Real Estate 2.0 Redesigns

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Homethinking, the Realtor review site, has relaunched today with a totally redesigned site. The biggest change on the site is that it now displays property listings (pulled from HomeGain) on a Yahoo! Maps mashup. But, frankly I find the new layout confusing and a little busy.

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Unfortunately, the major problem is I’m not sure where to start first. There seems to be far to much information on their home page and it’s just plain confusing how to get started on your search. Having both the top search bar and now the map search gives the user far too many options right off the bat.

Once you dive in however, a search in your zip code pulls up a series of recently sold properties and highlights the first property’s agent. Clicking on any of the other properties reveals the respective agent’s contact information. Moving on to the agent’s profile page, the map also displays all their currently listed properties. This part of the new site is as slick as it ever was.

A nice touch is the inclusion of Altos Research‘s real time pricing trends graphs on each neighborhood page. (BTW – Altos Research maintains an excellent blog as well) Are we seeing a new competitor to Zillow’s API emerging here?

I really like the idea of a map based Realtor search – but I think Homethinking’s new site falls critically short in the usability department in its current form. A few tweaks would be all that it would take to make this a winner.

I would move the map off the homepage and to a secondary position deeper in the site to make it look less like a primary navigation tool. In my opinion, the map interface is most successful when you’re viewing an individual agent’s profile, where you can get a great visual sense of how much activity they’re currently generating. Everywhere else, it’s more of a distraction than anything else.

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In a similar vein, Redfin launched a redesign of their site this past week. One of the biggest changes is they’ve simplified their homepage along the Find, Buy, Sell theme- as well as offering some new options to contact their agents with questions.