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Built by 3 MLSs, search portal Nestfully should have considered a 4th: Tech Review

The goal isn’t to get '500 million people to come to the site' - Nestfully
MLS-powered. Consumer-driven.

Nestfully is a home search portal built by CRMLS, REcolorado and BrightMLS to help agents market homes and consumers find them.

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Nestfully is an MLS-backed property search portal and marketing tool for brokerages.

Platforms: Browser; mobile-responsive
Ideal for: Agents, teams and brokerages within CRMLS, Bright and REcolorado.

Top selling points:

  • Emphasizes listing agent
  • Gives agents new marketing tool
  • Save search options
  • Consumer dashboard
  • Property valuation lead-gen

Top concern:

There’s a lot to list here, but why there isn’t a dedicated budget and overt strategy to earn consumer eyeballs is baffling.

What you should know:

Nestfully is a property search portal built by three MLSs (CRMLS, REcolorado and BrightMLS) in conjunction with Constellation1. The site allows consumers to search for homes online in a traditional fashion, using price, location, size, beds, baths and other details to sort. Participating brokers receive leads, at no cost, from a property valuation call-to-action in a round-robin fashion.

Property searches are supported by a Walk Score integration, nearby school data, quarterly market trends, traffic information and other area statistics. At time of review, companion apps for iOS and Android were being finalized.

In the initial announcement for Nestfully, CRMLS CEO Art Carter said “a consumer-first orientation was at the top of our list when we designed Nestfully. [It’s] world-class and feature-rich. We cannot wait to show it to consumers and brokerages alike.”

I was given a somewhat different take on Nestfully’s strategy during our demo. I was told the goal isn’t to get “500 million people to come to the site” and that the team behind it “isn’t going after consumer eyeballs.”

To say I was disappointed in what I saw would be Gibraltar-sized understatement. I don’t know where to begin with this critique other than to say I couldn’t have been more bored. It’s a beige Toyota Camry on its way to an HOA meeting about fence stain colors.

There are three influential entities behind Nestfully with the foresight and business wherewithal to recognize they have the ability and resources to create a web destination for their agents to use to better position themselves — agents who have been for two decades totally outgunned by the marketing power of private search portals — and the result is a bland, unimaginative bowl of fast food pasta. Extra sauce, please.

All the table stakes are here: Saved search, alternative map views with color-coded listing status (using a TomTom API), satellite aerials and with additional boundary selections, average weather conditions, a mortgage calculator, community information pages and market trends.

The market trends included in search results are monthly and quarterly. I think that could be better, more up-to-date. There are countless data partners available that could share daily activity reports on a neighborhood, and link them to a person’s saved search and zip code. They could also display buyer web-traffic and interest levels on individual homes to create competition among buyers. “Five people have saved this house today!”

Nestfully lacks lifestyle search filters, which enable users to find homes based on adjacency to parks or popular urban amenities. The map search has a Points of Interest filter, but I find it vague and it’s only viewable on deep zooms. Search can, and should, be highly nuanced these days and go beyond basic home features. LocalizeOS, for example, is writing the book on this.

When saving a search, users check boxes to determine what types of alerts they’d like to be sent and at what frequency. They can add notes, and edit search parameters in their account dashboard. I didn’t see an option for social browsing, a concept that lets home shoppers invite friends and family into their experience. I hope to see that come about in an update.

I do like the commute time search filter, and using INRIX traffic is a smart integration. The included tax history of a listing is useful, too.

Individual property pages have a right-hand menu stack with a showing request tool, a prominent homage to the listing agent and an information request form. This is a clear response to Zillow’s one-time habit of confusing consumers about who to contact. This is also where the walk scores, weather and other resources are presented.

Agents can receive information form requests directly, or brokers can request to have them fed into their CRM of choice. Seller leads will come from the property valuation forms to an email address on record. I’d like to see a more immediate push notification of some kind, because speed-to-lead, pardon the cliché, counts. Mobile alerts are key and I hope will be in place on the companion apps for iOS and Android.

I think it’s clear that what I heard during our demo is the avenue Nestfully traveled. It comes across as merely an effort to placate members. There’s not a lot here to keep a consumer glued to the site, which one would assume is the only audience intended to use a home search portal.

Nestfully said it would rely on “grassroots, word-of-mouth” marketing from its organizations’ members. My assumption is that the budget isn’t there and asking for a dues increase to support widespread marketing wouldn’t land well with agents in a turbulent market. Problem is, as Nestfully struggles over time to find the top page in search results, the brand will languish. I think the name is great, and in truth, drove my interest in the project. It suggests more than search, though.

I’m curious, too, about how agents and member brokerages will balance pushing Nestfully to their members if they’ve already invested in and maintain their own IDX-supported website with multiple forms of lead capture. I imagine they’ll see it as a passive benefit, a nice-to-have. REcolorado, for example, has a stand-alone website with what I think is a superior experience.

Nestfully should consider connecting with industry tech partners to bolster its future value proposition and truly build something special.

Multiple listing services are bombarded with technology partnership pitches, and now they have a superb avenue to let those proptechs get in front of their agents, from showing scheduling solutions to offer management apps. Get them involved. And yes, play favorites. Find the best partner and make hard decisions.

They could connect chatbots and lead-capture tools to help activate user information, leverage cookies to surface property recommendations to repeat visitors, create property highlight tags, include dynamic market reports and listing comparison views, integrate cash offer vendors and even true cost of ownership breakdowns.

I’m bummed about the overall lack of creativity. Who was there to challenge the team?

I’m normally not this hard on products in this column, but this isn’t an ambitious post-grad startup or a new product with potential but needing market feedback to thrive. This came out of the offices of three well-established multiple listing services with industry expertise. This is tantamount to your top two or three starters missing free throws in clutch time.

Thankfully, there’s enough time left on the clock and I would assume, room under the salary cap, for them to lead a comeback.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

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