Welcome to the top five, Zillow.

ComScore Media Metrix, which measures Internet audience statistics, such as Web site traffic, demographics and buying power, found that Zillow.com ranked fifth among real estate sites in the number of unique visitors in February 2006.

Zillow.com, which launched Feb. 8, provides estimates — dubbed “Zestimates” — of home values based on a free automated calculation that uses public property records data.

The Homestore.com network, which includes the popular National Association of Realtors-affiliated Realtor.com property-search Web site, topped the comScore February rankings with 9.27 million unique users, followed by HomeGain.com with 4.37 million, MSN Real Estate with 3.13 million, Rent.com with 2.86 million and Zillow.com with 2.77 million.

Richard Barton, Zillow’s CEO, created the online travel site Expedia.com in the late 1990s before selling it to Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp in 2003. Other InterActiveCorp brands include LendingTree and Hotels.com. Zillow offers home-value estimates and property information for an estimated 60 million homes in the country.

Among the sites that Zillow topped in its first month of operation: RealtyTrac.com, AOL Real Estate, Yahoo! Real Estate, Apartments.com, HouseValues.com, RE/MAX International Inc. and Century21.com.

Some sites spend millions of dollars annually in marketing, though Zillow has generated a lot of traffic through word-of-mouth and a near-hysteria of mystery that surrounded the company prior to launch: real estate professionals expressed feelings ranging from fear and resentment to joy and contentment over the arrival of Zillow to the real estate scene — even though few details about its actual business model emerged prior to the company’s launch.

Company officials have said that Zillow does not plan to serve as an agent in real estate transactions, though in looking for ways to improve data quality the company has explored becoming a broker in multiple states, “as regulations and data availability vary by state and we think this could help,” a company official told Inman News.

Based in Seattle, Zillow raised about $32 million prior to launch. The company has an advertising-based business model that features a display of Google AdSense ads alongside its home data results. The company also sells banner ads at its site.

Stephen Bedikian, a partner with Los Angeles-based mortgage consulting group Real IQ Consulting, stated in a recent Inman News guest perspective that Zillow’s approach is to generate “organic traffic,” which means “Zillow doesn’t have to pay another site to send it traffic.” In other words, by generating a buzz around its name, many Zillow users are likely to surf directly to the Zillow.com Web site rather than locate the site through general searches at Internet search engines or by clicking on paid links.

“Consumer traffic is attracted by the content and tools, not heavy advertising,” Bedikian stated in his commentary.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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