After testing the change in three markets earlier this year, national real estate brokerage ZipRealty Inc. has removed the registration requirement on its website to view listing details on for-sale homes in most of its markets, the brokerage announced today.
The change means visitors to the ZipRealty site will no longer have to register to view home prices, square footage, photos and maps, among other listings details — details that the company notes are readily available on other property search sites through Internet Data Exchange (IDX) feeds.
"ZipRealty has removed the registration requirement to satisfy the needs of consumers who often begin their homebuying search online, and may not wish to provide contact details during the earliest stage of their home search process," the company said.
The option to register will still be available on the site should users wish to save listings and searches, contact an agent for assistance, or personalize other features available on the site. All data that was previously available through registration will now be available without it, the company said, and no additional data will now be available when users register.
ZipRealty said it remains a Virtual Office Website (VOW) operator. Typically, though it is not a requirement, VOWs offer registered users the ability to see richer property information, such as information on recently sold properties, listing history, and days on market.
"We have the registration process and meet the requirements of the VOW so we’re still a VOW," Jamie Wilson, ZipRealty’s head of product, told Inman News.
Both before the registration change and now, there was no difference between what IDX rules allowed the site to display and the data displayed at the site, Wilson said.
"The set of data that’s available through IDX feeds has evolved over time. A couple of years ago, it used to be more limited. Today, IDX data is much more robust," he said.
Through VOW agreements with some, though not all, multiple listing services in the 23 markets the company operates in, ZipRealty has the ability to offer registered users data beyond that available through IDX, but chooses not to, Wilson said.
"Our current assessment of that is that we don’t see anything (beyond IDX data) really important to the consumer. If there was something (we considered important), we would make that available in the VOW portion of our site," Wilson said.
"The IDX data that’s available to us we think is the information the consumer wants to see," he added.
The company said it is offering the same listings data it always has. The site’s recently sold data has always come from public records, not MLSs, and can therefore be displayed outside of the VOW portion of the site, Wilson said. The site does not list days on market, but rather "days on ZipRealty." And price change information is displayed in compliance with IDX rules, Wilson said.
Starting in February, ZipRealty tested the elimination of the registration requirement in three of its markets: Houston; Sacramento, Calif.; and Portland, Ore. In those markets, the total number of unique home-visit requests was higher, on a year-over-year basis, than in markets where registration was required, the company said.
The registration requirement has been removed in most of the company’s markets. In Phoenix, Atlanta, Austin, and the northwestern and southeastern parts of Boston, the change will be phased in later, the company said.
ZipRealty was the 11th most visited real estate-related website in September, according to rankings by Web metrics firm Experian Hitwise.
"The ZipRealty website has consistently ranked (highly) for real estate search even with the registration system in place, and we are excited about opening up all we have to offer for even greater numbers of consumers in the future," said Lanny Baker, ZipRealty’s CEO, in a statement.
Other recent company moves include: eliminating its commission rebate program, updating its mobile applications, expanding its "Powered by Zip" referral program, and transitioning its agents from employees to independent contractors.