A conversation with Michael Yang, General Manager of Yahoo Real Estate

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Last week at the Inman Connect conference, I had the chance to sit down with Michael Yang, General Manager of Yahoo! Real Estate and talk briefly about the real estate online and the future of their site.

Michael YangUnder Michael’s direction, Yahoo has recently begun resuscitating its Real Estate portal and he is busy building out a whole slew of new features there.

I asked him why the refocus on real estate and he responded that it is a massive vertical that no one is doing a particularly good job of servicing right now. Many players are tackling individual pieces of the puzzle, but really only Yahoo! has the scope and resources to try and bring it all together.

Just in shear numbers alone, Comscore estimates there are 13.2 million people actively looking at real estate online, Michael estimates that combined, Yahoo properties touch 89% of them. (that could be through Yahoo!Mail, News, Search etc.)

So a trend moving forward will see them integrating the Real Estate portal with Yahoo’s other assets to try and pull this together. I asked him about what this would entail and he mentioned specifically assets like Flickr and Yahoo! Video.

This definitely sparked my interest so I pressed him further. Video is going to be critical to their efforts going forward. We talked a lot about user studies they’ve conducted on the home search process and the weeding out process that happens on their site. Typically it’s one partner in the home (usually female) who initiates a home search with a broad query.

Listings are then funneled down through various screening criteria (does it have photos, a virtual tour etc.). Michael sees video as a critical component to help merchandise listings and add another layer to the screening process. As important will be the ability to easily share listings with other family members.

I asked him what Yahoo Real Estate plans to offer brokers and agents. In addition to a simple business listing, he mentioned that they currently can field real estate questions on Yahoo! Answers (see my post Impart your Wisdom with Answers) as well as engage in Pay Per Click advertising campaign through Yahoo! Search Marketing (see my review of their platform Panama Makes It Easy To Yahdvertise).

I mentioned the need to try and pull of these services together in an easy package, something I think Google has done very successfully (see Google’s Gunning for Real Estate Professionals). Michael agreed and said will be focusing on developing more products with greater relevancy to brokers and agents.

Finally we spoke about blogs and real estate blogging in general. Michael expressed the need for more localized content in order to provide some context to their site. They’ve experimented in the past with adding some content, namely a featured column by Kendra Todd, winner of the Apprentice, but are currently looking at ways to add more content to the site.

(Hey, why not leverage the Yahoo 360 platform to provide agents with a blogging mechanism/community platform similar to ActiveRain – there’s your content right there.)

It was a great pleasure sitting down with Michael and later meeting some of his team. I’m definitely excited to see what these guys can pull together.

UPDATE: Yahoo! Real Estate launched a nationwide schools search today (check out Portland schools). Apparently, this was a result of a recent survey where users ranked school information as one of the most sought after features on the site.