Looking back at the dozens of companies, individuals, websites and tools that have won Inman News Innovator Awards over the years drives home how much has changed in the real estate industry since the debut of the awards nearly 15 years ago.

While many of the innovators recognized over the years are still forces to be reckoned with, others are long gone, or have struggled to live up to their initial promise.

In 1998, Microsoft’s HomeAdvisor was going to revolutionize the industry by making listing data available online. The concept itself did turn out to be revolutionary, but Microsoft wasn’t the company that would ultimately take the idea to the bank.

IndyMac Bank was honored in 2001 for its e-MITS proprietary underwriting system. The "alt-A" lender would go on to become one of the biggest casualties of the housing bust.

In 2002, it looked like eBay Real Estate’s Offer Management System might be the next big thing for auctioning real estate owned (REO) properties. While online property auctions have caught on to some extent, eBay remains a bit player.

Discount brokerage Foxtons North America, deemed to have the "Most Innovative Business Model" in 2003, filed for bankruptcy in 2007.

ZipRealty, the "Most Innovative Real Estate Brokerage" of 2004, has weathered the downturn by eliminating buyer rebates, closing down brokerage operations in a dozen cities, and providing leads to other brokerages. ZipRealty recently hired former Foxtons North America CEO Van Davis as president of brokerage operations.

The awards have sought to recognize not only new technologies and business models, but ideas and causes that have been forces for change. The U.S. Department of Justice won a special award in 2005 for its role in promoting open competition in the real estate industry.

In 2007, the Mortgage Fraud Blog — which tirelessly documents the prosecution of schemes to defraud lenders, including many involving real estate professionals — was honored as "Most Innovative Blog."

Given all the change and turmoil in the real estate industry, what’s perhaps surprising in looking back at past Inman Innovator Award winners is how many companies and individuals continue to be movers and shakers in the shifting landscape.

Russ Bergeron — honored as an "Early Innovator" in 1998 when he was running SoCal MLS — continues to break new ground as the head of Lisle, Ill.-based Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), an industry leader in offering "public service apps."

Mortgagebot.com, recognized at the turn of the century by Inman News as an innovative lending service, today manages mortgage lending websites for more than 1,100 banks and credit unions.

Keller Williams Realty, honored as the "Most Innovative Real Estate Company" in 2001, was back onstage at last year’s awards ceremony, its eEdge customer relationship management and marketing platfrom having been named "Most Innovative Real Estate Website or Service."

The list of past winners includes real estate brokerages and franchisors that are not only household names, but which are known throughout the industry for staying out on the cutting edge — John L. Scott, Redfin, RE/MAX International, Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, to name a few.

Awards may occasionally seem overdue. Zillow was not recognized until CEO Spencer Rascoff took the company public and was named "Innovator of the Year" in 2011 — five years after the company’s website became an instant sensation by offering "Zestimates" on millions of U.S. properties. Rival Trulia, which is currently working on its own initial public offering, was named "Most Innovative Web Service" of 2006.  

In other cases, an Innovator Award turns out to be premature. By the time the Houston Association of Realtors picked up an Innovator Award for "Most Innovative Web Service" of 2010, its members had rebelled against the association’s Realtor Match tool, which briefly allowed consumers to search for agents based on their transaction history.

This following is a list of Inman News Innovator Awards winners, from the first awards handed out in March 1998 through the winners announced at the Real Estate Connect San Francisco conference in 2011.


Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise: William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance
Most Innovative New Technology: Workforce Resource LLC’s Down Payment Resource
Most Innovative Real Estate Website or Service: Keller Williams Realty’s eEdge
Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association: Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors
Most Innovative Real Estate Startup: SocialBios
Most Innovative Mobile App: Realtor.com Android app
Most Innovative Real Estate Social Site/Service/Blog: The Corcoran Group Foursquare tips
People’s Choice Innovator Award: Century 21 Real Estate LLC
2011 Innovator of the Year: Spencer Rascoff, CEO, Zillow



Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise: The GoodLife Team
Most Innovative New Technology:
ZipRealty’s HomeScan
Most Innovative Web Service:
Houston Association of Realtors’ Realtor Match
Most Innovative Blog:
Tech Savvy Agent blog
Most Innovative Media Site:
ProPublica Eye on Loan Modifications
People’s Choice Award:
DocuSign’s ESIGNControl app
Innovator of the Year No. 1:
Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC
Innovator of the Year No. 2:
Dale Stinton, CEO, National Association of Realtors



Innovator of the Year: Frank Borges LLosa
Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise:
Nest Realty Group
Most Innovative Technology: Closing.com
Most Innovative Web Service:
Most Innovative Blog:
The Phoenix Real Estate Guy
Most Innovative Media Site:
Breaking News Network (Domus Consulting Group)



Innovator of the Year: Bob Hale
Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise:
Sawbuck Realty
Most Innovative Web Service:
Most Innovative Technology:
Most Innovative Blog:
Agent Genius
Most Innovative Media Site:



Innovator of the Year: The Craigslist community
Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise:
Coldwell Banker
Most Innovative Blog:
Mortgage Fraud Blog
Most Innovative Web Service:
Most Innovative Technology:
AltosCharts widget
Most Innovative Media Site:



Individual Innovator: Mark Lesswing, chief technology officer and senior vice president of the National Association of Realtors’ Center for Realtor Technology
Most Innovative Real Estate Blog (first year):
Urban Digs, published by Noah Rosenblatt
Most Innovative Real Estate Brokerage:
RE/MAX International
Innovative Web Service:
Trulia real estate search engine
Most Innovative New Business Model:
Redfin Direct, online buyer’s agent service
Most Innovative Real Estate Data Site:
Most Innovative Technology Award:
CellSigns real estate text messaging service
Most Innovative Mortgage Company or Service:
Air Force Credit Union
Most Innovative Media Site:
October Research
Most Innovative Rental or New Home Online Service:



Individual Innovator: Earl Lee, president of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates
Special award (first time):
U.S. Justice Department, for promoting open competition in the real estate industry
Most Innovative Real Estate Brokerage No. 1:
Chicago-based Baird & Warner
Most Innovative Real Estate Brokerage No. 2:
Real Living
Innovative New Business Model:
Century 21 ClickIt
Most Innovative Technology No. 1:
Google Earth
Most Innovative Technology No. 2:
Cendant’s Lead Router
Most Innovative Web Service:
Most Innovative Mortgage Company:
Metrocities Mortgage
Most Innovative Media Site No. 1:
The New York Times Real Estate section
Most Innovative Media Site No. 2:
Most Innovative Rental or New Homes Online Service:
Most Innovative Real Estate Data Site:
Fidelity’s Mortgage PhD site



Individual Innovator: Ian Morris, online real estate veteran and CEO of HouseValues
Most Innovative Real Estate Brokerage:
Most Innovative Mortgage Technology:
DeepGreen Bank
Most Innovative Online Real Estate:
Fair Isaac Corp., myFICO.com
Most Innovative Real Estate Technology:
Weichert Realtors’ lead network
Most Innovative Real Estate Transaction Applications:
VREO Software’s brokerage platform
Most Innovative Online Rental and New Homes:
Realty Data Trust, VaultWare technology
Most Innovative Real Estate Data:
Terradatum, BrokerMetrics platform
Inman Innovator Award for Online Real Estate Publishing:
Most Innovative Alternative Business Model:
Catalist Homes



Individual Innovator: Russ Capper, eRealty founder, CEO
Most Innovative Business model:
YHD Foxtons
Most Innovative Company:
Ellie Mae, ePass system
Best Transaction Innovation:
First American Real Estate Solutions, Realist
Best Innovation in Lending:
E*Trade Financial, Mortgage on the Move



Most Innovative Real Estate Company: John L. Scott Real Estate
Most Innovative Transaction Program:
EBay Real Estate’s Offer Management System
Most Innovative Use of the Internet:
Most Innovative Use of Technology in Lending:
Nexstar Financial Corp.’s PBN program
Most Innovative Technology Pioneer:
Doug Lebda, CEO, LendingTree



Most Innovative Real Estate Company: Keller Williams
Most Innovative Technology Application or Feature:
DataQuick, Property Finder
Best Transaction Innovation:
Most Innovative Use of the Internet:
Most Innovative Use of Technology in Lending:
Indymac Bank, e-MITS technology
Most Innovative Technology Pioneer:
Chris Larsen, CEO, E-Loan


2000 (second of two this year)

Most Innovative Residential Web Site: HomeBytes.com
Best Web Application or Feature:
Supra Products, eKey
Most Innovative Lending Web Site or Service:
Most Innovative Commercial Web Site:
Best Web Application or Feature (commercial):
NAIdirect.com, RealTrac online
Web realty pioneer No. 1 (residential):
Phil Dawley, key role in building back-end listing engine at Realtor.com
Web realty pioneer No. 2 (commercial):
Andy Florence, CEO and co-founder, CoStar Group Inc.


2000 (first of two this year)

Web application or feature (residential): VistaInfo, NearMyHome.com
Web application or feature (commercial):
Julien J. Studley Inc., UltraNet
Most Innovative Web site (residential):
Most Innovative Web site (commercial):
Most Innovative Web site or Internet Service, lending:
Best Innovation by an offline company:
Corcoran Group, Corcoran.com
Web pioneer (commercial):
Dennis DeAndre
Web pioneer (residential):
Joel Singer, California Association of Realtors



Web Pioneer No. 1: Becky Swann, founder, International Real Estate Digest (1994)
Web Pioneer No. 2:
Bill Millichap, Marcus & Millichap Real Estate
Most Innovative Web Application or Feature (residential):
Live Assistance (live chat)
Most Innovative Web Application or Feature (commercial):
The REMM Group Property Management Intranet
Most Innovative Website (residential):
Most Innovative Website (commercial):
Realty Information Group (RIG)
Most Innovative Web site or Internet Service, lending:
GHR Systems
Best Offline Innovation:
SOMA Living, Buyer Stores


1998 (second of two this year)

Pioneer Innovator Award, Web Pioneer No. 1 (residential): Richard Janssen, president, RealSelect
Early Innovator Award, Web Pioneer No. 2 (commercial):
Peter Pike, PikeNet commercial directory
Most Innovative Web or Software Application (commercial):
NAI, Transaction Monitoring Tool
Most Innovative Web or Software Application (residential):
Coldwell Banker, Personal Retriever
Most Innovative Web Presence (commercial):
Landauer Associates
Most Innovative Web Real Estate Service (residential):
Microsoft, HomeAdvisor
Most Innovative Web Service, Mortgages:
Most Innovative Web Real Estate Service (commercial):


1998 (first of two this year)

Early Innovator Award No. 1: Russ Bergeron, operator, Southern California MLS
Early Innovator Award No.2:
Software applications that help the real estate industry be more efficient and speed up the real estate transaction:
DataTrak Cloverleaf
Hardware that helps the real estate industry be more efficient and speeds up the real estate transaction:
Intel chips
Web-related or online service that helps the real estate industry be more efficient and speeds up the transaction:
Web-related or online services that help consumers save time or money:
Intuit’s QuickenMortgage

The deadline to submit nominations for the 2012 Inman News Innovator Awards is July 1, 2012.

Questions about the nomination process? Write to press@inman.com with "AWARDS" in the subject line.

Online Nomination Form

See related article: Nominate the 2012 Real Estate Innovators.

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