SAN FRANCISCO — Inman News today named Pete Flint, co-founder and CEO of Trulia, the 2013 Innovator of the Year, and also announced winners in nine other categories during the Real Estate Connect conference.
The awards, created in 1997, honor real estate companies, technologies, services and individuals who have propelled 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. This year there were 55 finalists in eight categories.
Most Innovative Real Estate Agent
Texas real estate broker Ben Caballero completed 2,267 deals in 2012, making him the nation’s busiest individual agent by far. What’s his secret? Caballero says he’s developed a patent-pending computer system that allows him, and his employees, to quickly take listings from nine homebuilders he works with and put them in local multiple listing services and send them to other sites like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com. Homebuilders pay Caballero’s Addison, Texas-based HomesUSA.com Inc. a flat fee per listing, and all leads are forwarded directly to the homebuilders. “Our value proposition is accuracy and convenience,” Caballero says.
Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise
Seattle-based brokerage Redfin is on an upward trajectory, entering the South Florida market this year and expanding operations in California. As CEO Glenn Kelman noted when Redfin opened for business in New York City, Houston, and Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., just a few years ago, Redfin was “viable only in a handful of coastal cities with the country’s highest home prices. As Redfin has developed new economies of scale, we have actually improved the quality of service while lowering costs, allowing us to bring new markets to profits quickly.”
As talk of an initial public offering builds, Redfin hasn’t stopped doing what it’s famous for — ruffling the feathers of traditional brokers. In February, the company announced the launch of “Offer Insights,” which reveal details about negotiations that take place when the firm’s clients submit winning — and losing — offers to buy a home.
Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association
Lisle, Ill.-based Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED) is known as an innovator far beyond the metro Chicago area, where it provides MLS services to 12 Realtor associations. CEO Russ Bergeron — recognized as an “Inman Innovator” back in 1998, when he was running Southern California MLS — is keeping the MLS on the forefront of change.
Last fall, MRED began offering its nearly 40,000 members access to an application, MRED Social IDX, that allows consumers to search for homes on agent and broker Facebook pages. MRED not only provides listings to Trulia and other third-party listing portals, it’s a partner in Trulia’s “Shared Success Program,” which provides guidance to agents on how to get the most out of Trulia’s local and mobile ads platforms. Last month MRED announced it would provide realtor.com operator Move Inc. with sold listings data in exchange for member access to Move’s “Find” application, a “natural language” search tool that provides access to data aggregated by Move, including property records, neighborhood and school information, and local amenities.
Most Innovative Real Estate Agent App, Tool or Vendor
Websites that help consumers discover information about homes for sale, neighborhoods and housing markets have reached a high level of sophistication. But delivering information online that would help buyers and sellers choose an agent has proven a tougher nut to crack. Big data is coming to real estate, and it’s inevitable that transaction data will be used to help consumers rate agent performance. Agent Ace has demonstrated some success with a business model that addresses concerns some multiple listing services have voiced about unleashing that data.
Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise App, Tool or Vendor
The Internet is everywhere — including the storefront windows of brick-and-mortar real estate brokerage offices equipped with imageSurge’s interactive displays. The Revere, Mass.-based startup has already signed deals with some big-name real estate firms including Halstead Property, Houlihan Lawrence, and Brown Harris Stevens, who like the idea of passers-by being able to surf their listings from the sidewalk at any hour of the day or night.
Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association App, Tool or Vendor
Real estate agents and brokers gained a new channel to access innovative technology in May with the launch of the Clareity Store, Clareity Security’s online marketplace for multiple listing services and vendors to market and sell integrated apps and services. Clareity quickly announced partnerships with MLS platform providers CoreLogic and LPS, which will give 900,000 MLS subscribers across the United States and Canada access to the Clareity Store.
Most Innovative Digital Real Estate Marketing Campaign or Strategy
LendingTree breathed new life into its “When banks compete, you win,” tagline this year by commissioning Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to create a Muppet-like spokes-puppet who calls “BS” on a bank mortgage loan officer. BS, it turns out, stands for “bank speak,” but the $40 million TV, online, print, outdoor and radio ad campaign, backed by social media marketing, helped reinforce LendingTree’s strong consumer proposition: offers from up to five competing mortgage lenders.
Most Innovative Use of a New Technology
With the latest update of its eKEY mobile app, released in February, Supra’s getting high marks from brokers and agents who are thrilled to be able to use their smartphone or tablet as a lockbox key to access listings. An enhanced service level, eKEY Professional, provides additional business tools such as storage of MLS data on mobile devices, linkage of listings to Google maps, and showing details.
Innovator of the Year Award
Pete Flint, Trulia
After taking the company he co-founded in 2005 with Sami Inkinen public last September, Trulia CEO Pete Flint has been riding the wave of the U.S. housing recovery, following up the IPO with what may be the biggest deal in the history of the real estate technology space: a proposed $355 million acquisition of Market Leader set to close in the third quarter. Behind the scenes, Flint has kept up the pressure on his team to improve on Trulia’s offerings to consumers, brokers and agents, and put new tools in their hands.
People’s Choice Innovator Award
Laurie Weston Davis is a Realtor, Internet marketing and social media expert, and trainer. As a licensed North Carolina Realtor, Davis is vice president of business development for Live Love Charlotte, and owner of Live Love Pinehurst with Keller Williams Realty. She is the co-founder, with Lisa Archer, of “The Geeky Girls,” which provides training in technology, social media and Internet lead generation.