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‘Inman Innovators’ through the years

A complete list of Inman News Innovator Award winners since 1998

Looking back at the dozens of companies, individuals, websites and tools that have won Inman News Innovator Awards over the years drives home how much has changed in the real estate industry since the debut of the awards nearly 15 years ago.

While many of the innovators recognized over the years are still forces to be reckoned with, others are long gone, or have struggled to live up to their initial promise.

In 1998, Microsoft’s HomeAdvisor was going to revolutionize the industry by making listing data available online. The concept itself did turn out to be revolutionary, but Microsoft wasn’t the company that would ultimately take the idea to the bank.

IndyMac Bank was honored in 2001 for its e-MITS proprietary underwriting system. The "alt-A" lender would go on to become one of the biggest casualties of the housing bust.

In 2002, it looked like eBay Real Estate’s Offer Management System might be the next big thing for auctioning real estate owned (REO) properties. While online property auctions have caught on to some extent, eBay remains a bit player.

Discount brokerage Foxtons North America, deemed to have the "Most Innovative Business Model" in 2003, filed for bankruptcy in 2007.

ZipRealty, the "Most Innovative Real Estate Brokerage" of 2004, has weathered the downturn by eliminating buyer rebates, closing down brokerage operations in a dozen cities, and providing leads to other brokerages. ZipRealty recently hired former Foxtons North America CEO Van Davis as president of brokerage operations.

The awards have sought to recognize not only new technologies and business models, but ideas and causes that have been forces for change. The U.S. Department of Justice won a special award in 2005 for its role in promoting open competition in the real estate industry.

In 2007, the Mortgage Fraud Blog — which tirelessly documents the prosecution of schemes to defraud lenders, including many involving real estate professionals — was honored as "Most Innovative Blog."

Given all the change and turmoil in the real estate industry, what’s perhaps surprising in looking back at past Inman Innovator Award winners is how many companies and individuals continue to be movers and shakers in the shifting landscape.

Russ Bergeron — honored as an "Early Innovator" in 1998 when he was running SoCal MLS — continues to break new ground as the head of Lisle, Ill.-based Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), an industry leader in offering "public service apps.", recognized at the turn of the century by Inman News as an innovative lending service, today manages mortgage lending websites for more than 1,100 banks and credit unions.

Keller Williams Realty, honored as the "Most Innovative Real Estate Company" in 2001, was back onstage at last year’s awards ceremony, its eEdge customer relationship management and marketing platfrom having been named "Most Innovative Real Estate Website or Service."

The list of past winners includes real estate brokerages and franchisors that are not only household names, but which are known throughout the industry for staying out on the cutting edge — John L. Scott, Redfin, RE/MAX International, Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, to name a few.

Awards may occasionally seem overdue. Zillow was not recognized until CEO Spencer Rascoff took the company public and was named "Innovator of the Year" in 2011 — five years after the company’s website became an instant sensation by offering "Zestimates" on millions of U.S. properties. Rival Trulia, which is currently working on its own initial public offering, was named "Most Innovative Web Service" of 2006.  

In other cases, an Innovator Award turns out to be premature. By the time the Houston Association of Realtors picked up an Innovator Award for "Most Innovative Web Service" of 2010, its members had rebelled against the association’s Realtor Match tool, which briefly allowed consumers to search for agents based on their transaction history.

This following is a list of Inman News Innovator Awards winners, from the first awards handed out in March 1998 through the winners announced at the Real Estate Connect San Francisco conference in 2011.


Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise: William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance
Most Innovative New Technology: Workforce Resource LLC’s Down Payment Resource
Most Innovative Real Estate Website or Service: Keller Williams Realty’s eEdge
Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association: Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors
Most Innovative Real Estate Startup: SocialBios
Most Innovative Mobile App: Android app
Most Innovative Real Estate Social Site/Service/Blog: The Corcoran Group Foursquare tips
People’s Choice Innovator Award: Century 21 Real Estate LLC
2011 Innovator of the Year: Spencer Rascoff, CEO, Zillow