Inman News named Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff as 2011 Innovator of the Year, and also announced winners in eight other categories during the latest Innovator Awards.

The awards, created in 1997, honor real estate companies, technologies, services and individuals who have pushed the real estate industry forward by improving the real estate transaction process for both consumers and real estate professionals.

Winners are selected by an Inman News review team after a reader nominations process. The review team considers the full list of nominees and may also consider other additions to this list. The People Choice Innovator Award, created in 2010, is selected by a popular vote of Inman News readers.


The 2011 winners, announced during the Real Estate Connect conference, include:

Most Innovative New Technology
Winner: Down Payment Resource
Launched by Workforce Resource LLC in 2009, Down Payment Resource is a Web tool that connects eligible homebuyers and eligible properties with government-funded programs for down payment assistance, rehab loans and other loan programs. The product helps bridge the gap for prospective homebuyers and move real estate transactions forward in a difficult lending environment.

In February 2010, Minnesota’s Northstar MLS became the first multiple listing service to launch a trial of the product, and the MLS board has since voted to continue its integration of Down Payment Resource. Several other MLSs have signed on to use Workforce Resource, including: Midwest Real Estate Data, Northern Nevada Regional MLS, My Florida Regional MLS, and Tucson Association of Realtors MLS Inc.

Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise
Winner: William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance
William Raveis, with about 75 offices, more than 2,000 sales associates, and annual sales of about $5.5 billion, is the largest family-owned real estate firm in the Northeast. The company in February announced the launch of Agent Dashboard, a "comprehensive CRM, business management and marketing tool" that is based on CoreLogic’s AgentAchieve product. Raveis also contracted with tech firm Powerserve to build and launch a mobile website, and this year was honored with a website award by Leading Real Estate Companies of the World.

Most Innovative Real Estate Website or Service
Winner: eEdge
Keller Williams Realty, one of the largest real estate franchises with about 80,000 sales associates working out of about 700 offices in the U.S. and Canada, in February launched eEdge, a lead-to-close agent platform that includes lead management, contact management, a marketing library and a paperless transaction system. Market Leader and DotLoop worked with Keller Williams to build and launch the platform.

Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association
Winner: Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors
In July 2010 the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, which has about 7,000 members, launched "The Thing," and no — it’s not a monster from a horror film. The Thing is an interactive real estate data tool developed by 10K Research and Marketing, a division of the association. The local housing data can be analyzed by metrics such as median sales price and days on market for property types including existing homes, foreclosures and new construction.

10K also offers market trend reports, and this month the National Association of Realtors announced that it would use 10K Research and Marketing as the preferred vendor for continuing its Economic and Market Watch reports, which will touch about 100 MLS markets across North America. Also, several other associations have contracted to use unique versions of The Thing, while others are receiving 10K’s market reports.

Most Innovative Real Estate Startup
Winner: SocialBios, which offers a social media search platform, was acquired by operator Move Inc. this month. SocialBios offers tools to help integrate websites with social networking services to show existing connections between site visitors and company staff and representatives. The technology enables a sort of souped-up "about us" page in consolidating social network profile information.

Most Innovative Mobile App
Winner: Android app’s real estate search app for the Android platform, released in November, includes an Area Highlighter that allows users to draw a defined search area onscreen, a Nearby Homes for Sale widget, Area Scout to locate nearby open houses, Google Street View integration, and voice-entered private notes that can be sent to family friends and real estate agents. The app has been installed more than 500,000 times and features an average user rating of 4.2 stars out of 5 possible in the Android Market.

Most Innovative Real Estate Social Site/Service/Blog
Winner: The Corcoran Group Foursquare tips
The Corcoran Group, the largest residential real estate firm in New York City, has a presence on Foursquare, a location-based mobile platform that enables users to share their location with friends via smartphone app or text messages. Corcoran utilizes the platform to aid clients in understanding a neighborhood by informing them what’s nearby — its use of the tool sets Corcoran’s sales force up as neighborhood experts and keeps the brand top of mind for Foursquare devotees.

People’s Choice Innovator Award
Winner: Century 21 Real Estate LLC
Century 21 Real Estate LLC oversees a global network of about 7,900 independently owned and operated franchised broker offices in 71 countries and territories. A subsidiary of Realogy Corp., Century 21 was the first national real estate franchisor to implement a new search functionality related to a National Association of Realtors policy governing the indexing and display of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) information by real estate franchise organizations.

This year Century 21 launched @C21 – Home Matters, a company blog. Century 21 this year also launched a redesigned website, a new version of its iPhone app and a suite of apps for other platforms, including Android, BlackBerry and Palm devices.

2011 Innovator of the Year
Winner: Spencer Rascoff, CEO, Zillow
Spencer Rascoff was a member of the founding executive team when Zillow launched in 2005. A former vice president of lodging for Expedia who in 1999 co-founded travel company, Rascoff had served as Zillow’s chief financial officer and vice president of marketing at launch. In 2008 he was named Zillow’s chief operating officer, and in September 2010 he took over as CEO. A Harvard University graduate, Rascoff has prior experience in the investment banking and private equity industries, having worked at Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns, among other firms.

Earlier this month, Zillow completed an initial public offering, raising about $76 million. In addition to operating one of the most popular real estate websites, Zillow also has launched some chart-topping real estate mobile apps for a range of devices. Rascoff’s mother had worked as a real estate agent while he was growing up, and he told Inman News that he has "relished going to open houses for fun for as long as I can remember."

"Zillow," he said, "allows me to combine my two great interests in entrepreneurialism and real estate."

View the complete history of Innovator Awards winners, from 1998-2010.

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