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Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that ZipRealty is closing its brokerage operations in the Raleigh-Durham market.

Technology-based brokerage ZipRealty Inc. continues to expand its "Powered by Zip" referral program, signing up a 600-agent brokerage in North Carolina as the third outside user of ZipRealty’s lead generation and management platform.

Based in Raleigh, Coldwell Banker Howard and Perry Walston is the leading brokerage in North Carolina’s Greater Triangle Area, which also includes Durham and Chapel Hill, the companies said.

ZipRealty will close its own brokerage offices in the Raleigh-Durham market, and agents will have the opportunity to move to Coldwell Banker Howard and Perry Walston. The move will leave company with brokerage operations in 22 markets and referral partners in three additional markets, allowing ZipRealty.com to provides access to listings data in 25 markets.

Powered by Zip partners feed listings data to the ZipRealty.com website, and receive all buyer and seller leads it generates in their market. ZipRealty earns referral fees from leads it sends back to the brokers.

The program includes a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that allows brokerages to communicate with prospective buyers and sellers. Brokers can integrate and use the system with their own website buyer and seller leads.

Coldwell Banker Howard and Perry Walston is the first new "Powered by Zip" user since ZipRealty announced in July that it was expanding the program.

The first two brokerages to sign on as Powered by Zip clients — Better Homes and Gardens Metro Brokers in Atlanta and Long Realty in Tucson — "have closed hundreds of additional real estate transactions using the system over the past six months," ZipRealty said today.

ZipRealty began pilot tests of the referral program in Atlanta and Tucson as it closed down its brokerage operations in those cities and 10 other markets as part of a plan to stem losses by cutting expenses and raising revenue.

After closing offices in 12 of 35 markets at the beginning of the year to trim $20 million in annual operating costs, the company had 2.043 agents as of Sept. 30, down 38 percent from the 3,305 agents associated with the company a year ago.

In a bid to boost revenue in remaining markets, ZipRealty announced in July that it was eliminating the buyer rebates that helped the company make a splash when it launched in 1999. The company trimmed third-quarter losses to less than $1 million, as an 18 percent decline in revenue was mitigated by lower expenses and 12 percent growth in average net transaction revenue per closing.

In October, the company announced it was dropping website registration requirements to view listing details on ZipRealty.com in most of the markets where the site offers listing data.

Brokerages that operate password-protected Virtual Office Websites (VOWs) can attract consumers by offering them access to a deeper set of listing data than is provided on broker websites that don’t require registration. Seattle-based VOW operator Redfin, for example, offers registered users data on recently sold properties, listing history including price changes, and days on market.

A brokerage that publishes information about other brokers’ listings on its website but doesn’t require user registration typically operates under rules issued by multiple listing services (MLSs) that govern Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings. IDX listings are listings that brokers have agreed may be advertised on other brokers’ websites, regardless of whether those websites are password-protected or not.

In many markets, IDX listing data is less detailed than VOW data, excluding some events in listing history, for example. But some of the information most valued by consumers — information about previous sales of a home, for example — are available through public records and other sources.

In announcing that it was dropping its registration requirements, a ZipRealty spokesman said the brokerage has been and will continue to be a VOW operator. Although it will not require user registration in most markets and will only display listing information allowed by MLS rules governing IDX listings, users will still be able to register to save listings and searches, contact an agent for assistance, or personalize other features available on the site.

"We have the registration process and meet the requirements of the VOW so we’re still a VOW," Jamie Wilson, ZipRealty’s head of product, told Inman News last month.

The rules governing the display of IDX listings have become more permissive, Wilson said, and even before dropping the registration requirement, ZipRealty.com only displayed listing information allowed by IDX rules.

Redfin allows users to see listing details that can be displayed under IDX rules without registering, and provides additional VOW data to users who sign in. ZipRealty.com says users who sign in see the same level of listings detail as those who do not.

Currently, users of Redfin’s VOW site will see some details about a home that’s been on the market in Phoenix since July that visitors to ZipRealty.com will not.

Users of both sites will see Arizona Regional MLS data showing the home was listed for $269,900 on July 18, with price reductions on Aug. 17 and Oct. 10 that brought the asking price down to $234,900.

Redfin users will see that the property’s status was changed to "pending" on Oct. 20, and that it was relisted on Oct. 28.

ZipRealty, citing public records data, displays one previous sale of the property, when it changed hands for $267,000 in 2003.

Redfin also relies on public records data to show that sale and five others dating back to 1995. Most recently, the property was foreclosed on and became bank-owned on July 14 — four days before it was listed for sale — a detail not provided on ZipRealty.com’s listing detail page. 


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