Technology

Zillow says ‘not so fast’ to Pinterest-like search site

RealSavvy lets users create pinboards of listings they find on other websites like Trulia, realtor.com

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A new website that aims to help homebuyers discover the home of their dreams using a Pinterest-like interface could be off to a rocky launch, as it depends on pinboards of listings that users create when they surf other websites like Trulia and realtor.com that could be challenged by those sites.

Austin, Texas-based RealSavvy invites users to “take our browser extension with you and save homes from other search sites around the Web to your boards” on the site.

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RealSavvy invites users to use its browser button at Trulia, realtor.com and AustinHomeSearch.com.

Homebuyers can browse listings aggregated on realsavvy.com, viewing pictures “pinned” by other users along with information like the home’s address and price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size and listing status.

That information is attributed to the sites where it was obtained — including Trulia, realtor.com and AustinHomeSearch.com, the public-facing search site of the Austin Board of Realtors. When RealSavvy launched last week, it also displayed information about listings attributed to Zillow.

But Zillow and Trulia say the site’s collection of active and inactive listings was not authorized.

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Zillow says it asked RealSavvy to “discontinue any unauthorized use of data from the Zillow websites” on Thursday. The site appears to have complied with that request.

Screen shot showing information about a listing displayed on realsavvy.com, attributed to Zillow. Information about the listing was removed after Zillow complained.
Screen shot showing information about a listing displayed last week on realsavvy.com and attributed to Zillow. Information about the listing was removed after Zillow complained.

Trulia said it does not have any agreements with RealSavvy, and is investigating further. So is realtor.com operator Move.

The Austin Board of Realtors, which operates AustinHomeSearch.com, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

RealSavvy CEO and founder Rick Orr is a licensed real estate salesperson in Texas and an ABoR member. According to the Texas Real Estate Commission, Orr is one of three agents affiliated with a brokerage doing business as Percentiv Realty.

Orr said RealSavvy is not a brokerage and does not belong to an MLS, but is “working with brokers, MLS boards and aggregators to help ensure agents and their clients have the best experience possible when searching for homes online.”

“Much like other popular social media platforms, we allow the consumer to organize and share home listings they find online,” Orr said. “In all cases, we provide a direct link to the original online listing. This lets our users find the actual listing so they can obtain more details on the property and, in turn, we want to help the listing agent promote the property to more potential buyers.”

Before the site went live, Orr told the Austin Business Journal that RealSavvy planned to combine MLS data with more “exciting” data. For now, RealSavvy only has listings in the Austin market, none of it sourced from the MLS.

Real estate brokers and multiple listing services actively police unauthorized copying or “scraping” of listing data, asserting copyright claims over photos and information that’s not public record. Third-party portals like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com typically agree not to redistribute listing data to other websites, and take steps to prevent others from using it.

An agent rating and matching site that was accused of scraping data, NeighborCity, became embroiled in costly legal battles with two of the nation’s largest MLSs and the National Association of Realtors that could serve as a warning to other companies considering similar business models.

Stacy Bass, a Driftwood-based broker who represents sellers whose homes were pinned on RealSavvy via Trulia, was not aware that the listings had found their way to the site until she was contacted by Inman. All of the listings — about 10 — have since been removed from RealSavvy.

“I don’t know how I feel about it, but I really care about my clients’ information and whether [RealSavvy] is taking it without permission,” Bass said. “I don’t know (if they are).”

Bass, who serves on several ABoR committees including the Grievance and Ethics, said she doubted the site will succeed if it doesn’t have permission from portals to use their data.

Orr said he came up with the idea for RealSavvy in his living room after watching his “real estate junky” wife,  Katy, simultaneously search Pinterest for home design ideas while watching house-hunter shows on television.

In RealSavvy’s initial launch period, agents and consumers can enroll for free to test the platform, which Orr said has more than 70 brokers and agents in Austin. Agents invite their existing clients to share curated boards of homes matching their clients’ needs. Agents can send prospective clients to the site’s Home Quiz, which asks them about the price range, size and locations they’d be interested in.

The site, which raised $223,000 in August, plans to introduce a monthly fee to agents in 2015.

RealSavvy also offers  a private chat forum for agents and their clients. Agents can sign up to get minute-by-minute email and SMS updates when clients pin new homes to their board.

Orr said RealSavvy will help agents understand their clients, and that “little has been done to put our clients first and they’re the ones that drive our business.”