Trulia- Tech Guys in Realtor’s Clothing

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The real estate industry has been in a major state of flux for two years now, with new technology and innovation entering the market constantly. It’s truly an exciting time to be in this industry. Some of the technology has really benefited the consumer and real estate agents alike. Many agents are becoming much more efficient and are offering much better service than ever before. Some technology (virtual tours, online fax) has become so common and accepted that many would not want to think of working without it.

One of the areas that has seen major growth is in the third-party, tech-guy’s turned real estate entrepreneur’s, listings.bot arena. First there was HouseValues, which was an innovator in that it saw how weak real estate agent’s were at attracting business from the internet so it capitalized on that weakness and got it’s own internet leads and sold them to real estate agents. Then, Lending Tree jumped in with it’s bid-for-mortgage business model becoming a bid-for-anything-real-estate-related model, and it now sells leads to agents as well.

And Realtor.com was actually doing this before any of them. By being the official website for the National Association of Realtors (NAR) it was given exclusive access to all the content from all of the MLS’s across the nation. So, did it take this MLS data and use it to further the industry and pursue noble Realtor causes? Of course not, it sold leads back to the agents, just like the other guys. Realtor.com used to charge $1000’s to be the “designated” Realtor for an area and get those area leads. Now it charges agents to place their listings at the top of the results and to have the agent contact info and property address shown.

Today we have Trulia, among many others, who have a new business model- Give it all away for free and be the agent’s best friend, grow really big until the agents depend on you, then charge them and make a bundle.

Trulia takes the listing info and sends the leads back to the agents with no charge. Everyone loves that. But when you have VC money you’ve got to make profit and giving stuff away doesn’t bring in any profit.

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Trulia has always sold ads on their website, and at the beginning claimed they were only interested in making money from those ads. But, now that they have grown and are getting a lot more traffic (and have investors), Trulia is changing, as I thought they might. They are no longer just making money from advertising. Now Trulia sells placement of listings to the agents, just like the other guys. And it’s only a matter of time before they begin charging agents to be a “designated” or “premier” or “showcase” agent, and then only a matter of time before they charge for the leads.

Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that. They certainly have a right to have their business model, and their search function and information is superb. They offer a lot of info and have some really cool tools on their site. But it’s just data- they have no real estate knowledge or expertise because they are not real estate people. Trulia was founded, as most of the other listings.bot websites, by tech people. Just a couple of tech guys- not real estate guys, tech guys.

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A better alternative for brokers and agents (and the consumer), would be to have their own destination website that is not only full of rich content and great search functionality, but offers the individual agent’s local knowledge and personality. Because, while real estate technology is expanding and becoming global, the transactions and business are still based on relationships and personality and trust between Realtors and their clients.

It is wonderful to have great data and technology, but a successful real estate business still needs to be founded in service and relationships. And no national website can offer people the personal touch of a local agent, with their intimate knowledge of an area and the excellent service they provide to their clients.

There is a difference between information and knowledge. These mega-websites can offer tons of data and graphs, charts, statistics, reports, and other information, but at the end of the day- none of them can advise a local buyer like I can.

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Agents and brokers could, as an alternative to feeding the machine of these mega-sites, create their own online brand, their own online real estate destination, and offer the same cool data and technology, and fill it with their own personality and their own knowledge and experience. Instead of contributing to a mega-site knowledge base, they could offer their own, local knowledge bases. If I am buying a home in Salt Lake City I want to know about the Salt lake City area and local market conditions and get expert advise and guidance for that area and I really don’t care about who is the top agent in Grand Rapids or what ten agents say about the market in Boston.

My founding BlueRoof360, stemmed from the dozen or so monthly emails and phone calls I receive from agents and brokers asking me if I can help them build a website or help them convert online leads or help them with their online services. 

Agents can now have their own websites and blogs and have innovative technology and cutting-edge search tools and data, and keep their business for themselves and offer their own personality and knowledge, without spending $100,000 and twelve months designing a custom website. I’m not just trying to be noble- I want to make a profit, just like the next guy. But I’m doing it in a way that helps, not hurts, the agents and brokers in the long-run.

Unlike Trulia, or Zillow, or Redfin, or many of the other tech.bot real estate sites- I am not a tech-guy trying to make money in real estate. I am a Realtor using technology to offer better service for my clients.

And now I’m using technology to help other agents grab hold of their fair share of the internet business that so many of the tech-guys are trying to take from them. Using these mega-sites is not bad, but it shouldn’t be an agent’s only source of online business.

Real estate professional know real estate better than tech guys or anyone else, and with the right technology won’t need these outside mega-sites because they will be one of their own.

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18 thoughts on “Trulia- Tech Guys in Realtor’s Clothing

  1. I read your letter with great interest and certainly agree with your point of view. NAR is getting ready to fund other projects through “partners” such as realtor.com which I am sure will sell products back to NAR members. Even if all is above board it just seems like a questionable practice.

  2. Pingback: Greg of BR writes an interesting post on Trulia that… « 4realz.net

  3. Hi Greg!

    Choice is great for both consumers and agents.

    You make some valid points which make for some fun reading. Relationships matter. There is no question that the personal knowledge and the in the trenches first hand experience that many real estate agents have is key to a successful real estate transaction. Everyone knows how successful you’ve been with BlueRoof and I have always been a fan of yours. Hats off to you for being tremendously tech savvy and for being able to offer agents your cool new 360 offering. Once again, choices are good all around.

    Trulia is an independent real estate technology company, made up of a diverse group of people including real living and breathing homeowners, renters and real estate people that work hard to help improve the consumer and agents online real estate experience. That’s a good thing! Being an unbiased source is exactly what Trulia is and why consumers use the site. Trulia does make money from ads, but it’s clearly a lot more cost effective than anything in the newspaper not to mention, unlike the newspaper, it’s measurable.

    So, placing your listings on Trulia is free for agents. However, just like on Google and other search engines, if they want to stand out from the crowd, they can enhance their listings. Consumers are driven back to the person who knows the most about the listing and local market conditions – the real estate agent. Then it’s up to the agent and consumer to find out if they are a perfect match.

    Trulia Voices is a great place for agents to interact directly with buyers and sellers. Participating on Voices also helps increase their online presence and drives interested consumers back to their site or blog for free. Not too shabby….

    Hey, thanks for making me work hard on this Super Bowl Monday 🙂

    Best,

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

    P.S. Please say Hi to Trish for me 😉

  4. Rudy, you’re awesome. Trulia did well to get you on their staff.

    There are some things that I really like about the website, and it offers some good tools.

    I’m not against using Trulia as much as advocating that agents have their own destination website and using their money to pay to build their own online brand instead of building the brands of other third-party listing aggregators, like Trulia.

  5. Hey Greg, you’re making me blush 🙂

    I’m with you. An agent should do a variety of things to build their online web presence. However, using sites like Trulia to enhance their reach and establish their credibility are most certainly things they should have in their online arsenal. No question. I’ve always been a huge proponent of this type of online strategy. A proactive agent will be a more successful agent….

    Thanks Greg!

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru @ Trulia

  6. I couldn’t agree more and have a boat load of content to back up what you’re saying….I’m stoked that someone else out there can ‘see’ this ‘problem’ as well 🙂

  7. I’ll start by saying if all real estate agents had a site like BlueRoof.com, then we probably would not be having this discussion. Clients would be better served as well.

    I think many agents advertise sites like Trulia and Zillow because the technology & information these sites offer is (or at least appears this way to many agents) better than your average real estate agent site. Most agents do not have the time, resources, or tech knowledge to compete. Over time I believe a lot of agents will start to adapt the technologies that are being used today. Problem is, by the time they get caught up, it has already changed

    By advertising on sites like Trulia and Zillow, at least agents have a better opportunity of driving some potential traffic to their own destination website.

  8. Tyler,

    I agree completely. I think most agents do not have what I call a “destination” website, where consumers will keep coming back to again and again because of it’s design and technology.

    So many agents use third-party listing aggregators, such as Trulia, to be their online presence.

    Hopefully, I can help with that. I really do believe that blueroof360 will be the very best solution for most agents because it will be a custom “destination” website, in addition to the lead and client management and community pieces.

    We’re all trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got, and that’s why it’s important to have a solution that evolves with the new technology.

  9. Pingback: Trulia - Tech Guys in Realtor’s Clothing | The Long List of Odysseus Medal Nominees | Realtors and real estate, mortgages, lending, investments

  10. Greg /Rudy,
    As neighbor to one of you (were on 15th and Folsom-ish) and hopefully a worthy counterpart to both, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Raj C, and I’m the office manager over here at Neighborcity.com. Since this is a blog, and I am a living American, I feel obligated to throw in my two cents. Rudy, To say that Trulia lacks real estate knowledge because the founding members are computer geeks is frivolous. I also think it’s stretch to say that “a better alternative for brokers and agents (and the consumer), would be to have their own destination website.” While it pays big time for agents to be tech savvy, you’re still asking them to hustle houses by day and play CTO by night. This leaves an opportunity for a purely web based companies to fill the gap.

    RJ
    Office Supply Guru
    Neighborcity.com

  11. Raj,

    Thanks for contributing, welcome. Saying that the founding members of a technology company lack real estate knowledge is not frivolous, it’s common sense. The point is, tech guys can not know real estate the way a good, experienced Realtor does.

    “a better alternative for brokers and agents (and the consumer), would be to have their own destination website.”

    That statement is not a stretch, either. It is true that it would be a better alternative. Agents don’t want to learn technology and should not have to “hustle houses by day and play CTO by night.” If they use blueroof360 their “destination” website is beautiful and custom and full of the latest technology and it takes less than an hour to build the entire thing, even for tech novices… that’s not exactly playing Chief Technology Officer.

    Having a powerful website should be an important part of every agent’s business. $200/month and they can now have a website that’s as good as any website out there, plus they can add their own personality and intimate local knowledge of their market- something that no national website (or tech guy) can do.

  12. Gregg,
    Thanks for having me here. Your ‘360 product is a great idea and a lot of agents that were around few years a ago, are no longer with us, those that remain will have no choice but to embrace the internet. To be far many already have there own sites, and some actually do a decent job at it. The point I was trying to make was that A good agent should have a good site, but they would be remiss to not also embrace the sites willing to hand off leads. Referral and finder fees have been around forever and despite trulia’s absence (so far) from the market, many others seem willing to give it a shot

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  14. Pingback: Trulia’s Integrity Called Into Question « BlueRoof Blog- BlueRoof360- Real Estate, Realtor Websites

  15. Trulia currently publishing false and defamatory/slanderous information on my property in Huntington Beach. On that basis I question the integrity of their database.

  16. Trulia is currently publishing false and defamatory/slanderous information on my property in Huntington Beach. On that basis I question the integrity of their database.

  17. Are there any good alternatives to Trulia?

    AS someone who follows this field rather closely, I definitely understand what you’re saying.

    For example, I don’t think that a lot people understand that when they add to the Trulia database, their really making it more likely that Trulia will come up first in Google when someone is searching for real estate.

    Anyone else had this experience?

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