Gotta hand it to Zillow. They’re wearing their hearts err.. listings on their sleeves.

The launch of their new Smart Search functionality tells you exactly how many listings the company has in its database, from a top level State search right down in to individual neighborhoods. It’s kind of fun surfing around the country (zoom out to the USA level on their map) and seeing what’s out there (according to Zillow anyway).

Pity the poor folks in North Dakota and South Dakota who’ve got a measly 49 listings between the two of them – slim pickings indeed. Oregon, by contrast, has 5,306 listings. California is the reigning State champ with 66,869 listings.

Change any of the search criteria on the right hand bar and the listing counts automatically update to reflect the new search. Pretty cool stuff when you think about the amount of data being crunched and how fast it’s reflected on the map. That’s a lot of horsepower at play.

Drill down to the city neighborhood level however and this new release also gives you revamped neighborhood guides, like this one for Portland Real Estate.

But where the new search features are a winner in my books – Zillow’s neighborhood guides are still pretty weak. First and foremost, Zillow has chosen to depend on its community for things like photos, so the results are really hit and miss. In Portland for instance, you get a handful of photos like this one representing the city as a whole. Not very helpful. A better tack may be to at least supplement the results with third party resources (like Estately does with its Flickr feeds).

Secondly, it definitely feels like Zilllow is playing catchup to its competitors in its neighborhood definitions (see Eppraisal Charts its Way Forward). Also, Zillow continues to insist that I live in a neighborhood that’s over a mile away, which is frustrating. YMMV.

Couple that with an incomplete listings database (it only shows a handful of properties for sale, and I definitely know there are more on the market just from my evening walks around the block with the dog) and overall it’s a pretty unsatisfying experience. Ultimately, this is a real problem for any first-time visitor and may push existing users away.

The old adage holds true here. Content is king. New features are fun for the engineers and make for exciting product releases, but at the end of the day it’s the content that’s going to keep people coming back. If there’s one thing we can learn from the collapse of Edgeio (see Listings Marketplace Edgeio Shuts Down), it’s that you can’t just rely on having the best features out there.


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