Yahoo Real Estate was the most popular real estate website in August, according to data collected by Web metrics firm Experian Hitwise, displacing from the No. 1 position for the first time in the list’s three-year history.

Yahoo Real Estate moved into second place on the Hitwise list in May, when it captured an estimated 4.3 percent of traffic in the real estate category, compared with 6.2 percent for

In August, Yahoo Real Estate boosted its market share to nearly 5.9 percent, while saw its share of traffic in the real estate category fall to 5.74 percent.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo Real Estate said the bump was "partially due to consumers’ increased interest in our real estate content and in real estate news in general." 

Rounding out the Hitwise Top 10 in the real estate category were Zillow (4.26 percent market share), Trulia (3.12 percent), (2.82 percent), MSN Real Estate (2.63 percent), ZipRealty (2.43 percent), (1.93 percent), Apartment Guide (1.61 percent) and RE/MAX Real Estate (1.35 percent).

Brian Boero, a real estate technology consultant who helps companies make the best use of the Internet, said he wouldn’t read too much into the August numbers.

"Yahoo Real Estate can see radical fluctuations in traffic based on the play they get on the Yahoo home page," Boero said. "If (the company gets) people running the home page to feature a few stories on the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit or mortgage rates on the front page, they can see a serious spike in traffic."

A Hitwise spokesman said Yahoo Real Estate appeared to have experienced a spike in traffic on Aug. 22 that may have been related to an article published in the Wall Street Journal.

But looking at trends over the past several months, Boero does see a "two horse race" emerging in the online listings space, between operator Move Inc., on the one hand, and a newly allied Yahoo Real Estate and Zillow on the other.

Yahoo Real Estate and Zillow recently entered into a partnership in which Zillow will provide a listings feed for both sites, placing targeted ads that real estate agents and brokers purchase from Zillow in the property search results on both sites.

That partnership has not yet taken effect, but Zillow has also been building traffic to its site. Together, Yahoo Real Estate and Zillow could claim 10.1 percent of traffic in the real estate category in August, according to Hitwise’s numbers, up from 8.4 percent in July.

Move has always been able to claim that, as the official site of the National Association of Realtors, has the most comprehensive and up-to-date set of listings.

Move did not respond to requests for comment by publication time. But Move has not been complacent, announcing last week that it had revamped the operating agreement with NAR, gaining more freedom to make changes to the features, design, and layout of the site and its user interface.

In addition, Move and NAR reached a separate agreement allowing Move to syndicate listings to third parties such as online portals when MLS and brokers supplying listings to Move chose to do so.

That agreement paved the way for Move’s acquisition of Threewide Corp., operator of the national listing syndication platform ListHub. ListHub distributes 2.4 million property listings from MLSs and brokers to more than 70 real estate property portals — including Zillow, Trulia and Yahoo Real Estate.

"I think it’s a two-horse race," Boero said. "Both Zillow and Move have reached out beyond their own domains to reach a larger audience, and potentially bigger ad revenue."

Boero speculated that Move could use its acquisition of ListHub as leverage to sell advertising on websites it syndicates listings to.

"I think the traffic (to the top national Web sites) is the least important part of this," Boero said "What’s going to be more interesting is (each company’s) ability to create business out of all this traffic."

Traffic generated by search-engine optimization or advertising may not convert as well as the direct traffic that, until now, has kept at the top of the list of national property search sites, Boero noted.

The growing share of traffic that Yahoo Real Estate and Zillow can claim "helps Zillow tell a compelling story on the way to an IPO — it’s just not going to be decisive in terms of who runs away with" the dominant position in online listings, he said.

According to Hitwise, the top-ranked search terms leading to real estate-category websites in August were "" (1.59 percent of clicks), "zillow" (0.53 percent), "apartments for rent" (0.53 percent), "remax" (0.45 percent), "real estate" (0.37 percent), "century 21" (0.37 percent), "houses for rent" (0.33 percent), "" (0.3 percent), "homes for sale" (0.27 percent) and "coldwell banker" (0.25 percent).

Rounding out Hitwise’s list of top 20 real estate websites were MyNewPlace (1.32 percent market share), (1.24 percent), (1.21 percent), (1.10 percent), Redfin (1.05 percent), Century 21 Real Estate (0.93 percent), LoopNet (0.88 percent), ConnectWithLife (0.88 percent), (0.84 percent) and AOL Real Estate (0.82 percent).

Boero said some of his concerns about competition in the online listings space is mitigated by the increasing prominence of local and regional listing sites.

While national listings portals may once have taken it for granted that real estate franchises, multiple listing services and brokers would offer consumers inferior websites, "I think some of these big players are feeling pressure from below," Boero said.

Hitwise August 2010 Top 20 Real Estate Sites

Website Market share (percent) July rank
1. Yahoo Real Estate 5.87 2
2. 5.74 1
3. Zillow 4.26 3
4. 3.12 4
5. 2.82 5
6. MSN Real Estate 2.63 7
7. ZipRealty 2.43 6
8. 1.93 8
9. Apartment Guide 1.61 9
10. RE/MAX Real Estate 1.35 10
11. MyNewPlace 1.32 11
12. 1.24 13
13. 1.21 12
14. 1.1 14
15. Redfin 1.05 15
16. Century 21 0.93 16
17. LoopNet 0.88 20
18. ConnectWithLife 0.88 22
19. 0.84 24
20. AOL Real Estate 0.82 26

Source: Hitwise.

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