Home valuation and marketing site Zillow.com is on the move again, launching new tools that allow anybody to post information, photos, questions and answers about any property, including for-sale properties. The company also announced the creation of a ZIP code-focused display advertising platform.
Any Zillow user can identify the address and list price of any for-sale property. Listing agents and property owners can take control of this for-sale property information and enter more detailed property information once they register as the owner or listing representative for a particular property.
“They are the only two people who can enter all of the full information,” said Jorrit Van der Meulen, vice president of partner services for Zillow, which is the real estate brainchild of Expedia founder Rich Barton.
The new tools combine aspects of social networking and online marketing and may push users to populate the site with more property listings. Zillow relies on its users to supply property listings information.
When Zillow launched in February 2006 the site featured automated valuations and interactive mapping and imagery tools for millions of properties across the country. In December the company added tools that allow homeowners, real estate agents, and builders to edit property details and post photos. The site also released a tool that allows homeowners who have not formally listed their homes for sale to advertise a “Make Me Move” price to encourage others to make offers on the property.
The new question-and-answer feature at the site, called “Home Q&A,” allows any site user to create a profile and to engage in online discussions about specific properties. A Zillow demo of the site featured a question by a user dubbed “MightyJoe” who asked how close a home on 27th Avenue in Seattle is to local schools, and a question from “Smiley Sue” who asked whether a home on Ashbery Street in San Jose, Calif., stays warm in the winter.
This service “allows anyone to ask any question about any house at anytime and receive answers from anyone in our community,” Van der Meulen said. “It furthers our initiative to open up all Web pages that we have on homes for anyone to add meaningful content. There is a tremendous amount of talking and conversation about homes offline, and we are creating a forum for that conversation to also happen online,” he said. Users can vote on how helpful an answer was to them.
Real estate professionals may be particularly interested in posting their profiles to the site, he said, and the profiles can include photos, bios and contact information. The user profiles display how many property listings, question-and-answer comments and wiki articles are associated with each person.
The site has information on about 70 million homes, including for-sale information for about 100,000 properties, he said. About 83 percent of consumers who use the site own homes, he also said, and half of them are actively seeking to buy or sell a home. About 600,000 homeowners have updated Zillow’s information on their homes, and about 150,000 real estate agents visit Zillow.com each month, the company reported.
When a site user notifies the Zillow site that a certain property is for sale, the site asks whether that user is the home’s owner, listing agent or “other.” Even after a homeowner or agent has claimed a property at the site, other users can post property photos and that collection of photos will be grouped together for each property.
The site will be self-policing in that there will be mechanisms for people to report errant behavior, Van der Meulen said. “There is an opportunity for the community to flag content for us. If the photos or the conversation is off-subject and is not related to the sale of the property then we’ll take those down within the business day.”
The site’s new self-service advertising platform, called EZ Ads, allow anyone to post small location-targeted ads that appear alongside searches within specified ZIP code areas. Advertiser can select the ZIP code or ZIP codes that they wish to target, a total amount they wish to spend (at one cent per ad shown) and the duration of the ad campaign, from one week to six months. A $50 ad would be displayed at the site 5,000 times.
Real estate agents, Van der Meulen said, “can market themselves, they can market their homes” using the platform. “Anybody who wants to reach our audience at the ZIP code level can do it.”