Zillow released a slew of new features tonight it hopes will help the real estate 2.0 juggernaut “own” the conversation around real estate.

Of note to consumers, anyone can now ask questions about any property in Zillow’s database – the home owner (or, if the property is for sale, the listing agent) can answer the questions and the whole commentary is stored as part of that property’s permanent record. I love this idea especially if I was researching a new neighborhood or home I was interested in buying.

But as cool as that may be, it doesn’t do me much good if I don’t know if that place is for sale or not.

For web users, up until today, you could find out how much your home was worth on Zillow but not much more than that. But once the “data porn” thrill of seeing how much your boss’ house was worth wore off, you probably didn’t come around much any more. I know I didn’t.

If you were serious about moving, or buying a new house, it meant heading over to Trulia or Realtor.com to find your next home

Not any longer.

In previous versions of the Zillow, owners could self-identify a property for sale. But not many did. 100,000 or so homes out of an inventory of over 53 million wasn’t exactly a resounding success.

But in this version, Zillow hopes to kick it up a notch.

Now anyone can now identify a home as being for sale. The idea is that buyers agents or new agents with some time on their hands will step up to bat and start identifying properties on behalf of the busy listing agents. To what end? Zillow hopes they’ll be motivated to build their own reputations and establish themselves as neighborhood experts in doing so.

I suspect the hope is that Zillow’s inventory of listings will grow to the point that consumers have a legitimate new avenue to look for properties. This release puts Zillow’s course head to head against sites like Trulia – only they’ve chosen to do an end run around the MLSes and brokers and go straight to the agents for the listings.

Of course all of this hinges on the data being accurate.

Zillow assured me they have figured out a way to police these listings and are expecting the community to self-regulate. I’m a little more skeptical, but willing to extend them the benefit of the doubt. But I have a sinking feeling somehow, somewhere, someone will figure out how to game all of this.

On a more upbeat note however, the new release also includes a new advertising platform for Realtors to buy advertising on particular zipcodes. Zillow’s EZ Ads include a headline, logo (or photo), some contact info and a URL – much like a Google Ad.

Unlike Google’s AdWords program however these ads are served on a Cost per Impression (CPM) rather than a Cost per Click (CPC) basis. They cost 1 cent ($0.01) per impression and can be purchased using a credit card, making them an extremely affordable option for most real estate professionals.

I expect the ads to be extremely popular and I think if the idea appeals to you, jump on it now. There’s bound to be a surge in traffic with this new release so you’ll benefit from the eyeballs. I also suspect we’ll see a pretty big land rush happening, especially to popular zipcodes. Here’s your chance to get out ahead of the rest of the crowd.

In any case, it’s pretty clear with this new release, that Zillow is angling to be the place people go to research real estate online and now hopes to be the place you will shop for homes as well. We’ll see if they can get there.

More Reading: BloodhoundBlog, Techcrunch, Drew Meyers

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