to call to work out issues with their free listing or enhanced listing."

Zillow offers brokers and agents the ability to purchase "featured listings" that, by default, appear at the top of consumers’ property search results ahead of other properties meeting their search criteria. Zillow also allows agents and brokers to buy "showcase ads" in desired ZIP codes.

The partnership calls for listings sent to Zillow to automatically appear on Yahoo Real Estate, which means one less feed to manage for brokers currently sending listings to both sites.

Although Yahoo Real Estate may currently be getting listings from sources that don’t send feeds to Zillow, "In total we’re going to gain — we expect to lose very little, if any" listings, Schultz said.

It’s not the first time Yahoo has partnered with another real estate company to provide for-sale property listings content. Yahoo and Prudential Real Estate entered into an exclusive agreement in 2004 for Prudential to provide for-sale listings information, and that arrangement came to a close in 2008.

Since then, Yahoo Real Estate has built up a database of more than 3 million for-sale listings, but generally doesn’t accept feeds from sources submitting less than 5,000 properties.

"I think where Zillow has the advantage is addressing the longer-tail listings, such as the small broker or individual agent submitting listings," Schultz said.

Zillow accepts feeds of 50 or more listings from brokers, multiple listing services and vendors at no charge.

Rascoff said current Zillow advertisers will be offered the first chance to purchase Premier Agent placement on Yahoo Real Estate, at an additional fee.

Once the partnership has been fully implemented, all showcase ads and featured listings ads purchased through Zillow will automatically appear on both Zillow and Yahoo Real Estate.

Rascoff said that because they will be getting more exposure, those ads will cost more than they do now. Pricing has not been determined and will vary by ZIP code, as is the case now, he said.

Homeowners will have the ability to purchase "for sale by owner" listings and have them appear on both sites.

Zillow and Yahoo also said they expect to work together to sell display advertising on Yahoo Real Estate to new homebuilders, real estate agents and brokers.

Brian Boero, whose firm, 1000Watt Consulting, advises real estate companies on online marketing, said the partnership clearly offers benefits to both companies, but "I don’t see this as fundamentally changing the landscape of online real estate."

While Yahoo Real Estate has "always had a tremendous amount of traffic, they really didn’t have the domain expertise, or the team on the sales or advertising product side to really dig deep into the real estate category," Boero said.

"Yahoo Real Estate is operated by a very small team, and they probably needed some help monetizing that property."

For its part, Zillow "gets to make the claim of reach — if you buy with us, you’re going to get a combined audience that is larger than Realtor.com," Boero said.

But Realtor.com can still claim the most comprehensive and up-to-date listings database on the Internet, he said, and the quality of traffic a site attracts is also important to advertisers.

Boero said that as always, the key for brokers and agents deciding where to spend their advertising dollars is metrics.

"I think the only way a broker or agent can determine whether it makes sense for them to advertise on Trulia, Zillow, Yahoo Real Estate, Realtor.com, or any combination thereof is to measure" the business that advertising generates Boero said.

Unfortunately, "most brokers are still feeling around in the dark as far as measuring the effectiveness of online advertising — you can track clicks, lead-generated phone calls, it’s all trackable — but most don’t take the time or dedicate the resources needed to do that."


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